Enterprise Architecture’s Obsession with Efficiency

Jeff Scott recently wrote a great blog “Is the current EA paradigm right for business architecture?”


The comments section was full of erudite responses from several of the leading thinkers in EA. I’d like to pick up on two of the comments:

Tom Graves

“Most people seem to be obsessed by efficiency, but what we’re really after is effectiveness”
As always Tom has been insightful and this is something that I have been reflecting on. I’ve noticed that nearly all of the EA literature and frameworks come from or refer to manufacturing businesses. Case studies and examples are always about manufacturing and rarely about service providers or knowledge-centric businesses. They are nearly always about commerce and much less often about government or non-profit where motibvation and accountability create very different cultures. This is a failing of us as the EA comunity and a reflection of the maturity of this discupline.

Kris M

“Unfortunately the failure of enterprise architecture is also that of a wider failure … a society that obsessed with efficiently operating but narrowly interested in reflecting whether strategy and structure …[is] effective and sustainable.”

Another enlightening comment from Kris that observes that, through human history, there has been a percieved need to grow, espeically in capitalist economies. As we are currently facing the first real global threat to human existence. There is an slow realisation occuring that we have grown enough and that balance in the system will need to become our primary driver . This is both in a planetary sense and also an industrial sense. We are getting to the point where people in the west are looking for work life balance. It is starting to become realistic for some people, rather than asking for more salary, they are asking for the same salary with less work (e.g. 9 day fortnight). Balance.

All of the above reflects on the weakness of curent EA paradigms being generally an extension of industrial engineering where, as Nigel Green puts it in his book Lost in Translation (great book btw) “users want a system that works the way they do, which is often amenable to change and supports learning. The IT specialist, on the other hand, seeks a high degree of certainty and actionable rules that can be configured or encoded.” Efficient but not necessariy efective.

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Enterprise Architect