@tetradian spots a small, subtle yet very welcome sentence in the latest version of TOGAF.
“An enterprise may include partners, suppliers, and customers as well as internal business units.”
Although similar statements can be found in earlier versions of TOGAF, and the Open Group (which produces TOGAF) has been talking about the “extended enterprise” and “boundarylessness” for over twenty years, these ideas have often seemed to take a back seat. So let’s hope that the launch of TOGAF 10 will trigger a new emphasis on the “extended enterprise”.
But why is this so difficult? It seems people are much more comfortable thinking about “the enterprise” or “the organization” as a fixed thing with a clearly defined perimeter. An enterprise is assumed to be a legal entity, with a dedicated workforce, one or more bank accounts and perhaps even a stock exchange listing.
Among other things, this encourages a perimeter-based approach to risk and security, where the primary focus is to control events crossing the perimeter in order to protect and manage what is inside. Companies often seek to export risk and uncertainty onto their customers or suppliers.
Alternatives to the fortress model of security are known as de-perimeterization. The aptly named Jericho Forum was set up by the Open Group in 2004 to promote this idea, now merged into the Open Group’s Security Forum.
Instead of enterprise as noun, what about enterprise as verb, thinking of enterprise simply as a way of being enterprising? This would allow us to consider transient collaborations as well as permanent legal entities. Businesses are sometimes described as “going concerns”, and this phrase shifts our attention from the identity of the business to questions of activity, viability and intentionality.
- Activity – What is going on?
- Viability – Is it going? Is it going to go on going?
- Intentionality – Where is it supposed to be going? Whose concern is it?
With this way of talking about enterprise, does it still make sense to talk about inside and outside, what belongs to the organization and what doesn’t? I think it probably does, as long as we are careful not to take these terms too literally. Enterprises are assemblages of knowledge, power, responsibility, etc, and these elements are never going to be distributed uniformly. So even if we don’t have a strict line dividing the inside from the outside, we can may be able to detect a gradient from inwards to outwards, and there may be opportunities to alter the gradient and make some strategic improvements, which we might frame in terms of agility or requisite variety. Hence Power to the Edge.
Related posts: Dividing Risk (April 2005), Jericho (May 2005), Power to the Edge (December 2005), Boundary, Perimeter, Edge (March 2007), Outside-In Architecture (August 2007), Ecosystem SOA (June 2010)