The Council of Australasian University Directors of Information Technology1, “CAUDIT”, provides valuable support and governance to several communities of practice operating across more than sixty member organisations. The CAUDIT Enterprise Architecture Community of Practice is the longest-running of those communities, and is holding is thirteenth annual in-person symposium meeting in November 2018 at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia.
During last year’s event, hosted at Queensland University of Technology, a bright and entrepreneurial architect from The University of Queensland asked me to sit for an informal discussion broadly on the topic of “what is enterprise architecture?”, this to be the first of a series of such discussions to be captured and published to the community as a resource.
In the end, mine was the only video created — i located it only recently, almost a year later to the day, and thought it might be as well to publish this transcript of what i said in answering the question “what is enterprise architecture?”.
However, i’m doing this with a heavy sense of awkwardness: i’m mumbling and distracted, and foolishly suggested the discussion be held before the great wall of digital dinosaurs at QUT’s incredible “Cube” facility2, so dinosaurs are moving and roaring and lowing in the background, something i thought would delight my young son when he later saw the video.
Nevertheless, here’s what i said about enterprise architecture, one year ago, and again demonstrating my strong belief in Brenda Michelson’s near-decade-old declaration that “the ultimate outcome of enterprise architecture is change-friendly capability delivery”4. The transcription of the two-minute-long video3 follows here:
The role Enterprise Architecture plays in my organisation is really based around the classic Twitter competition of what Enterprise Architecture is and does, and the primary function of Enterprise Architecture is to generate change-friendly capability delivery, and that means you can use things and capabilities you create in unexpected and unanticipated ways, and it means that when scale or extensibility is required then the capabilities you created can flex or be outsourced or be scaled appropriately to deal with those things, so change-friendly capability is the ultimate outcome of good Enterprise Architecture.
We also find that Enterprise Architecture is really important in trying to work with senior business leadership to understand the relationship between the investments they make in strategic projects and the outcomes they get for the business both in terms of customer focus but also in terms of alignment with organisational strategy.
Enterprise Architecture of course is strategy, there’s almost no difference between the two, so making sure that we’re involved right up front: provoking, stretching, and testing organisational strategy from an architecture perspective, because what we have is an unrivaled view of the whole organisation, so the it’s the glue in addition to being the family therapy and social work.
The Enterprise Architecture function at the University of Auckland is also involved in assessing and understanding the introduction of new technologies, working with those to ensure that they fit sustainably into the organisation, and then establishing enough of a pattern around them that they can be handed over and fit into the whole delivery stack of the organisation across the delivery side.
So, EA is the glue, it’s all about change-friendly capability delivery, and it’s about alignment of investment with business outcomes for good.
On reflection, some of that doesn’t really stand up to sensible thinking (e.g., there’s no difference between enterprise architecture and strategy), and the recognised significance of soft skills for architecture people to be effective can be characterised in better ways than as “family therapy and social work”. Still, the community project seemed sound at the time, and having these words now written down a year along from when they were captured provides a sense of having attended to something that needed doing.
- The CAUDIT website is at https://caudit.edu.au/
- QUT’s Cube “…is one of the world’s largest digital interactive learning and display spaces dedicated to providing an inspiring, explorative, and participatory experience of QUT’s Science and Engineering research”: https://www.thecube.qut.edu.au/
- The resulting video has been published to YouTube and is available at https://youtu.be/GCrR3qXmjL4
- Brenda Michelson, @bmichelson on Twitter, http://www.elementallinks.com/ website, and the story from 2010 of the enterprise-architecture-in-140-characters definition: http://www.ebizq.net/blogs/bda/2010/04/mckinsey_agrees_outcome_of_ea.php