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Target Architecture is a Myth

This is a post closely related to my dilemma of “Why do we call what we do Enterprise Architecture?” But I felt that the Target Architecture topic deserves it’s own post. Because to me, Target Architecture is a myth. To be more precise, a defined target architecture is a myth. (Or “To-Be architecture”, should you prefer the word.)

Let’s go one step back now and have a look on the scope when we use the term. I bet there is only tiny portion of cases when the Target Architecture reflects something different than an IT landscape. Within that tiny remaining portion there are few exceptions that do go beyond IT, where there is information (not data!), processes, some business “architecture”/models, perhaps some organization setup etc. But not enterprise, not at all.

So let’s stick to the majority view on the Target Architecture.

Sure there is one (or many, depends how you see it and what scope you give it), but it emerges from myriad of actions and decisions that happen everyday. Some are big, for sure. But any picture or description you try to capture the target which will be either abstract enough to allow for significant variations, or just wrong and your moving target will change pretty soon (many proofs for that from my past experience and comments of many fellow architects in conferences).

It’s not uncommon to have the target architecture expressed by guiding principles. They however do not describe the architecture really. They just give a direction. It’s like saying “Use columns”. There’s certainly some status quo with tons of things we don’t have a faintest clue about in the current state of architecture, so there’s no way of claiming that in certain point in time in the future the “real world” fully complies with given principles. No way. Why? Because your principles should guide and I doubt you can state for each and every one of them clear yes or no when it comes to complying to them. Also your set of principles is hardly to be exclusive, so you do need some sort of prioritization. Any set of principles also does not cover the whole “Universe” leaving blank spaces. And third of all… it’s still just a guidance and once there’s a business need, there’s a granted exception. So you don’t really know what your target looks like, you just have a slight idea how you would like to have it. As a kind of funnel in which you want your landscape to fit into. And the further you look, the wider the end of the funnel.

It’s like raising children. You have your principles and values you want to impose on your kids. But they are living things (as in fact the organisation/enterprise is). You can not say how they will be like. So if you do a good job, they understand those values and those principles – their spirit – and will be able to deal with life challenges in their own accord based on those principles. Nevertheless, you have no control of them at all even when it comes to your own kids.

Categories: EA
  1. Marc
    November 13, 2015 at 9:40 am

    Interesting. I’ve found that if you plan your architecture properly, you can stick to it in all cases. And if the time comes when you feel the requirement’s solution won’t fit the architecture, you’re being lazy. Sometimes architecture changes, but then everything else must conform as a priority to ensure maintainability. Maybe I’m way off, but this is my experience.

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