Photo: Coolmath.com

Now I’ve had time to reflect on the Gartner Enterprise Architecture Summit, London 17-18 May (twitter hashtag #gartnerea), let’s recap starting with the closing keynote.

 The “Berlin Wall” between IT and the business – no, scrub that, -  IT and “demand-side stakeholders” (Kyte, session P5 closing keynote) still looms very large, causing IT practitioners to be apologetic rather than evangelistic about their craft. If the wall can come down, then a “reunification” can take place, but that will depend on CIOs and others being able to articulate IT in business parlance. And that will necessitate IT learning to talk about VALUE.

Only stakeholders can determine what they value, claimed Burke (session G7).  In other words, the focus needs to be more on the value received.

But is this thing called ‘value’ really so intangible and unquantifiable?

According to Kyte in his animated and charismatic closing keynote, enterprise architects must start with analysing full life Cost (estimating real cost of hairy ‘n hungry ‘dog’ not just cost of cute ‘n cuddly ‘puppy’), next enterprise architects need to analyse Value (taking ‘utilisation’ as a proxy for value), lastly they need to indicate Risk (expressing this in simple red / amber / green indicators). Present this as a 3-column report to a chief finance officer or anyone in the C-suite (Gartner-speak for board of directors) and they’ll get it immediately – unlike all other reports typical of the IT department.

Visualisations and models (Allega, session G13) such as Gartner’s new “Root Anchor” model, Business Capability model, Generic Federated model, TIME model, etc are all subservient to a Value Proposition, to answer “how will this be used to deliver a business result?” Perhaps the best way to communicate that is to use Gartner’s Business Value model, authored by Michael Smith (Lapkin, session G16), especially now that the focus for chief executive has changed in the last 12 months from ‘sheer survival’ to ‘return to growth’ (Lapkin, session G16).

 I listened carefully to others who I met complaining that the ‘framework bashing’ during many sessions delivered by Gartner analysts was over-stated and unnecessarily self-serving. Thankfully, Burke seemed to strike the right balance (Burke, session G7) advising delegates to be pragmatic, starting with Future-State Architecture (FSA) before ever touching Current-State and demoting any priority currently attached to selecting a framework or rigidly following a framework. “We’re ‘doing’ TOGAF” was not something analysts wanted to hear.

To address Future-State, and because organisations are increasingly “hyperconnected”, the trick for enterprise architects is to start thinking about “the lines between the boxes” (Robertson, session G23) and begin to work more closely with Sourcing and Risk, not just Security, as it may mean architecting-in some cloud-based capability.

 I debated some of the other conference themes in conversations afterwards with delegates. Among them, an enterprise architect called Carl Chilley, who also picked up on ‘Hybrid thinking’ hailed as a new discipline for transformation, innovation and strategy (Gall, session P2 opening keynote). This is derived from ‘Design Thinking’, which is now at the heart of Gartner’s EA thinking and modelling. Go to Twitter.com and search on the hashtag #designthinking. Chilley said that Gartner is in the process of changing a lot of their EA materials to reflect the implications of this world view. He said that there is a need towards “computing where people matter” (deliberate misquote of the E F Schumacher tag line to the book ‘Small is Beautiful: Economics Where People Matter’) where solutions needs to be people-centric.

Chilley makes a valid point. It certainly echoes the idea that value can only be determined by the demand-side stakeholders (i.e. the people in the business who use the systems that have been architected for them).

 If enterprise architecture is not about technology, it should be about “design [of] systems for humans”. Inspiring stuff for some enterprise architects who may want to take more of their cues from social science than from computer science. More Emile Durkheim, less Tim Berners-Lee?  You decide.

 It does make you think if there is more to ‘Design thinking’ that first meets the eye. During Gall’s opening keynote several books were put forward as suggested reading. These might interest enterprise architects:

 As far as the challenges posed by so-called ‘Wicked Problems’ those problems that just cannot be factored in and for which there are no apparent solutions. We pondered what an enterprise architect’s equivalent of an Icelandic volcanic ash cloud might look like…  a cloud of another type, maybe.