>Yin and Yang and Enterprise Architecture

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Yin and Yang describe two primal opposing but complementary principles or cosmic forces said to be found in all non-static objects and processes in the universe.

The outer circle represents the entirety of perceivable phenomena, while the black and white shapes within the circle represent the interaction of two principles or aspects, called “yin” (black) and “yang” (white), which cause the phenomena to appear in their peculiar way. Each of them contains an element or seed of the other, and they cannot exist without each other.

Yin is passive, dark, feminine, downward-seeking, and corresponds to the night. Yang is active, light, masculine, upward-seeking and corresponds to the daytime.

All forces in nature can be seen as having yin and yang states, and the two are in constant movement rather than held in absolute stasis.

Yin and yang is a process of harmonization ensuring a constant, dynamic balance of all things. Excessive yin or yang state is often viewed to be unbalanced and undesirable.

User-centric EA applies the concepts of Yin and Yang—in terms of balance and harmony─to the way the chief enterprise architect relates to and works with users, the way products and services are developed, and the way architecture plans are formulated. Some examples:

  • Working with users: The chief enterprise architect needs to recognize that in planning for the future state of the organization, there are going to be different points of views, diversity of aims and aspirations, and general conflict. The architect can use the principles of Yin and Yang to understand that opposing points of view are complementary and in fact necessary to vet issues and achieve better decision on behalf of the enterprise. The architect works to listen to all viewpoints and reconcile these to achieve a harmonized and optimal way ahead for the organization.
  • Developing products and services: User-centric EA provides useful and useable products and services to the end-user. The philosophy of Yin and Yang helps guide the architect to develop information products that are dynamic (actively pushing out information to the end user), balanced (evenhanded, reasonable, and objective,) and where the information flows clearly and concisely. The point is to effectively communicate with users, so that they can access and use the EA knowledge base to make better decisions. EA communicates up, down, and across the organization as well as with outside entity stakeholders, such as customers, suppliers, partners, and oversight authorities. In all cases clear and balanced communication is a key ingredient to building and maintaining the architecture and leveraging use for all parties.
  • Formulating architecture plans: In developing a User-centric EA plan, the concepts of Yin and Yang help to develop plans that are neither black nor white (absolute) and that are not static (but rather fluid). For architecture plans to be effective, they need to provide “wiggle room” to the organization to adjust to changing needs and environment factors (i.e. plans should not be “black and white”, but should take into account shades of gray or in the case of the Yin and Yang, there is a little Yang in every Yin and vice versa). Additionally, as the flowing symbol of the Yin and Yang indicate, plans need to be fluid and move the organization in phases. You don’t just jump to the next big technology or slice and dice your business processes, but rather you evolve in a careful, planned, and incremental course—flowing from one state to the next and so on.

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