Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Enterprise Architecture and Authoritative Ignorance

Yesterday on the way home, I stopped at the local Home Depot to pick up a box of 4" drywall screws as I will start on building a window seat in my basement. I ran across two different architects, both whom work for healthcare-oriented enterprises in the area and got into a discussion as their beliefs on why their own enterprises are dysfunctional. The conversation can be summed up into two words: authorative ignorance...

Authoratative ignorance comes in many forms within the walls of the enterprise. Sometimes it starts with industry analyst firms and the research we consume, sometimes it comes from speakers at conferences we attend, and even from folks in corporate America who write books on hot topics such as Enterprise Service Oriented Architectures, Enterprise Architecture and Java Web Services.

I remember a hallway conversation regarding agile software development and how many folks in corporate America believe in the principles of the Agile Manifesto but otherwise discredit some of the individuals within this community. I have heard that many agilists who have consulting backgrounds really don't provide insight (they do incite though) and are somewhat guilty of simply stating the obvious with passion. I wonder how much money I could make if I stood on the street every morning stating that tomorrow will be a new day?

Industry analysts (most but not all) and the agile community at large both suffer from the same problem. They attempt to moderate all conversations. Within these two communities, the experts may actually have bias (of course you will never get them to declare it). In any community of practice, unless it isn't worth talking about in the first place, a position may not be agreed upon by all experts within the community. I would think that within the larger industry analyst firms not every single analyst say covering SOA believes their firm's research and/or recommendation. I wonder if these firms realize that allowing us folks to observe conflicting opinion may actually be valuable? After all, in debate usually new insights emerge.

As IT executives who practice Management by Magazine continue to listen to analysts and consultants who preach agility, they will over time lose Humility and adopt advanced forms of arrogance and dementia. This ultimately over time festers into a chaotic enterprise architecture that neither serves its customer nor even itself.

The Burden of Proof is difficult at best. Maybe the better answer is for enterprise architects to spend time finding themselves. In order to do this, they must first acknowledge:

To my peers in other large enterprises, there is nothing you can do about executives who practice authoratative ignorance but there is something you can do about enterprise architects who do. Be on the lookout for folks who always speak or write in a very clear and precise manner without pondering about other topics. If they rarely ask or hint questions they already know everything. They truly beleive they are just right. This is wrecklessly dangerous.

Enterprise architecture is all about preventing wrecks. Step up and become savage in avoiding all forms of authoratative ignorance especially the form that originates outside the enterprise...

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