Information is Beautiful – Enterprise Architecture Can Be Too

Enterprise Architecture gets defined as many different things – the Wikipedia definition takes up an entire slide. Jason Bloomberg, renowned architect/blogger remarks that nothing entertains an Enterprise Architect as much as a good old debate about what Enterprise Architecture is. For the sake of simplicity the important thing about Enterprise Architecture that compels me to write this blog, is that it involves visual models. Target State diagrams, Roadmaps, Customer Journeys, Logical Function models… all sorts of models that get produced, not exclusively, by Enterprise Architects.  Models are a representation of something about an organisation that enables people to describe what’s going on, what needs to change, or even where-there-be-dragons. Using models helps condense and simplify. After all a picture tells a thousand words.

As I visit clients I can’t help but notice however, how incredibly ugly most of the models are. Speed is important, but if the end result is an ugly mess – is the model actually fit for purpose? My mentor from my days at Gartner was convinced that “being right is only 10% of the problem”. This applies to so many architecture diagrams. They may be right, but who’s going to actually read them?

Everyone has their own style – and everyone is a critic, but it is clear when someone takes pride in the appearance of their work, and when they don’t.  It’s more than just style – studies have shown if something is in a format they recognise and is aesthetically pleasing, then people are more likely to agree with the messages within it. It increases ‘cognitive ease’ – the brain puts up less of a fight trying to disagree with it.

So I’m on a campaign. Get Enterprise architects out of Visio, out of PowerPoint, and onto the walls. Not very digital – but to get attention you might need to get in people’s faces – and there’s nothing like a big poster on the wall to get attention.

Information is beautiful is one of my favourite websites. Great for inspiration about different ways to show complex information. Advanced architects are using data analytics to diagnose action and make a case for change – imagine a heat-map of data quality across the enterprises logical data model. Now imagine it populated in real-time from operational systems? That would get some attention.

Making architecture beautiful takes time and practice and a lot of trial and error. For many it’s a new and foreign skill. So grab a new font from Da, pick a palette from Adobe Kuler, some icons from the noun project, build a billion-dollar-gram of departmental spending and blue-tack it to the wall when you’ve finished.


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2 Responses

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  1. Daniel
    Oct 16, 2016 - 02:10 AM

    Nice sharing to distribute your knowledge on this topic.


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