Thursday, July 10, 2008

Enterprise Architect - Joke or Joker?

What exactly is the joke?

Jeff Schneider: Why Enterprise Architecture is a Joke
  • Zachman is stagnant
  • Poor architecture skills
  • Silo organizations with silo funding
  • Tooling sucks
  • Unconnected models
I'm not sure whether Dave Oliver agrees: Enterprise Architecture is a Joke
  • People in command make bad decisions.
  • The industry has spawned enough new activities to get worried about to justify a whole job role to cover it and make sure it is done.
James McGovern argues with Jeff: Interesting but Incomplete
  • EA is not all about Zachman
  • Enterprise architecture doesn't lack tools at all, and in fact has too many
  • Funding should never look like enterprise architecture
Jeff answers back: McGovern on EA-Joke
  • James seems content with the state of his Visio and Powerpoint tooling
  • The funding model should align with your business strategy
  • EAs are security guards with flashlight and no gun
Keith Gaughan points out that some countries have an unarmed police force (via Steven Tilkov)

If you put "Enterprise Architecture" and "Joke" into an internet search engine, you find a post from 2005 by one James McGovern: Government Enterprise Architecture is a big fat joke!
  • Someone in the government believes that enterprise architecture is all about creating comprehensive documentation. I guess they forgot the part that the most important thing is to add value to the business.
Brenda Michelson adds a couple of thoughts
  • If you want an actionable enterprise architecture, you must go beyond artifacts.
  • Disconnect between EA Governance and IT Leadership ... IT Management often trumps EA Governance to 'get the thing in' ... EAs need to educate IT management, delivery and operations teams on the value of enterprise architecture ... and ... EAs must listen to the needs of their constituents.
Robert McIlree wonders whether Enterprise Architecture is a A Joke, A Failure ... or an Opportunity?
  • EA isn't defined well enough to model and operate a successful EA organization.
And finally from Gartner: a real joke about EA

And who is the joker?

In my experience, enterprise architects range from enterprising to unenterprising, from leading to following, from creative to bureaucratic, from essential via useful to downright waste of space.

This is not just a matter of intellect and experience, but personal style. One way of characterizing styles is by using the metaphor of the planets, as I did in my post on Mars, Venus, Saturn or Uranus.

  • ITIL is from Saturn, which is the planet of governance.
  • SOA is from Uranus, which is the planet of innovation.
  • The IT budget is from Jupiter, which is the planet of investment.
Many enterprise architects behave as if they came from one of these three planets. But perhaps the true home of the enterprise architect is the planet Pluto. According to Wikipedia (Planets in astrology) the characteristics associated with Pluto include:
  • Transformation, power and personal mastery.
  • The need to cooperate and share.
  • Pluto governs big business and wealth, mining, surgery and detective work, and any enterprise which involves digging under the surface to bring the truth to light.


  1. wowow what a load of bullshit! i am sure you are the kind of guy who enjoys driving strategic direction through technology initiatives.

  2. Hello Guilhem. I'm sorry you didn't understand or appreciate my post. If you had managed to read more of my blog, you might have picked up a different opinion on "technology initiatives".

    See my later post Strategy isn't a Direction

  3. Hi Richard,

    Very interesting thoughts, I would love to discuss them with you. I believe that Enterprise Architecture is really a whole set of roles.

    Like any person doing more than one job they aren't going to any job well. I think we as an industry need to recognise that and then start to break up EA into it's constituant parts. This will then have a knock-on effect of more visible benefit and better tools.

    What do you think?

    Best Regards,

    Dave Oliver

  4. Hi Dave. There are certainly different skills (and perhaps personality types) needed on an EA team. I used a cheap metaphor (Mars, Venus, and so on) - for a more scientific analysis you could look at something like Belbin's team inventory.

    But I'd be wary of dividing EA into separate roles or teams with separate responsibilities for different aspects of EA. Because then who is going to put the pieces back together? Surely the overall coordination and alignment between the constituent parts of EA (whatever they are) is the keystone of EA.

  5. Hi Richard,

    I do agree, who is going to pull all the roles together and ensure that they are aligned?

    Well I think that answer is by turning EA into a practice, like Software Development has the SDLC where everyone roughly now knows their role and their place in it. Thanks to Agile development the SDLC isn't linear either. So lessons can be learnt there.

    Funny thing is that I think that TOGAF 8 actually hints at this with the various stages of the ADM, I have notice this in my organistion where people nature lean to a particular part.

    Anyway this is a debate that can rage and rage but I sincerely wish that it can be done in a mature and constructive way which sadly I have seen the opposite in some instances. At the end of the day it's not worth getting to emotive over. Pull yourselves together people!

  6. In a later post on Enterprise Architecture and Hand Waving, James McGovern suggests that the enterprise architect's use of PowerPoint is akin to a Jedi mind trick. Transformation and personal mastery then - enterprise architects who practise these skills are indeed from the planet Pluto.