Emergent Architecture

Dion Hinchcliffe has written a nice blog entry “pragmatic new models for enterprise architecture take shape“. This resonates well with some of the things I’ve been saying about how enterprise architecture needs to be enabling rather than blocking:

“In recent years enterprise architecture has been moving from a discipline that provides top-down, a priori technology blueprints to the business side to one that articulates key, strategic possibilities and only the most critical high-level constraints (such as security standards) and then operates as a conductor, promoter, problem solver, and evangelist across the organization through the vehicle of a cohesive community to co-develop needed solutions.”

(my emphasis added). And:

“Invariably, the best architecture I see comes naturally from self-organizing thought leaders in an organization that seek each other out and collaborate on common solutions to their problems. Rather than the us vs. them mentality of old-world enterprise architecture, there is only an us mentality. Instead of prescribed standards, designs, technologies, and tools there is real [two-way] consensus and immediate buy-in.”

And as with all Dion’s posts there is the cool graphic. I especially like the two downward facing arrows – “community leadership” and “guides”:

The article is well worth reading but I think there is a large element of wishful thinking here. It paints a good picture of how enterprise architecture should be, but I fear we are a long way from this nirvana. Much of the vision depends on a fundamental change in organizational culture. Businesses that recognise the value of an “emergent culture” will naturally have an “emergent enterprise architecture.” I don’t think it will go the other way around. Emergent enterprise architecture will not survive in or be able to change a top-down corporation.

In the long term, those companies with the right culture will support emergent enterprise architecture and thrive on IT success. Those companies that don’t will cede their IT resources to others. Those who can do IT will do it on behalf of those who can’t. Cloud anyone?

2 comments ↓

#1 Saul Caganoff on 08.19.09 at 8:43 pm

Todd Biske has been drawn to the same cool diagram, but provides much better commentary on the “emergent architecture” thing. I really like the gardening metaphore. It’s possibly better than my longtime favourite town planning metaphore and certainly more prosaic. 

#2 John Brondum on 08.27.09 at 6:41 am

the pyramid looks like one of those health food pyramids :) Sounds to me like a few people (including Gartner) has been reading the Software Engineering Institute’s ULS report: http://www.sei.cmu.edu/uls/

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