Viewpoint: 'enterprise architecture principles hugely overrated'

Viewpoint: 'enterprise architecture principles hugely overrated'

Summary: Enterprise architecture proponent argues many EA principles, even those from certification groups such as TOGAF, 'fail to provide a sound basis for collective decision-making and governance.'

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Richard Veryard once again takes on the conventional wisdom, arguing that enterprise architecture statements of principles are hugely overrated. They "are usually ill-conceived and generally fail to provide a sound basis for collective decision-making and governance."

EA principles 'fail to provide a sound basis for collective decision-making and governance'

And this is a problem because...?

Too many enterprises attempt to based their architectural; decisions on principles that are based on casual suggestions and slogans, Richard says. Rather, they should be based on concrete, empirical evidence "that they actually work." Costs/benefits and downstream effects need to be accounted for.

Too many EA statements are based on "vague wishful thinking and motherhood statements," he adds.

Example:  A principle may be "achieving long term loyalty" in customer relationships. However, there may be factors involving short-term loyalty that eventually translate into long-term loyalty. Or "reducing the efforts of compliance" may be a principle.  However, "you probably wouldn't want to reduce the effort of compliance if this had the effect of doubling the downstream costs of legal action and compensation," Richard points out.

Even TOGAF and Pragmatic Enterprise Architecture Framework (PeaF) principles -- widely accepted guidelines for today's enterprise architects -- are rife with mixtures of "assertions, commands, preferences and goals," Richard illustrates in a previous, related post. For example, he says, TOGAF includes a command ("Requirements-based change; only in response to business needs are changes to applications and technology made"), followed by a preference ("Common use applications; development of applications used across the enterprise is preferred over the development of similar or duplicative applications which are only provided to a particular organization") followed by wishful thinking ("Maximize benefit to the enterprise; information management decisions are made to provide maximum benefit to the enterprise as a whole.")

The bottom line, he says, don't go overboard trying to adhere EA efforts to principles. "They are not universal truths," he points out.

Hmm. From my perspective, principles -- or mission statements on other levels -- have always served to solidify and provide a common purpose to keep everyone moving in the same direction. It almost acts like the rudder on a ship -- without it, everyone pursues what they think is needed, then end up running circles around each other. Then again, as pointed out by Patrick Gray, IT (and we'll include enterprise architects here) shouldn't have its own strategy -- the strategy should be one in the same as the business. Is this what Richard means?

Or maybe the lesson here is... you shouldn't try to sweet-talk enterprise architecture...  or architects.

Topic: Tech Industry

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  • RE: Viewpoint: 'enterprise architecture principles hugely overrated'

    Richard is right, 99% of what I see as principles are as described. Nevertheless a few good principles (7+2) provide sturdy goal posts at which to aim the target architecture.
    This point was made in the 1980?s by Paul Strassman (The Politics of Information Management). He suggested Principles should be formed with the clarity and simplicity of the U.S. Constitution. It represents a point of view that addresses the governance of complexity by concentrating only on the fundamentals while leaving everything else for resolution by means of due process wherever that is deemed appropriate.
    I generally suggest selecting options in answer to a set of questions that will frame the target architectures, for example:
    - What is the purpose of EA in the corporation?
    - What is the corporate risk appetite and standards?
    - To what extent does the corporation seek vendor/technology homogeneity?
    - Does the corporation aim to build on mainstream or best of breed technologies?
    As Richard points out ? once we submerge in detail we emerge covered in twaddle.
    Rob Aalders
    Rob Aalders
  • EA principles

    Most of the time, EA principles are barely usable by architects simply because very few of them are "architecture" principles; take for instance "achieving long term customer loyalty" looks more like a Sales... principle if a principle at all. There are only a few architecture principles. <br>Principles are generally poorly expressed; most of them are not even principles in that they are not aimed to guide your decision making. <br>But principles pale in comparison with the importance of frameworks which completely fail to provide the structure needed for the EA efforts. As such it does not matter much.<br>Adrian's EA FAQ and framework @ <a href="http://www.enterprise-architecture-matters.co.uk" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.enterprise-architecture-matters.co.uk</a>
    TheGrigoriu
  • RE: Viewpoint: 'enterprise architecture principles hugely overrated'

    It's the same with anything, if the preparation and execution is wrong, you will fail.

    Thats doesn't mean the thing you are attempting is worthless.

    Principles done well and governed well are the back bone of any EA initiative.

    If you get it wrong, you will fail.
    kevinleesmith