Friday, June 05, 2009


Enterprise Architecture and Benign Neglect

When individual initiative is preferred rather than top-down centralized control, there are few clearly-marked lines of authority...

It would seem on the surface that this is a very good arrangement, very empowering and all, and it's true - it does create a nice, collegiate atmosphere - but I think there is a dark side.

The problem comes when IT as a team, is eventually expected to provide benefit to the company's bottom line. At this point in its lifecycle, significant effort is spent looking inward to architecture, methodology and so on. This is all well and good (it helps pay my salary, after all), but it is not clear what brings this process to an end. When you set your own scope and in essence become your own customer, accountability is lost. Without accountability to the business, the process could be never-ending. So at the end of the day, whose "fault" is it?

One could say that that IT leadership at large should have more personal discipline and prevent such projects from ballooning that way. But this is not just an individual phenomenon. This is a "game" that involves several players, and no one individual is to blame.

Top management must recognize that the behavior of a team is not the same as that of an individual. Just because you have a group of highly motivated, bright, talented people does not mean that you have a well-functioning, productive team. The team must be trained with theory and practice to achieve the results they are expected to achieve.

If an owner of say, a horse, just lets the horse graze all day and hang around the farm, and does not train it, he should not be surprised if that horse is useless when he really wants to ride it somewhere or do something else useful with it. A team is more like that horse - it has to be cared for, trained, disciplined, and used in the way it is intended. Neglect just leads to problems, benign or not...

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