Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Enterprise Architecture - The Urbanization & Townplanning Analogy

It suddenly just hit me that Architecture is probably a misnomer. Technology vendors have been trying hard to model the discipline built into engineering that adoption of the name "architecture" would hopefully imbue the arts and science of technology with something more "tangible".

But here's the thing, (note: real architects may disagree) buildings are "built to last" while IT systems undergo constant evolution and sometimes even revolutions. Although the same physical constraints of space and loading applies, IT systems are far more advantaged as the underlying code can continuously be tuned and by scaling the hardware outwards; you could always increase the total system loading by further increments.

Hence more appropriately, Enterprise Architecture should adopt the Town Planning & Urbanization principles. Buildings stand by itself (well, other than tapping on the grid, water supply, transport system and waste disposal) while a single IT system may depend and provide data/information to various other systems.

A township requires various amenities in order to flourish, e.g. schools, religious centres, community hall, roads, car park, commercial and housing areas and each of these facilities are constantly remodeled. A vibrant township is one that is constantly growing where new buildings are added and old buildings either refurbished or demolished. And while all of these are happening the people are able to live and go about their daily routines with relative comfort. The same goes with IT systems; there's a great number of interdependence between one system and another, between human and machine; as well as culture and environmental forces - The same requirements for complementary benefits, apply.

The danger that I see with over emphasizing the word "Architecture" in EA are fascinations with framework, order, certainty and a result that is as unchanging as the great pyramids.

Unfortunately; that is exactly what you'll get, grandiose constructions driven by ego maniacal pharaohs that serve no other purpose than encasing a dried up dead body.

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