Sunday, October 20, 2013

Three Paradoxes in EA

EA is a paradox to uncode the paradox of business. 

Running a successful business is full of paradoxes at today’s VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) environment, EA is both philosophy and methodology for businesses to not only understand but also leverage resources in prioritization and execution. 

Indeed, EA itself has paradoxes, in the strategy process; there are three paradoxes that are also some of the fundamental paradoxes in EA.

1.    Logic vs. Creativity 

The main responsibility of enterprise architects is to have a holistic picture of Business Logic of the whole enterprise, mostly not in the level of part of the organization. Without that whole picture, separate parts of the organization will care for their own part and maybe for interfaces and not more, such business logic can underpin business processes and enforce business governance.

However, EA goes beyond the business logic, it’s also a structure for innovation management. Innovation is equivalent to sustainability and resilience for an increasing number of hyper-connected enterprises and industries, not just for recovery but more importantly renewal. Enterprise Architecture can support such innovation only if it undergoes a paradigm shift. 

EA has a unique position to provide innovation to the enterprise because it comprehends process change as well as emerging technologies. The combination allows EA to both reduce the risk, and improve the reward, of all scales of organizational change EA may support the innovation by developing the Structural Capital and ensures that the enterprise is always fit for purpose of achieving its vision, mission, and strategies. 

2.    Deliberateness vs. Emergence

EA manifests the ‘AS IS” & “TO BE’ state of the organization. There is one side pressure for EA to be holistic and comprehensive. Therefore, a number of concepts in the meta-model as well as the number of artifacts should grow. 

On the other side, there are requirements to EA to be simple and easy as the world becomes more dynamic, EA contextual problem space is that of a complex adaptive system that exhibits emergent behavior, made up of customers, products and services, cash-flows, etc.

To balance such paradox, it is resulting into the necessity to use many reference models and other accelerators. It also leads to splitting of EA into layers with different level of information granularity, where upper layers are holistic (covering all concepts, such as enterprise ontology and vocabulary) and lower layers are comprehensive - covering all attributes needed but for selected concepts only (such as application architecture). 

3.    Revolution vs. Evolution 

EA should be the tool for CHANGE, though it means a lot: the communication tool, the process optimization tool, the governance tool, the knowledge sharing tool. So the other paradox in EA is about which change it should focus on, incremental improvement or leapfrogging transformation, culture evolution or eco-system revolution? 

Actually, they are not polarities really, because there you can have either or part in there. The paradoxes, however, will each time produce a different outcome and the outcome is no right or wrong, which also makes them different from polarities.

EA can become the link between change and transformation: Look to the edge-cases of roadmaps and transitional architectures and attempt to find the intersections between those incremental steps and disruptive leaps in technology or business strategy innovation activities are championing and that's a powerful convergence of drivers.      

EA can also become the link between Change Inspiration and Change Implementation. The most observed, planned and developed in the change management is called change inspiration. The more people on board, informed and even inspired about the change, the smoother change can occur with great effectiveness and efficiency.  

A reactive EA may tolerate a silo culture, but an optimized EA should breakdown the silo culture, and EA program is used as a media to change a silo mentality, EA can even become the culture analyzer and designer in pulling up the resources and push up the business evolution.

An effective EA should have capabilities to deal with fuzzy logic but not with outright inconsistency, to do so, you need to allow for partial truths or coexisting conflicting truths, at high-level maturity, EA is a master to deal with such complexity and paradox. 


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