In the lower Bay Area of sunny California, on the border between San Jose and Cupertino off I-280 there stands an enormous mansion known as the Winchester House. It was built around the turn of the century by Sarah Winchester, who inherited a large fortune from her husband's rifle company.
As she got on in age, Mrs. Winchester became increasingly eccentric. It seems that she was haunted by the ghosts of the unfortunate people killed by rifles made by her husband. Two full-time spiritual advisors were employed on her staff who told her that she would continue to live as long as she continued to build.
Thus construction on this mansion continued 24 hours a day, seven days a week, month after month, year after year – for 38 years! A new wing here, a tower there; some rooms remodeled more than a dozen times. Workshops, supplies – everything needed for building – were on site. Vast sums of money (for those times) were spent on the house.
Tours were given through the Winchester House. The grounds were beautiful and the custom made stained glass, porcelain fixtures, and woodwork are remarkable. However, the high lights of the tour are such odd features as stairways that rise into ceilings, doors and windows blocked by walls, more passage ways and halls than rooms, a three-story chimney that falls short of the roof, and many rooms serving the same purpose.
The information portfolio of most companies and organizations resembles Winchester House in many ways. Construction of the system goes on continuously. A new report here, an input screen there, some system enhanced more than a dozen times. Virtually everything needed for building systems is on site. Vast budgets are allocated to the I.S. organization. The collection of systems has such odd features as reports that are not used, more bridges and interfaces than there are systems, major projects that are not completed, data that is redundant, inconsistent, inaccessible, in compatible formats, and many systems serving the same purpose.
Another comparison can be made of the Winchester House and the system portfolio. There is no overall set of blue prints that show what Mrs. Winchester wanted her house to be. Similarly, most systems organizations have no overall blueprints for the data, system and technology needed to support the business. The only way to break out of the mode of continuous custom building is to create enterprise-wide architectures and plans for implementing them. (Spewak and Hill 1992)
Advantage considers "Architecture" to be a business management tool that includes an Enterprise Ontology, Enterprise Engineering including Enterprise, Business, Solution and Technical architecture and all the supporting artefacts. These, together with the practice of the architects, constitute an organization's architecture program.
Advantage considers all architecture programs to exist on a continuum of purpose from Chaos to the provision of a Foundation for Competitive Advantage. In the figure below, the continuum has been dissected using the concept of commonly known architectural states.
(Hope & Chew (2015) derived from Ross et al. (2006) and others)
Research suggests that programs must either evolve along this continuum or perish as do approximately 40% of all programs every three years (Sessions, Rodger 2008, "Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises") a cycle that anecdotally appears to be shortening.
Find out how your program is travelling using Advantage's simple, research derived and tested Architecture Health Check.