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Stop and start making sense?

Hans Nouwens
April 26, 2023

Sometimes things do not add up, they slowly stop making sense. This was the case when a team of Dutch enterprise architects started their discussion about their experiences. The four architects started reflecting on the Dynamic Architecture (DYA) approach that they have been propagating for twenty odd years.

DYA started of with a first book in 2001 called “speed and coherence in business and IT architecture” (Dutch: snelheid en samenhang in business- en ICT-architectuur). It was written by Martin van den Berg, Joost Luijpens Roel Wachter en Marlies van Steenbergen. Several books later, having trained hundred of architects, DYA has proved to be an useful and effective approach. The main principle of DYA, just in time and just enough has been proved over and over. Several scientific dissertations were written about the effectiveness of tools such as the Project Start Architecture (PSA) and the DYA Maturity Matrix. The underlying architecture services support an agile way of working avant le lettre. The process model that allows for deciding if a project is to be guided with architecture, or not, still stands. And the focus on products, processes and persons was in hindsight quite innovative.

In the current age much has changed. Speed has increased drastically, a new thing called cloud has emerged, the difference between organisations and its consumers starts to fade. The huge increase of the interdependencies screams for a new way of looking on our profession.

Our new phase in DYA we are shifting our architecture focus from the what, how and who, to the why. We are joining the age of sensemaking.

We translate the sensemaking in Sensemaking Architecture in three ways:

  1. Sensemaking as in making sense of the world, noticing what is happening outside and inside the organisation, understanding and interpreting events and trends, and recognising if and how these events and trends are relevant for the organisation.
  2. Sensemaking as in providing sense to the organisation in terms of purpose and place in the world.
  3. Sensemaking as in helping the organisation to take sensible actions, actions that lead to realisation of the organisation strategy.

To be able to deal with the roaring 2020s emerging complexity and interdependencies we propose that a new architecture approach rests on four pillars: we need it to be human-centred, flow-oriented, value-sensitive, and situational.

  • Human-centred, because in an increasingly complex world, the attitude, interactions and capabilities of people are essential.
  • Flow-oriented, because architecture is not about static descriptions but about the dynamics of doing business.
  • Value-sensitive, because the values of all stakeholders, direct and indirect, including future society, must be respected.
  • Situational, because to create flexibility, architecture must be able to differentiate between different contexts and subsystems and adjust both content and way of working to the needs of the situation.

This is the basis for our new approach: Sensemaking Architecture.

May the 12th we are inviting the Dutch community of architects on our 2023 DYA-day. We are hosting two very relevant keynote speakers. We organised three presentations on the topic of sensemaking, a selection of tech updates on AI, Application Integration and Quality Engineering, and include three vendor-based tooling presentations.

If you are in our neighbourhood, and speak Dutch, please join us and register on

At the event we will also be presenting an English written essay on Sensemaking Architecture called “Survival of the fitting”. The essay is written by the team of four enterprise architects: Marlies van Steenbergen, Ton Eusterbrock, Edzo Botjes and Hans Nouwens.

If you are interested, please contact me for a copy after the event.

We think that Sensemaking Architecture is an exciting direction that will bring enterprise architecture to a new level and help architects bring both value and values to the organisation.

About the author

Enterprise Architect | Netherlands
Hans Nouwens is an experienced enterprise architect with 20+ years of practical experience in the field of ICT, infused with rigorous academic learning. He works as an architect and trusted advisor, mainly for Higher Education institutes.


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