Wednesday, May 9, 2012

EA Heuristic #3: Talk to more blind men to know the elephant

(this article is part of the series "12 Heuristics for Enterprise Architecting")

Picture of an elephant in a gentleman outfit.  Enterprises are like elephants, much bigger than this one, thus a lot harder for any person to get a correct whole picture of.
photo credit: Murilo Morais 
Enterprises are like often like elephants and the enterprises’ employees and stakeholders are like blind men in the classic story; they are each touching a different part of the enterprise and they will each describe the enterprise differently, sometimes in significantly different ways.  As such, though it might seem obvious, it is important to talk to multiple people, and if possible representatives of various stakeholder groups.  Moreover, what EA often reveals is the breakdown in information flow across the enterprise.

In our EA exercise, we got employees of the organization to suggest ideas.  In order to encourage more ideas to be contributed, we make it safe for idea contributors by not tagging names to ideas.  Later, when we evaluated the ideas, we observed that some ideas suggested by one employee was labeled as “we are already doing this” by another employee.  Clearly the initiative in question was seen as an area of improvement in the eyes of the first employee, but seen as completed in the eyes of the second.  This was a good example of different perspectives on the state of the enterprise.

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