Blog Posts Enterprise Architecture (EA)

Enterprise architect as business-anarchist

Blog: Tom Graves / Tetradian

I seem to have acquired the half-joking job-title of ‘business-anarchist’.

Huh? Anarchist? You mean like those crazy bomb-throwing guys from the past?

Uh, no… – not quite…

Quite a long way from ‘”not quite”, actually.

You did notice that word ‘business’, in front of ‘anarchist’, yes? It’s a business discipline.

Yeah – discipline.

Not, perhaps, a word one might at first associate with ‘anarchist’. But it is, in fact must be, because anarchy’ – literally, ‘without rulers’, or ‘without rules’ – only works well when there’s a lot of careful discipline and self-discipline behind it. At the same time as being open to and dancing with all of the possibilities around us. And all the uncertainties, too.

Being open to possibilities and working with uncertainties has a lot of value in business.

Which is why, yes, this is a business-discipline. In fact one of the most challenging business-disciplines.

Interested? You probably should be, if you’re an enterprise-architect – because even if it’s often ignored, the business-anarchist disciplines are part of the job-description, whether we like it or not… Which is why it might be a good idea to learn about it, and learn how to do it better.

Let’s put this into perspective, and use a SCAN frame to compare two distinct skillsets: the business-analyst, and the business-anarchist:

Everyone knows about the business-analyst role and discipline. Its focus is to refine, refine, simplify, make everything more efficient – doing things right. Using the rules to refine the rules – that kind of thing. Working mostly inside the boxes. That bit’s important.

But as you can see from the SCAN frame above, it only covers some of the context-space. (A lot less of the context-space than many people might purport, by the way.) It works best with ‘tame-problems’, things that stay the same, no matter what the real world throws at them.

But what about the rest of the context-space, where things don’t stay the same, where uncertainty is not so much the exception as the rule – or where we’re looking for advantage somewhere, hidden amongst the Not-known? That’s where the business-anarchist disciplines come into the picture. These are as systematic and structured as in the business-analyst disciplines – even though on the surface they might seem very ‘indisciplined’ to an analyst’s eye. As a quick visual summary, the analyst-disciplines use methods more on the left side of this SCAN frame, the anarchist-disciplines those more on the right side of the frame:

But the crucial point is that the enterprise-architect must cover the whole context-space, as business-analyst and as business-anarchist. It’s not enough to take on just one or other of those two roles: it must be both. (And more, of course – but that’s another story!)

Or, to summarise in visual form:

What I see in ‘the EA trade’ is a lot of people very good ‘left-side’ analytic skills: many of us probably came into the trade via the business-analysis route, after all. Yet I don’t see anything like as much awareness of the ‘right-side’ business-anarchist disciplines; nor of why they’re likewise every bit as crucial to enterprise-architecture.

To me, that’s a challenge that we need to face, a gap we need to rectify. And that’s also a key reason why I want to place particular emphasis on the ‘business-anarchist’ in my upcoming EA Tour in Australia. See you there, perhaps? – and yes, let’s be anarchists! (In the best possible sense, of course… :-) )

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