13 years, 9 months ago

Be an Enterprise Activist, not Archivist

Link: http://www.biske.com/blog/?p=789

Yesterday afternoon, I was involved with a discussion around EA 201x. The conversation began at a lunch meeting I had with Mike Rollings (@mikerollings) of Burton Group/Gartner, and continued on with Brenda Michelson (@bmichelson) of Elemental Links and fellow EA Chris Bird (@seabird20), among others. Near the end of the conversation, Chris asked the question, “Are Enterprise Architects really Enterprise Archivists?” Brenda responded that we really need Enterprise Activists focused on action, delivery, ideation, and evangelism.

The more I thought about this, the more I love the picture that is painted by this. An archivist is essentially a librarian, and unfortunately, there are probably many EA teams that fall into this category. I’m sure there are probably many CIO’s who also think this is exactly what EA should be doing: managing the list of approved technologies, standards, etc. That is a necessary activity, but is it really what your EA team should have as its primary purpose?

Now, think about the activist. Put aside any negative connotations associated with political activists and judicial activist, and focus on the pure definition, which is someone who engages in activism. Merriam-Webster defines activism as “a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue.” So, enterprise activism, or enterprise architecture activism, should be direct, vigorous action in support of the architecture of the enterprise. Anyone who has worked in big IT also knows that there’s no shortage of politics and tension between enterprise views versus project views, strategic views versus tactical views, so I think it fits the “controversial” term as well.

Brenda’s comments about seeing action, delivery, ideation, and evangelism hits the mark.

  • Action: The action is engagement. Talk to the people that have the ability to make change happen. Using the activism analogy, the EA is the lobbyist. Engage the stakeholders, and make your case.
  • Delivery: Deliver the strategic architecture, and then work with the project teams to make sure the architecture is realized properly. If you’re only cataloging what other people have done, you’re an archivist.
  • Ideation: Think about the future. James McGovern (@mcgoverntheory), a fellow EA, had posted once that EA’s need to have time to think. This is where the ideas come from, and then can get turned into the strategic architecture. They’re not the exclusive source of ideas, but EA’s are supposed to be your senior level thinkers, so innovative ideas should be expected of them.
  • Evangelism: How can you be an activist without being active? Make the cause known. If the cause isn’t heard, work to understand why, and tweak the message accordingly.

Just writing this up actually has cause me to think about some things that I can improve on in my own role as an Enterprise Activist. While I doubt we’ll see this as a job title anytime soon, I think it’s the right vision, can help others understand the role, and can be a powerful motivator for the team.

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