Enterprise Architecture – A Thought…

I think I may have mentioned a few times that currently my 7 year old’s only purpose in life is to watch and play football. Surprisingly, for all who know me, I have found myself at Wembley, the Emirates and the hallowed ground that is Old Trafford in recent months. Clearly not interested in football at all, I have found myself musing on the whole business of crowd control. Yes, I know. But a gal needs to keep herself entertained for 90 minutes.

Wembley has 90 thousand seats, making it the largest capacity stadium in Europe. That’s 90 thousand people getting in and out all at the very same time. And it happens within the blink of an eye. It’s totally incredible.

It occurred to me that the crowds are actually controlled not by the handsome mounted police standing sentinel outside for my viewing pleasure, but by the actual architecture of the building.

I now know, courtesy of Google, that Architects really do use architecture to map and control the behavioural outcomes required by them and their customers.

It’s seems obvious, now I know. I guess I just haven’t thought about it before. From the ancient architects of the Coliseum in 72 AD, to the building of stadiums and even holiday hotels, all have used architecture to control how we behave.

At Wembley even the stairs are an intricate affair. They sort of reverse back on themselves so there are multiple layers of stairs shifting people in and out simultaneously. They also serve as a deterrent to hooliganism. As they go in opposite directions with one set of doors opening in and one set opening out. The architectural solution not only gets people in and out efficiently, it creates nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide. Impressive.

I could go on and on about how architecture shapes the way we behave and are controlled by it, especially as I have just got back from an all-inclusive hotel in Turkey that shifted in excess of 3 thousand people daily from restaurant to sun-bed to restaurant to bed. Without ever managing to look crowded. Bonkers but brilliant.

However I ought to get to the point.

My point is this. A lot of IT energy is taken up by their customers angst in refusing to use standard solutions, and replicable architectures because they claim their processes and the way they use solutions is unique to them.

That may be true, as there are exceptions to the rule. However it’s mostly not. So what generally happens is a legacy of multiple IT applications with overlapping purposes and capabilities. Then, to add insult to injury, that results in further misery of too many interfaces with too much redundant data, that’s been backed up daily anyway, and is therefore rendered useless because nobody knows which version is clean and which is not. So the whole vicious circle starts again as soon as there is a new business requirement.

The aforementioned hotel in Turkey we just stayed in was architected and built more than 30 years ago, and times have changed relentlessly since then. Their customer requirements are way different now. For example; there wasn’t the requirement for always-on network connectivity, or online booking facilities and even energy management / conservation has become a new customer requirement. All have impact on the architecture.

Or does it? The architecture hasn’t changed. It’s just been tweaked to accommodate new customer requirements, because the core of what they do, IE: eat, sunbathe, eat, sleep, is still the same. The architecture is dumbed down to aid the flow of people around those simple but core activities.

If we create technology architectures that really do understand the behaviour and needs of  their customers at the most fundamental level, then could we truly control their behaviour (like at Wembley)?  Might then our customers not cause our networks to fail and architecture to fall over? And more, actually buy-in to common policies & principles, services, solutions and the thorny issue of standardisation? So consensus is reached at the point of construct. So much so, that the customer responds almost peristaltically positively and needn’t rage against what they can’t do, because they don’t notice the need for it.

Further, without telling you how to suck eggs, a valid IT architecture will consolidate and centralise business resources (as well as technology resources) improving efficiencies creating a centrally managed, focused  groups based on need and skill sets. Thereby a robust architecture creates more business value and vice versa.

Seems easy right? Get the architecture right based on your complete understanding of your customers and you’ll be able to control and mould customer behaviours to give each other back the most value.

So here comes my question. Can we ever fully understand our customers and their comings and goings, even in simple terms, in a business that has dispersed teams and locations and constant changing business requirements?

I know, it’s a really difficult one. I’m really starting to think that we can’t ever get to a unilateral standardisation technology model.

Maybe we can. What do you think?

 

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One Response to Enterprise Architecture – A Thought…

  1. Andrew Bonner says:

    Aligning technology architecture is a huge job in any organisation and risks going down the ‘one size fits all’ which is rarely a comfortable fit, especially when multinationals have very diverse and often complex regional requirements. Tailored solutions fit best but are harder work.

    Having said that reducing the number of applications and their overheads can be achieved without restricting business given the right level of investment in understanding requirements and delivering them.

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