Friday, August 25, 2006


Enterprise Architecture: Why Yesterday was the absolute worst day in my entire career...

So what does a bad day for an enterprise architect feel like?

In today's business climate, IT is no longer fun. Gone are the days when folks used to have genuine conversations with each other. We are in the Dilbert zone of IT governance where many IT organizations lack strong technical leadership and make it painful for those who are sincere in their intent. The inmates are running the asylum.

Yesterday, was one of the worst days professionally in my life. Normally, I have had bad days but whatever went wrong, there always seemed to be an end in sight. Sadly, while I know there is an end sooner or later, the inability to see it is depressing. In talking with a well respected peer, he gave me advice that made me think deeply about my career.

One peer pointed out to me one of my strengths which is also one of my weaknesses. When it comes to paradigm shifting, I tend not to struggle. We ended up having a conversation on blogging where he was attempting to gain insight into what did I think about before I started to blog in hopes of learning how to help others paradigm shift. Sadly, I remember the day that I got interested in blogging. I was reading a blog entry by Doc Searls followed up with another blog entry by Stallman and another by Rageboy that touched me. I remember my wife calling me for dinner and not thinking about it anymore. The very next day, I thought that I too could share valuable insight on my own world with others. I guess I didn't paradigm shift and simply just starting doing it.

Another peer asked me about insights into contributing to open source. At the time, I was working on a project to prove out something with portals and got frustrated with closed source vendors blowing up my phone which caused me to look at open source projects where I ran across Liferay. I downloaded it. It worked. I wanted it to do something with Single Signon. I coded a sample but knew I had zero interest in maintaining long term and therefore contributed it. No noble thoughts, no paradigm shifting. I simply did it because it makes sense. Shift happens.

Yet another well respected peer also provided me with a perspective of success in enterprises. Success is not based on doing something on-time, on-budget and with integrity. Success is based on taking an idea regardless of whether it is brilliant or utterly stupid and getting others to do something. He suggested that I am actually more successful than I realize and noted that as one moves up the ladder and works on things that are more strategic that seeing the results of one's efforts takes a lot longer. I must be truly important to the strategy of my enterprise as I haven't seen the results of my efforts in a long while.

Gone are the days of immediate gratification. Maybe this is the reason I have taken up an interest in home improvement. If I envision something, go to Home Depot to get the materials, come home and build it I can reflect on not only the journey, what I did right (and wrong) but also know exactly what I have accomplished.

Yesterday, more so than any other day, I felt lost in the wilderness. It is easy to head to a destination if you know where you are. Today's enterprises are managing to take away the ability for anyone to have a bearing point. Maybe I should ask my boss to provide additional clarity by force ranking me with others and further obscuring whom I am being compared to because it is HR confidential.

The saddest part of the day, was in sitting at my desk envisioning the creation of yet another thinly veiled chock-a-block Powerpoint presentation that lacked substance only in the fact that I wasn't throwing daggers at others but creating it myself when I ended up zoning for a couple of minutes while looking at my favorite IDE (Microsoft Outlook) and noticing that the day said August 24th. It was 3:30 pm when I realized that today was my birthday and I didn't even know it. The feeling of losing oneself is not good.

I guess it doesn't surprise me that I forgot my own birthday as I never really ever celebrated it. I have always thought of my own birthday as a form of ceremony reminiscent of some of the things done in corporate America that don't really matter in the grand scheme of things. I haven't yet figured out if forgetting is worse than remembering.

Anyway, we all have our vices. For some it is drugs and/or alcohol, for others it is sex or money. For me, it is none of these things. I guess my vice is doing meaningful things with integrity. Modern day enterprise architecture requires sometimes selling one's soul. Of course, there are plenty that can rationalize anything including changing the definition of what it means to be successful, but we know that rationalization is a trap. Maybe it is bad day because I am experiencing withdrawal from my drug...

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