Sunday, October 28, 2012

Embrace Emergent Complexity or Hail the Hairball Architecture

In the last days a great blog post of Gerben Wierda was brought via various channels to my attention which contains a very good video about Enterprise (IT) Architecture:

I do not want to add much to the tribal war between Enterprise Architecture and Enterprise IT Architecture here, because I believe knowing that you are an Enterprise Architect allows you to be one, no matter of the organizational setup, but what I like to look at is the beauty of the Hairball Architecture.

The Hairball Architecture is the consequence of many small and unrelated decisions and actions, or in the terminology of the EPIC SCAN Hairball Architecture is a reflection of emergent complexity. The video touches this topic in a nice way promoting the idea of Enterprise (IT) Architecture as a complexity reduction approach. I believe that this is a valid utilization of Enterprise Architecture, but it does not utilize the beauty of the Hairball Architecture. Instead it prevents emergent complexity by connecting a decision to the greater context.

A standard approach is to utilize standards as much as possible and by that shifting the complexity problem more towards the linear solvable space.  Even though there is a lot of beauty in solving problems that way it is quite often short jumping and it does for sure not use the beauty of the Hairball Architecture, but it does use the beauty of standards, best (or good) practices and by that easy access to skilled (at least in that context) people.

As I have pointed out in GLUE Disease I am looking for broken flows of information in the GLUE Space and try to fix them. A Hairball Architecture based on Emergent Complexity is typical a signal that the various decisions have not been brought into greater context (higher deck). Therefore the answer to utilize Enterprise IT Architecture, standards and best practices is a valid one. This is usually achieved by comparing As-Is Hairball Architecture with To-Be Best Practice Architecture and by creating the needed migration projects from As-Is to To-Be. To repeat the message again, this is not utilizing the beauty of the Hairball Architecture, but is at least fixing the circulatory system:


Another more interesting answer is true utilization of the emergent complexity by allowing the emergent complexity in the Hairball Architecture to conflict in a structured way. The various ideas implemented in the solutions will most likely collide and by that creating new ideas which did not exist before the conflict and the attempt to find answers. I compare this also with an abiogenesis. There is a pretty good chance to find true innovation in Hairball Architecture and Emergent Complexity but it is a very hard job to find the jewels in all the complexity. And to my knowledge till now it requires an artist approach to Enterprise Architecture more than any other skill set.

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