“I think there are two types, the architects, and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows.”
Novelist R.R. Martin
Over the course of my twelve years of experience as an Enterprise Architect, I have seen EA initiatives in more than twenty large companies; only two or three of which were successful, i.e., they had a significant or even noticeable impact on the real world’s software-projects. A pattern I saw, again and again, is that the ‘planning-oriented’ top-down, engineering approaches typically employed by EAs do not work when faced with the unknowability and unpredictability of real-world bottom-up software development projects. This observation made me think that enterprises aren’t architected at all. Defining a target state for five years later? There are too many unknown influencing factors.
Enterprises must not be architected, they must be grown. Establish a framework for growth. Plant the seeds. Do some weeding and fertilizing now and then. With a bit of luck, you will have a nice, healthy, growing enterprise on your hand a few years down the road. EA succeeds when enterprises are treated as complex systems that are constantly changing and adapting [Jason Bloomberg].
I like to use the term ‘Vanguard EA’ (coined by Gartner in 2017) for this gardener like kind of EA. Vanguard EAs are curious people. Like a gardener passionate about his garden, they must be passionate for the business of their companies. They need the ability to look beyond traditional business concepts and drill to the core of a given concept. Vanguard EAs use their strong interpersonal skills to consult their business stakeholders innovatively. They must be able to work with a wide variety of stakeholders that range from business executives to business analysts and IT architects. They must be great communicators to mediate between different viewpoints and stakeholders.
What you should do:
- To be successful in navigating through the digital transformation, reshape your EAM from an engineering ‘Architecture’ discipline to a business-driven, social ‘Landscape Gardener’ discipline
- Make your EAM a business discipline
- Staff your EA team with people highly acknowledged by the business and excellent communication skills
- Develop your EA team into a ‘Vanguard EA’ team that brings innovation to the business people early in the ideation process