Archive for category Current State

Architects Don’t Know What They’re Doing!

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

It’s official, Architects are trained all wrong and that goes a long way to explaining why so many programmes end up in trouble. Whether you take Zachman’s 1987 paper as the start of the architectural time-line or not, doesn’t really matter. The point stands that architecture, as in the planning of IT systems, has now been around for thirty years. So why do we still struggle with it? Why is it that only 5% of organizations are able to effectively leverage architecture?

It has long been recognized that architecture lacks basic research. ‘Although a wide range of topics is covered, the discipline is lacking basic research.’ (Langenberg & Wegmann 2004) ‘enterprise architecture is a new discipline and it will not mature unless substantial basic research will be made’.(Noran 2003).

Well it seems that some of that ‘basic research’ has finally been done (Hope 2015 ) and some of the results are a bit disturbing. Like the fact that Architects basically aren’t prepared for their role. Then it’s hardly surprising that they don’t know what they are doing (See 30 years and we don’t know what we are doing).

Furthermore, the architects’ beliefs just don’t tally with the academic research.The analysis shows that the only factors significantly correlated with the success of an architecture programme are Monitoring and Compliance, Commitment to the Use of Architecture, Consultation and Communication. The widely held views that methodologies, strategy and tools were the keys to success simply isn’t true.

Hundreds of Architects were surveyed about their training and asked to classify its effectiveness based on the skills required to cover off a number of potential critical success factors identified by the research.. They were also asked about their formal education. And here’s what they said:

Highest Qualification %
High School     5%
Bachelor’s Degree   35%
Master’s Degree   40%
Doctorate     7%

As a group Architects are reasonably well educated, should have a degree and probably should be looking at a masters even if it is just to be keeping up. But the really interesting information is about the vocational training.

Skills and Training
Skill None None/Poor Poor/Adhoc Competent Better
Project Management   30%      
SDLC     26%    
Testing     54%    
Requirements Gathering 32%     49%  
Data Analysis 39%   19%    
Architecture Methodology   37%     45%
Problem Solving 34%   12%    
Business Theory 33%   17%    
Technical Writing 39%   17%    
Interpersonal Communication         75%

Overall the architects’ background did not seem to influence the training they received. And they were least likely to claim Excellent training in Testing, Data Analysis and Technical Writing.

So, what does this all mean? Basically vocational education seems largely absent. And when it does occur it recognizes two things methodology and the importance of communication. The problem with the emphasis on methodological training is that the research shows that the actual method used is a lot less important than the practice used to implement it. (Hope, Chew & Sharma 2017 The Failure of Success Factors)

As for the concentration communication training, it looks a lot like the desperate last resort of organizations, that don’t invest in their Architects; a vain attempt to fix the glaringly obvious. However, it’s clearly not working!

We’re talking about a failed methodological paradigm! What’s needed is an alternative that gets to grips with the real issues. Purpose Driven Architecture Practice (PDAP) offers such a new paradigm. 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 architecture practice to develop a socio-centric approach. Suggesting that architecture consists of three Architectonic Activities, whether you like it or not these activities are going on all the time and they determine the fate of the architecture programme.

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

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Thirty Years and We Still Do NOT Know What We are Doing!

This is the first in a series of articles that will bring the latest research into architecture to you in useful bit size pieces.

Whether you take Zachman’s 1987 paper as the start of the architectural time-line or not doesn’t really matter. The point stands that architecture, as in the planning of IT systems, has now been around for thirty years. And so why do people still refer to it as emergent? It’s because although we may know what a good architecture programme looks like we still struggle to know how to achieve it. How is it that after all this time there’s still a different definition of architecture for every book written on it; well almost! I guess it comes down to knowing what architecture is. If we knew that we could sort out its epistemology. We might actually have a chance of deciding what matters and what doesn’t. In short we could identify its Critical Success Factors (CSF). It has long been recognized that architecture lacks this kind of basic research. ‘Although a wide range of topics is covered, the discipline is lacking basic research.’ (Langenberg and Wegmann 2004 Enterprise Architecture: What Aspects is Current Research Targeting?) ‘enterprise architecture is a new discipline and it will not mature unless substantial basic research will be made’.(Noran 2003).

Well some of that ‘basic research’ has finally been done (Hope 2015 The Critical Success Factors of Enterprise Architecture). And some of the results are to say the least a bit disturbing. Like the fact that given a choice of CSFs drawn from the literature a college of over 200 Architects basically can’t tell you what the CSFs are. In fact, they can barely differentiate the critical from the merely important. Even then they are a lot further from consensus than you’d expect or like.

Architects were asked to rate the importance CSFs on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being Not Important and 5 Critically Important. Most CSFs were rated 3 or higher by 85% of the respondents. This situation is exasperated when it is revealed that ‘bogus’ CSFs rated as highly as the genuine ones. When filtered for ‘critical’ only you finally get some insight. Just for the record they were: Alignment with Business 68%, Coordination with Developers 37%,Purpose of Architecture 47%, Commitment to the Use of Architecture 51% and Consultation and Communication 74%

But the results are particularly comforting when you realize that out of 25 CSFs only five were picked by more than a third of Architects and only two by seriously more than half the respondents. 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).

Furthermore, the architects’ choices don’t tally with the academic research.

Academic CSFs
Critical Success Factor Critical %
Use of Formal Methodology    63
Use of Tools    25
Strategy for the Development of Architecture    33
Monitoring & Compliance    30
Commitment to the Use of Architecture    42
Consultation and Communication    51

Arguably this data is just as indecisive as the survey data and is possibly biased by the methodological bent of the literature. Could it be that we can’t get consensus because we’re not asking the right questions? It seems that the classical empirical approach to this problem has failed. That failure is underlined, perhaps ironically, by the survey responses to questions about how well the architects thought they executed against the CSFs. ‘Only two CSFs were considered to have been excellently executed and only by around 10% of respondents. These are Alignment with the Business at 11%, considered critical by 68% and Understanding the AS-IS State with 10%, considered critical by 33% of respondents. Consultation and Communication, considered critical by 74% of respondents, scores only 8%.’

So, what does this all mean? Basically neither the academics nor the practitioners know what matters and it seems that perhaps many things may be important in different ways. That there is no ‘golden’ to-do list, no TOGAF like body of knowledge is going to save us. We’re talking about the need for an alternative paradigm, something that Architects unfortunately aren’t typically familiar with. Purpose Driven Architecture Practice (PDAP) offers such a new paradigm. 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 architecture practice to develop a socio-centric approach. Suggesting that architecture consists of three Architectonic Activities, whether you like it or not these activities are going on all the time and they determine the fate of the programme.

For more information about PDAP or PraXtice email

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Everybody Needs PraXtice

This year marks thirty years since the publishing of Zachman’s seminal paper. And since then there’s been a torrent of publications on architecture. What’s always puzzled me was that despite all that brain power and all that paper, and believe me I’ve got bookcases and filing cabinets full of it, I’ve never come across  a lightweight fit for purpose architecture methodology. Well that was until now! PraXtice from True Technology Partners is exactly what Architects have been hanging out for. It’s been a log time coming!

In its simple direct style “PraXtice is a research based methodology designed for Architects by Architects. The goal is a methodology that shows you HOW, not simply tells you WHAT to do.” It does what it says with no apologies,   its intent is clear and concise. “Our objective with PraXtice is to provide a practical methodology that you can start using today and to get you going as quickly as possible.” And it does that in about 16 pages!

Before we all get carried away PraXtice makes it clear in its unequivocal style, in what may be the best paragraph ever written about architecture, that there is more to architecture than the mere application of methodology or the completion of a template.  The Crystal Clear Statement, the second paragraph of the documents says it all:

“Let us make one thing CRYSTAL CLEAR right from the outset. PraXtice is a tool for Architects. Applying PraXtice might improve your architecture practice, but it will NOT make you an Architect. There is more to architecture than any methodology can provide. The folks at True Technology Partners know that it takes a long time, patience and a lot of effort to become an Architect. The PraXtice methodologies assume that you have served your apprenticeship and that you have the prerequisite knowledge and experience and access to the necessary resources and artefacts. If you think you can Google your way through this one; you are very much mistaken!”

You just have to love the clarity! PraXtice comes in four versions Free, Professional, Complete and Advanced. And get this Free is exactly that, you can download it or copy it and give it to your friends or not. As the TTP folks say where’s the risk? What’s more, in this over hyped commercialized world, you’d never guess that you can’t just get the cheque book out and buy Advanced edition, your organization has to qualify for it! How’s that?

The production values on PraXtice may be a bit on the light side, but it’s the content that counts. And as they say never judge a book by its cover.

Access to PraXtice is a little limited at the moment, but if you email the folks there are really helpful. Give it a go, it’s probably better than what you’re doing now. And what have you got to lose?


The Archi Tool

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I keep being told how Digital Innovation and DevOps are going to save the world. Unfortunately for the salesmen I’ve been around long enough to have seen a magazine full of silver bullets, think Distributed Computing, PCs, Information Centers, Fourth Generation Languages, End User Computing, Object Orientation, ESBs, SOA, BPM and even Java to name a few. These were all going to solve all my problems. Mostly these ideas just moved things around a bit. Mostly money, it seems, from one bunch of share holders to another, and that while the names changed the problems basically didn’t.

Another observation I’ll  make is, that when the latest wave of newbie techies get control of your IT agenda the the result is always the same. Business thinks my God these people are clever! Why can’t our IT guys be like them! Then there’s an initial excitement and burst of enthusiasm from the naive evangelists that belittles all that went before and stupefyingly simplifies anything they don’t understand. Which actually turns out to be rather a lot. Then after the frantic and often mindless pursuit of the latest shinny thing fails. Typically on same stupefyingly simple obstacle as the previous technology, the new technology with all its technical debt (remember that term?) is assimilated in to the legacy. The uber intelligent evangelists are off on the next cloud (no pun intended) and the executives responsible for moving all that money around sheepishly retreat into the woodwork leaving the clean up to the IT guys.

To speak plainly Enterprise Architecture has a poor reputation in many organizations and rightly so. One of the problems is that many EA programmes are stuck doing what I call EA2000; using ideas and concepts that were common about 2000. Indeed, many programmes are worse, practicing a degenerate form of EA2000 (Template2000) in which filling out documentation templates has been substituted for actually doing architecture.

So, rather than having to deal with EA programmes that simply aren’t fit for purpose and perhaps having learned from the past. But, more likely as an expediency to reduce over-site and allow the rivers of money to flow (usually out of the organization). We see the idea of  two speed IT or Bimodal architecture rear there heads.  The problem with these approaches is that they undermine the legitimacy of the EA programme. We’ve seen this before. The hose pipe cannot be serviced so some “guidelines” are put in place typically they say something like, projects under $100K don’t need architecture approval. Next thing you know every project is $99K! And the disasters flow unabated.

The correct response is to increase the capacity of the EA programme. Typically, this is interpreted as get more EAs. Something that’s just not going to get up in a lot of organizations. The other option, that I don’t see very often, is to make the EA programme more efficient. What that means is that the programme has to move beyond EA2000 and develop a methodology that is actually appropriate to the organization. It’s time to blend architecture and operations, even Zachman has a Function Enterprise perspective, with operations. It’s time to adapt, to create ArchOps and stop all this nonsense about architecture being old and slow.

Now, that sounds simple, but for a discipline that has no universally accepted body of knowledge and even struggles with concepts like definition it is not easy. But that’s why we like doing architecture. What’s more EAs have the advantage, they understand patterns, they have seen it all before. They are are the smartest guys in the room.

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$harp Practice

I’ve commented on the questionable ethics of some consultants previously, but something I witnessed recently prompts me to revisit the issue.

In the last three or so years in particular I suspect that I’ve witnessed, initially unnoticed, a growing tendency for consultancies to see clients’ projects increasingly in terms of cash flow and less as problems that need solutions. It seems that they care little about the outcome and obscure progress, or more often lack of it, with activity. They keep projects going even when they know they should red flag them just to keep the cash rolling in.

But recently, I’ve noticed a new twist to this game that impacts architects directly. One of the all time favorite architectural principles is “buy before you build”. It’s very simple reduce your risk and speed your delivery by buying COTS components where it makes sense. And making sense is a pretty simple arithmetic exercise. If you can buy it for the same or less than your build estimate then all things being equal you’re probably better off buying it.

Well, in one recent incident I’m aware of the architecture has been rejected because it wasn’t based on open source and so free software. This sudden conversion to open source turned out on examination, there was basically no open source equivalent, to be a curious choice.

After much wriggling and a number of long awkward silences the truth, as always, emerged. The consultants had factored the client’s entire budget in as services, which would naturally be carried out by them. And so when the architecture called for the purchase of some software they didn’t like that because the numbers were already in the forecast!

The lesson is clear. Set your principles and insist that your consultants explain if they deviate from them.

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The Wrong Answer

I am frequently appalled by the lack of rigor in this craft and this has been recently highlighted to me by a linguistic habit that I suspect comes from a younger generation. ( Sorry guys feel free to have a hack at the old bastard!)

That is the use of the answer Yes/No to a question.  As I pointed out to one of our juniors Yes and No are binary. If architecture is about driving out ambiguity then this kind of answer is unacceptable.  I suspect that this structure is the consequence of not wanting to convey information that might be construed as  “bad news” to ones superiors or clients . If this is the case then the organization needs to take as serious look at the behavior of its leaders because they are responsible for this. They are suppressing information for their own comfort that ultimately the organization will pay for.

Answers, particularly architectural answers,  are not about making the boss feel good. They are about logically and concisely passing on information.  As the mediation gurus say it is neither good nor bad it just is. If you can’t handle that then you’re not leadership material and I suggest you get out of the way because things are hard enough without the irrational bullshit.

For those of you with an academic inclination I suggest looking up Jerry Luftman’s work. His work on alignments suggests a set of maturities that an organization must develop and guess what’s  top of  his list … communication!

Anyway, I’m going to finish off with a list of similar useless communicative structures and what they really signify. I wonder how many you’ve encountered this week? If you’ve got any favorites I’d like to hear them.

  • Just …. As in just do this or that … I haven’t thought it through.
  • All …. As in all you need to do is …. I haven’t thought it through.
  • I think …. As in a response to how does this work? … I don’t know.
  • Well basically … I don’t have a clue
  • I’d like … I ‘m not sure what, but something like … I don’t have a clue
  • I want … I want this or that … I don’t know what I need
  • Oh! it works like that! …. I was bluffing before I don’t really know anything about it
  • The specification could be interpreted in different ways … its not a specification or I haven’t actually read it and I was bluffing before.
  • It’s in the design … As in how does this work? … Don’t ask me I was hoping someone else would figure it out!



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Quality or Over Engineering?

Recently I’ve spent a lot of time investigating a system that’s been around for about ten years. Like many systems the developers are long gone and the system, ticking over reliably, has been ignored.  Well its time to replace the system and also like many other similar systems no one actually knows what the thing does! As usual the documentation shows little sign of maintenance and inspires even less confidence. There’s only one thing for it, you have to go and read the code.

This proved to be more difficult than you can imagine.  Besides there being no comments in the code, remember that old habit? At every turn every possible function had been abstracted sometimes three or four times. Component after component turned out to be little more than a container for the next  level of function.

Don’t get me wrong I’m as keen on the separation of concerns as the next architect.  But, in this case the result was a ridiculous ratio of functional  code to packaging that simply made comprehension more difficult. Well I got to thinking  about how this came about. The developers had plainly written the code for maximum reuse and extensibility, the problem was that ten years later none of it had been used and the resulting complexity and a lack of  documentation made the system almost incomprehensible.

So the question  must be asked when is it quality and when is it over engineering?

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So What Makes You an Architect?

The other week, I’m being deliberately obtuse to spare some the embarrassment, I had to engage with a number of people, some in my organization others from outside.

What struck me was that everybody was an architect! But wait a minute I thought are they really?

The first architect I encountered was a Java architect. All he wanted to do was change my spec into the easiest possible code to write. That’s not very architectural. No he wasn’t an architect he was a developer I concluded.

The second architect I engaged goes under the title Enterprise Application Architect. Sounds pretty grand! Problem is I’ve known this guy for over twenty years. He has no technology foundation. He couldn’t program his micro wave. His entire career has been spent in management! He wasn’t even a particularly good project manager. He’s not an architect he’s a manager.

Anyway as the week progressed I was called on to hire an “architect” . Unfortunately, there was no shortage of applicants. But as I plowed through them I came to the conclusion that they were mostly developers, the odd project manager and a couple of escapees from the call center.

So it being Friday afternoon and me being exhausted by my fruitless search I thought I’d take a different tack. Like all good architects I’d concentrate on asking the right question.

The next applicant’s CV boldly declared he was an experienced architect. By this stage this was like a red flag to a bull.

My opening question was “Do you have any certification? Not that I’m convinced by that. “No” . “Have you been on any architecture training courses?”. “No”, was the slightly sheepish response. No surprises there.

“Okay, have you ever read a book on architecture?” I could see the poor guy was desperate to say yes to something. And for a moment I saw it in his eyes, but then he thought better of it as no doubt the possible follow up questions started to occur to him.” Actually no”.

“Do you actually have a business card that says architect?” Not that I’m impressed by that either. A very sheepish “No”.

Sensing blood, I honed in. ” So you have no training, no experience and you can’t even be bothered reading a book on architecture.” I paused for dramatic effect, after all it was Friday afternoon.

“So what makes you an architect?”

Well, that was it it he got up and left. I guess he wasn’t an architect.


Can it get any Worse?

A little time back, I’m being deliberately vague which is a sin for an architect, to avoid embarrassing the presenter it’s not their fault. I had the somewhat dubious pleasure of attending a vendor briefing. The vendor in question had just been acquired by a very big software company and was on a road trip pushing their wares to their new owner’s clients.

In the past I’ve been very critical of the decline in the quality of IT education and have bemoaned the replacement of the battle scarred technical specialist with professional presenters. Who while very slick know nothing. The passing of the war story is a great loss to IT education.  And I’ve long since got over the simple but satisfying pleasure of deviating the presenters from their scripts just to watch them flounder.

This particular vendor seems to have taken the deskilling thing to new, even lower level. Not only was the presenter none technical, but the whole presentation was played back from a laptop complete with pauses for pre programmed witty comments.

It was agonizingly compounded by the presenter’s demographic.  She was a least twenty years younger than the next oldest person in the room and almost incomprehensible with every other phrase being “you know” and “like”. I’m sure her CV says great communication skills. The problem was we didn’t know, that’s why we were there and we certainly didn’t like it!

For all you vendor’s out there that see architects as sales barriers here’s the take away. Being served an pre canned mediocre pitch by an technically incompetent and verbally challenged presenter regardless of how cute she is isn’t going to win any architect over!

Now was that really a surprise?

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Four Rules of Engagement

You know how it is, you say stuff and you don’t expect it have any effect because you’ve said it over and over and no one’s listening. Well, did I get a surprise! Catching up with a couple of guys I’d done a project with quite some time back one of them ambushed with my own words ( Thanks Mikie).

Apparently, I’d given them the old this is how I’m going to run this project speech. Which I honestly think is a bit of a stretch, as I don’t like giving speeches at the best of times. Anyway they insisted that I  record for posterity my four rules of engagement and where better to do it? So here they are:

1) I do care what your problem is. There is someone who has had it before, but if you don’t tell me we can’t find an answer for it.

It’s simple really there’s always a solution.

2) Don’t let me put words in your mouth.

You see this all the time, the architect stands there talking to the client saying yes, yes, we can do that  and in the background the technical guys are all shaking theirs heads going no, no we can’t. It’s best to nip some ideas in bud.

3) If you don’t understand what I just said, don’t let me off the hook!

I was at a briefing once on a very large project listening to the senior architect explain the solution. He was pretty slick, but when he’d finished and rushed out of the room I turned to a colleague next to me  and asked did you get that? No, he didn’t and I’m guessing that no one else in the room did either.  If people are not understanding what your saying it’s not their problem, it’s yours. Too often I’ve seen architects ditch and run like that and the answer is always the same. They can’t admit that they don’t know all the answers.

Not knowing everything is okay, provided that it is openly conceded that there is an issue and that everyone understands that. But, it’s not okay when it’s done a s a means of avoiding the hard questions. So, if I don’t know the answer at least make me acknowledge that openly. It’ll save a stuff up later.

4) If I tell you something that’s wrong tell me it’s wrong.

I may simply be wrong or things may have changed, but do not allow the misinformation to continue to be propagated. Boy, could this have saved me some heart ache over the years.  I don’t accept truth by authority, not even when I’m the authority.


So there they are for what they’re worth. I hope you’re happy now Mike.



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