Architecting Enterprise prioritizes five topic areas to provide cohesiveness and integrity – what can you expect to read? We welcome related, alternative topics.
Strategic thinking & leadership
“Strategy is not the consequence of planning, but the opposite; its starting point.” –Henry Mintzberg
While strategic planning is (eventually) essential to all technology initiatives, early-and-often strategic thinking is essential to planning. Strategic alignment is the initiative’s rudder and its map — planning details the journey. Commanding approaches give the impression of control (when they work) but are ultimately bad for business. Teams who aren’t empowered by strategic alignment often have no choice but to hit the iceberg.
Strategic leadership is rarely provided by one person, rather, strategic thinking (aka architectural thinking) is a collaborative force that delivers a holistic view of the path forward. Discovering and articulating the best possible solution under the circumstances.Deep knowledge of a specific technology is best conveyed by the people who build it – strategic leaders build a web of trust. They structure complexity into tools that will integrate all relevant expertise into actionable, aligned-with-business, insight-driven forward motion. Motion that can be planned including commitments that can be trusted.
Architecting Enterprise explores the tools, models and methodologies that deliver this “collaborative force.” The goal is always to produce consumable deliverables that satisfy the need to know, see, understand, align, orchestrate and, most importantly, deliver value. Top-down elaborations, current -> target architecture models, analysis, position papers (written by everyone arguing a position), prototyping, roadmaps, solution overviews, system design, process models, etc are a few examples. We welcome a variety of genres including “how to” articles, tool reviews and philosophical debate about strategic thinking approaches.
“Organizations which design systems … are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.” — M. Conway
Technology, from a single app to an enterprise system, mirrors the organization (in structure and operation) that designs and delivers it. The product is the process. Understanding and improving relational dynamics between people is the single-most impactful way to improve technology. Architecting Enterprise explores this dynamic from 360 degrees; within teams, between silos, inside of processes, up and down hierarchies and among the user interactions with the technology being built.
Argumentation & alignment
“[noun] The action or process of reasoning systematically in support of an idea, action, or theory.” — Oxford English Dictionary
Technology in use today was the best possible solution at the time of delivery given the constraints, priorities, pressures, knowns and unknowns. The process of coming to those “best possible” conclusions is argumentation — collaborative reasoning or structured debate done before (during and after) technology decisions are made. The premises that support these decisions may be rationally compelling and/or emotionally persuasive but they are rarely certain. Even when they are certain “this code change will fix the bug” they can be challenged “is that the most valuable thing to do today?” Improving organizational argumentation is key to improving technology because solid argumentation increases the likelihood that solutions are not simply smart, they are also wise.
Architecting Enterprise explores evolving industry best practices, strengthening fundamentals like informal logic and methods for connecting consequences to decision making. We focus on both interpersonal engagements (meetings, presentations whiteboarding sessions, design reviews and sprint planning) and argumentational artifacts (frameworks, models, documents, designs, prototypes). The first step in taming complexity is alignment, often the most difficult step of all.
The first step on the path to failure is presuming everyone understands where you are going and why.
Generally speaking, technology teams are engaged in one thing: the journey from where we are to where we are going. Conveying where we are, where we are going and everything in the middle usually involves mapping. Done well, mapping is simply a way of telling a story – the story – that supports the best possible solution under the circumstances. Mapping the users’ journey uncovers the most valuable features. Task analysis, understanding how people use tech to do their jobs, teases “essential capabilities” out of the tangle of “requirement requests”. Mapping a change to system architecture triggers the right discussions with everyone impacted by the change *before* they happen. Process mapping aligns decision makers with the realities of the system they own.
Architecting Enterprise explores the myriad ways to effectively map a scenario in order to understand it better, solve problems and align stakeholders. More importantly, we discuss ways to overcome silos by making “just enough” mapping a part of business as usual, beginning (always) with “why this is valuable.”
“People grow out of their comfort zone. The next step is wondering how to move the organization from one transition state to another and, finally, […] come up with a roadmap and sell it.” Roland Woldt, Director Advisory Services at KPMG
The role of integrator or integration leader is a hot topic currently. As technology moves away from monoliths and into cloud formations, the need for bridge roles, people who embody what lies between, increases. Specialization complexity is deepening while simultaneously, each specialist relies on an ever-expanding number of other specialists. Business systems criss-cross multiple, discrete technology stacks and organizations rely on ecosystems rather than a single team to deliver their products.
Yet, integration leadership is not a new idea, rather, it is an undervalued need continuously rediscovered:
“there has been a rapid proliferation of roles such as product manager, brand manager, program coordinator, project leader, business manager, planning director, systems designer, task force chairman, and so forth. The fine print in the descriptions of these various management positions almost invariably describes the core function as that of integration” –Paul R. Lawrence, New Management Job: The Integrator, Harvard Business Review, November 1967
Architecting Enterprise focuses on strategies for playing bridge or integration roles which often demand three qualities:
- Relying primarily on trust, persuasive skill and expertise rather than direct power to be effective
- Constant learning is essential for success – gathering and conveying knowledge that others (generally) possess is critical for success
- Maintaining cross-functional alignment and fostering cooperative process is essential to moving good work forward