Enterprise Architecture Frameworks for the Knowledge Economy?

Out there in the blogosphere, the most common argument about EA is between those that think EA is about architecting the whole enterprise and those that prefer a more IT centric view. I’ve always felt that this rather pointless, navel-gazing argument has distracted our profession from more relevant discussions about how EA can deliver value.

(Warning: This post is basically me thinking out loud, it may not have a conclusion)

One thing that I have felt for some time, is that EA frameworks are often primarily derived from or based on commercial manufacturing models. Further, they usually have a strong flavor of operating excellence over customer intimacy or product leadership (See “Discipline of the Market Makers” by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema).

So I am always on the lookout for frameworks that appreciate other viewpoints that may be useful for delivering value using EA. Examples:

  • FEA that takes a more government view than commercial
  • the business canvas (Alex Osterwalder) and Enterprise Canvas (Tom Graves) introduce relationships (i.e. customer intimacy) into the picture

Even though there are examples of frameworks using different viewpoints from the commercial, manufacturing, operating excellence viewpoint; I am yet to really see a framework that is built from the ground up, to focus on a knowledge-business rather than a manufacturing-business. 

Yes, some, if not all, of the frameworks above CAN be used for EA in a knowledge-business. In fact I have personally used each of them in this way; but I have always felt that I needed to adapt these frameworks to suit the context of a knowledge-business. (Note: Yes, I know all frameworks are a starting point and that they always need to be adapted to fit context. That’s not the point that I am making here. *grin*)

It is just that I wonder if there is any merit in developing a framework that is built from the viewpoint of managing a knowledge-business. First let’s ask why this might be meaningful.

I read a newsletter on the weekend. It was posted on Microsoft UK‘s web site by Mike Lloyd, an Independent Consultant on the Microsoft Architect Council. Mike was writing about the new Microsoft Business Architecture Framework – “Motion”.  (As far as I can tell, MS Motion is in beta at the moment but I would love to hear from anyone with more concrete information as to the status of MS Motion.)

The Microsoft Motion Business Architecture Methodology

Mike wrote

“knowledge-based work is not similar to production activity. Where handoffs in industry produce economic benefits, the handing off of knowledge work creates delays and discontinuity.”
Ah ha!! So someone else out there thinks that there is a difference between manufacturing and knowledge-based work.

Mike then gives an example of what he means”

“Ask any customer who has navigated the labyrinth of a conventional banking organisation’s customer services trying to find where their application has gone and frequently answering the same questions over and over again as their case is moved from team to team.”

Not a great example but it does highlight that in this (example) bank business, the issue lies primarily in processes, knowledge management, organizational design, etc. Things that TOGAF and a raft of the other major EA frameworks don’t have a whole lot of useful guidance about. (Oh no, did I just slip back into the architecting the whole enterprise vs EWITA arguament by accident there?)

Anyway, I’ll probably post more about this as I haven’t really reached any conclusion.

Generally what I am getting at in this post is that I have a general impression that the frameworks, case studies and research material (e.g. Gartner & Forrester) don’t tend to have a sharp focus on knowledge based businesses as much as they do on manufacturing based business; and so I am wondering if there is any merit in having one. (or should I just keep using the current frameworks with their 80% fit?)

Anyway, I’ll just be over here putting on my flame retardant suit in case I have offended anyone! *smile*

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