Last week I attended the ViNT symposium Design to disrupt. The program was packed with inspiring speakers illustrating to the audience the speed of technological development and the innovation this brings. And requires. During the first break I was talking with a client who wondered whether there would be any role for enterprise architecture in this new world. That thought surprised me. He seemed to sense a contrast, even an incompatibility, between architecture and innovation. Why should that be?, I wondered.
I suppose it is all to do with the image of enterprise architecture and architects. This client, and he is not the only one, seemed to experience architects as persons laying down rules and judiciously guarding that everyone complies to these rules without exception. And indeed, this image seems rather incompatible with innovation. I, however, have a completely different idea of an effective architect. In my eyes an enterprise architect is someone who is apt at juggling concepts and design principles to solve problems and realize the organization’s ambitions. The unique value of architecture is on the one hand the lens with which architects view organizations, using concepts like processes, objects and, above all, services, and on the other hand the application of design rules that match the organization’s ambitions. With these two instruments, an architect can tackle any challenge the organization encounters. Instead of laying down the law, the effective architect knows how to juggle his concepts and design rules as a problem-solving instrument for the organization. By viewing every issue with the same lens of concepts, coherence and consistency is ensured. By applying innovative-sensitive design rules, change and innovation are enabled or even initiated.
The question of course arises, whether innovation-sensitive design rules exist. And of course they do. Examples are ‘always design in terms of services’ and ‘never make a design decision that can be postponed’.
I would urge all architects to become jugglers. It is definitely more fun. And it may lead to more often hearing managers ask “we have to innovate, where is my architect?”.