Friday, February 1, 2013

drEAmtime - Capability Cemetery

Thanks to a great post from Ivo Velitchkov which unplugged some thinking of mine I was able to put some words around a couple of ideas and approaches I use. One post about Communication rather than creating an aligned (meaningless) language and a second post about truly Bridging the Silos instead of creating a new Enterprise Architecture silo. 

So here another quote from Ivo:
EA is often in the position to attract some serious budgets for reasons we’ll see in another dream, and this way the new island becomes a safe territory for people that have either failed or lost interest in the pure IT. This as a result further decreases the credibility of EA which slowly, in some organisations, gets the image of a place for people that are not good enough for IT and prefer to hide under EA labels where things are vague enough and much more difficult to measure. The lost credibility either undermines the work of the really good EA practitioners or pushes them out of the organisation or both.
 This immediately reminded me of an Enterprise Modelling Anti Pattern from Scott Ambler the so called Enterprise Parking Lot. Here a quote from Scott:
Your enterprise modelling group is composed of a lot of very smart people who don't fit in well anywhere else within IT but you don't want to lose their knowledge.

I personally have often observed a combination of both and therefore I phrase it the Capability Cemetery. So how to fix or handle this? First of all I am typically looking at each individuals capability. It is fairly seldom the case that there is people who try to avoid working under all circumstances, even thought that happens now and then. In most cases there is a deficit or GLUE Disease somewhere, a conflict between the organization setup (be it structural, process, project or any other organization) and the way the individual person is willing to operate. Typically, via investing in the interesting to reveal the relevant, it is possible to dig out the real root cause of the problem. Knowing the root cause then allows to optimize the information flow through the circulatory GLUE Cube.

Showing the people in the Capability Cemetery a clear path how they can utilize their knowledge and bring the highest possible value to the success of the company typically creates a buy-in situation of the members in the Capability Cemetery, especially if the value becomes visible and is recognized by the relevant people (which might be decision makers). Moving that overall Capability Cemetery now step-by-step into a well respected (Enterprise) Architecture Community will generate also organizational buy-in on the go towards a situation where no-one will ever question the value of the Enterprise Architecture. Communication is (once more) the absolute key element for success here.

As always, I need your input to improve and I do love knowledge exchange, so please forward your comments and thoughts.


  1. Hi Kai,

    I think it is an interesting blog post and I think that you have done some interesting thinking. I am, however slightly confused. Why did you name it a capability cemetery? Usually people or animals that go to the cemetery are dead (or so I really hope) and I assume that dead things and dead capabilities can be brought back to life (or so I really hope).

    From a Dynamic Enterprise Architecture point of view you would have to challenge the various business units on what would trigger situations where defensive development would take place and as the chief architect should try to sell the products the Enterprise Architecture program offers them.

    Alternatively the chief architect would have to challenge the decision makers in the business units with the concept of what could be done in order to enable offensive development and that would usually need a customer oriented approach to enterprise architecture e.g. the one Chris Potts offers in his book “Recreation”.

    Kind regards,


    1. Hi Peter,
      I named it cemetery because of the collision of ideas between Ivos post and Scotts thinking. If the skills are not utilized they are indeed buried. My approach quite often brings them back to life (assuming that this is desired).

      I agree absolutely to your Dynamic EA approach, selling to the various business units is the push element, while helping the Architects in the Cemetery is more the pull part of the whole game.

      And I also agree to your second conclusion. The problem in the cemetery though lies quite often in the acceptance of the members of those graveyards. Therefore they must be brought back to life. Problematic is, if there is strong force who do not want them back to life, but in most cases it is indeed an "I do not want to loose that skill set, so I place it here" approach.

    2. Hi Kai,

      That is an interesting idea though I still feel it would be better to name it something differently, e.g. the capability warehouse? We store it here until “we” need it some day?

      Kind regards,


    3. Yes, that is Scott Amblers approach (Parking Lot). I combined the parking lot with Ivos idea, therefore Cemetery. And actually, that is what I have seen fairly often. Isolated people, not being part of the information flow, frustration, desire to dismiss sometimes. Overall an unhealthy if not deadly situation. My personal experience is that my people driven EA approach bring most of those people back into an operational mode, where their skill set is utilized. So maybe a "Return from the Cemetery" would have been a better blog post title. :)