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Carthago delenda est! June 30, 2009

Posted by wrivkin in Enterprise Architecture & Business Transformation, General Creative Thinking.

“Carthage must be destroyed!” – that was the phrase Cato the Elder, the ancient Roman statesman and consul used to conclude his each and every speech in the Senate , no matter what the main subject of the speech was. It was his way to force this idea into the heads of Roman senators, too wealthy, intellectually lazy, and comfortable in ‘now’ to lend a thought to the future. I can only imagine how annoyed they were by this phrase. However, a drop wears a stone. After a while they already knew this ‘catch-phrase’ by heart and expected, even waited for it. Then, the idea behind this phrase started penetrating into even the thickest heads:”Rome cannot prosper and advance until the constant threat of Carthage’s invasion or interference is eliminated”.

History has proven that the old, stubborn, obsessive visionary was right: it is only after the Third Punic war and final destruction of Carthage that the Roman Republic really started its territorial, cultural, and civilizational expansion, which led to its stability and prosperity.

“The methodological chaos in the formulation and implementation of Enterprise Architecture must be overcome” – this is the phrase I intend to put at the end of my every blog post from now on. Enterprise Architecture cannot become the universal method of describing and improving all things Enterprise while it remains in the minds of the professionals, pursuing it as their career, as the field of voluntary opinions, baseless frameworks, vague statements, and overall confusion. To prove that this is the right picture of the discipline, let us just take a look, for example, merely at the themes of recent EA-related discussions in the major EA-related groups of the major professional network site – LinkedIn:

·         What is Enterprise Architecture anyway?

·         Is Enterprise Architecture being used properly?

·         Enterprise architecture frameworks are dead, long live real-life practice !

·         What is Information Architecture anyway?

·         What are the steps to creating an EA roadmap? What does an EA roadmap look like? Does any one have any ideas on this or suggestions?

·         Is it necessary to document the current state (architecture) as part of the EA effort? Is there an alternative that is more productive?

·         How much target state definition/documentation is needed for EA (or any other strategic initiative like eBusiness) before projects are executed?

It can go on and on. Enterprise Architecture as a discipline has existed for over 30 years now. All these and many other confusing questions have been discussed hundreds of times. Still, every framework, every ‘school of thought’ has a different answers to this questions. How is it happened that these basic questions are not unambiguously, objectively answered yet? We need Unified Enterprise Architecture Framework exactly as 30 years ago, after years of discussions and schools’ wars we needed Unified Language and Unified Process for Object-Oriented Analysis and Design. Only after this, the OOA&D was successfully adopted by the industry and allowed it to advance and prosper, until it reached the Architectural state.

And what do we have nowadays? The desperate cry for help in the field of darkness:  “Does any one have any ideas on this or suggestions?” Oh, yeah, we do! If we follow the comments/answers to these discussions we can find many interesting “ideas and suggestions”, mostly contradicting and denying each other! Then we catch the closest voice, create another Frankenstein, and then start crying how hard it is to ‘sell’ the business value of this monster to higher business management! What value? Of exactly what ? Everybody has a guess, nobody has an exact knowledge.

“Enterprise Architecture is failing” not “because there are too many consultants” but because there are too many “ideas and suggestions” and too little exact knowledge in their heads.

There is an old Jewish anecdote: A farmer comes to a rabbi and says:”Rabbi, my chickens are dying, please help!” “OK” – says the rabbi – “I have an idea: divide your coop into two parts and put all chickens in one of them.” “Wow”, – says the farmer and goes. In a couple of days he comes back and says:”Rabbi, my chickens are still dying!”. “OK”, – says the rabbi – “I have another, even better idea! Draw a circle in the middle of the coop and put all chickens in this circle!”. “Wow!” – says the farmer and goes back to his farm. In a couple of days, though, he comes again, crying:”Oh, rabbi, my chickens are all dead!”. “Oh”- says the rabbi – “It is such a pity: I still have so many ideas left!”

Yeah, we all have so many ideas, we divide our coop into the number of parts recommended by ZEAF or TOGAF, we draw a circle of best practices, but our chickens keep dying! Yes, they are, that’s what all these unanswered aforementioned basic questions tell us! They are dying, Hannibal is at our gates, while we keep arguing about what a chicken is, and is it possible to define it and an egg in exact terms!

The methodological chaos in the formulation and implementation of Enterprise Architecture must be overcome! Carthago delenda est!