Apparently, one of my recent blogs was pretty controversial. In it, I discussed an evolving opinion on the role of enterprise architecture in many of our organizations. Over the weekend, we presented some of these ideas to the MBA students at Cornell/Queens University and this was by far the most controversial subject.As you may recall, I argued in the blog that we should not burden projects with extra work like building services for other projects or additional constraints from ivory tower architecture groups. The counter argument goes something like this:

“I get what you are saying about lean projects and lean delivery, but in my industry (usually government, healthcare, pharma), we have all of these rules. Some of them are important rules. We can’t just focus on any individual project, we have to keep in mind the system and our legacy investments.”

It’s a reasonable argument. And it’s the argument that gets many projects in trouble. In every company there are a set of rules, processes, budgets, structures, methods, etc. that burden each project and increase its cost and schedule while decreasing its risk of success. We’ve heard these called the “Work Prevention Processes.” And, if you are in an industry with slow change, slow adoption of technology and weak competition, this is of course fine (perhaps many governmental organizations fit this description). Many of these organizations will have projects that aren’t necessarily strategic and that aren’t critical for survival. But, when speed, innovation and competition are important, these rules and structures get in the way.

My argument was not that you should be lean and agile on all projects… only on the ones that matter.