Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Who architects the organization?

#entarch @nickmalik challenged my post on The Future of Enterprise Architecture and referred to his earlier blogpost on The Mission, Capabilities, and Business Output of Enterprise Architecture.

According to Nick, the mission of EA involves strong influence over the structure of the business organization. Although he makes it clear that he is speaking generically and not about the mission of enterprise architecture within his own employer, Microsoft, he does claim to base his account of the mission of enterprise architecture on his own experience, and so it seems reasonable for us to ask how much influence EA has over Microsoft's organizational structure.

The first point to note is the critical relationship between Microsoft's organization structure and its product structure. (Popular mythology attributes these aspects of Microsoft's business not to enterprise architects but to the Chief Software Architect - Bill Gates and his successor Ray Ozzie.) The degree to which the organization units responsible for different product lines (say Windows and Office) are operated autonomously, and the amount of coordination and knowledge flows that pass between these units - these are surely critical structural elements of the Microsoft organization, to which an enterprise architecture should pay close attention. The organization structure affects product quality, above all interoperability.

Furthermore, the actual coordination and knowledge flows are not determined by the formal organization structure (org chart) but on the de facto structure. Enterprise architects who wish to monitor and control defacto organization structure will need to look at things like email traffic, not just formal information systems.

Microsoft aside, I wonder how many organizations genuinely allow their enterprise architects anywhere near such structural decisions.

Nachiappan Nagappan, Brendan Murphy, and Victor Basili, The Influence of Organizational Structure On Software Quality: An Empirical Case Study. Microsoft Research, January 2008

Ding Zhou, Yang Song, and Hongyuan Zha, Towards Discovering Organizational Structure from Email Corpus (pdf). Microsoft Research, 2005.

Related post: Functional Organization at Microsoft (November 2012) 

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