Have you seen practices that you know could kill an Enterprise Architecture practice?  I have.  A recent LinkedIn thread asked for examples, and I came up with my top ten.  Iā€™d love to hear your additions to the list.

How to screw up an EA practice

  1. Get a senior leader to ask for EA without any idea of what he is going to get for it. If necessary, lie. Tell leaders that EA will improve their agility or reduce complexity without telling them that THEY and THEIR BUSINESS will have to change.
  2. Set no goals. Allow individual architects to find their own architecture opportunities and to do them any way they want.   Encourage cowboy architecture.
  3. Buy a tool first. Tell everyone that they need to wait for results until the tool is implemented and all the integration is complete.
  4. Get everyone trained on a "shell framework" like Zachman. Then tell your stakeholders that using the framework will provide immediate benefits.
  5. Work with stakeholders to make sure that your EA’s are involved in their processes without any clear idea of what the EA is supposed to do there. Just toss ’em in and let them float.
  6. Delete all the data from your tool. Give no one any reason why. You were just having a bad hair day.
  7. Get in front of the most senior people you can, and when you get there, tell them how badly they do strategic planning.
  8. Change your offerings every four months. Each time, only share the new set of architectural services with about 20% of your stakeholders.
  9. Create a conceptual model of the enterprise that uses terms that no one in the enterprise uses. Refer to well known business thinkers as sources. When people complain, tell them that they are wrong. Never allow aliases.
  10. Every time you touch an IT project, slow it down. Occasionally throw a fit and stop an IT project just for fun. Escalate as high as you can every time. Win your battles at all costs.

Your career will be short. šŸ™‚

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".

7 thoughts on “Ten Ways to Kill An Enterprise Architecture Practice”
  1. If the careers were short this list wouldn't be possible, obviously the careers are long and this sort of thing happens all the time.

  2. @Ethan,  These things do happen, but not usually all at the same time or all in the same practice, and nearly never by the same person.  If you really want a short career, do them all.

  3. Can you elaborate on item 1? I can't tell you're saying to lie to help the leader understand what he'll get, or are if you're saying that lying is a way to screw up the practice. Perhaps this has tie-ins with your previous article about EA not starting from strategy. If we start with the current business state and then paint the next step to move forward. Lying doesn't seem like a necessary step.

  4. Hi Nick.. Do you have an example on how you would execute the conversation for item 1 in the list.  Meaning tell the stakeholders that in order to achieve efficiency and agility, they will have to change and their business.  How would we be able to make them see the value of EA without putting yourself in the firing line of senior management. šŸ™‚

  5. @timmann1:  Lying is the way to screw up the practice.  Unmanaged expectations are deadly.  

    @Randy: The list is a series of ways to screw up. Lying is one of those ways.  Failing to manage expectations is another.  Failing to be clear that EA cannot deliver value without something actually changing, and change is hard, is probably the shortest distance between starting and failing.

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