Part of what distinguishes a good enterprise architect from a mediocre one, is the ability to discern fact from fiction and the important from the mundane when it comes to the state of the enterprise. Having the skill to do this is critical to being able to establish viable targets and transition plans. A mediocre architect may collect information, but can’t spot the true nature of the enterprise, what is right and wrong with it and how it needs to course correct. The truly talented architect can make those distinctions.
Recently in the news there was an item about a doctored photo of a Tibetan antelope running harmoniously alongside the controversial high-speed train developed by China in the animals’ Himalayan habitat. When first released, this photo was accepted as genuine and only upon analysis was it discovered as a fake.
Just like with the photo of the Tibetan antelope, as enterprise architects, we must a look with circumspection and fine tuned analyses at the information presented, so that we can come to valid conclusions and not just accept everything at face value.
MIT Technology Review, 17 March 2008, reports that “new tools that analyze lighting in images help spot tampering.”
One MIT researcher states: “lighting is hard to fake…even frauds that look good to the naked eye are likely to contain inconsistencies that can be picked up by software.”
Similarly, in enterprise architecture, we need to proverbially shed light on the information we capture in the architecture to discern its meaning to the organization—are there really gaps or in our capabilities or does some executive just want to have the latest technology gadget to showcase? Are the redundancies identified in the enterprise needed for backup purposes or are they truly superfluous? Is a process efficient or is this just the way things have been done for so long, that no one really knows differently or wants to change? Is an opportunity really advantageous to the organization or is it fool’s gold?
These are tough questions and answered incorrectly, could lead the organizations down the wrong path and result in costly mistakes, such as unsatisfied customers, lost market share, wasted time and effort, and demoralized staff.
The MIT Technology Review article states: “many fraudulent images are created by combining parts of two or more photographs into a single image.”
Similarly, in enterprise architecture, facts are often misinterpreted or distorted by combining pieces of information that do not go together or by omitting information from the puzzle. For example, user needs and technology solutions can be combined as touted as the ideal solution for the enterprise, but in fact the solution is mismatched to the requirement. Or an IT investment may be heralded as the be all and end all, but critical information was not examined such as the security of the product, the vendor support and training available, the true cost including operations and maintenance in the out years and so on. So just as with photographs you can have errors of commission and omission.
Cynthia Baron, associate director of digital media programs at Northeastern University and author of a book on digital forensics states: “it’s amazing to me, some of the things that make their way onto the web that people believe are real. Many of the things that software can point out [as fraudulent], you can see with the naked eye, but you don’t notice it.”
This is the same with the information that enterprise architects analyze—so much of it is can be misinterpreted—but with a little more attention and a skilled architect, you can find the true meaning behind the data.
In the end a good enterprise architect can be worth their weight in gold to the organization.