Archive for category Current State

Zachman’s Framework II

I recently received an updated version of the Zachman Framework from the Zachman Framework Associates in Toronto. I must say that Stan Locke and his people at Metadata Systems have done a great job renovating this iconic artifact and I unreservedly recommend that you update!

Well done guys!

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What’s really going on in architecture – Update 3

One point emerging from the research is the importance of architecture being in alignment with the business. Which on the face of it seems logical. But here’s the rub; how do we know this is true? Why do we believe this?  Who told us it is so? And if it is so obvious why can’t we define alignment?

Those of you who are bewildered by this kind of Socratic investigation might like to consider taking part in the research which ca be found at:

We can pretty well guarantee that it’ll throw up some questions that will get you thinking!

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Just Flippin’ the Black Swan Burger

I woke this morning to hear the news that a certain bank was in its fourth or was it the fifth day of computer difficulties. Apparently some branches had stayed open all weekend so that their customers could get some cash.

No doubt, by shear determination the bank will overcome its issues. And no doubt when it’s all over it’ll instigate the usual LEAN, ITIL or whatever reviews to “nail down that process” so it doesn’t happen again!  The problem with this approach this that it will not happen again; ever hear of the Black Swan Theory? But something will happen and it’ll be just different enough to escape that new “nailed down process”. When will they get it?  Process is no substitute for an engaged skilled team of professionals.

Thinking about this problem, because that’s what good architects do. The following occurred to me. I’ve never worked for this particular bank, but I’ve had the pleasure; and it was a pleasure of examining at length some of their training documentation from the late nineties. I can tell you that they had everything, career paths, skill sets, selection criteria, everything you can imagine all beautifully laid out for everyone to see.  They were aiming for excellence!

So, how could this stuff up happen in such an excellent organization. Well after talking with some ex-insiders the story goes. That at about the time they had everything down pat. There was a change in management. It became all about cost and the first things to go were the training and development budgets. The next thing to go was many of the excellent people, seeing as they didn’t want to work in an organization that was rapidly becoming unexcellent.  As you can imagine this accelerated the decline dramatically; not only were good people lost, but the whole culture of excellence went into terminal decline.

One of my contacts related the moment, the exact moment when the bank went from being a place that he was proud to work in to, “just another bunch of wankers.”  He asked his manager why his training course had been cancelled. The answer, “look we’re not into all that skills  BS anymore it’s too expensive! It’s all about process now.  Just go back and flip the burgers!” Besides the understandable hurt of this insult, this change was followed by a slow but  steady decline in real wages and conditions (like taking the instant coffee away). Well the management thought (oxymoron perhaps) people weren’t as skillful as they used to be and they’re not nearly as loyal; so why pay them so much? And so the spiral continued. Flipping burgers and doing the back ups.

What process can never do is engage your people the way that skills development does. When you flip the burger you’re not engaged. I wonder how much the bank did save?

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What’s really going on in architecture – Update 2

The production survey has now need up since late October and we have a couple of things to report. The response has been good; particularly when you consider the commitment need to tackle the monster, we have respondents from, Australia, Canada, Colombia, France, India, Iran, Israel, Netherlands, New Zealand, Romania, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and the USA.

So far I’ve made a couple of observations. First, only three female architects have participated, plainly we need more female participants.   Secondly a number of people have commented on how thought provoking the questions are!  Which is very pleasing as not only are  we doing some research, but it seems that the survey has provoked discussions in a number of architecture teams about how they do architecture, which can only be good. It seems that we’ve achieved some unintended give back already!  I’d be very interested in hearing how these discussions evolve and any consequences.

Once again I’d like to thank those who have invested the time and effort to battle through the survey and urge those of you who have partially complete surveys to complete them.  To those who keep “meaning to get to it” to do it!    Remember in architecture there is always something that has to be done, before the first thing can be done! Sometimes you just have to do it!

The survey can be found at:

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Just and All the Anti-Pattern of Architecture

It’s one of those phrases that sticks in your head, I can’t remember where I first heard it or even if I’ve remember it correctly. But it had an instant impact and it’s stayed with me ever since, “never confuse activity with progress.” I wish I could claim authorship of this little gem, but alas that belongs to someone wiser than I.

Sitting in an architecture meeting the other day I could sense the growing frustration of the project’s sponsor and then it came both barrels in the one sentence … “look we just need a  (insert  any noun you like here) and all we have to do is (enter the appropriate verb here)” … there I thought the complete  JustAll anti pattern.

Just and all are like red flags to me these days they along with the phrase “I think …” (instead of I know) are absolute sure fire signs of incomplete thought. The people uttering them are invariably demanding action. What they fail to realise is that the problem isn’t that they aren’t doing anything, but that they don’t know what to do! Rather than critically analysing the situation and working out what’s required they abandon the use of their frontal lobe and give in to their primeval “flight or fight” response. Now this is probably a very good survival trait, but it isn’t architecture. Which brings me to another, no doubt misquoted old saying “decide in haste and repent in leisure.” Seems some people never learn.

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What’s really going on in architecture – Update 1

I’d like to thank those of you who have taken the trouble to respond to our very long and admittedly somewhat onerous survey. At least I was honest and told you it was a biggie. So far there have been respondents from Australia, Netherlands, USA, Russia and India. I thank you sincerely and ask you to recruit as many participants as you can from your professional connections.  After all  the better the sample the better the results will be.

This wonderful research instrument can be found at

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What’s Really Going On In Architecture

Information systems have been a fertile domain for academic researchers for more than forty years so it’s somewhat surprising when you discover how little research has been done on actually doing architecture.  Now I accept that architecture is not that old and that it is probably best dated from Zachman’s seminal paper A Framework for Information Systems Architecture (IBM Systems Journal, vol 26, no. 3, 1987), but it is 2010 and that was twenty three years ago now. I guess you could shorten the architecture horizon further; I’m sure I’ve read a claim somewhere that the term was first used by IBM in the 1990’s.  But I digress,  my point is that computing in whatever guise you take it is done by people and so it would seem reasonable that the study of people involved in computing would be well developed after 40 years and that consequently one would for example be able to find heaps of quality empirical data about the various roles involved in the development of information systems.

Well, I’d argue that this is simply not the case.  So at Angry Architect we have set about doing something about it. I fact we’ve been doing a whole lot about it for some years now. And now you can be part of this worthy endeavor.

Empirical data comes in two basic varieties, secondary data which scholars painstakingly extract from other sources which can themselves be second, third or even fourth hand accounts and primary data. Primary data as its name suggests comes “from the horse’s mouth”. Well in this case from the architects’ mouths. Working with primary source data has considerable advantages over secondary data particularly when it comes to interpretation and analysis; things are much simpler when you only have to figure out what the answer means!

Angry Architect in conjunction with a PhD research student has devised, compiled and now offers you the opportunity to participate in the most comprehensive and we hope soon; with your help, the largest ever survey of Contemporary Architectural Practice.  Our aim is to achieve a sophisticated view of our dynamic profession drawn not from hear say and opinion, but founded on hard data from real architects. We urge you to be part of this research and to encourage all your associates to do likewise, so that we architects can find out what’s really going on in architecture.

This wonderful research instrument can be found at

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The End of Zachman

If Charles Babbage is the father of computing and Grace Hopper the mother of applications programming then surely John A. Zachman is the father of enterprise architecture.  Indeed, you can barely find a credible architecture book that doesn’t pay homage to the Zachman framework. You may you love it or hate it or may have just grown to accept it, but you can’t deny its significance, it is perhaps the single most significant EA artefact ever created.  And it may just be that when we look back in the fullness of time we will have to agree, that despite all its frustrations and ambiguities it is indeed the periodic table of information systems planning that John so often claimed.

I have had the pleasure of meeting John once and was more than a little entertained by tales and enthusiasm and I can only say how sad I am that it has come to this.

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Certifications and Conflicts of Interest

I have to declare my position. It’s not often that Microsoft does something I actually approve of, but I was very please to read recently that Microsoft are getting out of the architectural certification game. It seems that they are handing it over to IASA ( a body of architects for architects. Well done I say!

Call me cynical but, I’ve always had a irritating suspicion that vendor provided certifications were at best marketing strategies run for the vendors’ benefit or at worst clumsy attempts to brain wash the technical community. While vendor certification for their products does on the face of it seem to be a good idea. I have always had problems with vendor driven architectural certification.  After all I maintain that good architecture is technology agnostic.

My observation is that most corporate education these days seems to have devolved into mouse driving exercises delivered by specialist trainers who do no more than follow the script. Testing the knowledge boundaries of these  “instructors”  used to be one of my favorite pass times. But having recently spent three days locked in a room with a woman who read slide after slide to me for hours on end I can tell you that I’m well and truly over that as well. Exactly when did teaching become piece work?  But, hey I’m probably certified on that product; they gave me a piece of paper,  now if I could only remember its name?

Vendor certifications are not the only certifications that make me raise an eyebrow. Let’s face it the purpose of certification is to establish the certified’s credibility.  Certifications that can be gained by attending a few classes; particularly ones you pay for, are suspect. That’s like learning to drive by correspondence, fine until you get into the traffic!  I mean really, call center dude one day enterprise architect the next. Thank god we’re not in medicine.

Then there are the internal corporate certifications. The problem with these schemes is that they are subject to corrupting pressures like directives to certify so many architects in a given time. Certification is reduced to a rubber stamping  and rigor abandoned in pursuit of a KPI! Can you imagine accountants doing that? The self appointed wise sit around and certify each other! It’s all just a little bit too cozy to be credible.  One such scheme was described to me; by someone who would know, as “not so much a certification process as an exercise in creative writing.”  Beautifully put I thought.

It’s not difficult to imagine a scenario in which the educationally unskilled and inappropriately experienced certify their mates to meet a KPI.  What’s worse is that some organizations then accept this certification as sufficient authority to automatically impart their own certification on the  same sorry candidate! You’d think people would be more careful with their brands these days.

In a world that increasingly confuses appearance with substance and where the truth has become negotiable, as architects we must be on our guard against such nonsense. All I can say is that Microsoft’s decision is a step in the right direction. “Good on you Microsoft” … never thought I’d say that.

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Bias, Process and Credibility

I’ll start by posing a question. What is the most important attribute of an architect? What is it that makes him effective?

Is it technical skill, experience, communications skills? I’d suggest that it is credibility. Where does this come from, obviously it can have it’s foundation in any of the skills noted above and probably many more that I’ve not mentioned. However, I’d argue that ultimately, credibility is about trust. It’s about people trusting the architect. Trusting that he’s telling the truth and that he is giving them as accurate and impartial assessment of the topic as is possible for a mere mortal.

Impartiality is an important lesson that too few architects seem to have learned. Architecture is not about who’s right it’s about what’s right for the client. One way that we ensure impartiality is by having objective processes that minimize individual bias  and provide transparency for decisions. By no means are any of these processes perfect, traceability makes the process transparent and so when someone is unhappy with the decision the reasoning behind it can be explained. By this means a good architect protects his client’s interests  and indirectly his greatest asset his own credibility.

I’ll give you an example. Recently a technically competent, but frankly rather arrogant architect at a client of mine made a “judgment” call. Without consulting the rest of his practice or recording his process. This resulted in him  excluding a particular vendor from a selection process for a pretty much commoditized capability. His reason he’d seen the product “years ago and it wasn’t that good then. I doubt it would have changed..” he went on “besides I don’t like XXXXXX”.

The problem with this is he’s lazy he’s made a call based on information that he admits is old and hasn’t  given XXXXXX a chance to change his mind. This isn’t what your boss pays for when he hires you. This architect has no doubt done this many times and because his client trusts him he can get away without due process, he is abusing their trust.

This particular architect however has come unstuck. The vendor unhappy with the unfairness of the decision has forced a meeting with higher management and because the architect has been  lazy and not a little bit arrogant he has no defense. There is no recorded assessment process, no defined principles, just his say so. He’s looking pretty vulnerable right now, his management are more than a little embarrassed and have insisted that a proper assessment be done. Architecture is about rigor, being told by executives that you haven’t been rigorous enough should be a humiliation for an architect.  Now I wouldn’t be surprised if this guy fixes the assessment process so that the vendor can’t win, because for him it’s about him being right. But, the fool doesn’t seem to realize that the real damage has been done. From now on every decision he makes will be questioned by his executive because he was lazy,  biased and has betrayed their trust.  He’s credibility is now shot.