Building better Enterprises29 Apr 2013
When I step outside of my role as an Enterprise Architect and examine IT from the eyes of the user, particularly the vocal minority/majority that inform me of IT’s latest transgressions, its clear that there is a misalignment between the process by which we organize IT and the outcomes our users desire. One of the ways this misalignment physically manifests itself is in the form of [Shadow IT]. Recently I’ve been getting an earful about what IT has taken away from them this time. I’ve heard everything from access to Skype and Google Voice being shut down with no viable corporate sponsored alternative, to a division provisioning its own server cluster, better than the corporate standard, only to have it shut down. Common to each misalignment scenario was the notion that no one from IT explained the rationale (in language that humans can understand) and no one followed up to identify what the root cause of the desire to seek out these “non-standard tools”.
After thinking deeply about each misalignment scenario, I couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that the modern enterprise is broken. Such a misalignment can only be resolved by reconciliations. I am of the belief that a modern Enterprise Architect must lead this reconciliation – and take steps toward the user.
One could argue that IT rather enjoys the [“VP of No”] role. Despite an [abundance] [of] [research] and insights on how people work, saying “No Freakin’ Way” to the next generation tools and underlying motivations for mobility and flexibility to get work done isn’t a viable option. It causes the misalignment that breaks the enterprise. The users needs, and the tools they seek to implement, are more dynamic than the traditional IT command and control model allows. The tension between the needs of humans doing work and IT’s objective to keep corporate data, networks, and systems secure can be a powerful force for innovation by providing necessary constraints to a wide open problem space.
Except IT typically isn’t organized for listening to the greater needs of the Enterprise and misses countless opportunities to leverage those moments of tension into tangible innovation products and services, thereby reconciling towards the user.
What does this reconciliation look like? I don’t know is probably the most accurate and honest answer. But a step towards it might reflect a consultancy with a contract that is universally aligned and incentivized towards the clients holistic best interest. In this world IT would provide the guard rails of core infrastructure, platform and tools – biasing towards organization innovation rather than consistency. The rest of the organization would be embedded in cross disciplinary project teams, all working to stitch together the enterprise into a coherent whole by designing, building, iterating and managing the entire life cycle (and renewal) of the enterprise productivity itself. With this as the foundation, I put forth that the modern Enterprise Architect’s role is to build, improve and refine systems that foster innovation.