The information and communications technology (ICT) world is constantly evolving in complexity. As computational technology advances, it allows for the building of more capable systems, architectures, and solutions. We’ve added so much agility to the behavior of systems that many now consider them as complex adaptive systems, suspected of developing their own intelligence. I would rather call it “stochastically featured” because — due to their omnipotent presence, internal complexity, and strength of interrelationship — we are not able to predict their deterministic behaviors in definitive ways.
I have seen a certain pattern in the science world in which a decomposition path is utilized to understand the “pieces” but — as Albert-László Barabási described in his book Linked — people then often fall into an understanding trap of not being able to reconstruct the pieces into proper “wholes” due to links, which have been lost or missed during subsequent decompositions. I have observed the same pattern in technology management, where we focus on analysis until we understand the pieces, then we reconstruct the solution based on such an understanding. But what a pity — over and over again, this does not work.
To manage complexity is not to understand it in details, but to control the whole. Porting it into the ICT world means focusing on architecture and synthesis instead of systems and analysis. Enterprise architecture, as a philosophy, makes this control feasible.
Wrong Practices or Wrong Views?
During the last decade we have developed many management practices to aid us in dealing with IT problems. But, despite efforts of practices implementation and maturation, the problems tend to continually slip from our control. Where is the solution? Are these practices outdated? Do we need some new silver bullet? Or maybe humans are too weak to handle the IT world and cannot control it anymore?
My opinion is that none of these statements is true. We have focused so much of our attention on practices that the subject of our effort — the IS environment itself — has evolved unnoticed. It became too complex for us to handle using these practices in their entirety. Thus, we must consciously decompose these practices by subject, but in a way that guards us from the trap. We can continually exercise the practices as long as we incorporate an EA philosophy into their bodies. This is where we will gain both control and efficiency.
I suppose all IT managers at one time or another scream, “But we did that already!” As long as organizations only embed EA philosophy in “this or that” ICT management practices, they will make no significant gains. Such philosophy should become the most fundamental technology management tool practiced, and we should perceive it as the bond among various ICT-related tasks and endeavors. This is the view I present, and hopefully prove, in my recent Executive Report.