Human Centered Architecture

Christine Outram, a human-centered smart city and big data strategist, wrote a very keen blog post about What Starbucks Gets that Architects Don’t. In it, she laments the Architecture discipline’s inconsistent ethnographic research, the over reliance on “rules of thumb and pattern books”, the lack of desire to connect with actual users of the physical space, and incorporating human feedback into the design process. She contrasts that with an example of Starbucks doing the exact opposite during their architecture design process and creating a rich and welcoming environment for their coffee houses. For Enterprise Architects, her points are all too familiar.

Enterprise Architecture equally suffers from a lack of desire to be human-centered. Our profession has numerous analogues with City Planning and Architecture, and if you make a few terminology substutions, Christine’s article is equally applicable.

No wonder architecture has become a niche vocation. You don’t connect with people any more. – Christine Outram

Enterprise Architecture today is a niche profession that isn’t human centered. All to often Enterprise Architects get caught up in the weight of the discipline. We tend to talk in our own language (frameworks, models, Zachman, etc) and completely miss out on opportunities to make a tangible difference in the people and processes that consume our work. When people don’t understand what we do or why it should matter, we get defensive. Worse than that, we rarely talk to others in our enterprises about the value that we can add in plain speech.

We can reconcile towards our users. A simple way to start is to adapt and apply the principle of Hallway Usability Testing to the larger enterprise. Talk to people about their perceptions of Enterprise Architecture. Listen to their feedback and engage with them to learn more about their needs. Avoid the buzzwords, and please don’t mention frameworks. You’ll be surprised at what you learn, and how it can factor into the planning and strategy process. By becoming more human centered we can begin to change the perception of Enterprise Architecture and begin building a better enterprise.

Follow Christine on Twitter here: @CityInnovation