13 years, 5 months ago

Patterns of Informal Architecture

Link: http://www.strategicstructures.com/?p=230

The CEO was referred to as ‘the architect of the enterprise’ long before ‘Enterprise Architecture’ was coined. The ‘architect’ metaphor was used in 60s and 70s and became quite present in the strategy management literature of the early 80s. And really, big part of the job of C-level executives is to manage (different domains of) the architecture of the enterprise. That part  is not labelled ‘enterprise architecture’ and probably shouldn’t be. But it must be recognised as such by the ‘formal’ Enterprise Architects. If formal enterprise architecture finds a way to play together with the informal one, this in turn would help the latter understand how to get more benefits from the former.

One way is to use less formal techniques to explain formal EA to the C-level and other practitioners of the informal EA. Storytelling looks like a good way to do that. Another way is to show how formal and informal can go hand by hand and best do it again in a story, the way Chris Potts did in ‘recrEAtion’. Yet a third way is to make it a habit for formal EA practitioners to recognise patterns of informal EA.

It’s not difficult to spot them in processes and cases such as creating/changing chart of accounts or profit/cost centre structure or product/service portfolio. (Or, is it?) Informal EA patterns are also easy to find in any standardization effort or planning a new business capability, opening a new branch or running an integration program after a merger. It’s easy because all those cases have some kind of formalisation, albeit not an EA one. That’s not the case with patterns of informal EA in people relations. But the effort is worth it. Relations between people are of primary importance both for the enterprise and for managing its architecture. This week it was the topic of some very good posts by Tom Graves and Nick Gall. So here, another touch in the context of informal EA.

Formal EA uses models a lot. All models represent certain aspects of the past or the future. (I put ‘as-is’ models in the ‘past’ category as well.) Models of people relations are no exception. Models of the past relations are basically two types: some are based on perceptions and decisions of the modeller about certain aspects of reality and others are visualisation of actual characteristics, registered using some technology:

All models, actual and perceived, belong to the formal EA tool-kit. If we superimpose the two pictures above, conceptual, logical and physical would go to the two ‘perceived’ quadrants, and ‘operational’ – to the ‘actual’ one. What is left is the ‘informal’ relations. They are relations, therefore fall in the EA domain. They work and could be very powerful, therefore are important. Moreover, they are adaptable and can easily cheat the formal one. Here’s an example:

Bill starts a new project and needs a team leader for one of the teams. He has to fill in a request form and send it to the HR Department. Then hope they could come up with the right person from the huge database of employees. Bill doesn’t want to leave things to chance. He calls his colleague and friend Kim and asks him if he knows somebody that has capabilities as that team leader, remember, from the project A which they were involved together last year, but at the same time can handle situations of the type they had three years ago and has that and that technical experience. And he/she should be available for the project period as far as Kim is informed. Kim doesn’t know such a person available but he knows Sarah. Sarah is in a different location. They never worked together but Kim trusts her and has reasons to believe she might be able to help. After a few hours Kim sends Bill a message with the CV of a person recommended by Sarah. Bill gets some specifics of the CV and sends them as requirements to the HR department.

Some may argue that this story is about Knowledge Management, not EA. I agree it’s KM and disagree that it’s not EA. It certainly is and belongs to the grey cloud in the picture above.