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Q) Are private and public organisations similar?
Yes and no.
They are similar in requiring actors to perform processes according to business rules, and to create and use business data in the process.
A commercial organisation’s business is directed by directors.
It may copy a competitor’s processes and purchase the same packaged systems.
It may choose to please some customers, and ignore some potential customers.
There are short cycle developments where customers can vote quickly with their money.
Public sector business is directed by legislation.
The rules for may be unique to that business, also hard to define and agree.
All citizens require equal access, so customer acceptance can be challenging.
There are long cycle developments, and citizens vote for a new direction only occasionally.
Q: Is the purpose and value of an EA team to implement business decisions?
The EA team should certainly work to implement those decisions that require new or changed business systems.
It isn’t their job to implement all business decisions, some of which are peripheral to business systems; and many others are needed to implement decisions of course.
Q: Are the EA team’s goals the same as those of the organisation its serves?
Business managers make and change business goals in response to transient market forces, pains, threats and opportunities.
The EA team should certainly steer business system changes in the direction of business goals.
But some business goals are peripheral to core business systems and/or too transient to justify system changes.
The EA team’s main concern is core business processes that are repeated in an orderly and rule-bound way.
So the team should focus on those business goals that affect those business processes.
Q: Can the value of an EA team be measured by the success of an enterprise in meeting goals?
No. Business success might be measured in many ways (e.g. profit, turnover, customer satisfaction).
Success to one stakeholder can be failure to another.
Also: “Success has many fathers, while failure is an orphan” (Ref. 2).
Much business success is due to market forces and near-random management decisions.
Whatever enterprise architects claim they contribute to an upturn can always be challenged by others making their own claims.
And if the business takes a downturn, it seems unlikely that the enterprise architects will fall on their swords.
Q: So what are you saying?
Over-generalised and over-hyped definitions of “EA” are part of the problem.
EA gurus should not exaggerate how far business managers want EA-led enterprise transformation.
An EA team has to be realistic about its reach, about where and when it is asked or expected to work.
It has to earn respect for its advice to decision makers about business systems, and for its direction of system change projects.
Ref. 1: TOGAF 9.1, The Open Group.
Ref. 2: Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs. Cf. 1942 G. Ciano Diary 9 Sept. (1946) II.
Ref. 3: Heylighen F. (1992): "Evolution, Selfishness and Cooperation", Journal of Ideas, Vol 2, # 4, pp 70-76.
Ref. 4: “EA as Strategy” Ross, Weill and Robertson.
Ref. 5: ArchiMate v2 standard, The Open Group.
The papers on the “Enterprise Architecture” page at http://avancier.website contain much advice relating to EA.
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