‘Shadow’ technology needs a Shadow Architect

shadow_mangleShadow IT‘ is a term used to describe information systems and solutions built and used inside organisations without explicit organisational approval.  Cloud services, mobility and ‘Bring Your Own Device’ are driving an explosion in Shadow IT.  Shadow IT, like shadow finance and shadow economy suggests noncompliance and illegality.  Unlike the black market, shadow technology notionally unleashes immediate benefits but harbours a latent potential to damage its host.  Quantifying the risk, and getting sufficient attention to do something about it, is the issue.

Technology departments have tried to ‘reign in’ these rogues using the frameworks and processes of Enterprise Architecture, without much success.  One reason for the partial failure is that Enterprise Architects have a propensity to focus on risk management, standards compliance and centralised governance. This narrow ‘old-school’ focus locks them to the core, not the edge of the business where innovation happens. Meanwhile, the business units, driven by digital demand and unaided by their IT counterparts, have initiated their own innovation platforms.  That’s the line taken by Dean Gardiner from Dell Australia in his paper at the Australian Enterprise Architecture Conference (Sydney, October 2015).

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The ‘Systems-Thinking’ Enterprise Architect

Even with the best and most complete of models and frameworks, the practice of Enterprise Architecture (EA) in organisations isn’t always effective. Analysis does not always explain everything that happens, and changes that Enterprise Architects (EAs) make do not always deliver the expected benefits.  When EA does not deliver value as expected, or when it cannot be represented as a transparent cause and effect relationship, some EA defenders draw our attention to long delays in the enterprise’s adoption of information technology.  In light of this, EA should be thought of as an investment against things that might otherwise go wrong — kind of like a ‘flu shot for 2025.  Other apologists blame flaws in the EA frameworks and methods used, or in the way that they are used.

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In the Cloud, no one can hear your integrations scream!

Enterprise software vendors would have us believe that enterprises are flocking to The Cloud, meaning they are subscribing to remotely hosted utility systems and services rather than licensing and hosting them on premise.  The oft-claimed benefits are efficiency (only pay for what you use), simplicity (no more on-premise software) and agility (the software utility can be configured at any time to release new capabilities).

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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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A Systemic Perspective to Managing Complexity with Enterprise Architecture

ASystemicPerspectivetoManagingComplexitywithEnterpriseArchitecture-coverPallab Saha’s book on systemic perspectives for managing complexity with enterprise architecture is now officially published by IGI Global.  I have written Chapter 13, ‘Enterprise Architecture’s Identity Crisis: New Approaches to Complexity for a Maturing Discipline’.  The 18 month process was a reminder of the creation cycle times for this type of content. It seems that social media’s immediacy has done little to escalate the pace or compress the effort of producing a traditional academic work of 26 authors.

When I first started collecting thoughts and materials on what I began to understand as enterprise architecture’sidentity crisis’, I was reacting to my perception that IT-centric EA was increasingly facing a crisis of relevance. My experience of the unrealised promise of EA led me to think and discuss questions of theory, practice and purpose. ‘Identity crisis’ seemed an appropriate metaphor for the challenges facing enterprise architecture.

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‘Business-IT Alignment’ is history… long live ‘Business-IT symbiosis’

It is time we started talking about IT and business in terms of co-dependency, not alignment.

Symbiosis in nature’s design.

It is time we started talking about IT and business in terms of symbiosis, not alignment.

Over at Doug Newdick’s blog a discussion is running on the overuse of the word ‘alignment’ by enterprise architects.  Chasing alignment, he says, simply ensures that what people are doing in the name of enterprise architecture does not undermine the higher level business objectives.  While not violating business objectives is clearly non-negotiable, it should not be the main game for architects.  If it is, the architecture will likely undershoot its potential by a significant distance.

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Effective enterprise technology eats efficient enterprise technology for breakfast

DOE Departemental Enterprise Vision

Illustrator’s answer to the question ‘what is enterprise architecture?’

To crowd-source ideas for his next session at Forrester’s Enterprise Architecture Forum, Principal Analyst and blogger Jeff Scott indulged in the age-old ‘What is Enterprise Architecture?’ debate.  Definition debates have been aired in online forums so many times it’s a wonder anyone bothers to post, but each time a new crop of wannabes pop up to trot out the same semantic debates.  Not so this time.  To Jeff’s credit, his post pulled 3 recommendations and 14 comments, significant not so much numerically but for who responded and the thoughtfulness of the respondents.

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