Not long ago, I was asked an interesting question about our Enterprise Architecture team.  The question was “Does Microsoft provide the internal support to create an excellent Enterprise Architecture program?”

The answer is “yes” but it got me thinking: what qualifies as “excellent?”  That term is subjective.  In our business, what does it mean to be “excellent” and how might that differ from another business?

Excellent, to me, means that the effort is tailored to the needs of the business.  That includes business strategy, business structure, and corporate culture.  Our business, in Microsoft, is the business of developing and distributing software.  We are pretty good at it, although we have our critics.  

So our EA program is just that: tailored to the needs of Microsoft.  We don’t do more than Microsoft needs, or less than Microsoft demands.  We push the envelope, as change agents and thought leaders, but we don’t crimp creativity… let’s face it: we make money on applied creativity.  If one idea out of 1,000 makes money, we earn back the investment.  It’s a unique space to try to operate an EA program in.  We are excellent, but probably not typical.

I can only conjecture about what “excellent” would look like in another company.  We pay industry analysts and attend conferences, just like many of you do.  Part of the reason: to listen and learn about how practitioners in different companies do what they do.  Basically, we are trying to find out how our peers describe excellence for their own enterprise.

How do you define excellence?  Are you there yet?

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".

3 thoughts on “Excellence depends on the environment you are in”
  1. Excellence is the iterative and incremental pursuit of perfection.  In other words, it’s a journey, not a destination.

    Or at least that’s my $0.02. 🙂

  2. I work for a IT services company and hence definition of excellence depends on the customer whom I work with. Suprising, but true, we also try to gain some industry mindshare (and sometimes academic as well) in EA space by attending analyst calls or giving them a hang of what our thought leadership is.

    We often do thought leadership on what the industry (read clientele) wants and this defines our excellence. We try to adopt a technology neutral approach and hence we do not MS-ize / IBM-ize our solutions. Bottomline – our applied research is what the client wants and that provides the definition of excellence.

  3. Excellence is in the eye of the beholder… I don’t think you can define or measure it.

    Just remember that any point can be argued both ways, so your EA maybe excellent or not, all depends which crystal ball we use.

    The best we can do is provide objectives and goals that ‘measure’ the success of the EA, and with that define what excellence would mean.

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