I love a good metaphor. Equally, I despise a bad one.

I’ve been doing some work recently for a client on what they should have where once stood an Enterprise Architecture team. If you are not familiar with what an Enterprise Architect does, think about what an Architect does.

Yeah, it’s nothing like that.

And there’s the rub. Some of the things that an Enterprise Architect does are hugely valuable to an organisation. It’s just that I don’t think that what most people think of as Architecture really is much like what there is of value in the world of EA.

(Aside 1: I’m not sure what most people think an architect does is necessarily what an architect actually does. The one we employed recently seemed to spend most of his time at the local council offices negotiating about windows.)

(Aside 2: I used to be an Enterprise Architecture, back when I was young and foolish.)

To my mind, the general conception of what an Architect does is to design things, mostly building things. Also to my mind what an EA does is to set standards for good practice, to provide regulation and give broad brush stroke ideas for what should happen in the future. They aren’t Enterprise Architects, they are Enterprise Urban Planners, Planning Inspectors and Building Controllers.

Not so snappy, I grant you.

But think about it. What an organisation of any sort of scale needs to understand is where it’s IT things are, how they interact, what should be replaced, what is likely to be built, how those things should be built and ensuring that the things that are built don’t piss off the neighbours or burst into flames.

That’s much more like what an Enterprise Architecture team does, or should do.

And that’s why I think the metaphor is broken. Suggestions for better ones most welcomed…

3 thoughts on “The IT Planning and Building Controls Department

  1. Agreed (with the urban planning comparison, etc.) right up to the closing paragraphs where you tied it all back to IT. If it’s Enterprise Architecture then it should be about the business. IT will be part of that but also how the business processes fit together and support the overall goals, objectives and strategy.

    How about this: an Architect designs a structure to the customer’s brief that will be safe, secure, meet regulations, is possible to construct with available materials, come in within budget, integrate with existing infrastructure, etc.; an EA does something similar but with technology and business processes. Perhaps the challenge is that many “EA”s are really Solution Architects and perhaps they are more like the Council Building Control department, ensuring that those who actually perform the construction are following the necessary regulations.

  2. For a while (too long!) have had a note that said:

    “IT has borrowed job roles (engineer, architect) from the building profession. Need to find new roles for Digital”

    The importance of those well-defined, regulated and governed roles still have a place but I wonder if we need something that is more holistic in the digital organisation.

    The other dimension to this thought is the changing nature of the professions (and access to) and how to move IT away from the supplier mindset to the partnership model within the whole organisation.

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