The Misguided Architecture of a Bridge
According to Wikipedia, the 1940 Tacoma Narrows Bridge was the first incarnation of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge that spanned the Tacoma Narrows strait of Puget Sound. It opened to traffic on July 1, 1940, and dramatically collapsed into Puget Sound on November 7 of the same year. From the time the deck was built, it began to move vertically in windy conditions, which led to construction workers giving the bridge the nickname Galloping Gertie. Several measures aimed at stopping the motion were ineffective, and the bridge's main span finally collapsed under 40-mile-per-hour wind conditions the morning of November 7, 1940.
Next Generation Bridge-Oriented Architecture
Galloping Gertie’s collapse had a lasting effect on science and engineering. Next generation bridge architecture began to focus on mathematical modeling of the bridge as a series of masses connected by springs, dampers and other foundational elements. Skilled practitioners defined reference architectures for different bridge types (e.g., arch, suspension, etc…) which helped to accelerate successful bridge development. These models and architectures where used in a variety of integrated, analytical modes. First, a designer could evaluate different bridge materials for their individual performance (e.g., spring coefficient, moment of inertia, cost per lb.., etc…) characteristics using a custom built model, reference architecture or some hybrid model. Subsequently, the designer would evaluate the elements as a system. The “system’s” performance would not only be compared with the intentions (e.g., cost, location, etc…) of the bridge’s owner, but also the static and dynamic response of the bridge to external forces or “shocks” to the structure.
Next Generation Business-Oriented Architecture
Similar to architecting a bridge, a business can be modeled and then architected as a series of fundamental elements (e.g., people, processes, property, plant, equipment, etc…). To avoid business collapse or, better yet, create competitive advantage, executive management needs to understand the architecture of its business. They need to continuously evaluate the external business forces or “shocks” that might affect its integrity and evaluate what new elements should be incorporated into the business’ design. For example, if a new business technology surfaces, how should the business use it, if at all? Or, if a competitor partners with a critical supplier in a new market, should the business follow suit? Thus, similar to the descriptive representations (architecture) of a bridge (e.g., blueprints, bill of materials, etc…), business leaders need an equivalent set of illustrative artifacts. And, similar to the benefits of structural architecture, business model design and architectural analysis offers a compelling value proposition: alignment, integration and the capability to transform.
Alignment refers to the condition in which each fundamental element of a business is configured in such a way as to satisfy the business intentions of executive management. Effective alignment implies that management’s business objectives are fulfilled.
Integration implies that the web of relationships between fundamental business elements is arranged in such a manner as to satisfy the business intentions of executive management. Effective integration intimates that these business elements seamlessly interoperate. It’s generally better when these elements are normalized, standardized and shared (or reused) where relevant.
Transformation suggests that the business has the aptitude to change. Whether to improve product time to market metrics, realize greater cost efficiencies in its operations or enhance some other aspect of its competitive position, a successful business needs to be capable of adapting quickly. This transformation can happen by trial-and-error or can be approached with a sense of purpose. If the latter approach is preferred, then an architectural representation of the current business provides a transformation baseline. These business descriptions also help to communicate the intended future state, the scope of transformation or to manage the change. Ultimately, a key condition for effective transformation is how well business executives understand their business’ design in the context of its competitive environment and related shocks. Thus, they need to understand and practice Business-Oriented Architecture.
@RayBordogna opines on Enterprise Architecture concepts.