Enterprise Architecture Stories

Disruptive architecture

Disruptive architecture

It happens quite regularly that an architect hears an organization express its desire to work under architecture. It might seem that such an organization is sufficiently aware of the benefits of working under architecture and it also realizes that a new way of working requires adjustments. However, practice is unruly….

When an architect enters an organization, he or she is told from all sides that working under architecture is considered to be important. Even within the highest echelons of an organization there is a desire (or rather: a need) to work under architecture.

The architect therefore starts with high spirits. 

Soon after, the first clouds appear in the rather blue sky: the architecture models are perceived as too technical (well, not actually technical, but rather too much architectural slang is used in the models). This is a sign that the organization does not speak the language of architecture

Also, by using models such as a business function model or an application function model, it quickly becomes clear that an organization is not used to thinking in terms of functions and is certainly not skilled in this. There is often a misconception of the difference between a business process and a business function. Even after introducing definitions for both terms, an organization continues to hold on to what it is used to. 

And no, it’s not easy to be confronted with the fact that one has been incorrectly using the terms mentioned earlier for years and sometimes even for decades. It is often so ingrained that it is difficult to let go and switch to another definition.

One step at the time

As soon as the first clouds appear in that proverbial sky, the architect adapts the way of working by bringing architectural thinking to the maturity level of the organization. This is an appropriate and proven method for continuing to practice architecture within an immature organization.

However, introducing architecture (and especially working under architecture) at a pace that suits the adaptability of an organization starts an enormously long process. A process with many repetitions of moves, many meetings in which the same explanations are given and many irritated employees because they are confronted with someone who tells them that they haven’t been doing it right for years. The latter is how the employees of an organization experience it, not the literal verbal message.

By introducing and implementing this process in the manner as described above, the architect sets him-/herself a nearly impossible task. He or she can get ready for a path of guidance in which steps are taken backwards more often than forwards. Ultimately, the architect will only be able to sparsely realize working under architecture, and much more often than not, an architect will leave the organization before there is enough of an architectural framework to enable the organization to move forward. After the architect’s departure, the organization will look for a replacement (possibly); very likely someone is sought who, in terms of architectural thinking and implementation, thinks more in line with the ingrained practices of the organization. Working under architecture will fade into the background and a new overhead function will have been introduced.

The disruptive approach

Slowly adapting and transforming the way of thinking and working within an organization requires an enormous cultural change that may take one and up to three to five years. The disruptive approach has a much shorter lead time. It is somewhat comparable to the average change within an organization; at first there is resistance, but after two to three months the realization dawns that the change implemented is permanent and that the only one who suffers from it is the employee himself. Out of self-preservation, and with some sputtering and grumbling, the change is accepted. Six months later, no one mentions it anymore.

The same goes for introducing architectural thinking in a disruptive manner and that is why I propose to work disruptively more often. No more moving along with the organization, no more endless explanations. No, simply impose that working under architecture is the new way of working. The advent of corona caused us to move en masse from work to home overnight and most organizations have survived that turnaround pretty well. The introduction of architectural thinking also requires a big-bang introduction and will need to be implemented with a sufficient degree of disruption from that point on. Only then will it succeed.

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