The Issue Is THE ENTERPRISE
In the Information Age, the characteristics we understand to-date are complexity and change. The customer wants a product specific to his or her specification ... a custom product. The customer is a market of one. And the customer may not even know what they want until they want it and then they want it now ... immediately. And, if you can't produce to those requirements, click! They get a new supplier. Once again, it is a global market and very easy to switch suppliers.
The question is, what is your strategy to accommodate orders of magnitude increases in complexity and orders of magnitude increases in the rate of change? And, this is not an IT issue. The question, Chief, is not whether this is happening or not ... it IS happening. The question is, what are you going to do about it?
This is the point of taking the time to develop the characteristics of the Information Age. The characteristics we know of at this point in history are complexity and change. To address complexity and change requires a shifting strategy to assemble-to-order which, from an Enterprise perspective, means managing an inventory of parts that can be assembled into more than one Enterprise, that is, Enterprise Architecture.
The issue is NOT an Information Technology issue. It is not about building and running systems.
The issue is not even a classic Management Consulting issue. It is not simply about developing strategy, solving management problems, or implementing a management system (governance).
It is about engineering the Enterprise — ENGINEERING the ENTERPRISE to accommodate extreme complexity and extreme rates of change so it does what you want it to do and so it can be changed dynamically (assembled-to-order) to maintain its viability in a complex and dynamically-changing Information Age environment.
Seven-thousand years of history clearly establishes that the only known strategy to address complexity and change is: ARCHITECTURE.
If the object you want to create is sufficiently complex that you can't see it in its entirety at the level of definition required to create it, you will have to describe it ... ARCHITECTURE.
Once the object is created, if you ever want to change it, the basis for making changes is the descriptive representations required to create it ... ARCHITECTURE.
The key to complexity and change is ARCHITECTURE.
In my 1998 article, "Enterprise Architecture: The Issue of the Century," I argued that the Enterprise that can accommodate the concepts of Enterprise Architecture will have the opportunity to stay in the game ... and the Enterprise that cannot accommodate the concepts of Enterprise Architecture is not going to be in the game. I might observe that a lot of Enterprises have been falling out of the game of late.This raises the question, "What is Architecture ... and, specifically, Enterprise Architecture?"
This column can also be viewed on John's blog — presented here, with permission.
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