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Sam Lowe's blog on Enterprise IT

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Tending to the Enterprise Garden ...?

You may have seen some of the recent questioning of the analogy of the construction industry that's often been used in the past to describe various tasks in IT.

Now of course software development is different from the wider world of Enterprise IT (Enterprise Architecture is not Software Architecture), and this is just as well as there has been some proposition is some communities that software development is like gardening. This may work as an internal 'supply-side' observation but isn't the most confidence-inspiring observation for some of Enterprise IT's customers. It implies all the wrong kind of aspects and characteristics for them, whilst the construction analogy is still quite useful.

The truth for Enterprise IT departments is that they are service providers to 'the business' of an organisation, that need to run like businesses themselves. Even if it doesn't work for software development necessarily, both the industrialisation overtones of the construction analogy, and the macro/micro trade-off analysis implications of the city-planning analogy are both useful for enterprise IT. They are both healthy aspects of maturation of a sometimes adolescent industry.

Of course it's not perfect, no analogy ever is, but then this is precisely because trying to describe the inherently virtual world of IT using terms that describe an inherently physical world is always going to be a partial success at most. In the real world everyone has a feel for the laws of physics and what is roughly possible and what is not, and how big a task it is. One of the challenges with the virtual world is that people don't have the same intuitive feel for it, so describing processes and roles that help to professionally derive this in terms people can understand is more important than it might at first appear, as long as it's not over-applied beyond where it's useful.

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