Monday, January 23, 2006
The Best Enterprise Architecture Tool Ever Built
Anyway, he gave me the 30-minute demo of the latest release. Impressive software with an equally impressive price tag - about $30,000 USD per seat when you figure in the necessary training and support. Nice to know where our tax dollars are being spent.
However, lest you think this is a semi-disguised pitch for a software product, its not. I want to show you a very critical tool for enterprise architecture and system design that, depending on the size chosen, costs roughly $100-200 USD. Ready? Here it is...
Yep, a whiteboard. With a nice set of markers and an eraser. If you're really in the mood to spend, a bottle of whiteboard cleaner is a nice add-on, although I've found that repeated use of cleaners eventually takes the finish off of the boards and causes ink stains, but that's a minor quibble.
Nothing beats a whiteboard for a number of enterprise architecture activities, such as brainstorming, communicating ideas to others, and documenting designs and other activites. It's cheap, it's immediate, and it's highly effective. Sounds obvious and straightforward, right? Not to people who I refer to as 'tool jockeys' - who advance the notion that everything will work out great simply because we have a new tool for this or that. Mind you, tool jockeys are like children, today's tool is good for, well, today, and then they're immediately rhapsodizing about the next great tool that will dramatically change the enterprise for the better.
However, tool jockeys have a much more sinister role if they're congregated into a group, which I refer to as a Tool Guild, or simply, a Guild. Guilds can be dangerous to organizations because their cliquish behavior often is used to advance technical agendas at odds with architects and IT managers. These agendas are usually centered around the maintenance of the technical status quo, and thus their jobs. Here are two real examples from my experience:
- An EAI group at a client designed the client's enterprise messaging system as a black box centered around their tools and view of the world, which meant that a lot of custom point-to-point interfaces got built instead of a common enterprise messaging system that the client was expecting. Objections to their work by others were routinely dismissed or quashed, and the client spent millions on the implementation of an underperforming, fragile messaging system that needs to be replaced only 2 years after it went into production.
- I once sat in a meeting of a data modeling group attempting to come up with data modeling and administration standards for the rest of the IT organization. A common theme throughout the meeting was that the group were the only ones capable of doing data modeling correctly, primarily because they were the only ones who had (and knew how to use) the organization's data modeling tools and repository.
The looks of absolute horror on their faces when I showed them (via my laptop) that Visio did, in fact, easily interoperate file-wise with their toolsets was, in the vernacular of the Mastercard TV commercials, priceless. Wonder what they thought when some time later, their CTO mandated that application groups could do their own data modeling. Assuming, of course, that these folks are still employed there...
Again, nothing beats the good ol' low-tech whiteboard to develop and communicate ideas. For a quick and easy way to transmit whiteboard information to others that were not present (and no, its not copying it to paper longhand), click here.