>Where’s the Satisfaction in Enterprise Architecture?

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Throughout history, people have labored and seen the fruits of their labor. Whether as hunter/gathers, farmers, or working on the assembly lines, with hard work, people have been able to see tangible progress and in a sense, savor the results of their work.

Today however, in an information society, we are too a great extent divorced from truly delivering products or services to the end-user.

The Wall Street Journal, 20 February 2008, reports “A Modern Conundrum: When Work’s Invisible, so are its Satisfactions.”

“In the information age, so much is worked on in a day at the office, but so little gets done. In the past people could see the fruits of their labor immediately: a chair made or a ball bearing produced. But it is hard to find gratification from work that is largely invisible…not only is work harder to measure, but it’s also harder to define success…The work is intangible, and a lot of work gets done in teams, so it’s difficult to pinpoint individual productivity.”

Homa Bahrami, a senior lecturer in Organizational Behavior and Industrial Relations at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business states: “Information-age employees measure their accomplishments in net worth, company reputation, networks of relationships, and the products and services they’re associated with—elements that are more perceived and subjective than that field of corn, which either is or isn’t plowed.”

As enterprise architects, we are in the business of providing information to enable better organizational decision-making. And unlike producing widgets or harvesting the season’s crops, architectural performance may seem hard to measure and their activities unsatisfying.

However, developing enterprise architecture based on a user-centric approach is actually very meaningful and satisfying. In User-centric EA, we develop only information products and governance services that have clear users and uses, and which benefits the organization in terms of enabling sound IT investments, reengineering business processes, and addressing gaps, redundancies, inefficiencies, and opportunities.

EA is a strategic, big picture view of the organization. It is a planning function and with the commitment of leadership can have an enormous influence on the future direction of the organization. This is a big responsibility for enterprise architects and is very satisfying work especially when cost savings are realized, processes improved, information needs met, business outcomes enabled with technology, security assured, and strategic objectives met.

So just because we’re working in information, it doesn’t mean that EA is invisible. It touches the lives of stakeholders across the business and technical domains of the enterprise.

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