The Roman Coliseum is more than architecture. The Roman Coliseum is the result of architecture. One of the most well-known images in the world, the magnificent ancient ruin that tourists photograph while vacationing in Italy is an instance of architecture, an implementation. If an architect had not created the descriptive representations of the Coliseum, they could not have built it, or even identified the labor pool and building materials.
In the technology world, the need for architecture is obvious. For example, when designing a case management system that social workers will use to keep track of benefit recipients, project executives must consider countless factors about the future users of the system and the program that it supports. With hardware, platforms, programs, data, processes and technical requirements, among other things, the amount of decisions that need to be made is staggering. For a large, complex project, planning can take years, cost millions of dollars and will ultimately make the difference between success and failure.
Enterprise Architecture takes this notion of planning an exponential step further, looking at the business requirements across numerous programs and large organizations, such as an entire department or state government, to consider ways to leverage and associate technology assets for the greater good. More commonality throughout an infrastructure has enormous benefits, such as cost effectiveness, new information and analytics, better workforce training and so on.
If you have ever worked in government, you will know that one major challenge is how to impose a new structure on people who are working in programs, not necessarily looking for a better way to do their jobs or to help the greater good. And, success is dependent upon their adoption of the new way of doing business. On the one hand, you need a higher rule, a dictator of sorts, to say “thou shall do it this way,” while at the same time maintaining enough democracy to empower those on the front lines so they are part of the solution, and not rebel.
Enterprise Architecture is a discipline aimed at this challenge. Attempting to organize volumes of specifications and methodologies, we spend our time talking about logic, frameworks, reference models and governance as way to strike a balance as we toil to build something larger than the sum of its individual parts. Enterprise Architecture includes matching people, programs and technology solutions with a grand plan to fit all of the intricate pieces together.
While the Coliseum may have been built in less benevolent times, I am certain that it required complex planning and design on many levels. It started under Roman Emperor Vespasian and was completed under his son Emperor Titus. Generations of stone cutters, skilled craftsmen, tool makers, laborers, organizers, and the like, were all motivated by the same vision of creating a place where gladiators would fight and entertain the masses. Roman economies came and went during its construction. Perhaps local politicians garnered power at the promise of making Rome a better place. Now, it is a symbol of an advanced, highly civilized society that never ceases to impress tourists and historians. When it comes to large-scale technology projects, history and architecture offer us a lesson.