Monday, November 17, 2014

Are you Teaching a Starving Man to Fish?

Are we as Enterprise Architects guilty of teaching a starving man to fish? I came across a blog post with similar title by Bruce Kasanoff this morning. What a great little article from Bruce and what a punch of a message! It resonated so well with what I have observed in the field of Enterprise Architecture over the past decade or so. 

Whether we like it or not, sometimes Enterprise Architects are seen as a bunch of guys who are running "ivory tower" practices. Some brilliant, intellectual stuff takes place in such practices but often it seems to fail to solve real-world, practical problems. We have some good models, framework, methods but somehow the customer of our trade do not seem to find it useful. Why would this be happening? 

Here is one scenario, borrowing Bruce's metaphor from above. Our "starving man" customer approaches the talented and experienced Enterprise Architecture team expecting a "fish today". This may be in the form of a solution to a specific burning project problem, e.g. integration requirement for a new digital channel and legacy back-office. They probably expect us to deliver a crunchy API specification in quick time so that they can hand it over to third party supplier. But instead they get a dose of methods about taxonomies and generic models.

The intent here is probably noble so as to empower project teams to build interfaces based on corporate standards which are perfectly aligned with the "right EA way". But probably what the customer expected was an Enterprise Architect to drop his methodology chalks, roll up his sleeves and do some real work to deliver "fish today" integration specification. And once the hunger was tackled, this starving man would be ready to learn "fishing the EA way" based on delivery credibility for future integration work. 

The point I am getting at here is Enterprise Architects need to maintain a healthy balance between framework purity and practical implementations in real-life. Solving some project / solution problems here and now may be the best way to educate about the value of Enterprise Architecture. And then we will have a ready audience who will be interested in learning more about our great taxonomies and models to solve further real-world problems in future. If we don't, the customer will sooner than later go somewhere else where he gets a fish when he is hungry. Have you heard about "Shadow Architecture Team" by the way? 

Happy Fishing!

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