Saturday, September 22, 2012

Future of EA: Framework or Frameless

It is the framework which changes with each new technology and not just the picture within the frame.  -- Marshall McLuhan
From Wikipedia: Enterprise architecture framework is organization of the structure and views associated with an enterprise architecture.

Frameworks add value as they are implementations of the patterns to avoid having to reinvent the wheel for every project.  However, there are more than 200 frameworks around, a related question maybe, why are there so many EA frameworks? The answer could be, because EA is immature, most of the frameworks are also immature, therefore, they may not well serve the purpose. What’re the pros and cons of EA framework, here are five perspectives:

1. EA in Enabling Communication & Decision Making

A framework constitutes a collection of artifacts under a common architectural pattern and interaction model.

Pros: EA Frameworks are an attempt to reach more common ground. Hence, framework is an attempt to unify approach, grammar and process diagrams, to help communicate decisions among multiple practitioners in different domains.

From enterprise management perspective, frameworks have certain value in providing a common language, starting point and reference for efforts on enforcing communication.

Cons: however, does the use of a framework ensure (or increase the likelihood) that the correct/proper/complete requirements have been identified? Frameworks provide terms for communication and analysis. But systems are a lot like buildings - it is hard for leaders to figure out what architects and builders will be able to achieve results, since even the best sometimes fail to deliver what was expected.

The other argument is that the business cannot clearly define what it wants. Business people tend to describe what they think the solution should be, without having thought through the problem. Any architecture approach which starts with a badly defined solution will end up not solving the right problem.

Moreover, the framework "obsession" comes out of a practical need to work with EA clients, business management.  Framework is a facilitator, it can be ontology, methodology, or simply breadcrumbs in approaching "framing" concepts. So the word "obsessed" is interesting as it's foundational. It's irritating to be in a room with other technologists who are all reinventing approach without agreement on facilitation.

That said, abstraction and composition in EA shall promote agreement, in reality, engineers see the world as black & white, architects see it in grey, what’s the next practice to see business as it is,  in full spectrum of colors?

2. EA in Bridging Strategy & Execution and Connecting Optimizing Dots

EA provides a common basis for partitioning the solution space. Every problem is a potential opportunity. Every opportunity is a potential problem. Every problem has multiple solutions.

Pros: Architectures (enterprise or otherwise) are built from reusable assets; frameworks are built to manage reusable assets; once a proper framework is provided and understood, most would employ it to save time. The mature framework helps improve business/IT efficiency, standardization and automation; the mature EA framework may also help maximize & balance point of views via a set of principles, processes, practices and patterns.

The Good intention of EA framework:  "Search underlying nature laws" -Zatchman

Cons: EA Frameworks intend to bring clarity of thinking and meaning into being, but many frameworks do not succeed in becoming prescriptive, they lack repeatable implementation methods that consistently produce working, maintainable solutions. 

EA framework is more about the scientific & systematic approach of architecture, but EA also need design thinking and creative thinking, to reflect the art of architecture, Today's EA is at lower level of maturity to fumble around many pieces of Big Elephant (enterprise); future of EA will train elephant dance (agility), think (knowledge management), speak (communication) and guard (governance)., etc. Today's EA is more inside-out IT process driven, the future of EA will be more outside-in, customer oriented.

Ideally, such EA framework should not restrict creativity, or cause over-complexity, it can help define the right set of problems and figure out the right alternatives of solutions.

You don't need a framework. You need a painting, not a frame  --- Klaus Kinski

3. EA in Encompassing Change Management

Framework = standard set of practices documented that encompass a specific process.

Pros: EA framework defines a set of artifacts, which need to be tailored to a particular development effort; it also defines how it can be extended and how it has to be used to create something. The frameworks approaching that recognize that all solutions create new problems are the business transformation & change frameworks. There are some of the more complex frameworks in EA that take this into consideration and provide a mechanism for project plan.

Cons: the Effective framework need encompass business transformation and change management via capturing the original intent rather than the formalized requirements. EA framework should enable change, than stifle innovation, increase change management and project management success rate, than work as an ivory tower approach. In reality, there are 70%+ of change management & IT project failure rate due to vary of reasons, EA may take fair share of responsibility via architecture perspective.

Furthermore:  the term framework is mostly addressed as a business issue. But taking this back to a technical level: the real issue about frameworks is: When to use them or not. A simple example: The more heterogeneous your component world gets, the harder and less effective is it to enforce a framework. So, the big question for architects is: Which frameworks to use? And if a solution can not be ready made with one, how can one find compatible ones?

4. EA Framework in Enforcing Governance

Each solutions is not classified in terms of right or wrong,  but in terms of cost, risk, quality and flexibility on the one hand, and effectiveness, efficiency, agility and durability on the other.

Pros: Frameworks eliminate the costly re-inventing of the wheel and the redefinition of EA at each and every attempt. Frameworks ensure that efforts deliver to expectations and results are comparable, predictable and repeatable. Frameworks help to find common identity and dictates common rules and behaviors.

Cons: Frameworks are as someone said "not cheap", it means the context and depth requires experience and investment. They are not "casual" and they are never complete. Adoption can be difficult if the parties are used to operating in stovepipes. Thus, the less mature EA framework may freeze process, disable innovation; add complexity, not enforce governance; lead inflexibility, and not improve agility.

There will be a growing link between financial management & EA, with budgets becoming a key input, and architects become responsible for cost and other financial aspects; there are also links between risk intelligence & EA, project investment & EA. etc.

An EA framework ensures that we work on the description of holistic enterprise rather than on how we should do the description.

5.    EA Framework in Enhancing Knowledge Management

Today’s EA is more about managing static knowledge, tomorrow’s EA is about managing dynamic business insight & foresight.

Pros: Mature EA frameworks, methodologies & tooling will more clearly identify the architectural subjects from the architectural context (the business environment & ecosystem), which may also include standard industry and domain frameworks & models, as well as logical and tooling linkages between EA, Business Strategy & Planning (up-stream) & Projects/Solutions (downstream), EA captures and develops enterprise knowledge with breadth and depth of business insight. 

Cons: lower mature EA framework may only capture partial knowledge, or outdated information, not being transformed into business intelligence or wisdom, to help business. grow and mature. Furthermore, a framework is content free and offers no assistance or guidance in the development of the required content.

Today's EA is shelf-ware to mange knowledge, future of EA is shareware to craft business insight & wisdom.

Shall we say: today's EA is more about framework; future of EA is both framework and frameless. Today’s EA is more about analytics, future of EA need becomes part of solution. High-performance businesses need high-mature EA.

High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation. --Charles Kettering 


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