It’s NOT What it’s How that Matters


This is the third in a series of articles that decomposes some of the latest research into architecture in useful bite size pieces.

Thinking about giving up on the whole architecture deal, have a clean out and sack the whole lot and get some news ones in! Well before you do, there’s  some interesting new research that you should be aware of.

It’s been known for some time the failure rate for architecture programmes is exceptionally high; perhaps 95%. And that about 40% of all architecture programmes are cancelled very three years or so; with often unfortunate consequences for the Architects. We all know organizations that seem to be in an endless cycle of establish, frustrate and terminate.

Some organizations try to break the cycle by outsourcing the problem to consultancies. But, still nothing changes, except that now you have a smart looking set of metrics that tell you it’s still actually your problem! And by the way here’s this month’s bill.

If you were to scan the literature for answers you’d be forgiven for assuming that it’s all about method. That if somehow you could get a good enough ‘to-do list’ then you’d be home and hosed . Unfortunately, the research tells us that’s simply not the case.

The Failure of Success Factors (Hope, Chew & Sharma 2017) compares the performance of architecture programmes its purpose: empirically examining the core proposition of the CSF literature, viz. ‘that success of EA programmes is associated with the presence of certain CSFs while failure is associated with the absence of those CSFs’. This longitudinal research identified the presence of CSFs; drawn from over 500 literary observations, in particular programmes and compared their implementation against the outcomes of the programmes. In theory there should be a correlation between the factors and programme outcomes.

In a related piece of research 17 CSFs derived from the literature were assessed by over 200 Architects. Of those only five CSFs were identified by more than a third of Architects as critical with only two of those being assessed as such by more than half the Architects. Furthermore, only two of the five CSFs, Commitment to the Use of Architecture and Consultation and Communication also made a the top six of academically identified CSFs! Most of the CSFs were only rated as critical by around 20% – 30% of Architects with many technical CSFs in particular failing to impress even 20% of Architects.  Clearly, there is a gulf between academic sources and practicing Architects. But, the disconnect between practice, academia and management is a subject for another day!

Architect Identified Critical Success Factors
Factor
Critical %
Alignment with Business     68
Co-ordination with Developers
    37
Purpose of Architecture
   47
Commitment to the Use of Architecture   51
Consultation and Communication   74

The research also notes a disturbing tendency for anything that ‘sounds’ rigorous or objectively assessable to be marked down. ‘Formal methodologies, tools, quality control, maintenance and budgeting are all objectively assessable tasks. Curiously, for a discipline concerned with detail it seems that rigor is unwelcome’ (Hope 2015).

The Architects also seem to be gun shy when it comes to Monitoring for Compliance. Which makes the top six CSFs in the literature. But is in a some what trailing joint seventh place with Roles and Responsibilities barely ahead; and statistically not significantly, of the “also rans”.

The architects’ views about what is important don’t tally with the academic research.The data shows that the only factors significantly correlated with success were: Monitoring and Compliance; Commitment to the Use of Architecture and Consultation and Communication.

The use of methodologies, strategy and tools did not correlate with success. The conclusion: ‘this research empirically reinforces … The findings … that the methodological skills of architects need to be supplemented with process (or social) skills so that architects might be able to attend to key aspects of the organizational context to assure the success of EA programmes’.

As far back as Spewak and Hill a myth was born that ‘EAP should not be attempted in an unfavorable climate’ . Basically, that some organizations are unfit for EA. But, the Hope et al. research turns that proposition on its head suggesting that really it’s a matter of the architecture programmes not being fit for their organizations; and that performative adaptation is the key to architectural success.

So, what does this all mean? Basically we need a new approach and we’re not talking about more method or TOGAF certification or the latest tech fix. We’re talking about a whole new sociological centric paradigm, something that architects unfortunately aren’t typically familiar with or prepared for.

Purpose Driven Architecture Practice (PDAP) is the leading body of knowledge in this new space. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s not surprising the research was only published in late 2015. PDAP takes an empirically substantiate approach to the sociological aspects of architecture practice. Suggesting that architecture consists of three Architectonic Activities, whether you like it or not these activities, consisting of performative routines; told you it was different,  determine the programme’s fate.

If you’d like to know more about PDAP then email PraXtice@TrueTechnologyPartners.com.au True Technology Partners are the only organization in Australia qualified in PDAP.

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