Friday, May 27, 2005

How Much of EA is BS?

How finely calibrated is your BS detector?  Does the following set it off?
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Each of us everyday is being fed a nonstop diet rich in BS -- a diet that's only getting richer all the time. BS is coming at us as hyped-up, insincere, pretentious talk that's perpetually prevalent in every facet of our lives.

BS is spread by pervasive and interminable commercial advertising which shows up everywhere -- in ads on TV and in other media -- many making preposterous claims. BS rules in meaningless political rhetoric, PR spin, and dumbed-down news reports that focus on the trivialities of our celebrity-obsessed culture.

There's a best-selling book on the subject of BS written by Harry Frankfurt, a leading philosophy professor at Princeton University.

Click image to watch video interview
with Harry G. Frankfurt
For propriety sake, we'll refer to his book as "On BS"
It's a serious work by a serious man about a subject that seems to inundate us at every turn.

According to Professor Frankfurt, "One of the most salient features of our culture is that there's so much BS. Everyone knows this and each of us contributes his share." He continues, "There's a yearning for living in an environment in which you can really believe what people tell you, especially people who hold responsible positions or aspire to holding responsible positions." Sadly, what we often find instead are people who can't be trusted to tell the truth -- people who prefer to try and fool you, pull the wool over your eyes, and manipulate your beliefs.

People are starved for the truth. Nevertheless, BS rules. It seems that anytime you put people into a position where they feel obliged to talk about things that they don't really know very much about, you're apt to get a lot of BS.

There's a clear distinction between lying and BS. BS'ing is a more insidious threat to the truth than lying. The liar believes that he knows the truth and decides to substitute for the truth something that he knows to be false. The BS'er doesn't really care if something is true or false. All that matters is closing the deal.

BS runs on confidence -- think of the con men in the movie The Sting. It's because people don't understand what a BS'er is talking about that they're willing to be marveled and awed by un-understandable, impressive-sounding jargon.

It's precisely because so few people even begin to understand what Enterprise Architecture is -- both inside and outside of IT -- that EA is prone to attracting BS artists. The process of grasping architecture, itself, is like trying to tackle a greased pig (see What is IT Architecture?). Everytime you think you've got it, it squirms away.

Keep your BS detector turned on at all times. Beware of magic wands and hand waving. Be careful whenever you hear some fast-talking consultants and/or software salespeople talking about aligning IT strategy with business strategy. That goal has been the elusive holy grail of the computer industry forever.

EA is comprised of four subsets:
  1. Business Architecture
  2. Data Architecture
  3. Application Architecture
  4. Technology Architecture
That's no BS.

IT has repeatedly been given the message to think and act like businesspeople. They're doing the best they can. The problem is the businesspeople. Whatever models they're using for thinking about, talking about, and managing technology -- most just plain don't work. Businesspeople need enterprise architecture in order to improve how they think about and talk about IT, and how they manage their technology portfolios.


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