INSPIRATION

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

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Capitalizing on Complexity and Uncertainty

Darren Dalcher, one of my colleagues at Cutter Consortium, has written an Advisor about “The Third Knowledge Revolution: Learning to Live with Uncertainty” (Cutter login required) that has a lot of relevance to enterprise architects. My experience, research and client work shows that knowledge is one of eight fundamental factors that we need to include in EA…

101 Lessons From Enterprise Architecture

Short observations about the practice of enterprise architecture“101 Lessons From Enterprise Architecture” – a succinct collection of useful tips and guidelines for Enterprise Architects – is now available. This is a book for enterprise architects and anyone interested in the design of our digital future. It explains 101 clear and simple lessons that the author…

How to make data your source of sustained growth

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EA Voices

Get to know what’s going on in the EA community. It’s always useful to get a sense of what is going on in the EA community. One way to do this is to follow the leading EA practitioners via their blogs… but a better way is to look at this planet, EA Voices, which aggregates…

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Each year, Anne Mullaney, sets a challenge to the Cutter consultants: to look into their crystal balls for the annual Cutter Predictions campaign! This year I’m predicting more stealth enterprise architecture! I’d like to say that I invented this phrase – but I’ve found at least two previous uses – one in a comment by Peter…

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EA is like building planes in the skyEnterprise Architects are frequently expected to deliver large-scale enterprise transformation while keeping day-to-day business fully operational! This video sums it up perfectly:

EA Myths

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Powers of Ten

Powers of Ten is a 1968 American documentary short film written and directed by Ray Eames and her husband, Charles Eames. If you don’t know it, it is a wonderful visual reminder for enterprise architects of the power of magnitude and scalability. Imagine visualizing an enterprise at these many different levels of detail! Powers of…