This year I’m predicting more stealth enterprise architecture! I’d like to say that I invented this phrase, but I’ve found at least two previous uses: one in a comment by Peter Parslow in 2010; the other from Alec Blair, the head of Enterprise Architecture for Alberta Health Services, who described the journey of how his team has used stealth Enterprise Architecture to move AHS to operate more consistently like one organization.
Now, Enterprise Architects have always had to play the political game and use stealth to sell their EA visions. Tricking decision makers into taking small steps that in combination cause longer-term transformation has long been part of the art of EA. At an Enterprise Architecture Conference and Exhibition in Washington, D.C. in 2006, Darren Ash talked about offering quick, immediate fixes, rather than promising future benefits from a mature enterprise architecture, as the best way to sell it!
But what I’m predicting for 2014 is something different. What I’ve noticed is that there are several examples where organizations have been forced into using EA techniques, almost without realizing that they are using EA! For example, individual government departments are required to share data across borders with other departments, and the most practical way to do this is to adopt common architectures. What is happening is that pragmatic necessity is forcing companies to adopt EA practice to solve immediate concerns. But in adopting EA techniques, these organizations are putting in place structures that make a good EA foundation for the future. Enterprise Architecture by stealth!
So maybe we need to combine the political savvy that architects have always needed with recognition that there is often an emerging architecture that we weren’t necessarily planning or even expecting. 2014 could be a year in which some of our architectural goals are met by stealth — through the serendipity of individual EA outcomes within a broad eco-system that build and merge by chance into a coherent and well-architected whole! It could be just fanciful thinking, but then again, it might already be taking place — that’s the nature of stealth!
[Editor’s Note: This post is part of the annual “Cutter Predicts …” series.]