>Occam’s Razor and Enterprise Architecture

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“Occam’s razor (sometimes spelled Ockham’s razor) is a principle attributed to the 14th-century English logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham…The principle is often expressed in Latin as the lex parsimoniae (‘law of parsimony’ or ‘law of succinctness’)..This is often paraphrased as ‘All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.’… it is more often taken today as a heuristic maxim (rule of thumb) that advises economy, parsimony, or simplicity.’” (Wikipedia)

In Occam’s razor, “razor refers to the act of shaving away unnecessary assumptions to get to the simplest explanation.”

Thomas Aquinas made a similar argument in the 13th century: “If a thing can be done adequately by means of one, it is superfluous to do it by means of several; for we observe that nature does not employ two instruments where one suffices.” (Pegis, A. C., translator (1945). Basic Writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. New York: Random House, 129.)

The principle of Occam’s razor is very applicable to enterprise architecture—how?

Occams razor is a call for simplicity, and this principle is a foundation for enterprise architecture in terms of consolidation, integration, and cost efficiency and takes specific form in terms of:

  • Systems interoperability and component re-use
  • Technology standardization and simplification

Paul O’Neill, the former Secretary of the Treasury was a true advocate of Occams razor and frequently asked “if not one, why not one?”

“The philosopher of science Elliott Sober once argued along the same lines as Popper, tying simplicity with ‘informativeness’: The simplest theory is the more informative one, in the sense that less information is required in order to answer one’s questions.” (Wikipedia)

In this sense, Occam’s razor is a validation for User-centric Enterprise Architecture, which seeks to make information simpler, easier to understand, and generally more valuable and actionable to the end-user to enhance decision making. Moreover, Occam’s razor is also evident in User-centric EA application of principles of communication and design like simplifying complex information and maximizing use of information visualization in order to more effectively communication EA information.

Occams razor makes clear the need to transform from traditional EA’s development of “artifacts” that are often difficult for the user to understand and apply and instead develop more useful and usable information products and governance services.

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