Blog Posts Enterprise Architecture (EA)

Business novel – chapters 00-03

Blog: Tom Graves / Tetradian

I said in an earlier post that I’m moving more towards describing my ideas on enterprise-architecture and the like into fiction-based form – in the hope that it will make it somewhat more understandable for most folks in and beyond the trade…

To that end, I’ve been working on a business-novel with the working-title of ‘The End of Certainty‘. (Yes, I know it isn’t a good title, but I’ll come up with something better before it’s formally released.) I wrote the initial draft of the first half back in 2013; the rest of that draft is what I’m working on right now.

But I could do with some help, to make sure that it actually makes sense, and also for critiques on the examples I’m using. So as I go along, I’ll post the whole book here, in reasonable-sized chunks, and ask you for your comments and suggestions. Fair enough?

(By the way, all names and so on are fiction, and are not intended to represent any person in the real-world, etc, etc. In particular, my apologies to Stuart MacGregor at South African enterprise-architecture consultancy Real-IRM: the ‘Stuart MacGregor’ character here is entirely coincidental – and as you’ll see in a later chapter, the name has more connection with Beatrix Potter than enterprise-architecture!)

Anyway, to start with, here’s the prologue and the first few chapters – more to follow in later posts. Over to you, if you would?

Chapter 00 (Prologue)

I never did find out why he did it, what kind of background he’d had, what made him tick. And it’s a bit late to ask him now, of course. Oh well.

But he did say I should write it all down – “the past is the platform for the future”, he said. So that’s what I’d better do, isn’t it? Start at the beginning, I guess – just before we first met. Well, here goes…

Chapter 01

“Head of Organisational Development” – sounds pretty grand, doesn’t it? That’s what I thought, too, when I took on the job.

But here I am, facing the reality: pile upon pile of questions, things that people want fixed, things that people want changed. And every time I turn round, Pavel brings in some more.

Yeah, sure it seemed like a good idea at the time, that all-exec workshop, and our fancy ‘Call To Action’. But what it’s really meant is that there’s now about thirty sheets of flipcharts to transcribe, and then, supposedly, build an action-plan for every one of them. With names, dates, actions, responsibilities, change-projects, the lot. And all on me to do it all, it feels like.

I mean, just look at it all! They’re all big-picture stuff, nothing concrete we can actually use, actually build on. Look at this one, for example: “How do we make more money?” – well, sure, everyone wants that, but what do we do about it? “How do we make best use of social-media?” – fine, but there’s nothing in the MBA textbook that says anything on that. And another one: “How do we find out what’s really going on in our business?” – I wish I knew, too!

Well, at least Pavel’s sorted all of these into a form I can work with, all on good old-fashioned index-cards that I can actually carry and spread around a bit. But I’m not going to make any sense of them here. I’ll go hide away in a corner somewhere, or better yet, head down the street for a coffee – I’m going to need that before I can make any sense of this at all.

Best get going before someone else adds any more to this insane stack.

Ye gods…

Chapter 02

Right. Coffee in hand, Pavel’s cards on the table. Let’s get moving, sort them into piles, themes, departments, something like that. Here goes…

Some big-picture stuff that’s going nowhere unless I can get the C-suite on-hand:

Stuff that’s more about products, services and marketing:

Stuff about operations:

Stuff about compliance and standards and all that red-tape nuisance:

Stuff that’s probably more for Alicia Pereira’s – no, Alicia Berkshaw, I’d better call her that now – her HR department:

And stuff I don’t quite know where to put yet:

I’m not happy to admit it, but that last one is giving me a lot of worries – and I don’t even quite know why…

As I’d gone through all of this sorting, I’d laid the cards out again in neat lines on the table. So I lean back in my chair, looking over the layout, moving my head up and down, side to side.

“Okay”, I say aloud, to myself, “now let’s get started.”

“I’d say you already have”, says a quiet voice behind me.

Chapter 03

I turn round, and glare at the guy. Who the hell does he think he is? I get up quickly from my chair, to block his view of Pavel’s cards.

I look at him a bit more carefully now, but he’s nothing much to look at. He’s in his late sixties, perhaps, maybe early seventies; an old grey woollen coat in some herringbone pattern; black leather shoes with old-style square-end toes; blue shirt and dark blue striped tie; grey pants and grey jacket from two different suits, similar but not quite the same; all good quality, once, but he’s worn them a long time. Middling height, middling build, middling everything; blond hair gone white, but mostly still there; otherwise, yeah, he’s Mr Nobody. And a Mr Nobody who thinks it’s okay to look over my shoulder while I’m working, and thinks it’s okay to make comments about it, too. Let’s just say I didn’t exactly warm to him.

“Look, no offence, but I’ve got no idea who you are, and this is company confidential. Better for both of us if you didn’t stick your nose where it wasn’t asked, okay?”

“No offence? Oh yes, indeed, none taken.” A small smile. I’ll admit I just wanted to deck him.

“Just who are you, anyway?”, I growl. He doesn’t flinch one bit: either one cool customer, or absolutely up himself – probably both, I guess.

“MacGregor. Stuart MacGregor”, he says, genially. “My friends call me Stu.” He offers his hand to shake; I don’t take it.

“Marco Pellegrini. My friends call me Mark, but just stick to Marco, okay? Or Mr Pellegrini, for preference. If you must.” I really don’t like this guy: something odd about him. Scary, almost – which is weird.

“As you wish, of course.” Again that irritating little smile of his. “I’m a consultant, of sorts. Or I was, rather: I’m retired now, but we never really stop, do we? Strategy, systems-thinking, that sort of thing.” He pauses a moment, waits for me to answer, sees I’m not going to, and continues anyway. “Don’t worry, I’m not a spy for the competition or anything like that.” He looks at me again, head slightly tilted. “You’re quite new to the company, aren’t you? So yes, you wouldn’t know who I am, of course. Not to worry. Let’s just say that I am a true friend of the company, we go way way back, in fact, and I’ll help you where I can.”

I’m torn somewhere between seething at him, and just wanting to get back to work on my mess of a problem. No room for politeness: except that something kinda stops me from turning round.

“Of course”, he says. Still holding me with that quiet-strange gaze, he reaches into his left pocket, pulls out an old-fashioned card-case, flicks out a business-card, makes as if to offer it to me, and then puts it onto the table instead. “When you’re ready, do call me. I believe you’ll find it useful. And quite soon, I think?” A brief pause; he looks up, into nowhere, breaking eye-contact at last. “Hm. Yes. Quite soon, I’d say”, he mutters under his breath, nodding his head to himself. “Quite soon.”

Then he kind of wakes up, and wakes up to the fact that I’m still there, still in front of him, and not still happy. At all. “Oh, I do apologise”, he says, “please, please, do go back to your work, I really shouldn’t disturb you, should I?” I sigh, loudly: it’s all I can do to hold back from yelling at him. He turns away, towards the service-counter, and I settle back into my chair again. Back to work: I must sort out this mess somehow. Last I see of the guy, he’s paying for his coffee, carefully counting coins out of an old shovel-purse – I’d thought those things had gone out with the Ark. I shake my head, and sigh again: what kind of rock did he crawl out from? And why couldn’t he have just stayed there and left me in peace?

Twenty minutes later, I’m still staring at the cards, all neatly lined up across the table, but no ideas are coming at all. I’ve sorted them into the right groups, the right department for each question, but that’s it: nothing more than that. I resist the temptation to sweep the whole darn lot onto the floor, and sweep them up into a single stack instead, flipping the cards round in sets to keep the groups separate, then drop them with some care into my case.

I get up to go back to the office, dejected, down, feeling a total failure. I look around: the old guy is gone, thank goodness. All that’s left on the table now is my empty coffee-cup, and the old-guy’s business-card. On impulse, I sweep that up, and, with an irritated huff of breath, throw that into the case too.

Somewhen in the not-too-distant future, I’ll be very, very glad that I did.

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