Enterprise Architecture: First stop, Building Architecture, then on to a Science!

The Building Architecture industry is frustrated with IT Architecture. There is so much interest among IT Architecture forums to mature to the level of Building Architecture that many in the world are very confused. Building Architects looking for resources on the internet for Building Architecture resources now have to sift through tons of IT Architecture and Enterprise Architecture forums and content to find what they are looking for. Building Architects looking for an Architect job have to filter out all the IT job postings and politely explain to recruiters that they are not IT Architects and to stop calling! I’ve actually been asked by folks to help change the Architect role title and description away from Building Architecture via my blog and speaking engagements so as to differentiate it from Building Architecture to help the world stop mixing the two.

I was chatting to my wife today (btw, my wife is a Registered Architect) about the comparison between Building Architecture and Enterprise Architecture. In these discussions, she often channels the frustration from the Building Architect community towards me, which makes for some lively dialog over a glass of Riesling on the back porch on a Sunday afternoon. Even with my sparse knowledge of Building Architecture, I agree with my wife that the comparison between Building Architecture and IT Architecture is a little naive. However, after today’s chat we feel it’s inevitable, and expanding. Today, “Architecture” is defined as Building Architecture. We observe, however, that building architecture is at a point of maturity where it is being abstracted to a supertype for other Architect domains to be formed within. In a sense, Building Architecture is being promoted to Architecture for its success.

An analogy is science. Science is essentially a domain supertype abstracted to simply mean ‘the scientific method’ and has numerous Sciences (eg chemistry, botany, psychology) grouped by scientific categories (eg physical science, social science) to further distinguish them. By simply prefixing Science with a qualifier representative of the subtype, specializations are immediately understood by inheriting the properties of the supertype science.

Anyway, we’re noticing that other domains are now referencing Building Architecture concepts to describe their domain, simultaneously abstracting Building Architecture to Architecture defined as ‘the study of structures’ and creating a new sub-domain/subtype of Architecture within. IT Architecture and Enterprise Architecture are examples of this evolution and I’m noticing other domains do this too; do a search on Human Resource Architects or Financial Architects and you’ll notice other non-IT related domains innovating their domain by attempting to apply ‘building architecture’ concepts to them.

Interestingly, we Enterprise Architects often think that aligning to Building Architecture is the most precise or mature state of clarity to describe the Enterprise Architecture domain. Actually, it’s only a milestone and the next point of maturity is becoming a science. To be at the level of maturity science is at, practitioners and theorists must agree that the entire domain could be explained, predicted and calculated based on a set of formulas founded on the scientific method.

Enterprise Architecture strives to be like Building Architecture, Building Architecture strives to be a science

My wife explained to me where Building Architecture is currently at in terms of its readiness to claim a new science “Building Science” subtype. They are very close and a few thought leaders are claiming they are already there. The concept of Building Science is already an accepted term amongst Building Architects but is generally scoped to the part of Building Architecture related to sustaining the building and not the part about designing a building within its environment.

Can you imagine one day where Building Architects will pull out their scientific calculator, set it to Building Architecture, then calculate the perfect building based on questions like; “what sort of reaction do you wish the building to have on casual observers?“, “what location are we using?”, “how many occupants?”, “what’s the expected tenant revenue?”

Calculate the Perfect Enterprise

If the above theory is right, then we could conceivably do the same for Enterprise Architecture. That is, imagine one day where an Enterprise Architect pulls out their scientific calculator, sets it to ‘Enterprise Architecture’, then calculates the perfect enterprise by entering in answers from questions like “What’s the market position of the product lines?”, “What are the competitive advantages?”, “What are the business processes and their peak thresholds?”, “What are the measurable business objectives?”, “What is the as-is IT Architecture?” Press ‘Enter’ and voila, the perfect enterprise!

I know, this post is a little wacky and farfetched. I just thought it was an interesting conversation to share. Thanks for listening. Smile