Welcome to the seventh-anniversary edition of my enterprise architect’s New Year’s resolutions. I hope it will give you food for thought and some inspiration for architectural growth in 2012.
Understand business analytics. The past few years have seen dramatic increases in the capabilities of business intelligence systems, accompanied by decreases in costs, to the point where most organizations can easily afford to take advantage of business analytics. The problem is that the information that these systems need to analyze is not readily available. While this is not a trivial problem to solve, it does present a major opportunity for enterprise architecture. When we provide management or decision makers with information that they don’t currently have but that would help them make better decisions, it accomplishes several things. First, it sparks their interest in what architecture has to offer and, second, it makes them want to give us more resources to give them more information. Now is a perfect time to take advantage of this opportunity.
Embrace SCARF. A little while ago, I wrote about the SCARF model (see “Take a SCARF to Architecture Reviews,” 30 November 2011). The SCARF model involves five domains of human social experience: status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness. Status is about relative importance to others. Certainty concerns being able to predict the future. Autonomy provides a sense of control over events. Relatedness is a sense of safety with others — of friend rather than foe. And fairness is a perception of fair exchanges between people. These five domains activate either the “primary reward” or “primary threat” circuitry of the brain. Neuroscience tells us that threatening someone is counterproductive to getting them to think clearly or to cooperate. SCARF provides a model for understanding the threats and rewards in a social situation, such as an architecture review or other communications in order to achieve the best results.
Reduce technical debt. Technical debt refers to delayed technical work that is incurred when shortcuts are taken, usually in pursuit of calendar-driven schedules. Technical debt accrues in systems as we maintain and evolve them without spending the time to refactor them to accommodate the changes. Over time, this builds up fragile systems that can’t be changed and can’t accommodate the evolving business requirements. Beyond a single system, enterprise complexity results in technical debt in terms of system integration, system redundancy, and inconsistency. So the cost of technical debt isn’t simply the cost to fix it, it is also the cost to the business of inflexible and fragile IT systems that can’t be changed to meet current business needs and the lost opportunities they present to the enterprise. Architecture helps to address complexity, especially at the enterprise level. As projects are undertaken, look for opportunities to use those projects to also reduce technical debt.
Incorporate design principles. Earlier this year, I also wrote about Dieter Ram’s “Ten Principles of Design” (see “Principles of Design: Part I,” 13 September 2011, and “Principles of Design: Part II,” 28 September 2011). Ram explains that good design: is innovative, makes a product useful, is aesthetic, makes a product understandable, is unobtrusive, is honest, is long lasting, is thorough down to the last detail, is environmentally friendly, and is as little design as possible. Try to incorporate these principles into your architectural designs moving forward.
Initiate business architecture. Over the past few years, the field of business architecture (BA) has been evolving rapidly. It used to be the exception that an EA program had business architects, but now it is the rule. A consensus is emerging about what BA is, what it produces, who practices it, and how. Professional organizations such as the Business Architecture Guild are creating communities of architects and developing best practices. Now, BA is delivering results that are impacting the business and getting attention for doing so. And finally, the critical mass of successful results, best practices, skilled professionals, resources, and tools, has reached the point where business architecture is a mainstream capability within most advanced organizations. If business architecture is not already playing a major role in your enterprise, it’s time to get started.
Well, that’s it for 2012. Of course, you don’t need to make these official resolutions, but they do provide some ideas about practicing enterprise architecture. And while you’re thinking about it, have a happy, successful, and prosperous 2012.
Editor’s Note: Mike Rosen and Bill Ulrich will lead the interactive workshop Insider Secrets: Architecture Programs that Work at Summit 2012: Executive Education+, April 2-4, 2012 in Cambridge, MA.