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Enterprise Architecture Artiquette

April 4, 2012

Enterprise Architect to The Enterprise:
If a picture paints a thousand words, then why can’t I paint you?  The words will never show … the you I’ve come to know …”  
– Bread/David Gates – from the 70’s.

It’s not easy to be an Enterprise Artist nowadays with lots of people making lots of noise, and throwing things all over the place…and insisting on being co-artists. 

Enterprise Art has become a collective exercise.  Lament, rejoice or shrug? 

As with many things in life, the shrug can be a helpful technique to bridge the present and the future into a semblance of seamlessness.  For the present has become what it has become, as thought and action individually and collectively has evolved in enterprises of all kinds – commercial, social, and political.

ArtNot Architecture!?  What’s in a word, one may ask.  Well … quite a lot, really, when you abstract so much into one word and then expand it back into reality in many, many ways depending on the slice of reality that each individual happens to focus on.  This continual bouncing back and forth between the word and the reality it attempts to represent eventually tapers off, slinky-like, into a resigned acceptance that results in the reality being altered forever by the word – the butterfly that flapped its wings and changed the world.

When a certain kind of complexity started to overwhelm our minds, Zachman and others chose the butterfly (c1980’s) – “Architecture” – and metaphorized the IT industry.  This conceptual shoe-horning continues to have strong left-brain appeal, with its simplicity, its cognitive-bootstrapping capability and an existing framework that has been contorted to fit a different world – the world of IT Architecture.  Alas, IT itself may have been another butterfly that flapped its wings and created its own turbulence, including things like The Business, Business/IT Alignment and an entire spell-book, mystical chants and a coven that deals with all things IT.  It is dubious whether it is helpful to conceptually orphan IT from its parent, The Business, a term that IT people use to indicate Everything other than, and outside of me.  But that’s a whole new discussion for a different day. (Zachman, The Open Group and other EA denizens do consider and discuss this expansion of EA beyond IT).

Butterflies are free.  So let us propose one more, and get it to flap its wings … let us call it Art, not Architecture.  And let us consider people working together collectively, messily, drawing shapes and patterns somewhat whimsically at times, in a decidedly narcissistic pursuit of self-expression and self-interest.  This certainly has right-brain appeal, but may cause our already overworked Left considerable grief.  Can the twain meet – Does the enterprise have a Corpus Callosum that allows some coordination, synergy and asynchronous operation between our right and wrong halves?  Can we worship our engineering bent of mind and our desire for self-expression and whimsy at the same time? Maybe.

As the motley crowd of people with different interests, experiences and motivations in an enterprise work together, would it not be good to have some method underlying this madness … something that’s a bit beyond metaphorical frameworks that may mislead … Artiquette, anyone?

– Balaji Prasad, April 2012

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