October 20, 2009

“The Happiness Myth” and Enterprise Architecture

Recently, I was reminded of an interesting article that appeared in The Wall Street Journal (20 Dec 2007) that what really matters in life is not happiness, but rather peace of mind.

Generally speaking, people “are consumed by the pursuit of happiness,” and this fact is codified in our very Declaration of Independence
that states: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights, that are among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

However, absolute happiness is often in conflict with the "reality on the ground".

There are some of the inherent conflicts we deal with in enterprise architecture (sort of like the Murphy's Law of EA):

Here are some typical user wants (often associated with problematic architectures):
  • A baseline, target, and transition plan without their having to provide virtually any input or to collaborate whatsoever.
  • An architecture roadmap that they do not have to actually follow or execute on.
  • A platform for information sharing and access to information 24/7, but they also want to hoard “their information”, and keep it secure and private, on a need-to-know only basis, which they subjectively decide.
  • A structured IT governance process to ensure sound IT investments for the organization, but also they want leeway to conduct their own affairs, their way, in which they buy want they want, when they want, how they want, from whomever they want, with whatever founds they can scrounge up.
  • A requirements generation and management process that captures and aligns specific functional requirements all the way up to the organization’s strategic plan, mandates and legislation, but that they don't have to be bothered with identifying, articulating, or aligning.

The world of EA is filled with conflicting user demands and polarizing directions from user that want and expect to have it all. While certainly, EA wants and strives to meet all reasonable user requirements and to satisfy the user community and “make them happy,” at a point there comes the realization that you can’t (no matter how hard you try) make everyone happy all of the time.

People want it all, want it now, and often when you give them what they want, they realize that it wasn’t “really” what they had wanted anyway.

So the way ahead is to understand and take into account your user requirements, but more importantly to do the “right” thing for the organization based on best practices, common sense, and initiatives that will truly drive improved performance and mission results.

The WSJ states, “Dad told me: “life isn’t built around ‘fun.’ It’s built around peace of mind. Maybe Dad sensed the paradox of happiness: those most desperate for it run a high risk of being the last to find it. That’s because they make foolish decisions. They live disorderly lives, always chasing the high of the moment.”

In User-centric EA, we don’t “chase the high of the moment,” or look to satisfy each and every user whim, but rather we keep the course to developing sound IT planning and governance and to enhancing organizational decision-making capabilities for our end users. EA is a discipline that ultimately strives to ensure peace of mind for the enterprise through the provision of vital "insight" and "oversight" functions.


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