Tuesday, June 09, 2009

EA Archetypes

#EAC2009 Following my workshop on Business Modelling for Business Improvement at EAC 2009, I caught the end of Sally Bean’s and Peter Haine’s workshop Reflecting on EA.

An interesting discussion on EA archetypes. We talked about the contrast between EA-as-visionary and EA-as-realist. The EA-as-visionary is an optimist who produces value by creating new opportunities and producing economies of scale and scope; the EA-as-realist earns his/her keep largely by stopping ill-conceived initiatives, saying No to pushy vendors, and producing economies of governance. (In January 2006, I put the case for Realism in a debate on Optimism with Jeff Schneider.)

Roger Sessions mentioned an interesting correlation in the US government space between IT failure and Sarbanes-Oxley-driven "investment" in Enterprise Architecture, suggesting that a mere formal requirement to produce EA deliverables may actually destroy value. (Roger discussed this in his recent editorial on Obama's Information Technology Priority; he is planning to include some graphs in his talk tomorrow afternoon.) This indicates a third archetype: EA-as-formalist, bureaucrats playing Zachman bingo with little vision or practical realism.

And yet there is probably a place for formal rigour, if it can be balanced with vision and realism. It is the formal rigour that confers some authority on the architect to promote either vision or realism or both. So how do we combine the three archetypes: Visionary, Realist, Formalist?

While it would be crazy for me to equate this triad with Lacan’s triad (Imaginary, Real, Symbolic), I think there may be some weak structural parallels. Here are some starting thoughts.

Imaginary - For Lacan, this is about constructing coherent images. The EA-as-visionary must be good at joined-up-thinking, and good at story-telling.

Symbolic - For Lacan, this is about representing the images in some language. The EA-as-formalist must be able to create robust representations.

Real - For Lacan, the Real is what resists representation. The EA-as-realist must understand the limitations of both the vision and the formal models.

I don't know how fruitful this parallel is going to be, so I need to think about it a bit more.

See also Architecture and the Imagination (Oct 2012)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would suggest that you begin with EA-as-Realist posture. Many CIOs and businesses look at EA with a very focused view. Perhaps this is where the archetypes of EA begin. That is I am suggesting that there may be another level below where you should begin your quest.

One of these lower level archetype is that EA (or the Chief Architect) is a chief application architecture guy who can detect, prevent and fix all ill-conceived application architecture and prevent the apps from failing or performing badly. The archetype can be found if you closely look at work products and focus of these Chief Architects. They are mainly in developing technical standards, custom patterns (i.e. company specific), discussion around which java framework, core technology stack standards, etc. Little will be done by way of a future state blue print or a topical future state such as SOA strategy and architecture, etc.

OK. I will stop here as this is getting too long and see where this falls.