Monday, February 9, 2009

Hijacking of Architecture

In the beginning there was Zachman, three columns and the "Framework for Information Systems Architecture." This was originally published in 1987 in an IBM Systems Review, I believe.

There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth as it was realized that the three columns weren't enough. It needed to embody the 6 questions, "Who, What, Where, When, Why, How" at the 6 levels, so we have a 36 cell matrix. This matrix described what the "Information Systems Architecture" was all about - but didn't offer any prescriptions. How do you create a Business Logical "What?" (data) model? And how is that different from an Application Logical "What" (data) model? And while you are about it, how do you get traceability from one to the other?

Meanwhile the technologists got hold of the word architecture and immediately subverted it into the technology layers - essentially taking on the dimensions of design. So we have architects instead of designers, so those of us at the overall business and IT dimensions were left without a word to categorize ourselves. Job titles such as Java Architect start to cop up - and we immediately get pollution of the name space - or if you prefer overloading of the architect term. So when I would rock up and say to the business, "I am an architect and I am here to help you", I would get about the same reception as someone from the IRS - not very popular. The sorts of things I would hear are, "We aren't ready for programming yet." or "Has osmeone designed how this system is going to be put together?". In other words architecture became tactical, project based and confined to the technology realms.

So we look to other terms/phrases and 2 jump out. One is "City Planning" and the other is "Enterprise Architecture". Well it is hard to sell city planning to a company that makes shoes - not the sexiest term there is. And Enterprise Architecture? Well, that's another term that has been taken over by IT. Even frameworks like TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework) have been more heavily focussed on the technology realm - but that does appear to be changing with version 9 (released Feb, 2009).

Enterprise Architecture Forums on Linkedin and Google seem also to be focussed on keeping track of physical artifacts and dealing (again) with the technology realm.

So it appears to me that the arcchitects are out of luck again. The technologists have coopted architecture at all levels.

So we perhaps should not be using the term architecture at all when trying to have sensible dialog with our business colleagues. We have done such a good job (as an industry) of confusing the term that it is time for a new one. No sooner have we coined it than it will become another victim of grandiloquence. Maybe we should use a term universally despised by the technology community (Analyst anyone?) because then it won't be coopted.

My friend Nigel Green talks about some of these issues in his blog What those of us who straddle the Business/IT divide have to do is facilitate the communication across that divide. Using the language of business - using a framework like VPEC-T