The only way for enterprise architecture to genuinely succeed is for the architects to climb down from their ivory tower and work hand-in-hand with the business and IT subject matter experts to build a user-centric enterprise architecture that speaks to the genuine needs and culture of the organization and its people.
Enterprise architecture needs to be a collaborative initiative where difficult problems get identified and resolved by vetting issues, best practices, and solutions among organizational stakeholders. In this user-centric model, the architects and business and technology stakeholders build an proverbial alliance and work together to develop and maintain architecture plans that are valuable to and actionable by the organization. The architects provide the leadership, structure, principles, and processes to guide the architecture development, and the stakeholder, subject matter experts contribute and vet the content with the architect staff. Neither group can be truly effective without the other.
In a broader sense, the concepts of user-centricity and collaboration that enable an enterprise architecture to succeed at the organizational level can be applied at higher levels (e.g. globally) to solve the most challenging problems we face in the world today.
The Wall Street Journal, 7 November 2008, ran an interesting editorial by Will Marshall, the president of the Progressive Policy Institute.
In this opinion piece, Mr. Marshall calls for “a new progressive internationalism” for America. He argues that rather than go it alone, America should build international alliances to tackle the difficult problems and build a way forward. He says that “Alliances don’t tie American’s hands, so much as extend our global reach.”
In other words, America can’t function as traditional enterprise architects solving the world’s problems out of an ivory tower, but rather we need to work with other nations around the world jointly tackle these.
But aren’t we smart and innovative and capable in America. Why can’t we just solve the problems on our own (the ivory tower approach)?
Marshall states: “In today’s increasingly interdependent world, no nation is strong enough to go it alone. We need other countries’ help to solve problems of the global commons like today’s financial crisis, terrorism, climate change, the depletion of natural resources, pandemics and poverty.”
Similarly, enterprise architects can’t solve our organizations’ problems alone. Architects cannot have the breadth nor depth of subject matter expertise, nor the where-with-all to implement even the best laid plans without the stakeholders that stand to benefit.
Now certainly there are times of peril or when decisions need to be made quickly that someone has just got to “make the call” and there is no time to collaborate, fully vet the issues or build consensus, but this should be the exception rather than the rule, since collaboration trumps going it alone far more often than not.