If I was to describe the book, Controlling the Chaos: A Functional Framework for Enterprise Architecture and Governance, in one word, it would be “content-rich” (really two words, but it is hyphenated J).
Robert Fox includes so many takeaways and messages from his 30 years’ experience in this book that I had found myself sometimes reading a chapter multiple times.
The purpose of the book is to help you create a big-picture, holistic perspective (“framework”) of architecture. There are only six chapters in the book. The first chapter is on architectural history that covers these frameworks: Zachman, National Institute of Technology (NIST), Enterprise Architecture Planning (EAP), The Open Group Architectural Framework (TOGAF), Control Objectives for Information Technology (COBIT), and Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL).
The second chapter introduces the Enterprise Architecture and Governance (EAG), and the next four chapters each cover the business, information, application, and technology domains. The information chapter is the largest, covering everything from information lifecycle functions (acquiring data through archiving data) to information trends such as data monetization.
The book covers the reasons why so many architecture and governance experiences fail (spoiler alert: poor processes), and provides a practical approach to building a governance program.
In addition to all of the valuable content in the book, I also like the way Robert strongly emphasizes practice over theory throughout the chapters. He explains why something is the way it is, and then backs it up with many examples. Throughout the book there are sub-sections that start off with “Two kinds of people.” In these sections, he raises a challenge that was faced on an actual project he worked on, and then discusses how it is solved. I really like these sections, and I am excerpting one of my favorites:
Two Kinds of People –
Knowledge Sharers Vs. Knowledge Hoarders
There are two kinds of people in this world: those who think knowledge is more valuable when shared, and those who think knowledge is more valuable when withheld.
We’ve all seen people who are undisputed experts at what they do, yet still become a serious bottleneck in your organization because they can’t seem to pass their knowledge and experience on to others. They insist that it will be faster for them to do the task themselves than to take the time to teach someone else, especially when the less experienced person will inevitably make mistakes which the more experienced person will then have to spend even more time correcting.
Every architect started in another role. This is a good thing – you don’t want someone in an architect role who has no real-world experience and expertise. Architects should always be prepared to share their knowledge and experience. The primary responsibility of an architect is creating and communicating a shared vision. It’s a teaching position as much as anything else.
It’s quite common for a developer to do a great job applying their expertise, but be very poor at sharing it. In a developer position, it would certainly be better if your senior resources mentored others, but they can provide value to the company even if they have zero communication skills. But an architect that can’t mentor others isn’t an architect at all – just someone who wants the power and pay grade but isn’t willing or able to do the job.
Some people seem to have more difficulty letting go of control than others. In the end, it may come down to an issue of trust. Do you trust the people who are supposed to do that job to get it done without your help? They may struggle with it and cause you additional work for a while, but eventually they’ll catch on. This is better for everyone. Not only is there more bandwidth and backup for critical functions, but the day-to-day stuff can be handled by the people who are actually being paid to do that job, allowing the architect to focus on the tasks they are being paid to focus on.
For myself, I’m far too easily bored to keep all that knowledge close to the vest. If I don’t make it easy for someone else to do this job, then I’ll be stuck with it forever, and I’ll never get to do the exciting new stuff.