This quote is typically attributed to Peter Drucker, one of the most revered management consultants and business authors of all time, whose writings made significant contributions to the foundations of today’s business corporation. Most of us know this to be true . . . yet, we often ignore it in our day-to-day activities. I have watched many smart, ambitious, driven mangers fail miserably by ignoring the reality of this statement. For a recent example just look at Ron Johnson who was incredibly successful at creating the Apple Store, but who failed miserably as JC Penney’s CEO. Why? I am sure there were a lot moving parts but Johnson failed largely due to his lack of appreciation for the Penney’s customer. He tried to apply the Apple model in a context where it just did not fit. Business architects should pay particular attention.
Over the years I have asked hundreds (literally) of Enterprise Architects a simple question “Which is harder, building an enterprise architecture or getting the enterprise to embrace the architecture you have built?” Their answer is always the same. Building is the easy part. This isn’t the majority answer – it is EVERYONE’S answer. I have never had an EA tell me that implementing architecture was easier. Yet, when I ask EAs where they spend their time, architects say they spend eighty percent on improving and managing the architectural model. Something is wrong with this picture. You can’t ignore context even if it is difficult to deal with. Business architects should be very careful not to follow in EA’s path.
Business Architecture is a Hard Sell
Business architecture isn’t a hard sell because it is a bad idea but because it is not a natural fit in the context of most organizations. Think about the main tenets of business architecture: focus on the long term and cross-organization collaboration and decision-making. Business architects have a better perspective on this problem but still struggle to understand how to deal with a context that doesn’t align well with their model. I see three basic approaches to resolving this. Change the context (extremely difficult), manage the context (still pretty hard), or modify business architecture to better align with the organizational context. It will take some of all three to make business architecture the success we all want it to be.
Over the next couple of months I plan to explore this issue and search for ways to deal with it.