//How (not) to convince an architect

How (not) to convince an architect

I’ve been watching, with a mixture of dismay and mirth, a LinkedIn discussion between Adrian Grigoriu and a group of Enterprise Architects as he attempts to promote his new business architecture approach.  Now, to be fair, Adrian has already written and published his book, so it is a little late to take constructive criticism from his peers.  Poorly timed discussions are a dangerous thing.

One thing that is clear: the architects on LinkedIn are not convinced that his diagram is actually an architectural model.  To be fair, Adrian has dug a hole for himself by (a) insisting that his diagram is actually an architectural model, and (b) stating that it compliant with emerging standards.  The folks on the forum have rather convincingly demonstrated that both these statements are untrue.  The odd thing is: those statements don’t need to be true.  The diagram doesn’t have to be an architectural model to be a useful diagram.

Not everything that an architect produces must be an architectural model.  I think it is good when we use models because we can defend the view with data, but the imperative of an EA is to be useful first and foremost.  It is entirely possible that, in some situations, Adrian’s diagram would be “useful” without being a model.  Unfortunately, he never describes those cases, so we are left to marvel at his diagram and say “good job” without being sure that we can use it.  Personally, I don’t find it useful.  Alas.

So, what does it take to get other architects to see value in the work you do?  What mistakes did Adrian make when he started the conversation?

  • First and foremost, we all have a certain amount of self confidence in the “goodness of our stuff.”  That can lead to a little bit of self delusion, and every author is susceptible to it.  The key, in a semi-scientific community like EA, is to counterbalance that natural tendency with opinions from peers in a private and trusted conversation, before you go live to the marketplace with your final product.  Scientists discovered a long time ago: peer review matters.  Get your peers to review your work before you publish it, so that you can make statements that are credible, accurate, and compelling without getting involved in pedantic discussions.
     
  • Secondly, Use some of that business savvy that makes a business architect successful and consider your “idea” to be a product.  How would you market that product?  What name would you call it that would be appealing to the people who need to “buy” it?  What would they find credible, surprising, useful, compelling, and easy to share?  Perhaps if Adrian had taken a “marketing” approach to his ideas, he would not have named his framework “GODS,” presented it only from the business process perspective, or ignored the fact that he has represented two (out of dozens) of high level business models as though it were an archetype for all commercial businesses.
     
  • Third, when you want others to believe you, tell a compelling story about how the product came to be, what inputs you used, what experts you relied on, how it has already proven useful in three or more places, how others can use it, and why it is important for your readers to adopt it NOW.  If you cannot weave together all of the elements of a good story, your customers won’t care and you will spend all your time talking to critics who really have no motivation to support you, but plenty of reasons to oppose you.  Not a good place to be.
     
  • Lastly, know when you are selling and when you are collaborating.  His question to LinkedIn was phrased to invite collaboration, but that is not what he wanted to occur.  As a result, his purpose (advertising the book) is defeated, but more importantly, he is unable to collaborate with people who would love to help him, but cannot because he did not ask for help at the time when it would have been useful: before the book was out the door.

I wish Adrian good luck with his efforts, but more importantly, I hope to learn from his mistakes.

By |2010-12-09T11:12:10+00:00December 9th, 2010|Enterprise Architecture|9 Comments

About the Author:

President of Vanguard EA, an Enterprise Architecture consulting firm in Seattle focused on the Pacific coast of the US. Nick has 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".

9 Comments

  1. Adrian Grigoriu December 10, 2010 at 2:05 am - Reply

    Nick, any publicity is good, the saying goes, so thanks. What you call a discussion it's just me responding to every other comment of a couple of members alone, unfortunately. I did not consider though the issues raised (such as metamodels and relationships, or compliance) as core, at least at this point in time, for the proposed BA discussion. But everybody has a point you have to answer to, to be fair. The discussion is not really edifying.

    I would have welcomed nevertheless comments on the components of the business architecture: what  are they or what should they be? Why those components? Rather than posts on how to  sell one's ideas online.

    This model is free to employ if found useful. So it's not so much what I get but what others may get from it.  There is no other accepted BA model in use in EA so far.

    I gave up long ago hopes that books sell; not unless you have the right marketing and name and luck which I don't, you don't no matter how much logic you put into it.  People seem not to have time to read any longer.  In fact , I do not advertise the book, as you seem to believe for some reason, it's just that I cannot engage in publishing it all in discussion threads as answers to questions like: What is your metamodel? What is your framework?

    And, when was the last time you saw someone discussing own book online before publishing?

  2. Jason December 10, 2010 at 6:42 am - Reply

    I've been watching this saga unfold as well. Great feedback, Nick.

  3. NickMalik December 10, 2010 at 11:50 am - Reply

    Hi Adrian,

    Actually, I've seen many folks discussing their ideas online before they pull them together into a book.  Probably the best example is the book "Business Model Generation" where Osterwalder actually pulled together a community of people to test out the ideas, provide content, and effectively co-author the book itself.  That is an outlier, though.  More typical would be Tom Graves, who reviewed his entire approach on business modeling before authoring his book.  Another example would be William Ulrich, who chairs the OMG business modeling group who had created his ideas entirely in the open, well before publishing his new book.

    It's the new model.  Works well in this space.

    Sorry to assume that you were advertising.  The link to Youtube seems to be an ad.  My bad.

    — Nick

  4. Adrian Grigoriu December 11, 2010 at 3:10 am - Reply

    Nick, don't bother about my mistakes, dangers, stories… If you think the model is right just contribute, adopt it, make it happen.

    Adrian

  5. Nic Plum December 11, 2010 at 4:59 am - Reply

    A useful and accurate appraisal.

    The point about trying to get a scientific approach is a good one and EA suffers badly when it isn't applied. This requires not only truthful statements but evidence so that they can be verified otherwise we're left with 'trust me'/'it is because I say so'/ 'have you no faith' type of argument which is no basis in which to build anything of rigour as it is just an opinion rather than a testable fact. This is where peer review helps. If a claim isn't supported then it's an easy matter to change or remove the claim.

  6. JD Beckingham December 11, 2010 at 6:55 am - Reply

    Nic – Four very good points and some sage advice; I hope that it is taken in the spirit it was intended

  7. NickMalik December 11, 2010 at 9:52 am - Reply

    Hello Adrian,

    I'd like to respond to your ask: "Nick, don't bother about my mistakes, dangers, stories… If you think the model is right just contribute, adopt it, make it happen."

    What if I don't think it is right?  Can I contribute then?

    If I contribute and you don't change it, should I adopt it?

    If I don't adopt it, and others don't adopt it, can you make it happen on your own?

    I'm not here to discuss the merits of your approach.  The point of my post is to remind myself, and ask others, to consider that particular thread to be a "teachable moment."  Each one of us has ideas on how to improve EA.  I have them, you have them.  There are thousands of EAs around the world, and most of us are "flying blind, but lighting the way."  

    I believe in your good intent.  From everything you write, I believe that you are doing what we are all doing: lighting the way for yourself and hopefully for your peers.  I applaud that and honor it and support you and your noble attempt.

    However, to be successful, there were some steps missed along the way… steps indicated by my series of questions at the beginning of this response.  I hope to ask the community of Enterprise Architecture, who would like to convince others of the "goodness" of their approach, to consider NOT skipping those steps.  

    Perhaps good ideas will bubble to the top.  The business architecture approach that you are presenting may be a good one… time will tell.  If you create an environment of openness and peer review, I am willing to bet that you would be more likely to see that happen.  Please consider the idea.  

    With utmost respect,

    — Nick

  8. Adrian Grigoriu December 13, 2010 at 2:35 am - Reply

    Nick, there is a discussion thread awaiting your professional input. This is not about me but about a model that can do good to the BA/EA community, if found useful.

  9. NickMalik December 13, 2010 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    I responded to the thread on LinkedIn Adrian.  I second the notion that you need a metamodel under your diagram, that works to illustrate how your reference model is an expression of data within that metamodel and also works to clarify how that reference model is a view that is specific to a "reference" stakeholder set.  As I mentioned on LinkedIn, I'm happy to work with you, if you'd like, to create that metamodel (or leverage an existing one) so that you have the foundation that you need to make the claims you are making.

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