Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why Enterprise Architecture is facing fundamental conflict in modern organizations?

If someone attempts to count the number of articles in the web that promotes disbelief in Enterprise Architecture practice, he will be extremely successful with high score! :-)

Those of you in corporate life will be able to relate to this scenario -  if someone pronounces the word - Architecture/Strategy - the very next reaction that you could get is 'disbelief/sarcasm/lack of faith'. Of course, there are failed architects and miserable strategists!. No doubt about it!.

But, Is there any bit of merit in the practice at all?

To answer that question, someone has to take an objective view of the situation without getting biased from the past experiences or correlating to people.

I think I found the answer a couple of days ago - when reading the blog post from JP Rangaswami. For those who are unfamiliar, JP Rangaswami is the Chief Scientist of (Interesting to see the title Scientist in a Software Development Company). JP constanly writes about Social organizations, LifeStreaming/Microblogging, Open APIs/Software-as-a-Service. No wonder he promotes these concepts, being part of SFDC. But, what makes his blog interesting is that he does this promotion objectively with a mix of  culture, philosophy, irony in modern society/organizations and technology.

In one of his recent posts, he writes about Social Enterprise. One of the other topics he promotes is 'Economies of Flow' which has become my favorite topic of late. Economies of Flow is fundamentally different from 'Economies of Scale' which we are all used to. I'll park that topic for another blog post later.

Now, let's come back to Enterprise Architecture & JP's post.

In his post about social enterprise, JP writes like this:

"We have moved from being customer-centric to product- and service-centric in many contexts,
sometimes to such an extent that we forget altogether about the customer.
Think about what’s happening in education, no longer about the student or about learning;
about what’s happening in healthcare, no longer about the patient or about being healthy;
about what’s happening in government, no longer about the citizen or about her satisfaction."

That's fundamentally the point.

In modern organizations that are run by cost accounting principles & measured by individual performance, people are largely incentivized to become successful on their own / on their own department.  They are not designed to work collaboratively by their incentive systems. And the performance measurements drive behaviors.

I remember, Goldratt (Author of the book 'Goal') saying 'You tell me how do you measure. I'll tell you How would I perform?".

The approach to modern management systems are fragmented and compartmentalized (because its easier to manage smaller units) which is in contrast to Systemtic Thinking.

Whereas, Architecture is all about 'System Thinking' (Thinking about the 'whole' not just the 'parts') and taking an 'Integrated approach' to problem solving. And in the name of realistic approach, if an Architecture takes a short-cut driven by individualistic forces / silo thinking, then its not Architecture.

If an Architecture, specifically Enterprise Architecture, has to be successful or to become truly effective in an organization, it means that it will have larger implications in the way organizations collaborate.  That's a structural change!. And we all know, Structural changes are hard to accomplish!.  And eventually, EA efforts will turn futile. And We all end up blaming Architecture failure!.

As JP points out, in modern society, we focus on diseases (that is a reactive approach to problem solving. And we are focusing on the 'part' not the 'whole') and not on the Patient (the 'whole', the 'system') and his healthiness ('Proactive' approach)

A change in thinking will be the beginning to see the real change in practice.

And JP summarizes like this:

"There’s a renaissance needed, to a time when it was about the student, the patient, the citizen. And about the customer".

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