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Enterprise Architecture Matters

Adrian Grigoriu

The art of Enterprise Architecture politics, i

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Is Enterprise Architecture a breeding ground for politics? As with any human activities and relationships, there is politics, but to what degree?

EA spans business and technology knowledge domains and crosses many internal organization boundaries with often conflicting silo interests. As a result, it is prone to politics.  

 What is politics? Various answers from the web:

- "Although it generally applies to governments, politics is also observed in all human group interactions including corporate, academic, and religious"

- "Social relations involving authority or power"

- "Politics is the process and method of making decisions for groups".

- And office politics is about "social alliances often formed between colleagues of similar interests who may team up against other perceived competitors"

Simply put, politics is about how to govern, and in particular for our context, how to get to govern. That applies to individuals as well.

However, while all definitions are right, what about the day to day usage of the word in the office? I dare define the term myself, with all the possible drawbacks. Politics is the technique of

- promises seldom acted upon later  (for example those frequently made by politicians before elections),

- evasion of straight answers for the simplest of questions

- assuming high ground moral stances driven by hidden interests

- discourses with deliberate multiple, too general or no meaning at all to cloud the outcomes and avoid responsibility

- bogus smiles that hide antagonist behaviour

- elbowing and back stabbing, against the background of team work and against merit

- "means that justify the ends"

- ...

In other words politics is the art of spin for getting ahead. The art of serving oneself while seemingly serving others.

The problem with politics is that it impedes every day honest efforts, shrouds work in an ineffective governance and duplicitous communications... that end inevitably in failure. Politics leads to an irreparable atmosphere of distrust and cynicism. Colleagues start avoiding real work and making decisions for fear of mistakes that are heavily penalized by one who wishes to take political advantage at any cost.

And EA, as a discipline in search of its place in the chain of authority, in order to be able to accomplish its mission, is prone to politics.

In particular, politics is harmful for the EA, as a new discipline, making it look like the saviour of the enterprise that seldom saves it. EA has been grossly over hyped for selfish interests and over sold even before it was properly defined and scoped.  

Enterprise Architecture and its promoters promise a lot, but do we deliver?  

Don't we sometimes assume the same moral high but safe ground when over selling the concept for the higher good of the Enterprise? 

The reality is that typical EA outcomes, more often than not, do not really support strategy execution, organization transformation or convey the much-touted agility to the firm. In other words, EA may not deliver to the promise. The reason is that we may not have a proper  body of knowledge and as such we have to spin it.

The divide between business and IT is already a major source of debate in the Enterprise world and I would dare say, a breeding ground for politics. Business and IT speak different languages. They might look like two political parties engaged in a quest for the same holy grail, the budget. But is it not the Enterprise Architecture now, with the EA architect in the lead, charged with aligning the IT to business, that is, in effect, to cross the political divide?

 On the positive side, politicians must be energetic, skillful negotiators and decision makers to be able to balance the legitimate and conflicting interests of many concerned parties.  

 The Enterprise Architect has to be politically astute to justify EA, argue the business case, rally support from stakeholders, keep management informed and optimistic, do the work and survive the political process. 

More on this, next time.

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Adrian Grigoriu blogs about everything relating to enterprise and business architecture, SOA, frameworks, design, planning, execution, organization and related issues.

Adrian Grigoriu

Adrian is an executive consultant in enterprise architecture, former head of enterprise architecture at Ofcom, the spectrum and broadcasting U.K. regulatory agency and chief architect at TM Forum, an organization providing a reference integrated business architecture framework, best practices and standards for the telecommunications and digital media industries. He also was a high technology, enterprise architecture and strategy senior manager at Accenture and Vodafone, and a principal consultant and lead architect at Qantas, Logica, Lucent Bell Labs and Nokia. He is the author of two books on enterprise architecture development available on Kindle and published articles with BPTrends, the Microsoft Architecture Journal and the EI magazine. Shortlisted by Computer Weekly for the IT Industry blogger of the year 2011.

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