Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Economics and Enterprise Architecture

I thought this quite a good item (

It touches indirectly on a couple of points e.g.
- Getting the right answer requires that you pose the right question.
- You need to ensure the cause/effect relationships are valid if you know your conclusions are correct.
- Assumptions and theories need to be tested by identifying the variables that need to remain static and then testing changes.

Having observed much EA/Strategy work I think that this makes some fundamental assumptions that are typically wrong e.g.
- that cause/effect relationships are made explicit and testable
- that assumptions and theories (or beliefs) are stated as such and their rationale made explict.


It also says:
"Unfortunately, you cannot demonstrate the value of Enterprise Architecture if you cannot monetize or enumerate the value of all possible choices relative to the choices that are being recommended or those that have been made. "

To me this is kind of ducking the issue - i.e. one can never know all all possible choices that could have need made (let alone monetize them) - this is the intrinsic problem of counterfactual reasoning I published a few years ago see summarised below:

There are always challenges in valuing and justifying, good (or often any) design, strategies, plans. The problem lies in a number of areas e.g.:

- Challenges with Counterfactual reasoning - In most situations one can't easily compare the result of what was done (designs/strategies/plans) with what could have been done.

- Self-interest: militates against sharing knowledge. Knowledge is power and sharing knowledge (e.g. the basis of a decision) can diminish ones power and one one up criticism (e.g. regarding the veracity of the data or the soundness of the analysis).

- Secrecy: sometimes one does not wish to disclose a strategy/plan. Often the downside of secrecy is that people in ones own team or side, don't understand what should be done, why, when etc. (i.e. the benefit of secrecy is outweighed by its impact on efficacy).

- Analysis and design is intrinsically difficult - strategy/design/planning, and modelling are often quite difficult to do well. To make matters worse the result can be seen, with hindsight, as trivial and not justifying the effort required. It is always quicker just to just act without thinking, and it may even be cheaper in the very short term.

- Future is someone else's problem - if what is done doesn't last, is expensive to operate, expensive to change etc. it is seldom the problem of the initiator, the initial designer, builder or user. It is a problem inherited by others.

While these issues can be seen all areas of life, ICT is particularly bad as it has not yet matured into a profession (where people have the requisite learning, training and discipline; and profess anything approaching code of ethics).

People wishing to ensure better strategies, designs and plans, need to look for others who:
- Intrinsically value better strategies, designs and plans, and can consider the future.
- Can overcome self-interest of knowledge holders and know what must be kept secret
- Know thinking is difficult, takes time and money and are prepared for the effort.

1 comment:

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