November 10, 2009

Supercapitalism and Enterprise Architecture

As a nation are we overworked? Are we just showing up, doing what we're told, and making the same mistakes again and again?

Robert Reich, the former Labor Secretary and Professor at University of California at Berkeley, says that we are more than ever a nation of workaholics.

Reich’s book, Supercapitalism, talks about how we have to work harder to make ends meet for the following reasons:

  • Globalization—“our real incomes are under assault from technology and low-wage workers in other countries.”
  • Greater competition—“all barriers to entry have fallen, competition is more intense than ever, and if we don’t work hard, we may be in danger of losing clients, customers, or investors.”
  • Rapid pace of change—“today most people have no ability to predict what they’re going to be doing from year to year, and job descriptions are not worth the paper they’re written on because jobs are changing so fast.”

Reich says to temper our workaholic lifestyles, we need to “understand that the quality of work is much more important than the quantity.” Honestly, that doesn’t seem to answer the question, since quality (not just quantity) takes hard work and a lot of time too.

In terms of supercharged programs, I have seen enterprise architecture programs working "fast and furious," others that were steady, and still some that were just slow and sometimes to the point of "all stop" in terms of any productivity or forward momentum.

Unlike IT operations that have to keep the lights on, the servers humming, and phones working, EA tends to be considered all too often as pure “overhead” that can be cut at the slightest whim of budget hawks. This can be a huge strategic mistake for CIOs and organizational leaders who thus behave in a penny-wise and dollar foolish manner. Sure, operations keep the lights on, but EA ensures that IT investments are planned, strategically aligned, compliant, technically sound, and cost-effective.

A solid EA program takes us out of the day-to-day firefighting mode and operational morass, and puts the CIO and business leaders back in the strategic "driver's seat" for transforming and modernizating the organization.

In fact, enterprise architecture addresses the very concerns that Reich points to in our Supercapitalistic times: To address the big issues of globalization, competition, and the rapid pace of change, we need genuine planning and governance, not just knee jerk reactions and firefighting. Big, important, high impact problems generally don't get solved by themselves, but rather they need high-level attention, innovative thinking, and group problem solving, and general committment and resources to make headway. This means we can't just focus on the daily grind. We need to extricate ourselves and think beyond today. And that's exactly what real enterprise architecture is all about.

Recently, I heard some colleagues at a IT conference say that EA was all bluster and wasn't worth the work and investment. I strongly disagree. Perhaps, a poorly implemented architecture program may not be worth the paper it's plans are printed on. And unfortunately, there are too many of these faux enterprise architecture programs around and these give the rest a bad rap. However, a genuine user-centric enterprise architecture and IT governance program is invaluable in keeping the IT organization from running on a diet of daily chaos: not a good thing for the mission and business that IT supports.

Organizations can and will work smarter, rather than just harder, with strong enterprise architecture, sound IT governance, and sound business and IT processes. It the nature of planning ahead rather than just hoping for the best.


No comments: