Can Enterprise Architects ever be “stratactical”?

I was introduced today to yet another new term – “stratactical”, in a rather good ComputerWorld article.

The definition is given as follows:

Stratactical is the word the enterprise architects at San Mateo, Calif.-based Con-way Inc. created to describe their work. “We use it all the time,” says Maja Tibbling, lead enterprise architect at the freight transportation and logistics company. “Our team takes into account both the strategic and the tactical.

I confess I found the idea quite attractive – to reinforce the importance of building IT systems and related business and IT processes and procedures that take into account strategic goals while at the same time satisfying immediate needs. Indeed, I have long been an advocate of ‘incremental strategies’ where long-term vision and goals are set, and then day-to-day activities and tactical projects are put in place that at least do not exclude the longer term picture, and hopefully go another step in the desired direction.

However, I am not sure I can extend this to the idea of having individual architects who are charged with being ‘stratactical’. This may sound like heresy, and I can imagine my good friends at IASA, the spiritual home of enterprise architects, having a fit over my assertion, but let me explain.

I absolutely think that architects can have the wherewithall to understand tactical and strategic issues. The question is whether it is practical to charge an architect with both duties. My own view is that the pressures brought to bear through tactical, often urgent, time-conscious, possibly localised projects is overpowering, and the danger is that no matter how well-meaning an architect might be, the need to design a solution fast is hard to withstand. Almost inevitably, short-term decisions will be taken that may actually go counter to the longer-term strategy.

Although confrontational, I prefer a split approach where there is a policing authority driven by architects charged with achieving the long-term benefits of the selected ‘grand design’ as well as other architects working to help tactical teams build solutions. Yes, it is irritating and time-consuming when the corporate architects raise an issue over some short-term solution, and indeed the agreed decision might be to ignore the long-term issues and go for the quick gain, but at least it will be a conscious decision achieved through some management-driven procedure. The alternative is to ask architects to make these sorts of calls in their own heads, with no ‘protection’ as can be afforded through the more formal approach – I think this is unfair on the poor architect.

So,my vote is for an architectural community that is ‘stratactical’, but a separate, management-backed body of architects charged with keeping the vision alive to balance others who are trying to address the demands of the tactical project and its drivers.


Posted in EA, enterprise architecture, Imported, Industry trends, SOA development.

One Comment

  1. Well put. You really captured the essence of what I also believe our greatest challenge and opportunity to be as architects. In the times of greatest change and most forceful pressures to move quickly arise the situations where skillful architects can add the most value by making tradeoff decisions that advance the company towards the long term goal without compromising the tactical objective. At the very least, like you said, locking into a harmful direction can be avoided.
    Thanks for your comments.

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