The Ivory Tower Syndrome describes an often seen drift of EA initiatives dealing mostly with themselves focusing solely on strategic management while already having lost traction and therefore acceptance by the ground force.
Why does it happen?
Some EA initiatives tend to focus more on strategic reporting to upper levels and try to govern by code of law only. But, the ground force in terms of actual projects and product development, needs support for their huge amount of concise work that has to be done with granted budget and milestones. In a law-only approach they feel like not being supported but only punished (missing the carrot in “carrot and stick”).
A common misconception of EA initiatives of companies is that they can work like political government and urban planning. But, as analogy of how e.g. power grids are managed (or water grids, gas grids, metro systems, and so on), companies often only provide a fraction of needed services.
How to avoid and improve?
An adequate EA authority shall be balanced with a compact code of law.
The EA authority shall collaborate with other authorities like revision and portfolio manager.
Do not be jurisdictional because companies have no jurisdiction compared to politics and urban planning.
Align objectives of managers with your EA strategy or vice versa.
Implement cost saving services for each of your laws (get the tiger some teeth).
Include projects and product development in a community. Communicate outstanding achievements. Recognized employees drive acceptance for you!
If you have the impression that your enterprise architecture is viewed as an ivory tower from the viewpoints of various stakeholders then read on.
In this post, we first try to understand why and identify the causes of the ivory tower syndrome. Then, we will address how to tear that ivory tower down or ideally not even build one. These findings will be picked up again in follow-up posts. Stay informed.
Carrot and Stick
Bonus and fear drive many things, in other words, reward and penalty, carrot and stick. Bonus systems are e.g. used in target agreements promising some factor of a defined bonus when achieving defined targets to certain degrees or percentages. Fear works the other way round, also psychologically, like “promising” a penalty when breaking defined rules, or warning you on risks if not complying to security rules.
Now, in practice, both approaches are typically combined and may vary in terms of weight or focus. Let’s take a look into some examples. The third example might look like being out of line, but I promise you will get the connection and probably also draw some conclusions on your own without further explanation.
Scenario 1: Lisa is CIO of passend AG and Jonas is the Enterprise Architect reporting to Lisa. They have a rather small concise set of rules and a community for sharing the transition of strategic thoughts into budgeted initiatives. A lot of projects do already stick to the rules which is mainly driven by sharing services and cutting costs.
Scenario2: Karl is CIO of AusPrinzip GmbH and Julia is the Enterprise Architect reporting to Karl. While they had some quick wins with a target architecture and road map to get there everyday, live has become tedious. Many of the defined rules are broken by a significant number of products (e.g. applications). Jutta can only deal with a few projects at the same time. A lot of executive force is missing not to talk about jurisdicative.
Scenario 3: Elena is major of some city in Germany and Johannes is head of urban planning reporting to Elena. There are plenty of building laws and a building authority which employees inspect all building plans as well as construction and finished buildings on site with respect to those laws. Non-compliance gets fined or even brought to jurisdicative.
The first two examples are typical scenarios you may find in any industry while scenario 3 stems from urban planning – constructing cities, streets, and other infrastructure that we are so used to. While some concepts from urban planning cannot simply be transferred to enterprise architecture, we can understand and learn a lot by comparison from this more mature discipline. Roughly, enterprise architecture is to software architecture what urban planning is to construction planning.
Analysis of Scenarios
While scenario 1 rather reflects a sunny day, scenario 2 comes with a lot of dark clouds, metaphorically speaking. But, why is this?
Well, rather than focusing on more wins after the quick wins, Julia gave in to the grand idea of having an architecture law from §1 to §999. So beautiful, but unfortunately doomed from the beginning to be only a paper tiger. If you are neither providing for an adequately equipped “building authority” nor a jurisdiction, you’ll end up toothless. Without adequate authority you do not have sufficient control. Without jurisdiction you can neither dispence justice nor punishment.
What are the options for improvement?
Create an adequate authority.
Cut down architecture laws to a few.
Balance authority with architecture laws.
Combine authority with other disciplines like revision, portfolio, security, quality management.
Mostly forget about jurisdiction.
An enterprise has no internal jurisdiction.
You might integrate with revision, but revision only recommends actions to executives which in the end can cut budgets as interpretation of punishment.
What else can you do besides authority and jurisdiction?
Align with objectives of managers.
If you succeed in implanting architectural objectives as personal objectives for managers then you create a win-win situation.
Implement cost saving services for architecture laws
E.g., you would like to enforce some software like CRM as standard to use for a defined context like customer care.
Ensure a good contract with the vendor.
Set up scalable infrastructure.
Provide licenses that make projects happy (cutting costs).
Build up know-how.
Include employees feelings.
Learn from good management principles.
Things in a company mostly work well because of well motivated employees.
Make the doers feeling great about their work by making their work visible and showing their relevance.
Easy example nowadays: your cloud gurus.
Make one or few architecture laws with them together.
Imagine that you as CIO are in need or want to establish or improve Enterprise Architecture in the company.
No matter where you start and go, it’s necessary to know where you start and go – just like in Google Maps routing e.g. from your home to a client. You know exactly where your home is and so does Google Maps. And you had better know where your client is too – again, so does Google Maps. Moreover, you or Google Maps know possible paths from your home to your client. This is the foundation for being able to do the routing.
Of course, your situation is more complexe since you need to move in time from the present situation to a target situation in the future. On the other hand, it gives you a lot of options. You can construct new efficient paths getting rid of old, slow, costly ones.
So when starting this Enterprise Architecture initiative of yours, you should start building or updating your EA map. In consequence, you capture what you know about your starting point, your strategy, your target, and which paths there are or could be.
(This summary is an extract of my earlier post Hello Mr EA what you should expect when starting a new project establishing or improving your Enterprise Architecture. Both posts together are also a very good example to present an aspect to different stakeholders – CIO expecting decision-oriented information, Head IT Governance or Enterprise Architect zooming in expecting deliverables, methods, and tools)
Mr CIO calls me second time and tells me that Mrs IT Governance and Mr Lead Solution Architect have given very good feedback regarding our first meeting call. We had to do it remotely, but why not, cams were working and was safe – my home is my business castle. In consequence, they would like to get started with me boosting Enterprise Architecture. So, we discuss some points relevant for my offer which I deliver at noon.
In the evening, I ask myself: “New clients, new situation, now where do we start?”.
Since architects are librarians too, I scan all I got. Best matches first. Slides. Questionnaires. What not. One of those slides contains a diagram from some tool, even better, start it, open the model, and holding my breath while faded memories are being recovered back into my 1st level brain cache. There it is, the EA maturity model, gotcha. And better yet, it is just a puzzle piece of something even bigger – the EA handbook! I just love sustainability.
In the meantime, my brain floods itself with new questions and ideas: what about this agile transition, what about this different industry, what about mergers, what has been good, what can be improved, …
Let’s take a break. Back to that maturity model. I really like it because it has been so successful. It solved the issue of varying expectations and especially the expectation of reaching what I call level 5 in the very same year.
While there are many such maturity models around, let’s stick to this selected example. It makes things more clear.
Before we can reach level 5 Optimizing to the right we need to climb level 4 Quantitavely Managed. And before that, we need to climb level 3 Defined, level 2 Managed, and level 1 Initial far to the left if not yet already climbed. But, we can soften the climbing. I will come back to this later.
The title “Increase maturity by repeatedly …” tells everybody that we need to repeat. We repeatedly test promised benefits. Define a few objectives, work towards those, test promised benefits, report. Repeat.
In addition, there are selected success factors. Theoretically, there may be more. But, let’s start somewhere and get commitment. We do not want ivory towers. Therefore, we build EA to the customer. It is OK to think big (remember level 5) as long as we start small and agile, step by step. EA itself is lame and its power only unfolds with integration into the organization and already established processes. And please do not skip levels! Now, if you take a closer look into adjacent levels you will recognize that some contained objectives are similar but not the same. There is step-wise improvement to repeating aspects. E.g., we may learn that our application landscape is a little patchy. So, next level for this might be to close the gaps. And the level after that might be establishing a process that our application landscape remains “unpatchy”. You get the idea.
Let’s take a look at those *-annotations for selected objectives inside the levels. An objective is annotated with a ‘*’ if it shall be achieved by end of year (or any fitting end of time window). What you may also have recognized is that beneath the levels there are some percentages given. Each percentage tells you how much of the level shall be achieved. Breaking the levels down into objectives for evolving aspects allows us to work on more than one level at the same time. This is a very important aspect for the client and pays a lot into acceptance since we do not necessarily have to achieve one level completely before peeking into the next and the next after. It is not a computer game in the end, no final bosses to beat. In this example you can easily see that the client wants to drive things along an up-to-date, consistent EA database being convinced that it might be the very basis for everything else regarding the EA discipline. That is clearly a data-driven approach. While the overall benefit of such a database might not be easy to measure, I at least and in retrospection of my work as project and application architect can savely say that it saves a lot of time and easily allows you to deliver your milestones. Why reinvent the wheel all the time? There are many other approaches than this data-driven one in the given scenario. It is only one possible outcome in a multiverse of outcomes. The conclusion may be that the maturity model might be viewed as a loosely coupled matrix of objectives and provides a lot of options to choose from. Finally, options mostly are what architecture is all about.
Do you sense that your processes are sluggish and overlap? From my experience we loose grip in rampant meetings and weak planning. What drives things forward are clarity, velocity, and direction. In frequently changing markets we need less talking and less bubbles. What we need are clear facts, common targets, and ability to deliver.
I will improve effectivity, consistency, and sustainability for you while reducing complexity of IT.
You may expect better time to market, streamlined system landscape, and boosted productivity.