Comprising your Integrity
The role of an enterprise architect requires one to evaluate new technologies and trends and help position the company to take advantage of new trends. Often time new tech does not mean good tech for the company. Sometimes decisions are based on multiple factors that have little to do with the technical superiority of the solution. Total cost of ownership, cultural fit, vendor stability, etc., etc..
It is often difficult for an outsider looking in or even an insider who is focused on a particular line of business to realize the value of the enterprise plan. Overall the enterprise architecture group that supports the enterprise has done a decent job of establishing good strategy and direction.
However there is an area in which I believe large organizations struggle. That is the area of revisiting previous decision based on new data. The problem with any large organization is that once major investments money has been committed towards a particular solution it is extremely difficult to change the direction.
Decisions to change direction are often expensive proposition which may cost the company multiple millions of dollars. However often times the decision is a good one and the organization is better for it. The company has been able to deliver better services to its customers. But change can be difficult and painful for many people.
Change is never easy; change by IT organizations that was not driven by the business can be a nightmare. A good enterprise architect is able to help the business understand the value of technology change when it is coming from IT. But when change is requested and external market analysis begin to demonstrate that the solution chosen is loosing market share and therefore represents lower return on the investment dollar the task of continued change on resistant lines of business becomes an intractable problem.
What is an enterprise architect to do? Tow the corporate line? Assist IT leadership in developing business justification demonstrating how market forces and changes are not applicable to this unique enterprise? Capitulate and proffer up questionable analysis that support the supposition? Or perhaps stand on principle and inform the chain of management that the corporate line no longer has the value it once has?
The big problem with being an enterprise architect is that while the role offers the ability to influence decisions the enterprise architect is not the decision maker. However the architect has the same information that management has of which decision are made. In many cases the information management uses to make decision was produced by the architect. If the architect arrives at a different conclusion than management dissatisfaction is often the results.
However management making decision in contrast to individual contributors is the stuff of employee and employer annals. What separates the enterprise architect apart from the normal employee/employer role is that the architect is the right hand of management. The architect is the brains of management. Architects determine strategy and direction. Management approves the strategy and executes on the direction.
Standing on principles may cause an individual to loose his job, be reassigned or no longer be able to influence management without heavy censorship and scrutiny. Capitulating to the leadership position may cause the architect to become disaffected with leadership or worse begin to devalue ones own sense of worth and contribution to the company. A good enterprise architect is not supposed to be the shill of leadership.
It is a difficult conundrum and one in which I have struggled with in the various stages of my career as architect and key technologies. I have no answer that offers a good was of resolving this conflict. My gut says to stand on principles and be like Admiral David Farragut who said, “Damn the torpedoes full speed ahead!” But I have a family and therefore need to balance pride and principle against responsibility and duty.
What is the measure of a man?