Blog post

Enterprise architects are mad as hell and not going to take this anymore

By Mike Rollings | October 22, 2010 | 1 Comment

TransformationStrategic PlanningManagementIT GovernanceHuman BehaviorAltered States

Okay, enterprise architects, this is your chance to join a fellow architect and go scream out the window.  Just like in the movie Network where longtime news anchor Howard Beale delivers a live rant claiming that life is ‘BS’, architects can join @chrisvenable as he screams along with other enterprise architects…

“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Chris wants EA to stand up and take its rightful place.  His post resulted from a Twitter discussion that I started when I retweeted “RT @lgreski: Burton: IT control is an illusion, EA needs collaborative view of governance. #GartnerSYM >Right on Betsy! INFLUENCE not ctrl

Here is a segment from Chris’s post:

It’s time to take a true leadership position, and to be empowered like every other leadership position in nearly every company.  It’s time to insist that EA is given the authority to match its responsibility, which is simply Business 101.

Mike invoked Gandhi.  I’m taking a different tack — I’m invoking Patton:

“The only sure defense is offense, and the efficiency of the offense depends on the warlike souls of those conducting it.”

Rise up, EA, and demand to be removed from behind the 8-ball.  No one will grant you the power and authority necessary to fulfill your mandate otherwise, because to some you represent nothing but a risk or even a threat.  In fact, many of them will gladly let you drown.  And they will survive, continuing to pad their 401(k)s as the memory of EA as a failed experiment gradually fades away…

It feels good to scream, but like Howard Beale states in his rant – now that you have screamed, what are you going to do about it?

Poor influence and communication is one of the top causes of enterprise architecture (EA) program failures and an inability to cause lasting behavior changes. An EA program typically requires a massive amount of influence and communication because it includes the implementation of organizational change. It includes changes to governance, changes to processes, new decision-making responsibilities, and a wide-range of other changes to how an organization does planning and implementation. For this type of transformation to be successful, a planned approach to influence and communication is critical. But, if you have ever had responsibility for implementing anything new in an organization—helping people recognize the existence of a problem, understand the need for new ways of thinking, drive conformance to standards, and start a new process—you too will recognize the importance of influence and communication.

Any large program or project evolves through a predictable set of stages as you develop a program to address an opportunity. These stages are usually encountered in the following order.


Consider the creation of an EA program. The initial foray into EA is typically based on the desire to create technology solution standards, reduce infrastructure complexity, and to begin instilling the use of common solution approaches. But to get to this point, the person evangelizing the program had to start defining the problem with stakeholders.  Maybe that is where you can start now that the screaming is over.

But change also requires commitment, repetition, and feedback.  Taking the hill is actually the continuous act of taking small and large hills.  The world is round – there is always another hill in front of you.  It can be very frustrating when you feel like you are not making progress.  But you have to continue to look for sources of value, make a contribution, and then assure that others recognize the contribution.  Equally important is to look for sources of value that aid forward momentum.  Being selective is a critical skill and you must align your effort to business outcomes that are meaningful, as well as illustrative of the purpose behind your EA program.

The bottom line is that most enterprise architects do not have power and authority to force other people to comply.  However, that does not force a limitation on success.  As Seth Godin insists, enterprise architects should strive to become a Linchpin.  The value from enterprise architecture is evident when it enables the achievement of business outcomes and influences better business decisions.

This approach adds value by exposing new perspectives upon which judgments are based. It relies on collaboration to ensure that things are done properly between compliance checkpoints. It also relies on informed people participating in the instruction of others and on the vested interest of subject matter experts (SMEs) who create architectures to ensure the approach is used, used properly, and maintained. An EA team cannot possibly work on every project; collaboration fills this void.

Teaching the organization to consider and incorporate multiple perspectives into its decision making is one of the challenges of applying EA. But when done well, it raises the level of EA from just a program to a catalyst for improving strategic thinking, planning, optimization, and design.

So now that the screaming is over, integrate EA into an ecosystem of good decision-making practices by improving your ability to influence decision-making practices.


For those interested in my reply, check out Chris’s post.  I definitely feel that Chris wants to make progress and not waves.  His point in the comments on his blog regarding “keeping the sword on the wall” shows his pragmatism.  I do believe that we all just want to get things done.

I also sent a reply to Todd Biske (unfortunately did not save it myself) where I stated that mandates are done by those seeking or using power.  Influence is exerting force – not in the sense of a deity or strength usage of the word – to affect an outcome.  The greatest force we have at our disposal is increasing the perspective for decision making.

Be a Linchpin!

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1 Comment

  • Mike, all EA architects want the EA to stand in its right place. The problem is that there are too many Enterprise Architects and too few Enterprise Architectures. And we don’t even have the right body of knowledge. We don’t even have an agreed definition or purpose, if you watch the discussions. This is what we have to get right before screaming.
    We strive to influence, or more properly, sell EA benefits without having an EA or relevant results, armed solely with frameworks of the past. No wonder that business people, while understanding the concept, don’t trust or empower the EA function.