Tuesday, August 11, 2009

EA-Emperor's new clothes - from Gartner

According to this emergent architect item Gartner now claims - EAs must adopt a new style of enterprise architecture - 'emergent architecture', also known as middle-out EA and light EA, and set out definitions of the new approach. I see this as Gartner starting to slowly realise that they have long confused Enterprise and Solutions Architecture (doing neither constituency any good).

I would argue that what is now being advocated has always been best practice i.e.
  • Architect the lines, not the boxes i.e. the connections between different parts of the business rather than the actual parts of the business themselves. [this is why the focus SW developed oriented modelling and complex BP modelling/simulation has seldom made sense]
  • Models all relationships as interactions via some set of interfaces [obviously - which is why I have long argued for a decade that the venerated Zachman model needs another column i.e. on presentation/interfaces (user, system)]

And regarding the 7 "new" principles:
  1. Non-deterministic - "they instead must decentralise decision-making". The term non-deterministic is a misnomer. What you really want is objective deterministic decision making carried out in a decentralised, objective and transparent way.
  2. Autonomous actors - "EAs must now recognise the broader business ecosystem and devolve control to constituents". EAs have NEVER controlled all aspects of architecture. One is tempted to suggest EAs should also consider how they work with the IT ecosystem.
  3. - Rule-bound actors - "EAs must now define a minimal set of rules and enable choice". EAs have NEVER provided detailed design specifications for all aspects of the EA (this is confusing Enterprise and Solution Architect)
  4. Goal-oriented actors - "Each constituent acting in their own best interests". It is just silly to suggest anything else has ever really happened the real world.
  5. Local Influences: "People are influenced by local interactions and limited information. Feedback within their sphere of communication alters the behaviour of individuals. No one has data about all of an emergent system. EA must increasingly coordinate". [Putting aside the absurd use of the word "Actor" in the original"]. Yawn - nothing new here. However one wonders if the use of the word "system" belies a recidivist tendancy towards again confusing Enterprise and Solutions Architecture]
  6. Dynamic or Adaptive Systems: "System changes over time. EA must design emergent systems sense and respond to changes in their environment.". Again nothing new.
  7. Resource-Constrained Environment: "emergence; rather, the scarcity of resources drives emergence". Necessity if the mother of invention [is over two thousands year old]
Nevertheless it is helpful to recognise that 5 of Gartners "new" points if restated are worth reiterating
  1. Decentralised decision making needs to be facilitated (and therefore access to information) - so we need to make information available to people in many places (in a way that suits them)
  2. Engaging with all constituencies is key - including the broader business ecosystem and devolve control to constituents (and of course the IT ecosystem)
  3. Publishing rules (standards, patterns etc.) is critical - so we can let solutions architects, and specialised technical architects do their job.
  4. Making decisions objectively and transparently is critical - as constituencies will always act in their own best interest - so we need to understand, and be able to examine/question, why different conclusions are reached.
  5. Facilitating KM and collaboration if fundametal - rather than trying to control all the information, and create all the artefacts (or pretend that the knowledge can "live" in documentary artefacts).

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