Most of enterprises expect from their IT Division to develop and maintain information and communications infrastructure which includes networking and telecommunications, desktop computing, business management information systems, systems for technical information and computer security. This is not the less classical in governance landscape. Then, IT Divisions have gathered excellent engineers, among them architects, who continuously arrange technology for the best of Business people. When business is looking after better machines to manufacture quickly engine parts or better systems to conduct more effectively business cases, it is supported by an IT Division able to deal with all technical questions. All seem to be fine for the best… except that during the pas ten years we crossed the road little by little.
Though business is now looking after whole plants which would be able to manufacture several type of products or whole systems which may be used for different types of business cases, investment choice is conducted the same way it was when we were on the other side of the road. Business people relying on its business background try to figure out how a whole plant should work and forward technical issues to engineers and IT Divisions. Would you entrust the design of a business building to business people ? You have the risk to get a warehouse with a row of tables and not much heating nor air conditioning except for exectives. I am not kidding, I really saw it in a high tech company.
By now, for such a design, it is usual to hire architects for this job, since everybody knows that people are more effective in an environment build for them, not only considering the job, but considering that they spend a fair part of their life doing the job. Even plants are arranged specifically around people doing their job, which contribute to high productivity and high quality. This is the result of a mix of comprehensive manufacturing knowledge, social psychology, building knowledge, business understanding, security all things which don’t fit in one head only. Architecure is the field of knowledge which gather input of all these fields to find effective solutions for buildings.
Why shouldn’t be the same for Information Systems ? They are not used anymore by employees to perform their tasks, instead they have got the role of assigning tasks to them in real time. They manage and orchestrate the way groups of people collaborate in a business process or in a project, they send information to different types of terminal – smartphone, notebook, phone – anyway, anywhere. Like walls, roof and windows, they shape our business space and our business time. More and more companies ask to acquire whole business process systems totally integrated. If ERPs respond to this requirement, with this type of solution companies should endorse editor business view which is worth for common parts of business but not for all processes. Each company is unique with a unique and specific business model which contribute to its success which needs to be preserved.
Information systems architecture should develop the knowledge and the conceptual tools to take-up this complex challenge which address business, social, human, technical issues. Today, information systems architecture (IS Architecture) is developping enterprise capability support which encompasses business functions and pose the problem of stovepipes. Its knwoledge is mainly based on best practices shared by companies architects. But how IS Architecture deal with human and organisational aspects ? What is its real finality ? How does it contribute ethically to the good and the best ?
This paper of Nicolas Bouleau develop a view of a place of architecture between people, society and technology. It recalls to us that architecture takes a lot of its technology from mathematics as computing does. And mathematics is somehow an harmony research solving space and human problems which has lead to some masterpieces like Pazzis Chapel in Florence.
Another thinker is Nikos Salingaros who has written a book “A Theory of Architecture” which review and discuss some basis of Architecture especially modelling, patterns using, ideas and culture spreading across organisations.
I could also mention Neil Leach who has published “Rethinking Architecture” where he reports his readings of great philosphers regarding Architecture.
Finally I would like to quote the presentation of Leonard Fehskens, VP of Opengroup, at Open group Munich conference, in 2008, “Re-thinking Architecture” (may require login).
IS Architecture (and Enterprise Architecture) should step over wharehouse current state to go toward a true art which provides solutions to space and time management of modern organisations adressing all issues business, social, individual, technical. I wish aesthetic, ethics, harmony enter in IS architects vocabulary beside Business process, interoperability, SOA and so on…