User-centric Enterprise architecture is about producing valuable information products and governance services for the organization to enhance IT planning, governance and decision-making. There are elements of both invention and innovation in EA.
Invent—“1. To produce or contrive (something previously unknown) by the use of ingenuity or imagination. 2. To make up; fabricate.”
Innovate—“To begin or introduce (something new) for or as if for the first time.”
The definitions of invent and innovate are similar, but have important subtle differences.
- Invent is to produce first which connotes a physical production or manufacture of an items, and secondarily to contrive or think up something imaginatively.
- Innovate, however, is not producing or just thinking up something, but actually introducing it (for the first time), and in the process of introducing, there is an element of not only thinking up an idea or making it, but of actually bringing it to the marketplace to create value and reap benefit from it.
In User-centric EA, we both invent (think up and produce) products and services such as baseline and target architectures and transition plans as well as services to govern IT. However, we also innovate; we introduce the products and services, through effective marketing, communications, training, and leveraging their use to add value to the mission.
- From a User-centric EA perspective, it is not enough just to put things out there (invent them)—like the “build it, and they will come” motto heard frequently during the period of “irrational exuberance” in the stock market and internet bubble of the early 21st century. Rather, we must innovate–constantly consider our users and build for them, to their requirements and make the EA of true value to them.
In BI Review Magazine, 3 December 2007, Thomas Koulopoulos presents “Don’t Invent, Innovate.”
Tom writes: “Myriad catalysts have suddenly created an ability to invent beyond our wildest dreams. Manufacturing is a global commodity…capital moves more efficiently to fund new ideas, micro markets can easily be targeted and fulfilled with well oiled supply chains. As a result we are surrounded by more useless inventions than at any other time in history. Affluence seems measured by the number of things we can accumulate and then drag to the nearest landfill…we confuse invention with innovation…too many people and organizations get wrapped up in the premise that quantity of invention is what drives progress. It’s not. Innovation is about imposing a discipline of value creation in an organization…Innovation is change with a purpose and a vision. Invention is simply change, the age-old battle between quantity and quality.”
In architecting the business and technical aspects of our enterprises, we need to keep in mind the distinction between inventing and innovation. Of course, we need to invent—we need to build idea and things–as humans, we need these “things” to survive. But also we need to innovate and ensure that what we invent is truly with purpose, vision, and is of value to the end-user.