Not Quite Just-in-Time Enterprise Architecture

Posted in Enterprise IT, Enabling the Enterprise by AST on Saturday, August 8th, 2009

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I couldn’t post this comment on Anders’ blog, so I’m doing it here.

I think there’s some good points in here, but I disagree with the “just-in-time” aspect of the conclusions in this post. I haven’t read the authors you mention (you should included references), but have you read Enterprise Architecture as Strategy?

I certainly agree that EA is a strategic discipline, but that’s primarily due to the fact that you can’t make a modern business decision without a technology aspect, and that means you need to ensure that those technology decisions are reinforcing your organization’s focus. I generally use the following picture to discuss these issues:

Vision and Strategy Alignment

You mention that traditional orthodox management theory doesn’t address the potential conflict between the individual’s own life and corporate interests. In fact, much of Senge’s work specifically addresses this issue. The are actually two things that make this potential conflict not an issue:

  1. When the employees actually believe in what the company they work for set out to do, it’s vision, expressed by a set of values that align with their own, and
  2. When the employees understand how what they do every day actually help the organization move towards this goal.

I suspect you’ll just dismiss this as “traditional orthodox management thinking”, but you shouldn’t. I’ve actually lived this, and been part of organizations that actually behaved this way. :)

The “just-in-time” aspects you describe do actually emerge from these types of organizations, but they are bounded by how each action does or does not conform to the alignment of the individual’s values with those of the organization. EA has a role here in helping to formalize these boundaries (if you take the broader view of EA presented by Ross & Weill et al.) by defining not only the technology used to run the organization, but also by defining the processes and structures used to determine where, when and how technologies should be deployed in achieving the corporate vision.

However, it is important to understand that this emergent behavior (normally operational and tactical actions, not strategic actions) still must align to something unifying at some level or the organization will either collapse or fly apart.

I see your “just in time thinking” described in the conclusion of your post as really describing the way the organization is allowed to make decisions within the overall framework of its core values and the limits of its enterprise architecture. This freedom of thinking is necessary for the organization to react on a daily basis, but it isn’t un-bounded, and the overall organizational vision and the existing and evoloving enterprise architecture to provide capabilites to achieve that vision are what provide these boundaries.

Thanks for the blog post, and keep thinking.



P.S. You might also want to consider reading Tribal Leadership if you haven’t already. There’s some very good information there about how organizations at different levels of maturity work (or not) to achieve their vision.

1 Comment »

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