Archive for December, 2009

Religious Wars and One Trick Ponies

You used to hear the phrase all the time “oh that’s a religious war” it would be Microsoft verses IBM or Tibco verses MQ. Or any other groups of bigots at loggerheads, each defending their turf for little other reason than that they could. In recent times the religious wars seemed to have subsided perhaps the term is now considered politically incorrect or perhaps the affairs of a dangerous world have made us pick our words more cautiously.

Anyway, what’s this all got to do with architecture you might ask? We’ll I contend and I know I’m not alone in this that the quality of architects is a real issue for the discipline. As I’ve said on many occasions every man and his dog has the title these days and most of them are not worth feeding. The religious wars which at least required the expenditure of energy and some intellectual effort have been replaced by organizations dominated by one trick ponies. These are architects often with fine technical pedigrees that have fallen for a golden hammer pattern. No prizes for guessing which pattern that is.

I’ll give you an example, recently looking at a client’s issue the obvious and most cost effective answer was to exploit their existing mainframe. However, the consultants had recommended a Unix solution. So, being the sort of architect that likes to know why I asked. The consultant’s indignant answer was “least risk”. Okay, I thought sounds good. Problem was it wasn’t true; least ways not from the client’s perspective, they had no Unix skills and a battery of mainframers. So, being the sort of architect that likes to know why I pressed the point. The by now, decidedly defensive consultant caved and admitted that the decision was made to reduce their risk; they had no mainframe skills. They were one trick ponies. They didn’t have an opinion they had an answer, but only one and it didn’t matter what the question was! And this was a VERY big consultancy, the sort of brand that you would expect more from, well at least an honest opinion.

Now while I look down on these people, because lets be blunt they are lying in an attempt to secure a project that they aren’t qualified for based on the hope that they can somehow pull it off. (A dazzling example of managing risk … upwards!) Why people do this I’ll never know it ALWAYS ends in tears. But I guess it keeps the cash flow going for a while. I can at least understand the consultant’s commercial predicament which should stand as a warning to all those that employ consultants. I guess the law of inverse competency should be applied when hiring consultants, even from VERY big consultancies.

What I find a little harder to understand is when the internal architects behave in willfully ignorant ways. At another client I encountered a newly appointed senior architect who gleefully informed me that he was mainframe ignorant, which was kind of interesting that he’d got the job as that platform was basically the business. So, being the sort of architect that likes to know why I asked if he intended to correct the obviously shortcoming? “Oh no that won’t be necessary, the mainframe will be replaced.” That all went well until he met the LU6.2 APPC application. Shortly there after, and several million dollars later both the architect and the mainframe were replaced one by a new architect and the other by a new mainframe. That’s beside the point.

And we wonder why executives won’t take architects seriously. Well its because far too few architects take architecture seriously. In many organizations architect is just another classification for a technologist. The consequences are technology based religious wars and an epidemic of one trick ponies running around with their golden hammers! Typically, this behavior is reinforced by architecture practices that clone their architects. They are all the same! I guess it cuts down on the religious wars when every one thinks the same, but it’s REALLY bad architecture. The wars have been replaced with equally evil and mindless theocracies.  No wonder TOGAF is making such head way! Architecture is about what’s right NOT who’s right. A lot of architects need to grow up and take their responsibilities seriously.

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Real Enterprise Architecture

Graves

This book really is about Enterprise Architecture with the emphasis on the enterprise and not the IT architecture. Written by a frustrated practitioner it offers a cohesive while perhaps not as comprehensive as one might like methodology in a very compact 130 + pages including glossary.

The book starts with devastatingly simple proposition that “Enterprise-architecture is the integration of everything the enterprise is and does.” It works for me. The first chapter establishes the methods framework a twenty five cell structure that maps Purpose, People, Preparation, Process and Performance drawn from a project management methodology against five “sideways views”. These are Efficient, Reliable, Elegant, Appropriate and Integrated. While I kind of get the 5 Ps I kind of missed the “sideways views”. I mean Elegant?

The lack of a foundational theory and the immediate progression to a framework is a little alarming particularly when the rest of the book is then dedicated to filling out the framework. Twenty five cells in about 120 pages (less than five pages a cell) with I must say a reasonable amount of white space at the end of many of the sections. Not surprisingly, there is not much meat to the tools and techniques used to fill out the cells.

Given its size this volume was never going to be much more than a set of architect’s notes. But putting that aside and being impressed with it not giving into the temptation of becoming an IT architecture book, I have to be positive about this book. Small, concise and perhaps a little overawed by the concept of recursion this book tackles EA without falling for the IT trap.

This is a book as it says itself for chief officers, strategists and programme managers and I agree with that. This is not the book to start your collection with and probably isn’t that much use to the average IT focused corporate architect. And frankly it’s a bit pricey for what it is. But, is it worth a slot in your EA library? I’d have to give it a reserved yes. Not wishing to damn it with faint praise, it is what it is.

Graves, Tom (2008), Real Enterprise Architecture, Tetradian Books, Colchester

ISBN 978-1-906681-00-5

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Beyond Software Architecture

Hohman

Initially you’d have to question reviewing this book as an EA book at all; although some enterprise architects need to be reminded that ultimately EA is about software. This book is really aimed at software developers who want to market a product, in the authors own words, “single-user programs costing less than $50”. I’ve not read much in this space so I’m not that good a judge, but its seems a competent work to me.

Hohmann’s developers are not the typical corporate IT department software developers encountered in architecture books. But, here’s the EA angle, there are lessons to be learned from this market driven software development viewpoint.

Hohmann’s search for a winning solution constantly connects his software development strategy to business imperatives and it is this search for a greater context that makes this book worth a look. His thoughts on the forces that shape software architecture, “marketecture”, market maturity, usability, training, education, user communities, product releases, upgrading and patch management are as valid for an internal corporate audience as they are for the open market.

Not surprisingly the book spends some effort on the commercial issues of COTS software like licensing and business models which might help you understand your vendors better, but won’t be of much use to the average corporate architect.

This book is for small scale software developers who want to produce software that resonates with their target market. This is not an EA book, but having said that I’m of the firm belief that no one has a mortage on good ideas and that a good architect reads eclectically. So if you are involved with developing software either within your organization or for the general market then borrow a friends copy for the weekend.

Hohmann, Luke (2004) Beyond Software Architecture, Signature Series, Addison-Wesley, Boston

ISBN 0-20-177594-8

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Enterprise Architecture

Johnson

This is an interesting book. In a curious way it is almost devoid of an underlying theory, something I’ve criticized many methods and books for and yet it maintains a cohesion that is difficult to fault.

This book is about models, decision and analysis techniques and that makes it quite a rare and useful volume. I am frequently dismayed by the poor analytical skills of architects that I encounter day to day. This book has the analysis process and its management as its central theme and manages to do it without becoming overly academic which is a bit of a triumph.

Think EA meets operations research and you’ll start to get a feel for a book dedicated to rational (no not the IBM brand) enterprise information systems management. This is EA as decision support for the CIO.

It discusses strategic issues like goal setting and decision alternatives and domain definition. It then takes these goals and breaks them down into properties and provides techniques for collecting evidence; a practice that isn’t as well developed as one would expect in many organizations.

The authors support this approach with a huge number of simple, but thought provoking models just the kind of thing you need to get you working on your problems. My favorite is the credibility of evidence model. There’s a section on intuitive EA assessment in which they manage to give the process a lot more structure and logic than the usual rubbish that passes for intuitive analysis. And the section on organizing for EA actually has more content than is apparent on first inspection. But you’ll have to work your way through the models. Based on COBIT the EA as a process approach reminds me a lot of Spewak and Hill with the same directness and perhaps a similar failing to grapple with social realities.

The book only credits two authors on the cover however I counted about adozen contributors. The writting is clear concise if somewhat bland typical “Euro Architecture” style, but at 300 pages not too hard a read. This is not the book to base your practice on, it’s not strong on governance or business integration. However, it is one of the best technique books you’ll find. This is the sort of book that you’ll reference more than read. Not a book for beginners or managers but obviously worth its place on your bookshelf.

Johnson, Pontus and Ekstedt Mathias (2007), Enterprise Architecture, Studentlitteratur AB, Lund,  Sweden

ISBN 978-91-44-02752-4

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Enterprise Architecture

optland

This is a small book with big ambitions. At only a little over 140 pages it is by EA standards a modest volume. But that shouldn’t put you off.

The book presents a surprisingly comprehensive approach to EA with a simple and yet well structured theoretical foundation and enough practical detail to make it credible without overwhelming the novice.

Written as a text book for an architectural course it consists of four main sections. These include the usual explanation for why we need EA, updated for the global economy and a little more stakeholder centric than the usual effort. Followed by “positioning EA” which is actually more like defining and describing EA and then two sections on the execution of EA.

One of these is the now a days almost obligatory case study / example, typically the refuge of people who can’t actually explain what they mean. My initial reaction was to reach for the phone, order a pizza and turn on the football. But, surprisingly the situation was saved by an example with some real meat.  Not only do the authors demonstrate their points, but they manage to connect them to both their own technique and broader well know concepts like Zachman’s framework; all without becoming arcane. In 30 odd pages they deliver more value for the architect than many complete books.

They follow these sections up with a topic that should be getting more air play than it is “The Enterprise Architect”. It seems that these days every man and his dog is an architect, frankly I wouldn’t feed many of them. But, having said that it’s no easy matter deciding what makes an architect. Well, this book has a good go at answering that question and even if you don’t agree with the them  there is a certain order and cohesion to their argument that must be respected.

This is a crisp clean work written in “Euro Architecture” style, which is not surprising given its origins. It will work for architects at all levels and will add value to any bookshelf.  Recommended.

Op’tland, Martin, Proper, Erik, Waage, Maarten, Cloo, Jeroen, Steghuis, Claudia (2009), Enterprise Architecture, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg

ISBN 978-3-540-85232-2

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