by Chris Potts

Enterprise Architecture: the model or the people?

Aug 20, 20082 mins
IT Leadership

According to The Economist, in a review of banks’ strategies and the credit crunch, ‘what separates the winners and the losers is not models, but management.’  Enterprise Architects, take note.

It’s rare to see an article about Enterprise Architecture (EA) in publications such as The Economist.  In this week’s edition, however, is an article – also available online – entitled “No Size Fits All” which is indeed about EA, in all but name.  It explores the extent to which it was banks’ business models, or management, that were to blame for the credit crunch – and concludes it was the latter.  Its central observation was that banks with similar business models have not fared equally. 

The question the article raises is one which those of us directly involved in EA do well to consider.  Firstly, to figure out the balance in our own organizations between having the ‘right’ business model, and everyone’s collectively ability to manage it.  But also, much closer to home, to remind us to strike an appropriate personal balance between modelling our organization’s EA, versus influencing the people who manage it in practice and invest in changing it. 

The Economist’s review of banks’ business models is a reminder that replicating other organizations’ models guarantees neither success nor failure.  People – including Employees, Customers, Suppliers – make a particular model work, or not.  The article concludes that ‘the structure of an organization matters less than the quality of the people who lead it.  For bank regulators and shareholders, the question is less “what?” more “who?”.’ 

For those that know the Zachman Framework for EA, this means starting with the right hand side (Who, When, Why), not the left (What, How, Where).