I was sitting with my college-bound son in the initial welcome meeting at his college. Shortly after the meeting, shaking my son's hands, I said, "You are on your own, buddy." In my mind, I was thinking about the architecture project we embarked on as parents 18 years back -- just like one defines and evolves the architecture for an enterprise. But, is my son really on his own? I hope the foundational principles instilled in him will surface at the right junction points, which will ensure that what we architected is viably sustained for years to come. Just like I draw on the values instilled in me by my Dad. Similarly, enterprise architectures have to be sustained over time -- they are not a one-time only, 90 day project with a projected ROI of 200%.
So, how is the sustenance of enterprise architecture similar to what Fathers do? Let us review as we find ourselves on the cusp of Father’s Day in some parts of the world.
Strategy. When making directional changes in life, I seek Dad’s perspective. He does not get into the operational details but provides his strategic insight that has a strong bearing on what I do and how I do it. Enterprise architectures undergo change, extensions and adjustments as well. Enterprise architects must ensure that these adjustments are in line with the overall business and IT strategy for the enterprise.
Context. Our family does not necessarily react the same way to various life-changing events as other families in similar situations do. What we do characterizes our family while defining me as an individual. When I have a casual conversation with my father around these events, he chips in with a thought here and an anecdote there that provides more context and lo and behold, things fall into place. Context. Enterprises develop a culture over time that provides context to its architecture. The architecture varies from one enterprise to another when addressing the same business problem. Enterprises need to drive a consistent and common reference architecture in the context of their enterprise.
Interoperability - Whether it is my best friend or spouse or other families that we grew close to, my Father always advised us to build long-term relationships that are sustained over time. Enterprise architectures need to evolve and grow horizontally to be extended across the partners, suppliers and customers. Therefore, effective interoperability between enterprises and/or between different environments (think cloud computing) is key. Architects must ensure that what they build out is interoperable across multiple environments.
Best practices. There are several best practices native to our family that my father instilled in us that became second nature to us. These enable us to automatically incorporate efficiencies into what we do using time-tested techniques. Enterprises must build such best practices into the guts of the architectural frameworks defined. Best practices that sustain over time despite the technological evolution as implied by NASA CIO Linda Cuerton in this post on her blog: “Things like virtual machines, hypervisors, thin clients, and swapping are all old hat to the mainframe generation though they are new to the current generation of cyber youths.”
Frameworks. I have cautioned my son multiple times that as he starts his career, there will be several points in his life where he will come to a fork and he has to make a choice – the right choice. At that time he will be on his own, but he will have in his mind the value systems and principles that have been instilled into him, which crystallize into a decision making framework that can be (hopefully) applied repeatedly. Enterprise architectures must have similar frameworks that facilitate its evolution and sustenance with the right architectural governance in place.
Enterprise Architectures tend to be defined and "delivered" on paper -- ONCE. Some are actually modeled in tools meant for this purpose. A small percentage are sustained, nurtured and evolved over time. Mature enterprises need to take a cue from the lessons that Fathers pass on to the next generation and nurture what they architected for their sustained growth over the years.
On Father's Day, I take a step back and salute the first Enterprise Architect that I became acquainted with -- an albeit delayed realization -- my Dad.
How is your enterprise architecture doing? Is it getting the paternal care and oversight it deserves?
Also, in case you are wondering, here is my point of view on the role of the Mom in the enterprise called Our Family.