As we look to using tools for Strategic Planning in IT, I am constantly reminded of the fact that many business people don’t know what Strategic planning is, or why anyone should bother doing it.  This is not a Microsoft thing.  As I read the reports from our consultants in the field, and speak with tool vendors and consultants in the EA space, one bit of advice appears over and over:

Make sure you write down the questions that the business wants the Enterprise Architecture team to answer.  Then collect only the information that you need to collect in order to answer them.

Two things hit me when I consider this advice:

  1. The advice is excellent.  EA can get sidetracked by Ivory Tower problems, answering questions that no one is asking.
  2. Wow, we have an immature industry.  Perhaps I’m mistaken, but don’t mature practitioners of any repeatable process have a set of questions that they need to get answered?  

I’d like to see a time, in the not-too-distant future, when we can offer a course in graduate school on Enterprise Strategic Planning in IT, and one of the final exam questions would read: “List all eight of the key questions that are answered through strategic planning?”

I’m planning for the day when the questions will be standard, the answers easily gained, and the value of asking the questions will be so obvious that an EA team can be held accountable if they fail to ask, and answer, them.

 [[added by Nick: 18 May]]: as a response to another post, I was presented with a link to a site, operated by a set of researchers in Germany, where the site owners are attempting to catalog ‘patterns’ of concerns and bits of information models useful for answering those concerns.  This is the first really comprehensive attempt I’ve seen to address this issue, and I applaud it.  For those interested in Enterprise Architecture, I strongly suggest that you keep an eye on these folks:

By Nick Malik

Former CIO and present Strategic Architect, Nick Malik is a Seattle based business and technology advisor with over 30 years of professional experience in management, systems, and technology. He is the co-author of the influential paper "Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture" with Dr. Brian Cameron that effectively defined modern Enterprise Architecture practices, and he is frequent speaker at public gatherings on Enterprise Architecture and related topics. He coauthored a book on Visual Storytelling with Martin Sykes and Mark West titled "Stories That Move Mountains".

4 thoughts on “All the questions fit to answer”
  1. Nick – follow your blog pretty closely, it’s definately one of my favorites. If you’ve taken a stab at the eight, would you mind sharing?

  2. I am with you. Most questions repeat over the time. The challenging fact for the EA team is to pick up the ongoing change and give a answer that is not the same as before or just a reference to an existing framework. It is about a dedicated answer to this singe question in awareness of the business needs and the business’ environment.

  3. Hi, just discovered your blog, and was thrilled to see recognition of metamodels and analyzing business processes before system use cases.  I’ll be following, and you’ve inspired some future posts in my blog at

    I’ve been reading a book by H. Mintzberg called "The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning".  There were numerous formal methods established for strategic planning in the 1960s & 70s.  They are now reduced to buzzwords like "synergy" and the familiar SWOT analysis.  Although meant for business, they could be used for IT.

    Are you trying to combine strategic planning (a temporal perspective on actions over the long term) with enterprise architecture (a description of structures to be fixed for the long term)?

    I agree that EA is not yet a mature discipline.  However, once a formulaic method is established to do something, the brightest minds lose interest.  The people (hired like a commodity) who apply the formula by rote may produce less-than-artful results.

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