Just reading through a LinkedIn thread on “the biggest problem facing Enterprise Architecture,” and I noticed one response that struck a chord.  Charles Wade stated the biggest problem as: “Practicality! We spend allot[sic] of time in the Ivory Tower of Ego and don’t know how to apply EA.”

Yep.  I was there once.  Rare air up in the ivory tower.  Nice view.  Couldn’t wait to leave.  No one can hear you scream.

I left the ivory tower when I got the opportunity to engage directly with the business as an Enterprise Segment Architect.  (I’ll write about segment architecture in a future post… very similar to the role described at the federal level in FSAM).  In this role, I am very much an Enterprise Architect, but I don’t live in the ivory tower… My feet are firmly on the ground.  I drive the definition of initiatives and work (sometimes very long hours) to create clear and achievable roadmaps.

IT is involved, but my work far exceeds IT.  I’m working with the business directly, focusing on policies and procedures, understanding processes, looking at change management, rationalizing ownership of business capabilities, and yes, examining software system features.  My output is not software.  It is a well crafted initiative that “should” succeed in delivering on a business strategy.  It’s EA… without the ivory tower.

Right now, it is 7pm on a Thursday.  I’ve been at work for ten hours.  I’m finally going home. 

I spent exactly 3 minutes in the ivory tower today… writing this blog post. 

I don’t miss it. 

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".

One thought on “The ivory tower is a distant memory”
  1. I strive to partake in similiar roles when undertaking EA activities in organizations.  It is very easy as architects to slip back into the ivory tower, generate a good bit of shelfware and collect a pay check.  No one complains and they enjoy the "pictures".  Much of the work we generate in the tower is not actionable..just pictures that represent a snapshot of the past.  What good is that!  I'm in full agreement with the work you are doing and  believe that is where the real value of EA can shine.  Frameworks provide you with the structure, study the discipline will give you the knowledge, but if you don't get involved..well then your contributing to the problem…

    not trying to promote my blog, but would like to get your take on a post I made a month or so ago.  I believe it lends itself to the discussion…


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