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When the building’s on fire, who calls an architect?

No one does.  They call the fire department.This year, manufacturers and retailers need more IT fire fighters and fewer enterprise architects.

No one does.  They call the fire department.

This year, manufacturers and retailers need more IT fire fighters and fewer enterprise architects.  And those fire fighters need axes, ladders and hoses; not enterprise service buses or SOA governance suites.  Companies are fighting for their lives and employees are fighting for their livelihoods.   Enterprise architects and SOA vendors had better wake up and smell the smoke.

1. Put on your fireman’s hat This year, corporate budget and staff will flow like water from a high pressure hose for the right projects.  Enterprise architects have to be first on the scene, face to face with the fire.  Find the company’s 5 biggest fires and get involved.  SOA vendors have to reposition their tools for firefighting or they will be left behind.

2. Find the hot spots Companies that are burning cash need to put out the biggest fires first.  The IT budget is not a hotspot for most companies. The hot spots are in the business – in unsold inventory, unprofitable business units, poorly executed mergers, etc.  Companies are going to shut down and sell off underperforming assets at a breathtaking pace this year.  Enterprise architects need to show how IT can help unload those assets.  SOA vendors need to show how their tools help isolate underperforming businesses and prepare them for sale or shut down.

3. Put the fires out quickly Companies change more rapidly when under financial stress.  New management, with new ideas often make big changes and demand incredibly fast implementation.  IT needs to act fast, do work that’s “good enough”, and move on to the next project.  The time for architectural rumination is over.  If your architecture, infrastructure and skills are so good, now is the time to show the company.  If they aren’t, now is not the time to study it further; take your best shot, with the emphasis on speedy results.  SOA vendors need to show how their tools provide speed, not sophistication.

The worldwide economic downturn creates a real opportunity for enterprise architects and SOA vendors.  You have to go back to the Y2K panic to find a time when so many companies had the same #1 requirement.  The problem is if enterprise architects and SOA vendors don’t change their hats, they will miss the opportunity and put their momentum in jeopardy.  Companies will need architects when the crisis is over, but today, they need fire fighters.

-Ian Finley