>Want Versus Should and Enterprise Architecture

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In the Harvard Business Review (HBR) whitepaper entitled, “Harnessing Our Inner Angels and Demons” by Milkman, Rogers, and Bazerman, the authors describe the “conflict when deciding whether to behave responsibly or indulge in impulsivity”, what the authors call the want/should conflict.

How do we define want and should?

“Some options are preferred by the should self (e.g. salads, documentary films, trips to the gym, etc.), while others are preferred by the want self (e.g. ice cream cones, action films, skipping the gym, etc.).”

How do we decide between the want and should options?

“The optimal choice between want and should options requires summing the short-run and long-run utility that would be gained from each option and selecting whichever provides more discounted net utility. Although should options have more long-run benefits than want options, in many cases the short-run benefits of a want option may be significant enough to outweigh the long-run benefits of a should option.”

An example:

While salad is a should option, and pizza a want option, we frequently chose the pizza, because the short-term instant gratification of the pizza outweighs the perceived long-terms health benefits of the salad.

How does this should/want conflict impact EA?

User-centric EA is all about making choices and trade-off decisions. The enterprise has limited resources and so must chose between IT investment options. Some of these investment may be want options and others may be should options. For example, user may want to upgrade their desktops with the “latest and greatest” computer model and options every year or two. However, the enterprise should invest in business intelligence or customer relationship management software, for example, that will yield significant long-term utility to the organization. Which option does the Investment Review Board choose? Which option is called for in the EA target architecture and transition plan? The HBR whitepaper shows us to measure the utility and make decisions based on the net utility to the enterprise. In this way, the organization gets the greatest good for its IT investment dollars.

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