Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Enterprise Architecture and Perspectives on Project Management

Early in my career, pretty much everyone within IT knew how to write code. Nowadays, if you find more than 40% of the employees in any IT shop within a Fortune 200 enterprise that knows how to code, one would be in heaven. Was noodling the thought that if enterprise architects are supposed to increase speed-to-market and reduce total cost of ownership, they need to figure out how to get stewardship over the project management function...

Fundamental project management and those who practice it should minimally know what the status of any project is, how much the project has slipped from either original schedule or features, what are the impediments to delivery and what can/should be dropped in order to increase efficiency. While the call to action at a philosophical level is simplistic, in practice it is harder than it may seem.

I recently discussed the notion of Enterprise Architecture and Humility and think a similar pattern occurs in project management which is the illusion that they actually have control. Recently, I had a discussion with architects who work across the street from me and they have figured out that the reason that while technical folks embrace Agile Methods while non-technical project management will resist lighter weight approaches is that agility doesn't support the notion of impression of control that methodologies such as Six Sigma and CMM provide.

Another problem is that impression of control emerges within large enterprises by the creation of Project Management Offices. Usually these folk tend to value consistency over productivity and fail to acknowledge that the vast majority of truly successful projects (this is different than those who were mediocre but had a positive spin put on them) usually rolled their own "methodology" to suit the needs of the project and the people who were active participants on them.

Every team within an agile enterprise should have the opportunity to choose their own culture instead of being forced to blindly inherit the culture of the previous incarnation. It is useful to copy/emulate a successful culture but this decision should be made by its participants not outsiders who don't have skin in the game when it comes to delivery.

Alistair Cockburn has a wonderful document entitled Just-In-Time Methodology Construction that is worth a read.

I remember when I started in IT, we used the term "Project Leader" and am actually happy we went away from this term. I guess many folks within the enterprise have realized that there is a difference between management and leadership. Leaders are difficult to find while managers are commoditities. Some folks still use these two words interchangably but are truly missing an opportunity to make the enterprise better.

Maybe enterprise architecture should take IT back to its roots. There were two parties in the enterprise, those who wrote code and those who were business customers. There were no specializations of technical resources and folks understood all layers of the stack. Likewise, the business and the notion of project management was just part of what business management was and what business folks did.

During the bad days of my own career, folks within IT were given more "important" tasks that somehow were rationalized to be more important than actually delivering valuable working software to our business customers. Over time, the notion of project management instead of being something that is done as part of one's job became a full-time job for professional project managers. Of course this was justified in the name of increased productivity, but if you were to back-test this notion, did it really happen?

What would happen if enterprise architects started asking IT executives if project managers should only be providing value to management at the expense of the team? In my own travels, I have banged my head into my cubicle everytime a PMI certified project manager who hasn't written a line of code in their lifetime walk up to me and state: "I need the following information or I can't get my job done!". when did information become more important that the target of the information itself?

Maybe project management and all of its ills are things that cannot be changed and are too entrenched. The one thing though that I can say is that I will become more savage going forward in making sure enterprise architecture in any shop doesn't follow this same path. Maybe this is an opportunity in disguise. The enterprise needs leadership and since project managers have no interest in being leaders, us enterprise architects should seize the moment...

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