3 myths about information and IT

In this post I’d like to debunking three popular myths about information and information technology. Myth 1: The best way to improve the use of information is to invest in information technology. This is an expensive and time-consuming way to make improvements, but it is the route favoured by the technology vendors, big consultancies, and…

The Pioneers of Enterprise Architecture

I’ve been involved with enterprise architecture since the early 1980s, so I think of myself as a second-generation architect. I learnt about enterprise architecture through a mixture of meeting other architects, reading widely around the subject and related disciplines, and, of course, through hard graft and experience. Nowadays there are many enterprise architects practising their art and science…

8 useful links for all Enterprise Architects

I’ve just been going back over some notes from the last six months. Here are some links that I have found particularly interesting or useful: 8 takeaways from IRM’s UK Enterprise Architecture Conference 2016 What makes an Enterprise Architect The End of EA and IT as we know it Ten practical ideas for organizing and managing your…

Simplifying through organization – #56

I was reminded last week of the need to simplify through organization. A client had the usual EA documentation – masses and masses of diagrams, slides, documents – all in a glorious muddle. A simple classification scheme started to turn the mess into something more useful and reusable. Here is lesson #56 from 101 Lessons From…

Thanks for all of your feedback!

Thanks for an incredible community in enterprise architectureIt’s always lovely when you get positive feedback for your work and contributions. I was deeply moved by a recent note from a course organiser, who wrote, “Thank you once again for running the perfect training program for our team. You are one of the few people who really knows why and…

Essential Architecture

It’s good to see other architects making their argument for the relevance, importance, and necessity of enterprise architecture. This post from Steve Else is another voice talking about essential architecture. I’m with Steve. He makes the point that enterprise architecture continues to be a phrase that is defined and redefined, although I think there is a broad consensus on…

Enterprise Architecture – four meanings

It sounds like a simple question when someone asks – “what is enterprise architecture?”. But if you have been on the responding end of this question, it isn’t always easy to come up with a clear and succinct answer! After 40 or so years, you would think that the answer was simple, but… I’ve found it…

Systems and EA

How does systems thinking really apply to enterprise architectureOne of the things I like most about the festive season is the chance to reset – there’s space and time to think about what happened in the previous year, what the future might bring, and most of all – time to spend with the special people in your…

Why did I become an Enterprise Architect?

You meet someone new. They ask you what you do… I say, “I’m an Enterprise Architect”, and this usually gets the conversation off to a difficult start, because the next question about what is an enterprise architect can be a tricky one. But on this occasion the response was: why did you become an Enterprise Architect?

Well I certainly didn’t set out to become one! My passion has always been making sense of things. It led me to study history at university, but I didn’t find that satisfying because university didn’t offer the opportunity to really explore the subjects that really excited and attracted me. Studying the rise of ancient Greece was interesting to an extent, but it didn’t hold the same fascination as grappling with a problem that no-one, or very few people, had ever tackled before!

When my temporary teaching post became redundant, I was offered the chance to train as a computer programmer. I remember being asked: “have you ever thought of a career with computers?”, and to get the job I stretched the truth by saying that it was a subject that I found fascinating. This was partly true – this was in the late 1970s, at a time when computers were in their infancy, and I was fascinated to understand the role they might play in our lives. But as for a career in programming? That was certainly not in my wildest plans.

But it turned out to be more fascinating that I could have imagined. I learned about programming PL1 and structured design methods, and I entered a whole new world (for me) of formal languages and virtual structures. It was the beginning of a fascination with the emerging field of enterprise architecture.

I was lucky that my first job as a programmer was on a project to computerize the UK Land Registry. Unlike most projects today, it was a green field – the previous system was entirely manual. This mean that the team had to think about the development holistically – we had to consider the whole as much as the parts.

As well as learning tried-and-tested programming techniques, I also realized that there were many things that were difficult to do, because the techniques hadn’t been developed. The main problem was being able to grasp the complete architecture as a whole, and being able to subdivide it in effective ways – for gathering requirements, for analysis, for design, and for realization. I started to explore the idea of a framework or blueprint that could show this big picture. A few years later I discovered that other people – like Richard Saul Wurman, Richard L. Nolan and John Zachman – had been grappling with the same problem, and also used the analogies with architectures, blueprints, and frameworks.

After four years at the Land Registry I applied for a new job, and rather jokingly put my job title down in my CV as Analyst Programmer and Information Architect (in the early days of enterprise architecture, it was known as information architecture, or information systems architecture). Although my official title in my new job was only Analyst Programmer, I still thought of myself primarily as an architect. The architectural role steadily took over from programming. Following the Land Registry I rarely wrote or amended any program code. From 1984 my role was enterprise architect.

So why did I become an enterprise architect? I am passionate about making sense of things. The more complex and difficult the better. What could be more interesting than the many, many diverse human endeavors that we, as a species, undertake? And in particular, how do we build and support human enterprise with an amazing repertoire of often intangible, digital and conceptual components, techniques, and tools? And finally, how do all these elements fit together systemically within a cohesive architecture framework?

That’s why – accidentally – I became an Enterprise Architect.

See also:

How to Scale Up Excellence in an Organization

A fascinating 10 minute video from Stanford’s Robert Sutton. It discusses the mind-set and strategies of companies that are most adept at building and spreading high standards. And here is the link to “Robert Sutton’s Guide to Excellence”: