Enterprise Architecture and Zombies

2 June 2010

There has been much discussion about the ten Enterprise Architecture pitfalls that Gartner published at http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1159617

For example see  http://tinyurl.com/2wfod8q and http://tinyurl.com/3ayz6a8

In the meantime, Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith have also published a great book: Pride, and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance-now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!

In a spark (fit?) of imagination, the title of this blog was raised up from the depths of Mordor and just wouldn’t die…

This is a light hearted, tongue firmly in cheek,  look at Gartners 10 EA pitfalls written as a story just ripe for gore and senseless violence…

A world where Enterprise Architecture exists in an alternative universe where Zombies roam the corporate landscape. The denizens of this doomed land are the “stricken”, the “sorry stricken”, the “undead”, the “unmentionables”, or just simply “zombies”. The Zombies are those in an organisation who wittingly or unwittingly subvert the best intentions of those valiant enterprise architects envangelising about the benefits of Enterprise Architecture.

The Gartner 10 EA pitfalls are an excellent set of EA anti-patterns and avoiding them will result in a better Enterprise Architecture function within an organisation.

If you can’t avoid these pitfalls then it’ll seem as if you’re suddenly transported into the world of Zombies.

1. The Wrong Lead Architect: This is a classic and common anti pattern where the Chief Enterprise Architect turns out to be a zombie (an ineffective leader). He or she may not really understand Enterprise Architecture at all but has been put into the role by senior management because they were the only one available (dead man’s shoes?). This Dark Lord “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” (ok, his name is Lord Voldemort) is making decisions with a forked tongue, for seemingly no reason whatsoever, other than to spy out opportunities and jobs for other zombies perhaps. Devoid of real interest in Enterprise Architecture he actively campaigns against its introduction.

Best thing to do is chop their head off, but as Harry Potter knows, this is easier said than done. Expect an uphill battle.

2. Insufficient Stakeholder Understanding and Support: This happens when the hordes of living dead outside the Enterprise Architecture team ignore what the EA team is doing, continually questioning the value of anything not related to their immediate problems, usually project related. This is because they are undead vampires who do not live in the real world. Get sharpening those stakes and hang up the garlic to keep them away. A huge problem occurs when the Enterprise Architecture team loses its executive sponsor. As with the volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, ash clouds of Fear Uncertainty and Doubt will start filling the air. Who is going to pay attention to the Enterprise Architects when they don’t have a sponsor?

Best thing to do is get a new sponsor as soon as possible, or start dusting off your old CV.

3. Not Engaging the Business People: Zombies don’t understand the living. They only talk to other zombies and don’t communicate much anyway. They think that Enterprise Architects are just another species of Solution Architect or Technical Architect. To overcome this make sure you get involved with the business and with real business decision making. This is not easy if the business are used to making decisions without the support and involvement of the Enterprise Architects (I’ll cover decision making in a future blog). Communications with the business units are frequently lost when the messengers are captured. Zombies that don’t like the enterprise architecture message will kill and eat the messenger. Yum.

Best thing to do is create a great communication plan and be clear about the messages, be sure to engage with the living at all times to create value and ROI and to placate the Zombies.

4. Doing Only Technical Domain-Level Architecture: Some people think that an Enterprise Architect is just another name for a Solution Architect who deals with applications used at the corporate level by all business units. These people look alive but are really undead.

Best thing to do is to clearly distinguish between the roles and responsibilities of Technical focused Solution Architects and business strategy focused Enterprise Architects. Wearing a garlic necklace should also help…

5. Doing Current-State EA First: Successful Enterprise Architecture is about the future, about strategy and governance. Zombies live in the present and worry about the current state and short term gains and don’t care about the business strategy and why they are there. They do lots of howling. Enterprise Architects are there to help the business make money in the future, faster, better cheaper.

Best thing to do is to focus on the future target business model and how to realise it.

6. The EA Group Does Most of the Architecting: The Zombies are not informed by those alive on the business side. There is consequently no buy-in for developing the Enterprise Architecture content. Zombies just want to kill people and make more zombies. They are dead anyway so don’t care about the future. The primary job of real enterprise architects is to wear silver crosses, kill zombies, vampires and werewolves.

Best thing to do is to lead the Enterprise Architecture process to develop the future architecture rather than live in an ivory tower and impose their favourite ideas.

7. Not Measuring and Not Communicating the Impact: The value of real EA is often indirect, so it won’t be obvious to the Zombies in the organisation. This then exposes the Enterprise Architecture function to the risk of failure and being beheaded. If you don’t measure what EA does then how can you manage it?

Best thing to do is to build an EA scorecard, plan the EA roadmap, concentrate on continually providing and communicating the value of EA to the living, kill zombies, sharpen your axe, and grow garlic.

8. Architecting the ‘Boxes’ Only: Enabling better business agility is frequently a key EA goal, but Zombies only care for their projects or business unit and generally won’t be rewarded for providing corporate benefits. Enterprise Architects work for the whole organisation. Where is the one true ring to help to defeat a rampaging horde of Zombies and fight the ever-present threat of a Zombie apocalypse?

One (EA) Ring to rule them all, One (EA) Ring to find them,

One (EA) Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them..?

Best thing to do is focus more on business strategy and the business capabilities that cut cross the business silos to provide value, polish your stakes and silver crosses and look for the one true ring.

9. Not Establishing Effective EA Governance Early: Zombies live without any governance. The quick and dirty rule, and regard the living Enterprise Architects as a troublesome, albeit deadly, nuisances. Enterprise Architects must resist the temptation to wait for more enterprise architecture content before establishing credible Enterprise Architecture governance and compliance processes.

Best thing to do is develop EA content and EA governance in parallel and constantly cry “I have a cunning plan”…

10. Not Spending Enough Time on Communications: Zombies will ignore Enterprise Architects unless they are hungry for blood. Key messages about Enterprise Architecture will not be intuitively obvious to Zombies, if at all.  Enterprise architects must constantly work to educate the living business and kill all zombies.

Best thing to do is keep sharpening the EA axe and evangelise with tailored messages to your audience.

With apologies to Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Black Adder and the book – ‘Pride and Prejudice with Zombies’ (http://tinyurl.com/al6gvx ) which originally inspired this blog entry…

This blog bears absolutely no relation to any organisation either living, dead or undead. Comments and Lawsuits to Harry.Potter@Azkaban.org.uk


3 Responses to “Enterprise Architecture and Zombies”

  1. Ian Glossop Says:

    Good blog. Very amusing.

    I wonder what organisations you had in mind while writing it!?

    In philosophy a zombie is an entity that looks and behaves just like a person but has no internal conciousness, no qualia. Some people consider this very idea incoherent; a view with which I have a great deal of sympathy. But,… I think the ‘digital’ model of conciousness is inaccurate, it is not an all or nothing business – there are degrees of conciousness even within the same species.
    A lot of people in organisations, it seems to me, use the words without any real understanding of the meaning – they seem to have lower levels of awareness of the implications and consequences of words strung together in sentences to express thoughts. They talk the talk without thinking the thought.

    So maybe the philosophical zombie is just the unrealistic extreme pole on a continuum of understanding and beahviour. Maybe zombies in organisations is not such a joke.

  2. Bruce Lamberton Says:

    It looks like you’ve been busy!

  3. Jon McLeod Says:

    This was great. Loved it.

    I love a good zombie movie … but I always wonder whether there may be a zombie or two lurking in the shadows behind me just as I’ve locked and bolted the doors …

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