Some directions, please

You probably remember the passage from Alice in Wonderland when she meets the Cheshire Cat for the first time.

“Alice came to a fork in the road. 'Which road do I take?' she asked.
'Where do you want to go?' responded the Cheshire Cat.
'I don't know,' Alice answered.
'Then,' said the Cat, 'it doesn't matter.”

As an enterprise architect you could not work in a vacuum. Even if the maturity in the organisation is low, we need some kind of directions from the business side.

The first direction is rather traditional. Should we continue our business as usual, keeping existing processes and IT-systems and just do small improvements? No mergers, sell-offs or changes in business model. It’s a well run business with satisfied customers, reasonable profits and no major issues with IT. 

The second direction is when we have a new vision from management. This is when there has been many changes to organisation due to mergers, sell-offs, large growth, changes in business model or just changes in technology. The IT-systems are to complex, not very well suited for the new brave world.

The third direction is a little more challenging. It is when we can’t predict the future and we need to be flexible from both an organisational point of view as well as from an IT-perspective. This is a more demanding situation and one solution may be to rent services instead of buying or building IT-systems as usual.

What is right direction for your company or organisation then?

Unless your are an entrepreneur type, your would probable choose the first option. It works very well for Coca-Cola and other businesses where Warren Buffet invests. It was probably not the best idea for RIM or Nokia to continue business as usual ten years ago. So this option is not for everyone.

A more analytic approach is to go to the annual report and see what is communicated to investors. Then, get hold of the business strategy and business plans for the next upcoming years for the company or business unit you would like to do architecture for.

A third option is to look at stock market evaluation and P/E ratio. Is the P/E ratio low and your still earn money, then the market don’t think that your business model is viable from a long term perspective and that you have to make larger changes. This may a little bit skewed, as the market is not always rational. By the way, if your company doesn't make money during a several year timespan, you would need to change your business model.

In either case, you need to have some guidance from top-management about the directions forward, otherwise will you get as puzzled as Alice.