/Tag: Collaboration

Do you perform Information Architecture or a Data Architecture?

By |2016-07-10T00:41:37+00:00November 21st, 2014|Enterprise Architecture|

So, full disclosure, I care about Wikipedia.  Call me dumb, I know.  Wikipedia has been described, alternatively, as the best platform ever invented for fostering useless arguments among ignorant people /and/ the most successful encyclopedia effort of all time.  The truth, as always, lies between these extremes.

Well, I’m part of a small team that is working to clean up the Wikipedia pages dealing with Enterprise Architecture.  One thing that we noted recently is the fact that there are two pages, similar, both rather poor, that cover essentially the same topic.

One page is called “Information Architecture” and the other is called “Data Architecture.”


The Architecture Manager – the Forgotten Enterprise Architecture Role

By |2014-11-11T16:46:03+00:00November 11th, 2014|Enterprise Architecture|

I’ve met many Architecture Managers over the years.  Sometimes they go by the title of “Chief Enterprise Architect” or “Chief IT Architect” and other times, the title is “Vice President of Architecture and Strategy” or some variant.  The men and women called to serve in this unique role have a distinct, and uniquely important role to play in the success of the Enterprise Architecture function in their enterprise.  Yet precious little is said about them.

In this article, I’ll touch one some of the key qualities I would expect to find in a successful Architecture Manager.

What value does an Architecture Manager provide

As the role of Enterprise Architect matures in organizations around the world, we’ve begun to see the tremendous impact that an effective architecture manager provides.  In many ways, the Architecture Manager is the single most important role in the department, but also the most difficult role to fill.  That is because, typically, the role is filled by a person who “moves up” from being an Enterprise Architect.  Unfortunately, being an excellent EA is poor preparation for this particular role.

An Architecture manager is:

  • An expert at “selling upwards” – Convincing management of the need, role, measures, and successes of the EA function as a whole.
  • An expert as “peer selling” – Convincing enterprise peers of the value of requiring their staff to collaborate with an architect, especially when doing so forces a change on the processes they would otherwise use.   (this is one of the most difficult and valuable activities an Architecture Manager can do).
  • A visionary for the development of the function – Convincing the team, the management, and internal partners of the vision and desired impact of Enterprise Architecture in the organization, keeping in mind both short term and long term goals.   Without vision, the function cannot grow. 
  • A good people and resource manager – Capable of aligning people to roles that can be successfully performed, helping his or her staff to grow to meet their potential, and finding new resources from within and without the enterprise capable of performing an architecture function.   It’s amazing how many architects move up to a manager role and have no idea how to do this well.  This blind spot can kill a team within a year.


In my travels, I’ve met both good Architecture Managers and not-so-good Architecture Managers.  The ones in need of improvement nearly always struggled at one of the above.

What are the responsibilities of an Architecture Manager

Enterprise Architects are rare birds… especially good ones.  There are many folks who have worked to become Enterprise Architects, and a few who succeeded in recognizing the uniquely holistic role of an EA.  Typically an EA has to manage through influence alone, because it’s rare that an EA has a team of resources assigned to him or her.  But an Architecture Manager is in a different position.  They do have a team, and unlike other efforts where they could be objective about a business leader’s business processes and functional alignment, they now have to perform architecture on themselves.  Sometimes, they succeed.

If you find you need to hire an architecture manager, you’ll need a list of responsibilities for your hiring team.  Just copy the following list.

The responsibilities of an Architecture Manager include:

  • To set the vision, goals, and measures of success for the Enterprise Architecture function within an enterprise, recognizing the current team maturity, skills of the team members, and readiness of the enterprise to accept the role as desired.
  • To measure the value of the efforts of the Enterprise Architecture function in a neutral manner and present those measures at appropriate times to stakeholders within the enterprise to earn buy in for the function and the funding it requires.
  • To create, refine, and oversee execution of the internal processes of the Enterprise Architecture function, including documenting processes, building support for points of interaction, and ensuring the deliverables match the expectations and timing needed by internal partners and stakeholders.
  • To manage the team members of the Enterprise Architecture function effectively and within the required parameters set by Human Resources.  This includes hiring staff, setting team goals, and conducting performance reviews.
  • To manage the assignment of resources to necessary priorities within the enterprise to meet conflicting strategic needs, and shielding the team members from being pulled out of role.
  • To act as an evangelist for the role of Enterprise Architect within the enterprise, working to build support for the function and its staff members among internal partners.


What should an Architecture Manager know

Some of this is pretty obvious, but it’s worth stating anyway.  The architecture manager has to be familiar with enterprise architecture.  But they also have to be familiar with how things can work in an organization, especially if the focus of the EA program is related to IT (as it nearly always is).

  • Experience with and understanding of the deliverables and value proposition of Enterprise Architecture.
  • Deep understanding of the methods and processes an appropriate EA framework. 
    • For telecom, this would be Frameworx (formerly NGOSS and eTOM).
    • For US federal government, that would be the FEA or DODAF.  (in different countries, there are different governmental frameworks). 
    • For private business, the leading frameworks would be TOGAF in first, with a tiny number of organizations still using Zachman. 
    • A small but growing number of companies use the Pragmatic EA Framework (PEAF). 
    • Most organizations roll their own, often from TOGAF, so starting there is the safest.  Note that a certification in TOGAF or the Zachman Framework is a great start.
  • Strong written and oral communication skills
  • Strong and demonstrable systems thinking and strategic thinking skills.  The ability to capture the key elements of a system into a simple abstraction that empowers good decisions.
  • Solid business financial skills.  Demonstrable ability to perform cost benefit analysis and manage the budget of a team.
  • Strong business negotiation skills, influence, conflict resolution, and political savvy
  • Demonstrable leadership in Portfolio Management, Project Management and Enterprise Change Management
  • Multiple years of Strategic Planning experience, preferably in a governance role


What should an Architecture Manager NOT do

In many cases, people who move into the role of Architecture Manager worked their way to that role as an architect.  They may have been a technical architect, solution architect, business architect, or enterprise architect.  In many organizations, these roles are deeply technical.  Of all the architecture managers I’ve met, the overwhelming majority are technologists.

Unfortunately, most technologists don’t have the skills to focus on the responsibilities listed above.  It is tempting to continue to be a technologist once moving to this role.  It is also suicide.  Your term as the “Vice President of Strategy and Architecture” will be short if you cannot step back and let your team perform the technologies or modeling activities typical of an architect.  This means, for the architecture manager himself or
herself: No modeling,  No coding,  No time spent geeking out.  (Ok, exception, fiddling on the side is fine, especially if you want to “stay warm” with your technical skills… but nothing deliverable.)

Where should I look to find a good Architecture Manager

First place is the same as you’d expect for any role: find a person who was successful as an Architecture Manager in another enterprise.  Be careful of people who performed  but did not succeed as an Architecture Manager.  Most folks fail.  Find out if the function continued after they left, and if their team enjoyed working for them, and if their stakeholders saw fit to provide an increased level of interaction with their staff members.  Look at examples of their teams’ deliverables and ask about their ability to build and maintain new business processes.

Second option is to bring in an experienced architect and let them take on the role.  Assuming the team already exists and is well accepted within the organization, this is a reasonable approach.  Finding a seasoned architecture manager is extraordinarily difficult, so this may be the only rational option.  The person you select should have worked for at least six years as an Enterprise level architect, with increasing levels of responsibility, and should preferably have been a resource manager at some other point in their career.  If the program does not already exist, see the next section.

Third option is a seasoned manager who has no experience as an Enterprise Architect.  This may be a distinguished technical architect, or the leader of a highly visible program in the past.  These folks are expected to bring expert team leadership skills and deep technical skills.  The biggest challenge that they will face is being able to adequately learn the role.  Unlike most other management roles, the Architecture Manager must be able to SELL the value of the role of Enterprise Architect, and that is extraordinarily difficult to do if the manager wasn’t an architect first.  The learning curve is very steep.  To pull this off, the Architecture Manager will need a good mentor or an experienced consultant to help guide them through the first year in role. 

Building a program around an Architecture Manager

If you don’t already have a functioning Enterprise Architecture program, your very first hire will be the Architecture manager.  This role will be doing a great deal of heavy lifting in that first year.  Setting up processes and deliverables.  Making sure that the stakeholders buy in to collaborating with those processes.  Hiring and situating staff.  Creating priorities and managing resources.  Setting up measurement and demonstrating value.  It’s a tough road to build from scratch while providing value.

The only advice I can give: do NOT build a new EA program around an Enterprise Architect who has never been an Architecture Manager before.  That is simply too much for a single person to handle.  Going from EA to Architecture Manager of a new program is a huge leap, and I have never seen it be a successful approach in the long term.  The person you hire may be a “survivor” who knows how to avoid being fired, but that won’t make them effective.  Once they move to another role in the enterprise, the function will likely vanish.

You need the Architecture Manager to be effective.  To build a program with lasting value.  To build a program that matures over time. 

So if you are building a new EA program, build it around an experienced Architecture Manager.  Then support them with resources that they did not ask for: (a) an outside expert who can provide a neutral point of view and sounding board as they build and struggle that first year, and (b) Serious “air cover” so that they have the time needed to build the team, create the processes, build support, and demonstrate early value.


The single most important person in the Enterprise Architecture function is the Architecture Manager.  This critical role is part visionary, part marketer, part people manager, and part evangelist.  They have to change the organization and keep the change from undoing itself.  The role of Enterprise Architecture is highly dependent upon the skills and the focus of this key role.  Choose wisely.

Has in-person communication become the unwilling victim of technology?

By |2013-04-08T04:32:57+00:00April 8th, 2013|Enterprise Architecture|

In Enterprise Architecture, one of the most important aspects of the job is not only to communicate, but to lead change.  In other words, it is great to have the data to point to a problem in an enterprise.  It is better to help that enterprise overcome it by changing something (processes, technology, training, staff levels, departmental structures, roles and responsibilities, artifacts, governance mechanisms, etc).  Change requires more than simple communication.  It requires a kind of in-person, face-to-face, listening and hearing and absorbing interaction that is difficult or impossible over written mechanisms like e-mail, word documents, and powerpoint presentations.

Our technology has led us to the point, in modern business, that we consider outsourcing and remote work to be a net benefit for all involved, but each of these “distance” mechanisms introduces the RISK of poor communication.  That risk is magnified when the person on one end of the line is hoping to change something that the person on the other end is doing.  Change is harder across distance, and that difficulty becomes magnified when dealing with the array of different interactions that are needed at the enterprise level.

I wonder if the PC revolution, that brought us personal access to written communication, has created a deep reliance on written communication in corporate processes.  I wonder, further, if that access to technology isn’t directly harming our ability to look a person in the eyes and communicate with them.

As a culture, we have moved from the age of face-to-face all the way to text-messaging-someone-in-the-same-room in the course of a single generation. 

Enterprise Architecture is more difficult because of this shift in communication patterns.  All forms of face-to-face communication are hampered by it.

Modern technology has done more to damage interpersonal communication than any other paradigm shift in human history.

This worries me.

AGILE architecture vs. agile ARCHITECTURE

By |2016-09-28T22:45:54+00:00April 5th, 2013|Enterprise Architecture|

As an architect involved in an agile implementation (my current gig), you can imagine how interested I was to see that there’s a new book on Agile Architecture, and perhaps how disappointed I was to see that it focused on SOA and Cloud.  That’s not to put down SOA or the cloud.  I’m a huge fan of both.  But it wasn’t the area of agility that I was hoping that a book, with that title, would address.  The misunderstanding was mine, not the authors.  I haven’t read the book yet, but I’m sure I will.

That moment of misunderstanding crystallized a thought: how even a two word phrase like “agile architecture” had two completely different meanings.  The opening scene of the movie “The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey,” puts a rather humorous twist on this idea, when Gandalf introduces himself to Bilbo Baggins (who has apparently forgotten having met him as a boy). (more…)

All Effective Enterprise Architects Are Agile

By |2016-09-28T22:43:18+00:00January 15th, 2013|Enterprise Architecture|

I explained to one of my clients recently that there is a perception of animosity between the Enterprise Architecture community and the Agile community.  Both sides make assumptions about the other, often assumptions that are simply unfair.  For example, many in the EA community think of “agile practices” as an opportunity to develop software without any architecture at all, while many in the agile software development community think of architecture as one of the “big design up front” guys who oppose their principles and practices.  Of course, it is not difficult to find people who fit those unfair descriptions, but I’d like to point out how these two viewpoints are similar.

I believe that effective Enterprise Architecture must be approached from an agile standpoint.

First off, what does it mean to be agile?  (more…)

The Story behind “Stories That Move Mountains”

By |2012-11-04T18:31:33+00:00November 4th, 2012|Enterprise Architecture|

There is a new book available that I’d like to let everyone know about.  It is called “Stories That Move Mountains.”  I wrote this book with two fantastic professionals Martin Sykes and Mark D. West.  In this post, I’m going to talk about how this book came to be, and why I felt so strongly about it that I invested two years of my life in bringing it to market.

First off, if you are interested in buying the book, and we think you will be, you can click on the image of the cover to take you straight to our “buy the book” page on the book’s sister site, StoriesThatMoveMountains.com


Edward Tufte and Me

My journey into “rich information” began, as it did many others, when I heard about a book called “Visual Explanations” written by Edward Tufte.  It was 1997, and the dot-coms were booming.  I had left Microsoft to stake a claim in the modern gold rush.  I was working as a development manager in a quickly growing web development company in downtown Seattle called Fine.com International. (see note

On my team was a talented young web developer named Brian Poel who told me about a seminar he attended hosted by Tufte.  In the seminar, Tufte taught about creating visual designs that inform, not just impress.  Brian showed me the materials and I ended up reading Tufte’s book myself  (Another bit of evidence to support the old saying: a manager is only as good as the smart people that surround him).

Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and NarrativeAt fine.com, we used the techniques described by Tufte in every way we could.  His guidance led to design ideas that fed into the Nasdaq.com web site, the Marriott hotels web site, and many more.  I learned the power of structuring information in a way that makes it easy to consume, elegant to perceive, and compelling to read. 

It would  be many years before I needed these techniques myself.  That didn’t really start until I became a management consultant.  The year was 2001, and the dot-com that I co-founded after leaving fine, Acadio, had failed along with tens of thousands of other young start-ups.  I had moved to a consulting company called Sierra Systems Group (headquartered out of Vancouver British Columbia) to make ends meet.  For the most part, I focused on technology activities, but I had to ramp up my communication skills.  So I started using some of the rich information techniques that I learned from Tufte in our marketing and sales materials.  I cannot say that I was particularly good at it.

I Can’t Draw… Seriously

I really can’t.  Not even stick figures.  Which is odd, because both of my parents, my eldest brother, and my daughter, are all gifted artists.  Not that I can’t create useful diagrams… I had trained in high school as a draftsman.  Give me a T-square, two triangles, a nice drawing board, and couple of sheets of vellum and I can draw a complete set of floor plans for your house (well… I could in 1980… maybe not so much now).  But freehand, I am hopeless. 

Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft PowerPoint to Create Presentations that Inform, Motivate, and Inspire (Business Skills) (English and English Edition)So when I tried to create a nice visual representation, and failed, I thought it was because of my lack of skill as an artist. I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Regardless, the best I could do, at the time, was to follow the guidance in “Beyond Bullet Points” and create PowerPoint presentations that were compelling using emotive photographs.  They were nice, but they weren’t the things I wanted to create.


Meanwhile on the other side of the Atlantic

Turns out, I was part of movement of sorts.  A growing number of people had taken up the challenge of creating interesting visual representations of complex information.  The “infographic” movement had started, and companies were springing up here and there to provide clear, simple, and compelling explanations of complex information.  On the other side of the world, in the UK, an enterprise architect named Martin Sykes had begun his own journey, around the same time as I had.  Big difference: he didn’t give up.

If you ever get a chance to meet Martin, you will enjoy his company immensely, just as I do.  Martin is clever, thoughtful, easy-going, and funny.  He’s a systems-thinker and an excellent speaker.  Martin was also influenced by Tufte, but he continued on to find many other authors and designers who were publishing and writing about this new way of doing things.  Martin started creating his own single page explanations of otherwise complex information, building up his skills and collecting techniques along the way.  And, Martin took the time to learn how to draw.  That didn’t hurt.

I met Martin Sykes through a mutual friend, Gabriel Morgan.  Gabriel had joined the Enterprise Architecture team in Microsoft IT just a few months after I did, but he came to the practice from his work as a consultant using Microsoft Motion (later renamed Microsoft Services Business Architecture or MSBA).  Gabriel had met Martin a few times, and had seen some of the visualizations that Martin used to explain business architecture.   Gabriel worked with Martin to set up a workshop, for our team, to learn some of these skills.  And in late October of 2007, Martin flew to Redmond and spent a week teaching us how to “tell stories” using a series of visual metaphors.  At the time, he called them “Big Pictures” but that thinking evolved and we now refer to these creations as “visual stories”.

Can we do this again?

imageDuring Martin’s workshop, each of us created a visual representation of some idea or story we wanted to tell.  Martin had distilled his own personal techniques into a FIVE DAY COURSE on creating visual stories.  He walked us through ample examples, storytelling exercises, and a fairly simple process that he used to create visual stories.  I created two visual stories in that class, one of which Martin still uses today… as an example of what NOT to do in a visual story!

The five day class happened once. Over the next few years Martin did four one day classes at different companies where he had been asked specifically to do more following a series of 90-minute presentations he had done at internal and external conferences. But the ideas were not “catching fire”, in large part because Martin was just happy to use what he was learning and focus on his day job of making change happen.


Meanwhile, I kept using his materials, and referred often to the binder full of PowerPoint slides that he provided.  I practiced a few times more, and then stumbled into success.  I created a visual story to explain an enterprise architecture roadmap to the Vice President of Operations.  I presented the one page visual, and the meeting went fairly well.  We got the sponsorship we needed.  What I didn’t discover until later: that same Vice President took my one-page presentation and gave it to Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft and one of the most powerful businessmen in the world, to explain how Microsoft’s Operations Division was attacking a key problem within the company.

That single page told a story.  It was not a bunch of data.  It was not a bunch of clever graphics.  There was no hand-drawn art.  It was a careful construction created using Martin’s techniques, and it changed my career.  I was promoted and over time, I was leading a team.  I wanted to bring Martin back to our group to do another one of these fantastic workshops, so that more of us could learn his techniques.  I was willing to teach it myself if I had to.

A book is born

My goal was to put on a workshop for the entire Enterprise Architecture team within Microsoft IT.  I reached out to Martin and asked if he had ever updated those PowerPoint slides.  Thus began a series of meetings that morphed into a book proposal.  We planned to create something visually interesting, to use our own ideas to tell the story of how use these ideas.  Martin reached out to a friend of his, Mark West, a talented artist and designer that had worked with Martin on creating some of his training materials.  Mark was familiar with the process because Mark had lived it.  And he can draw.   (I’m understating rather wildly.  Mark has spent time as an art instructor at a college in Seattle, in addition to running his own design firm.  Mark is a change agent who masquerades as a very cool designer.)

During those early days, we simplified and clarified the process of creating a visual story, and we called it “CAST.”  CAST is an acronym for “Content, Audience, Story, Tell” which are the four stages of the process.  We created a simple “canvas” that anyone can use.  During this past year, Martin has put together a couple of workshops in other parts of the company and has used them to work out the bugs.  We call this canvas  the “CAST model” and I have completely adopted it.  It’s like a simple visual checklist that helps you remember and iterate through the steps to creating a visual story.

We still haven’t done that workshop for Microsoft IT.  We decided to create a book that we could both use to teach anyone we wanted.  We decided to focus on using these skills to simplify the process itself, and to make it easy for folks who, like me, are not artists.  Note: in a professional setting, on projects that are funded to create compelling information, I strongly recommend enlisting the help of a visual designer… but for your own use, to explain your own information, you can follow the CAST process to do the trick.  Just like I did.

The long slog

Anyone who walks the road from idea to a complete book knows that it can be a difficult and time-consuming effort.  We had our moments when each of us thought that this whole thing was nuts.  After all, there were so many good books already on business storytelling and good design principles.  Couldn’t someone just read those books? 

They could, but what I got from Martin, in that workshop in 2007, was not in any of those books.  Martin didn’t change my career with a collection of art tricks and bits from a dozen books.  What Martin gave me, and what we wanted to give our readers, is a simple step-by-step process that a non-designer could follow to create a USEFUL and COMPELLING single-page visualization.  Not high art.  High value.

We knew we had something unique… something that none of the other books and authors and workshops had built.  We had something that the non-artists among us could use to be compelling and useful.  We had a book about change, and making change happen.  We had a book about stories, and using those stories to drive big changes, huge changes… using those stories to MOVE MOUNTAINS.

Most of the text was written between November of 2011 and May of 2012.  Most of the artwork that infuses this book, on every single page, was created in the spring and summer of 2012.  The book is compelling and visually beautiful.  We treated every single pair of pages as a two-page layout, and each was hand constructed by Mark West.  Our publisher, Wiley and Sons, created a new team, with about twice the normal book staff, just to assemble it.  Wiley knew we had something unique, and they were willing to take a real risk on it.  Our team at Wiley did a fantastic job.  I’ve been a co-author before, but never had an experience anything like this one.  The level of communication, collaboration, and shared iterative design was simply unprecedented.  The Wiley team moved a mountain as well. 


Sample of a two-page spread used in the book Stories That Move Mountains

What you will get out of this book

In case it’s not clear already, we want this book to be practical and useful.  This is NOT an art book, even though there is one chapter that focuses on detailed visual elements like fonts, colors and layouts.  This is not a typical business book either.  There are no long expositions on financials or sales strategy or performance measurement.  This is a
book about change, and it is for ANYONE that wants to influence another person to lead a change. 

What you will get out of this book is a step-by-step process to follow that results in a visual story.  We walk you through numerous examples, showing how we use the CAST stages to create visual stories and there is a final chapter that literally goes end-to-end in creating another visual story.  We provide advice, and hugely valuable nuggets from a dozen other books that fill out shelves in mine and Martin’s and Mark’s libraries. 

imageOur references chapter is also a simple, clear, layout that focuses on a small and manageable list of excellent books for you to use if you want to “go deep” on any part of the process (you won’t have to, but just in case you want to).  We are also committed to continuing the conversation on the book sister-site http://StoriesThatMoveMountains.com where all three of us blog and upload resources (including a downloadable CAST model template, like the one on the right).  You can also find us on Facebook for a more socially-oriented conversation (www.facebook.com/storiesthatmovemountains) as well.

It should come as no surprise that both Martin and I are Enterprise Architects.  The biggest value we offer our clients is helping them to build the case for change.  But change can be anything.  You could be changing a business, or a team, or a family, or even yourself.  You can create a visual story for nearly any situation where you want people to remember, and connect, with your case for change.

Yep, it still works

I’ll give you an interesting example.  I am currently volunteering my time to a professional organization called the “Center for the Advancement of the Enterprise Architecture Profession” (or CAEAP, pronounced “seep”).  Through that organization, I have been assigned, by CAEAP, to work with another professional organization that they partner with: the “Federation of Enterprise Architecture Professional Organizations” (or FEAPO, pronounced “FEE-poe”).  I’m working on creating an industry-wide perspective on Enterprise Architecture.  I went to a FEAPO meeting just last weekend where I was working with people, in person, that I’ve only met one time before.  They were all aware of my project, of course, but it was not, and is not, their primary focus.  I couldn’t be sure that they remembered anything from the last time we’d met, in February.  I decided to use a visual story to frame what would have otherwise been a boring status update. 

imageOn the plane flight from Seattle to Fort Lauderdale (five hours in coach, on a red-eye overnight flight), I filled out the CAST model and created the entire presentation.  (I had no internet access on the plane, so the graphic images I used were all on my PC hard drive).  The moment I landed, I drove to FedEx Kinkos, printed the visual story on nice, sturdy, 11×17 paper, and drove straight to the 8:30am meeting.  When it came time to present, I handed out the sheets and we turned away from our screens and spoke to each other instead.

Later that evening, as we sat eating dinner at an upscale Surf-and-Turf restaurant, they were reciting back to me the humorous bits of the story that I told.  The story stuck.  It was memorable.  As a result, everyone has a good idea of what I need from them, and what they need from me, because we had a simple compelling visual story to work from.  (I’ll see if I can get a link to that document made available so that you, gentle reader, can see it.  A thumbnail is on the right).

So yes, I think you should buy this book.  I’d say that even if I didn’t help write it, but I did.  This is our way of saying: it’s time to change the world.  This is our mountain to move.  Join us.  The world needs change agents to be effective.  You are a change agent.  If we help you become just 5% more effective, what hurdles will you overcome?  What innovations will you introduce?  What problems will you solve? 

These are interesting times. 

Conversational Antipatterns on Message Boards

By |2012-06-22T14:07:59+00:00June 22nd, 2012|Enterprise Architecture|

Architects argue.  I have, over the past year, spent a good bit of time on LinkedIn Message boards.  I’ve watched a lot of people argue.  I’ve learned a great deal about Enterprise Architecture, and a few things about myself, as I’ve compared notes with individuals who have different perspectives and motivations. 

That said, some patterns have emerged, good and bad, for conversing with other architects on these message boards.  In the spirit of the GOF Design Patterns, and the subsequent work on Antipatterns, I’d like to point out some of the antipatterns I’ve noticed repeatedly on the boards, and in each case, these antipatterns cause some level of anxiety.  This is borne out by observing the responses, where frustration is often explicit.

There are nearly always two roles in this kind of argument.  The provocateur ( a person who makes a statement that is challenging or innovative ) and the responder ( a person who responds in a way that triggers the antipattern behavior ).  

Conversational Antipatterns

  1. Don’t misrepresent me with my own words
  2. The problem with your general message is this specific use of a word
  3. If you don’t understand, you should read my published papers
  4. My argument has been validated with my years of experience, so you must be wrong
  5. My certification means more than you think it means
  6. You are using “my” terminology wrong


Antipattern 1: Don’t misrepresent me with my own words

In this antipattern, the provocateur will make a statement that appears to conflict with something that they said previously or said in another discussion.  If the responder points out the conflict, especially if done with a direct quote, the provocateur get’s offended and becomes defensive.  Conversation ends.

How to avoid: People are inconsistent but believe that they are quite consistent.  If a provocateur appears to be inconsistent, the responder should simply ask for follow up details.  Don’t pounce in public.  Find out what their real underlying thinking is, rather than picking at words.  If they remain inconsistent, the responder should reach out in private.  In the private message, the responder should point out the text from the other thread and ASK them to explain how these two positions work together. 

How to address: The forum moderator should look at the value of the conversation.  Has the provocateur added useful thinking?  Has the responder?  Normally, the answer to both questions is “yes.” If so, send a warning message to both asking them to assume positive intent and consider the emotional context of the other.

Antipattern 2: The problem with your general message is this specific use of a word

In this antipattern, the provocateur will make a general statement designed to express a “grand idea.”  The  responder will either agree or disagree (usually the latter) but then point out that a particular word, in the response, was used incorrectly.  Perhaps they said “process” when they should have said “capability.”  Perhaps they said “activity” when they should have said “process, activity, and practice.”  Perhaps they said “business” when they should have said “enterprise.”

How to avoid: The responder should start by stating whether they agree with the main idea, or not.  If they disagree with the main idea, offer a reason “why” that has NOTHING to do with the detailed wording.  Take the time to think about what the big idea is, and follow up to understand it, before focusing on a word.  Disregarding a “big idea” because you disagree with a minor distinction in the wording is frustrating to everyone on the community, and stifles the sharing of ideas. 

When you get to the point where you understand the big idea, the responder can offer a suggestion to improve the understanding the idea.  For example, “I agree with your core concept.  It appears that we have similar experiences and I find your description innovative.  It may help, as you go forward to share this idea, if you are careful about the use of the word “zyzzix” because I understand that word to be a synonym of “fryzzam.”  I understand that you make a distinction between these terms, but not all of your audience may agree that these two terms are distinct.  You may find it easier to reach people like me if you use the term “golozarat” instead to refer to this muddy concept.”

How to address: Either of the participants can pull back and “get to the point” by reframing the “grand idea” and ask if the other person agrees with a simple “yes” or “no” answer.  If no answer is forthcoming, no learning is happening.  If you are asked to consider a new big idea, take some time before you respond to think about that idea.  Be willing to learn and grow, not just pontificate.  My father used to say, “sometimes, the best way to open your mind is to close your mouth.”  It’s good advice.

Antipattern 3: If you don’t understand, you should read my published papers

In this antipattern, the provocateur will make a specific statement that appears well thought out, but may be innovative or controversial.  When the responder asks questions for follow-up, the provocateur replies “I explained this in rich detail in my book” or “please read my paper in the Journal of EA Innovation, September 2005, page 14.”  This generates frustration on the part of the readers who cannot hear the full discussion because some of it exists in a book or article that they may not have access to.

How to avoid: First off, if you are an author, you must realize that publishing a paper or book does not give you the right to force others to read it before speaking with you.  You will never be out of the “business” of educating others in your ideas.  Get used to it.  Getting defensive is counterproductive.

To avoid creating frustration, it is OK to point others to your work, but then ALSO offer a summary of what you said in that work and be willing to continue to discuss the problem in the forum.

How to address: When this happens to you, it is probably safe to assume that the author you are speaking with is looking for some validation.  Compliment him or her, and ask them to provide a summary of their thoughts from the book or article so that progress can continue.  If you are a moderator, and one provocateur does this a lot, or gets defensive when others DON’T read their articles, remind them privately of this antipattern.  If they persist, suspend them from the board for 30 days.

Antipattern 4: My argument has been validated with my years of experience, so you must be wrong

In this antipattern, the provocateur will make a statement that appears to be too directive or too specific for others to understand or agree with. If the responder challenges the position, the provocateur claims that their “years of experience” have found their position to be true.  The provocateur remains unbending, and repeatedly argues against any alternatives.

How to avoid: This is tough to avoid.  People form their own mental models of reality and when challenged, they can listen to alternatives, or defend their model.  The problem with listening to alternatives is that it is risky.  They may discover that a past “success” was not as successful as it may have been.  In the words of my friend Jack, “their ears are filled with their ego.”

Often the best way to avoid the problem is to model good behavior in your own c
ontributions.  When posting an opinion, lead with “in my opinion” or “in my experience.”  Use phrases like “I’ve found this to be true in my situation,” and then ask others to share “their situation.”  That way, when someone does respond with a statement like “you are wrong,” you can follow up with a moderation message, like “I believe that our experiences may be different in this respect. I’m glad that you shared your experience.  Can you tell me how we should reconcile our two different sets of experiences to come to a mutual understanding?”

How to address: Usually the best way around this is to respond as above, asking for a common understanding.  However, if that doesn’t work (and it often will fail), then you have no leverage to “require” someone to change their opinion.  Ask if it is OK for the two of you to “agree to disagree” and move on.  There is no point in discussing the same issue over and over.

Antipattern 5: My certification means more than you think it means

In this antipattern, the provocateur will state that a concept that he or she is fond of, applies to the discussion at hand.  When the responder questions the concept, the provocateur responds that they are “certified” or otherwise demonstrably educated, and their certification tells them to use that concept.  Upon inspection, it is clear to all that the certification in question does not cover the same scope as the provocateur claims it does.  An example would be an IT person, certified in the development of software interfaces called “SOA Services,” claiming an understanding of business services or customer services.  Another example would be a person with substantial training in financial risk management claiming that all business decisions in the enterprise begin, and end, from a risk management viewpoint.

How to avoid: As with most of these antipatterns, we have a situation where the ego of one or more of the people may be getting in the way of open communication.  The “certified” individual may, in fact, have broader experience than their certification prepares them for.  However, there is often a predisposition, among those that have been formally trained in a field, to believe that the training describes the world “as it is” rather than the world “as it should be.”  More often than not, the training is simply out of sync with the reality on the ground.

As a result, of the “ego factor,” this antipattern is somewhat inevitable.  It will occur more in some areas than in others.  Unfortunately, in the EA field, it occurs often because of the explosion of certifications and the lack of consistency among the field participants.

How to address: One good way that I’ve found to address this problem is to point out your own experiences, using words that reflect that you are not dictating some universal truth but rather the experiences you’ve actually had.  Use first names of people (replace the actual first names, to protect your friends), and explain how they used the terms and concepts of the space.  Then describe how you worked in that situation.  Try to use successful scenarios to lend credibility to your position.  You want to help them to see that their position may not be universally true.  You don’t want to prove them to be wrong, because that would simply be your ego trying to stomp on theirs.  There are names for this kind of ego-vs-ego behavior.  Avoid it.  It hurts your credibility to engage in it.

Antipattern 6: You are using “my” terminology wrong

In this antipattern, the provocateur will state that a concept has one, and only one, meaning.  The responder suggests an alternate meaning, and the provocateur responds defensively, citing sources for their definition of the term.  This is where you see a “dictionary grudge match” where someone cites a definition from an authoritative source, and another person responds with either ridicule of the source or, even better, another authoritative source with a conflicting definition.

How to avoid: Firstly, if someone questions your use of a word, don’t immediately go hunting for a reference definition.  In other words, model good behavior.  Admit that your definition, regardless of how well sourced it is, was created by other (fallible) people with a particular context in mind. It is entirely possible that the provocateur also has a different context than you, and that the author of the definition that you are painstakingly citing would have created a different definition if he or she had the same context as the provocateur.

Of course, if someone asks you for a reference, it is perfectly appropriate to give one on a message board.  In writing a research paper, you would assume that the reader wants to know your sources, and you would always provide them, but for conversation on a message board, you should wait to be asked.

Secondly, don’t be “possessive” about the terms that you use.  Your openness will reduce the likelihood that others will be possessive about the terms that they use.  If someone wants to use a synonym, agree. 

How to address: One good way that I’ve found to address this problem is to ask the provocateur for their help in explaining their terminology to you.  Most people will be flattered by the request, and will go out of their way to describe what their use of a term means.  If you respond by “reframing” their statement, using a smattering of your own terminology, then you will quickly discover whether that person is interested in conversing with a shared set of terms, or if the conversation can only proceed by acquiescing to their use of language.  If the latter, it becomes a judgment call, on your part, about whether you should continue to interact at all.  It is better to end a discussion on a good note than to fight on forever over the meanings of words.


That’s my list.  I’m sure that there may be more, but these are the ones that crop up often enough for me to want to write about them.  I hope this is helpful for folks who want to discuss things on message boards, like LinkedIn, without becoming entwined in endless arguments.

How Enterprise Architects can cope with Opportunistic Failure

By |2012-03-05T12:53:50+00:00March 5th, 2012|Enterprise Architecture|

You may not think that Failure is a desired outcome, and on the surface, there are some negative connotations to failure.  It just sounds “bad” for a team to fail.  However, there are times when a manager will INTENTIONALLY fail in a goal.  Let’s look at the scenario where a manager may choose to fail, and see whether EA has a role in either preventing that failure, or facilitating it.

What is Opportunistic Failure?

Does your organization manage by objectives and scorecards?  Scorecards and metrics are frequently used management tools, especially in medium and large organizations.  In a Manage-By-Objective (MBO) organization, a senior leader is not told “how” to do something, but rather a negotiation takes places that results in the development of a measurable objective.  The term “measurable objective,” used here, is a well-defined idea.  It is specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART).  A measurable objective is a description of the results that a senior manager is expected to achieve.  In BMM terms, the objective is the “ends” while the senior leader is expected to figure out the “means.”  In business architecture parlance, the objective describes the “what” while the senior leader is expected to figure out the “how.”

Now, in many situations, a senior leader has to rely on other groups to perform, in some way, in order for him to achieve his measurable objectives.  This is quite common.  In fact, I’d say that the vast majority of senior-level objectives require some kind of collaboration between his or her people, and the people who work in other parts of the organization (or other organizations). 

For a small percentage of those dependencies, there may be competition between the senior leader’s organization and some other group, and that is where opportunistic failure comes in.

The scenario works like this: 

Senior leader has an empowered team.  They can deliver on 30 capabilities.  Someone from outside his or her organization, perhaps an enterprise architect, points out that one of those capabilities is overlapping.  Let’s say it is the “Product Shipment Tracking” capability.  The EA instructs the senior leader to “take a dependency” on another department (logistics in this case) for that.  The senior leader disagrees in principle because he has people who do a good job of that capability, and he doesn’t want to take the dependency.  However, he cannot convince other leaders that he should continue to perform the “product shipment tracking” capability in his own team. 

So he contacts the other department (logistics) and sets up an intentionally dysfunctional relationship.  After some time, the relationship fails.  Senior leader goes to his manager and says “we tried that, and it didn’t work, so I’m going to do it my way.”  No one objects, and his team gets to keep the capability.

In effect, the senior leader felt it was in her own best interest to fight the rationale for “taking a dependency,” but instead of fighting head-on, s/he pretends to cooperate, sabotages the relationship, and then gets the desired result when the effort fails.  This is called “opportunistic failure.” 

Thoughts on Opportunistic Failure

Opportunistic failure may work in the favor of anyone, even an Enterprise Architect.  However, as an EA, I’ve most often seen it used by business leaders to insure that they are NOT going to be asked to comply with the advice of Enterprise Architecture, even when it makes sense from an organizational and/or financial standpoint. 

In addition, one of the basic assumptions of EA is that we can apply a small amount of pressure to key points of change to induce large impacts.  That assumption collapses in the face of opportunistic failure.  Organizations can be very resistant to change, and this is one of the ways in which that resistance manifests. 

Therefore, while EA could benefit from EA, I’ll primarily discuss ways to address the potential for a business leader to use operational failure to work against the best interests of the enterprise.

  1. Get senior visibility. – If a business leader is tempted to use opportunistic failure to resist good advice, get someone who is two or more levels higher than that leader to buy in to the recommended approach.  This radically reduces the possibility that the business leader will take the risk to his or her career that this kind of failure may pose.
  2. Get the underlying managers in that senior manager’s team on board, and even better, get them to agree to the specific measures of progress that demonstrate success.  This creates a kind of “organizational momentum” that even senior leaders have a difficult time resisting.
  3. Work to insure that EA maintains a good relationship with the business party that will come up short if the initiative does fail.  That way, they feel that you’ve remained on their side, and will call on you to escalate the issue if it arises.
  4. Play the game – look for things to trade off with.  If the senior manager is willing to risk opportunistic failure, you may be able to swing them over to supporting the initiative if you can trade off something else that they want… perhaps letting another, less important, concern slide for a year.  



For non-EAs reading this post: EA is not always political… but sometimes it is.  Failing to recognize the politics will make you into an ineffective EA.  On the other hand, being prepared for the politics will not make you effective either… it will just remove an obstacle to effectiveness. 

Wikipedia’s EA article, second pass

By |2012-01-04T02:39:50+00:00January 4th, 2012|Enterprise Architecture|

After a rather protracted discussion on LinkedIn about the Wikipedia article on Enterprise Architecture (blogged here), I took another swing at rewriting the EA article’s opening section.  It is far from perfect, but I encourage the folks who have been following this discussion to take a look. 

The change I made was fairly straight-forward:

– Removed unverifiable definition of EA

– Added three verifiable definitions from three perspectives:

  • EA as a business practice,
  • EA as the desired level of integration and standardization in an enterprise, and
  • EA as a set of artifacts. 


– followed each definition with a layman’s interpretation of that definition. 

Normally, I would argue against actually citing a definition in a Wikipedia article.  After all, it is an encyclopedia, not a dictionary.  That said, after long and protracted debates about the meaning of the word ‘enterprise’ and the meaning of the word ‘architecture’ and the derivation of the term ‘enterprise architecture,’ I decided to break the rules a little and actually quote from the definitions themselves in the Wikipedia article.  This is really unusual, and I expect that I may get pilloried for it, but after all the arguments, I didn’t want anyone to tell me that I had interpreted their definitions “incorrectly” by quoting original sources.

The new opening text of the Wikipedia article on EA is:

The term enterprise architecture is used in many complimentary ways. It is used to describe both a unique business practice and the aspects of a business that are being described. The Enterprise Architecture Research Forum defines the practice of enterprise architecture as follows:

Enterprise Architecture is the continuous practice of describing the essential elements of a sociotechnical organization, their relationships to each other and to the environment, in order to understand complexity and manage change.[1]

In simple terms, Enterprise Architecture is a self-improvement business function that examines the structure and behavior of the various parts of an ‘enterprise’ and focuses on opportunities to improve it.

The MIT Center for Information Systems Research (CISR) defines enterprise architecture as the specific aspects of a business that are under examination:

Enterprise architecture is the organizing logic for business processes and IT infrastructure reflecting the integration and standardization requirements of the company’s operating model. The operating model is the desired state of business process integration and business process standardization for delivering goods and services to customers.[2]

Simply put, the enterprise architecture in an intentional vision that defines how business processes should be integrated and where process standardization should be used.

The United States Government describes enterprise architecture as an Information Technology function. Instead of describing enterprise architecture in relation to the practice of examining an enterprise, the U.S. Government defines the term to refer to the documented results of that examination. Specifically, US Code Title 44, Chapter 36, defines enterprise architecture as a ‘strategic information base’ that defines the mission of an agency and describes the technology and information needed to perform that mission, along with descriptions of how the architecture of the organization should be changed in order to respond to changes in the mission.[3]

Practitioners of EA call themselves enterprise architects. An enterprise architect is a person responsible for performing the complex analysis of business structure and processes and is often called upon to draw conclusions from the information collected. By producing this understanding, architects are attempting to address the goals of Enterprise Architecture: Effectiveness, Efficiency, Agility, and Durability.[4]

Wikipedia and the definition of Enterprise Architecture

By |2011-12-13T14:27:15+00:00December 13th, 2011|Enterprise Architecture|

I was asked, this week, about a page that I had put into Wikipedia nearly three years ago.  Far from being able to take credit for it, I discovered that many of the edits made since I put the page up corrupted it to the point of uselessness.  Alas, after changing that page back, I checked out my favorite page: Enterprise Architecture. 

And it was unrecognizable.

The entire page had been rewritten by a single person (Matthew Kern) who, apparently, believes that “Enterprise Architecture” == FEAF (The US Government EA Framework).  While I applaud Mr. Kern’s desire to include cited sources for his statements, his decision to ignore all of the prior content and contributions and toss out all of the compromises along the way seems both short-sighted and arrogant, to say the least. 

I endeavor to let the current author settle a bit, and then change most of the article back, but for the sake of documentation, I wanted to share the direction that Mr. Kern wants to take the Wikipedia article on EA.  Gentle readers, do you agree with Mr. Kern’s decision, or do you support my intent to revert to the original material?

Previous Opening Section (compromise text) New Opening section
An enterprise architecture (EA) is a rigorous description of the structure of an enterprise, which comprises enterprise components (business entities), the externally visible properties of those components, and the relationships (e.g. the behavior) between them.

EA describes the terminology, the composition of enterprise components, and their relationships with the external environment, and the guiding principles for the requirement (analysis), design, and evolution of an enterprise.

This description is comprehensive, including enterprise goals, business process, roles, organizational structures, organizational behaviors, business information, software applications and computer systems.

Enterprise architecture (EA) is a term first used in print in NIST SP 500-167 a US Federal Government Document from the National Institute of Standards and Technology) in 1989. It is currently a mandatory practice in the US Federal Government: OMB Circular A-130 describes enterprise architecture and subordinate activities in some detail, in response to the Clinger Cohen Act (IT Management Reform Act) of 1996 mandatory requirement for government organizations (enterprises) to have an "IT architecture". The term has subsequently (after first use in 1989 by the US Federal Government) been used in foreign governments and in commercial practice.

According to the U.S. Federal Government: "An EA is the explicit description and documentation of the current and desired relationships among business and management processes and information technology. It describes the "current architecture" and "target architecture" to include the rules and standards and systems life cycle information to optimize and maintain the environment which the agency wishes to create and maintain by managing its IT portfolio. The EA must also provide a strategy that will enable the agency to support its current state and also act as the roadmap for transition to its target environment. These transition processes will include an agency’s capital planning and investment control processes, agency EA planning processes, and agency systems life cycle methodologies. The EA will define principles and goals and set direction on such issues as the promotion of interoperability, open systems, public access, compliance with GPEA, end user satisfaction, and IT security. The agency must support the EA with a complete inventory of agency information resources, including personnel, equipment, and funds devoted to information resources management and information technology, at an appropriate level of detail."


What say you?