Enterprise Architects should just get over being precious about software

Software is the fabric of the information age. It is eating the machine age. In the end it might even eat itself!  Software is so successful, so pervasive, so adaptable that code, and the ability to code,  are devaluing. Software is the commodity of our age and software development the occupation of the new working class.

Enterprise Architects should just get over being precious about software… and architecture, enterprise architecture, strategic planning etc.   

Architecture is a metaphor that had relevance when software could be funded and managed like other capital investments.  Software — unlike concrete, the fabric of capital investments — never ‘sets’.  It is mostly open and freely shared.  Software to do just about anything is a few clicks away for everyone with an internet connection.

Software never goes to the presses, to be set in hot metal, to be printed on paper, for all time.  When software made large capital investments, Architects were needed to do the ‘town planning’, quality assurance and gate-keeping.  Because software was an expensive, proprietary commodity. 

Software written today is not quite the same as the software of the big capital projects era.  It manipulates components, in frameworks, on platforms, and is just disciplined, structured writing.  Like poets, we try hard to write less of it, not more.  We no longer measure our worth by ‘Lines of Code per Day’. And if we throw bits away from time to time, we dont fret. Like all good writers, we should be prepared to ‘Kill our Darlings’.

Now that software is a commodity — open, and everywhere, people formerly known as ‘Architects’ (Enterprise or other kinds) have a new role.
Enterprise Architects should support Agilists to deliver services at a rapid rate. The Agilists will accumulate a bit of technical debt in the process. But relentless business demand and change will preserve the Agile capability. Paying down the kind of technical debt that matters will happen.

Enterprise Architects should work out how to influence the demand side (The Business) to drive Agile delivery capabilities to deliver outcomes for clients and customers first.  Then indirect customer benefits second (such as business efficiency).

Technical debt minimization is important but it is not Enterprise Architecture’s raison d’être .

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Where’s the Art in Enterprise Architecture?

Vitruvian canon, re-interpreted by Robert Venturi for the Functionalists (from 'Learning from Las Vegas').

Vitruvian canon, re-interpreted by Robert Venturi for the Functionalists (from ‘Learning from Las Vegas’).

I had the opportunity to attend the First Australian Enterprise Architecture Conference, 19th and 20th November 2013, at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground. The conference wrapped up with the traditional panel of luminaries. The session touched on some of the recurring themes and topics of the two days – enterprise architecture definitions, identity, what we are, what we do, what we don’t do, frameworks versus ontology, methods and pitfalls, value propositions and rationale.

As it happened, I got to ask the final question of the conference. The following is an improved, expanded and referenced version of the challenge I put to John Zachman and a number of EA practitioners and consultants.

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Designing clinical spaces with ‘co-creation’

Co-creation.

Participatory design methods (co-creation) have been around for a while, but it’s been a while since a co-creation story as practical as the one told by Liz Sanders  has been told.

Liz Sanders explains ‘co-creation at scale’.

Her employers, architecture firm NBBJ talk of bringing a ‘human-centred approach to architecture and planning’.  That’s relatively progressive coming from a firm of architects.

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The truth about egalitarian design

We are all designers

We are all designers

‘Design thinking’ is being sold as a methodology for sticky problems. It is also being sold as a process that just about anyone can use to solve ‘wicked problems’. Either something is slightly inconsistent between these two claims or it’s one hell of a method.

‘Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need weird shoes or a black turtleneck to be a design thinker’ Tim Brown writes (HBR, June 2008). ‘Nor are design thinkers necessarily created only by design schools… many people outside professional design have a natural aptitude for design thinking, which the right development and experiences can unlock’.

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What’s killing ‘design thinking’?

Is ‘design thinking’ a dinosaur yet?

Discussions of design thinking across the blogosphere and business press range from evangelical to critical to terminal, with commentator Bruce Nussbaum declaring the emperor dead or at least out to pasture. In April 2011 Nussbaum argued that there were ‘far too many failures’ in this process.  CEOs took to the process side of ‘design thinking’, implementing it like Six Sigma and other efficiency-based processes, he claimed.  But such an approach could never deliver the heavy lifting of a viable innovation process.

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The stories designers tell

The Boyhood of Raleigh by John Everett Millais

The virtual presses are understandably full of accounts of Steve Jobs‘ significance and magnificence. Many raise mystical questions of what made Jobs special and whether others will ever be able to reproduce his success. Great stories from Apple insiders about Jobs are being told. Without wishing to cast the slightest dispersion on Jobs’ obvious genius in any way whatsover, I do find myself wondering what embellishments are being applied as his former disciples spin these yarns. Continue reading

‘Design thinking’ pronounces the final rites of the heroic designer

Tugendhat Villa

We are all enculturated in the mythology of the master architect, the grand designer, the silver-haired visionary. Stories from design history depict larger-than-life figures, towering over grand designs, by virtue of their superior designerly powers, like design deity. Some historical figures were indeed geniuses. It is said that Frank Lloyd Wright’s reticence in revealing his concept for Fallingwater was making Kauffman (his client) increasingly nervous. With just hours before Kauffman was due to walk through the studio door, Wright apparently gathered his apprentices around the drafting table and sketched the concept in all its cantilevered glory before their eyes, narrating his thoughts as he drew. What this story says about Wright’s power of mental conceptualisation is inspiring. Myths are built on the exceptional, not the mundane.

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