A digital dinosaur, and enterprise architecture


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.



  1. The CAUDIT website is at https://caudit.edu.au/
  2. 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/
  3. The resulting video has been published to YouTube and is available at https://youtu.be/GCrR3qXmjL4
  4. 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

A decadesworth of consumer technology.



i did not keep a television for the twelve years i spent living alone, preferring books and music to the ghastly and limited broadcast offerings of the 1990s.


When we first started living together, my wife-to-be produced her elderly SONY Trinitron television, a cubic-metre of black plastic shrouding a buzzy, hot, squealing cathode-ray tube with its fuzzy, staticky, swollen, heavy, greyish, screen.


In the relatively-wealthy period we enjoyed before having children, we splashed out on a beautiful, if modestly-sized, top-of-the-range high-definition SONY Bravia flat-screen LCD television, cast the old cathode-ray unit into the ocean, and marvelled at the details and the colours of our new television.


The SONY Bravia television had held up well, despite my young daughter scratching its screen by driving and scouring a plastic-toy DottyWot1 across its surface, and despite her malevolent cousin smashing its remote-control unit with a hammer.  However, just before Christmas, the picture started turning pink and blue and becoming frustratingly-unwatchable a greater proportion of the time than not.  We held out for a few weeks.


A replacement television had become necessary, so we bought another SONY Bravia, this one with built-in wi-fi and a big red “NETFLIX” button in the centre of its remote control.  This new television:

  • was much cheaper
  • has a bigger screen
  • has higher resolution
  • is smarter
  • weighs less than half
  • consumes less than half the power

…than the old television, and it has been embraced as a wonderful thing by the whole family.  The characteristics of the two machines are:

Specification Old Television New Television
Model Number KLV-V26A10 KDL-32W700C
Date Manufactured JAN 2005 OCT 2015
Date Purchased JUL 2006 JAN 2016
Price Paid NZD$3,150 NZD$747
Screen Size 26″ 30″
Weight 17.6kg 6.8kg
Wireless Connectivity none 802.11a/b/g/n
HDMI Inputs 1 4
Power Consumption 145W 62W
Screen Resolution 1366×768 1920×1080
Made In Japan Malaysia

What strikes me heavily is the size and nature of the difference a decadesworth of progress in consumer technology has made, and this is a very-mainstream and very-pedestrian example of that progress — there is an unimaginably-vast quantity more to come.



  1. DottyWot is a character from “The WotWots”, a children’s television programme made in New Zealand: https://www.wotwots.com/

All We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray


Unsettled, the haplessly-institutionalised incumbents huddled together for warmth, two to a cubicle, cruel flickering artificial light obliterating any capacity they once might have harbored for self-actualisation or for problem-solving, casting an especially-stark relief upon their miserable, wasteful, angsty souls.

They were unsettled by the juggernaut paperweight reputation of the new shepherd coming to guide them, probably to slaughter them, certainly to restructure them, and this new shepherd, this new shepherd was certified!  This new shepherd with a string of certifications long as a donkey’s tail: TOGAF, ITIL, PRINCE2, PMI, COBIT, MSCE, and a beginner’s first-aid certificate and some first-year classics and ancient history university study as a bonus.

Their fearfulness was palpable and paralysing and visceral, but, in the end, thoroughly unwarranted, for this new shepherd was just a person, just a person with the same pains, hopes, and fallibilities the rest of us have.

There continues to be much over-hype about certifications in IT, particularly about enterprise-architecture certifications, and particularly about TOGAF certification.  Demonstrating core knowledge in a domain or discipline through a standardised assessment process is a good thing, and establishing reliable credentials is a good thing for the profession of Enterprise Architecture.

Where the simple system of “credentialled = worthy” breaks apart is the point at which the credential itself becomes imbued with mystique and desirability and is viewed as an end in itself.  For enterprise architecture, where the professional practice must be adapted from one vertical to the next, from one organisation to the next, from one practitioner to the next, and from one type of engagement to another, having a detailed map to follow is neither possible nor sensible.  What’s needed is a compass, not a map1, and none of the major enterprise-architecture frameworks currently provide compasses or maps.

Gartner summarises the current state of affairs nicely in the 2014 edition of the Hype Cycle for Enterprise Architecture2, including observations that:

  • certification’s value is unclear to organisations
  • certification’s value is unclear to individuals
  • certification is a good thing to have on your resume
  • certification implies almost nothing about proficiency

The always-insightful, always-thought-provoking Tom Graves makes crucial observations about skills and (or versus) certifications in his Saving enterprise-architecture from itself post3:

  • certification has become a commonplace recruitment filter for enterprise architecture roles, and this approach weights certification (which is typically no more than a few-days-long short course) overwhelmingly and disproportionately more heavily than years of applied experience working as an enterprise architect
  • certification in enterprise architecture frameworks ignores the enormously-important complement of soft skills (the communication, leadership, collaboration, and adaptability) that are essential for success as an enterprise architect — they do this because the enterprise architecture frameworks themselves are barren of soft-skills content

Jason Bloomberg’s new Bloomberg Agile Architecture4 is a great new example of practical, adaptable, and flexible applied enterprise architecture.  This new technique differentiates itself from the traditional heavyweight do-everything subtractive frameworks (i.e., you discard pieces of the framework you think  you don’t need) by instead taking an additive approach that incorporates elements, artefacts, and capabilities as they are found to be required in order to deliver a particular business outcome.  There’s much to like about this approach.

The danger for enterprise architecture is that the academic energies wasted mewling sheeplike after the frameworks and the certifications are preventing us from forming constructive connections with our customers, partners, and stakeholders, and inject bedazzling interfering distractions that prevent fulfilling the mission and promise of business-outcome-focused enterprise architecture.  Curiously, the more of us that become certified in a common framework, the better the chances of those frameworks being improved, of architects developing common vocabulary and process, and the better the chances of certification’s value becoming clear and visible.

The frameworks have much to contribute to and provide anchor for the practice of enterprise architecture, and there is value to be found in them, but leading in a still-diverse and still-immature profession with overemphasised focus on the merits of certification as a rite of passage and entitlement to speak is leading all we, like sheep, astray.





  1. Principle 3 here is very nice: “compasses over maps” = MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference, 2014, Joi Ito’s 9 Principles of the Media Lab, http://vimeo.com/99160925
  2. Betsy Burton & Philip Allega, 2014, Hype Cycle for Enterprise Architecture, 2014, http://www.gartner.com/document/2804819
  3. Tom Graves, 2013, Saving enterprise-architecture from itself – 3: Skills and certification, http://weblog.tetradian.com/2013/11/11/saving-ea-from-itself-3-skills/
  4. Jason Bloomberg provides essential reading for enterprise architects in these two pieces:
    1. 2014, Is Enterprise Architecture Completely Broken?, http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonbloomberg/2014/07/11/is-enterprise-architecture-completely-broken/
    2. 2014, Is the BAA Technique an Architecture Framework?, http://intellyx.com/introducing-the-bloomberg-agile-architecture-technique/is-the-baa-technique-an-architecture-framework/

Line-In-The-Sand Leadership

A day at the cricket.

We know that attitude, culture, and engagement underpin the performance of a team.  Despite knowing this, the announcement yesterday that four key players in the Austalian cricket squad currently touring India will be excluded from selection to play in the third test-match of the series was chillingly clear and startlingly decisive1,2.

Together, the coach, captain, and team manager triumvirate detailed the situation, the behaviour, and the impact on the team — the essence of which is reproduced here, statement-by-statement, and with the cricketing context removed:

  1. This is a line-in-the-sand moment.
  2. We have given the team absolute clarity.
  3. We have given the team a huge amount of time to buy into with what we want to achieve.
  4. We have given a vision to the team that is spelt out.
  5. We’ve given an expectation that is spelt out.

The four suspended players failed to meet the expectation, which of itself could be viewed as trivial, and the consequences punitive, but the leadership fundamentals here are strong, sound, and clear:

  • attitude and culture really matter
  • engagement is crucial for performance
  • every team member must be on board
  • clarity of vision, values, strategy, and aspirations is essential
  • opportunities to live the values and buy into the vision must be provided
  • clarity of expectations is essential
  • good leadership involves taking hard decisions, and acting upon them

…and, crucially:

  • individual performances are too expensive if they come at a cost to the team culture

i’m often finding analogies between the honourable and proper form of cricket (the five-day test match) and the execution of projects and other change initiatives, though not always very good analogies.  The variety of roles required within a cricket team necessarily mean that different team members have different specialisations, yet must share and be bonded deeply by common values.

Here, we’re seeing a spectacular demonstration of long-term thinking and strong leadership, setting the agenda not for the next two test matches, but for years to come.  It’s a risky, courageous, galling, dramatic, and bold step, taken to bolster, sustain, and grow the team as a whole.

It’s leadership.

  1. Barrett, C. (2013) Up In The Air: Watson flies home after Test axing, The Melbourne Age at http://www.theage.com.au/sport/cricket/up-in-the-air-watson-flies-home-after-test-axing-20130311-2fw9i.html
  2. Coverdale, B. (2013) It’s Not Just About One Incident, ESPN cricinfo at http://www.espncricinfo.com/india-v-australia-2013/content/current/story/624571.html

Attack of the Vegan Zombie Business Cases


The Business Analyst and the Project Manager have yet another impossible timeframe forced upon them, which they accept.  Faced with the prospect of losing the confidence of their Project Sponsor, they somehow manage to squeeze out their Business Case.  The Business Case is such a success that they circulate it to the usual suspects for formal review.  However, when a nosy enterprise architect begins poking around in the details, he finds more than he bargained for!

Just like the horrible undead creatures from in B-grade horror movies like Attack of the Vegan Zombies!1, the business cases keep coming through the door and through the email, and they are unstoppable, fully-formed, dangerous, and perfectly hideous.

  • The business cases arrive after being bred in captivity, never before having seen the outside world or a strategic context, and they are packed with impenetrable, unusual, misused, and idiosyncratic language: their intentions are unclear, and we are unsettled by not being certain what they are requesting or justifying.
  • The business cases arrive after ten o’clock at night, sixty dense and confused pages long, demanding detailed review before morning to justify a case for change requiring substantial investment.  In the dead of night we unwrap them, afraid at the what inevitably lies within, and as powerless to change their course as the archtypal naked home-alone victim showering behind a flimsy plastic curtain as the evil murderer approaches.
  • The business cases arrive packed with imperatives: we must make this investment because the life, sustainability, and reputation of the business depends upon it, and because we were denied unfairly last time we asked, please!  The very essence of life and death is at your feet, morality and emotion and heartstrings are tugged and implored.
  • The business cases arrive in generalisation-based disguises, cunning wolves dressed as sheep: the case for change is supported unequivocally by the “really expensive” support that will be avoided, by the “drastic risk reduction” that will result, and by the “hugely increased user experience and effiency gains” the organisation will receive from undertaking the work, none of it quantified, well-imagined, or offered with a timeframe in which the benefits will be realised.

Here, now, in 2013, we should be good at business cases, both at creating them and at approving or rejecting them.  Much too often, a business case comes along as an urgently-needed administrative chore to mop up paperwork requirements after an investment decision has been made.  The business cases are bad! However, there are some practical steps to start turning this around:

  1. Collaboration: business cases must not be allowed to grow in isolation, not even to first-draft condition, because so much is set in stone by the time first-draft condition is reached.  Creating a business case must be an open, social, collaborative endeavour.
  2. Context: business cases must be created with context, which means that the projects and initiatives for which cases for change are made must have their own context devolved to the business case and to the team charged with its creation.  The business-case-initiation phase modelled by Gartner2 includes the tasks:
    • define how the initiative addresses business strategy
    • identify business case stakeholders
    • identify business case audience
  3. Betterment: initiatives such as the New Zealand Government’s Better Business Cases3 model (based upon similar models in the UK and Australia) seek to improve the rigour and repeatability of good business cases that support clearly the case for change across five domains: the strategic case, the economic case, the commercial case, the financial case, and the management case.

There is good reason to hope and expect that the quality of business cases will improve, but achieving that improvement does require soup-to-nuts involvement of enterprise architecture and program/portfolio governance teams.  It’s when the business cases appear with a shock factor that things invariably go bad, not least because it’s all too late to recover.

  1. Attack of the Vegan Zombies (2010) synopsis from IMDb at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1380852/plotsummary
  2. Ganly, D. (2012) Use a Robust Business Case Process to Avoid the Seven Common ERP Pitfalls. Gartner Research, Article ID #G00232378.
  3. New Zealand Government (2010–) Better Business Cases, http://www.infrastructure.govt.nz/publications/betterbusinesscases

“Fairy Bright Eyes”, Projects, and Decay


“Fairy Bright Eyes” is an installation by Ryan Monro, one of a dozen artworks in Auckland’s Learning Precinct Micro Sites initiative1.  A unexpected curiousity in an unusual location on a university campus, this piece represents beautiful aspirations and their subsequent inevitable decay:

  • A chandelier hangs over an alleyway. At first it symbolises luxury and hope but as it degrades over time it becomes a symbol of dystopia.

i’ve recently encountered a number of situations in which problems have appeared or changes are needed to the deliverables of projects that were closed as success stories, and the organisation’s ability to address those problems or make those changes has been wavering between absent and resentful, and for extraordinary, though predictable, reasons including:

  • the project didn’t deliver that function, and we’re forbidden to work on it now as a business-as-usual activity.
  • the project was outsourced, and nobody here knows how it works, and the documentation we were promised never materialised.
  • the project went live, but there was a lot that got moved into Phase 2, but they spent all the money on Phase 2 fixing problems with Phase 1, and now we don’t have anything that was promised in Phase 2.
  • the project delivered a product, but the only person that knows how it works has moved onto another project, and we’re not allowed to speak with him.
  • the project couldn’t deliver that integration because we failed to overcome political problems with the other system owner, and now there is no funding left anyway.

At once, i was reminded of the chandelier and its spectacular decay from a thing of sparkling beauty into an exhaust-tarnished relic, and reminded of two essential takes on the problem with projects and their definition of success:

  • energy, funding, and resource are assembled and brought to bear in the greenfields stage of a project, and those elements, along with the peculiar nature of the early greenfields condition, enable projects to move quickly and make initial changes and delivery with reasonable agility… but subsequent changes are soon required on top of initial changes, and then the project ends, and a prolonged stagnation period ensues2.
  • the success of an application project can be judged only by its long-term ability to deliver business benefit and by the change-friendliness of its capability delivery3, which is determined by the extent to which its non-functional characteristics have been understood and quality-assured4.

As an industry, we’re doing a terrible job of delivering application projects.  A big part of the solution to turning this terribleness around and improving these projects must come from the enterprise architecture discipline, embedding good behavoiurs, patterns, principles throughout the project lifecycle, from inception through design and delivery to long-term benefits realisation and, eventually, into managed decay.




  1. Various Artists. (2010) Learning Quarter Microsites, described at http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/newseventsculture/Arts/publicart/Pages/learningquartermicrosites.aspx
  2. Krafzig, D., Banke, K., & Slama, D. (2005) Enterprise SOA: Service-Oriented Architecture Best Practices. Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-146575-9
  3. Enterprise Architecture in 140 Characters, Brenda Michelson, Elemental Links, http://www.elementallinks.com/2010/02/17/enterprise-architecture-in-140-characters/
  4. Kyte, A. (2011) In Application Projects, ‘Success’ Needs Many Definitions. Gartner Research, Article ID #G00210218.

“What value will a Solution Architect add to this?”

tessellations as repeatable solution patternsAfter some prompting, the technical requirements arrived for architectural review.  They had been prepared from a well-intentioned place and under the pressure of project timelines.  Scanning through them revealed serious problems: these requirements were much too far progressed, and were based upon several fundamental anti-patterns.  Needing to deliver some new information from one ERP system to another, the proposed integration solution:

  • specified silent discards in favour of raising alerts when errors were detected
  • favoured unsustainable side-door integration techniques over the use of established patterns
  • was disconnected from the business requirements it has to deliver
  • specifies data-exchange and transformation rules at the wrong layer of the stack

These are unacceptably-bad things, and while their origin is understandable and of an environmental and historical nature, rather than of an individual or other nature, they must be addressed, and the course proposed redirected towards simple compliance with basic established delivery patterns.  This work is not supporting an isolated endeavour, a proof-of-concept experiment, or an early innovation — this is a mainstream production deliverable where there is genuinely no latitude for managed diversity.

Perhaps inevitably, the project machine responded as follows, heavily paraphrased:

  1. why are you making us have to do this properly?
  2. what is the value of involving a solutions architect?
  3. don’t you know we’re busy?

The spectrum of governance ranges from assistive governance through to directive goverance, in both proscriptive (you must not do these things) and prescriptive (you must do these things) flavours.

While there might not always be uniquely-right or best-ever answers and solutions, there is a sense of universal truth and rightness here, and sometimes the architecture function must adopt a directive position, generally when assistive positions have failed to achieve a sustainable business-value-driven outcome.

Facilitating the use of established repeatable patterns, ensuring change-friendly sustainable outcomes, and sometimes veering into directive governance, that’s the value of a solutions architect.