It’s time to move on from business/IT alignment to a more coherent enterprise. -John Gøtze

I found this quote from the recent EA Conference in Toronto rather interesting, and thought I should do a little research into it. Unfortunately, it is presented in the conference notes in a stream of ‘general comments’ and without context, which makes it difficult to interpret accurately. The source, John Gøtze, is the International President of the Association of Enterprise Architects, and he is highly credentialed and respected in the field.

It didn’t take long to discover two interesting points:
• Gøtze has a separate web-site and blog called Coherency Management
• Gøtze has just published and is actively promoting his new book called – you guessed it – Coherency Management.

[Just a little aside…look at the Winnipeg connection on the book website: “We will use the website not just to promote the book, but also to be a platform for continued dialogues about coherency management and for publishing further studies. We’re especially interested in relevant case studies, and have published one such: Neil Kemp’s interesting case study about Winnipeg Fleet Management.” ]

Fair enough – Gøtze is marketing a new product and trying to distinguish it from other ideas and products at a professional conference by introducing new terminology. One might question whether it’s totally appropriate for the President of a professional organization to do so at an international conference of that association. In those circumstances, it can be difficult to separate the personal agenda from the official role, but the truth is, it happens all the time. (Hmm…probably another future blog here on governance and role separation…).

It is well known – and broadly supported – that a key purpose and mandate of EA is to contribute to the alignment of business and IT. The intention of EA, as first developed by Zachman, was clearly to provide a framework for addressing the growing gap between business needs and direction, and the black box involvement that had become technology services. This revolutionary perspective called for IT to consider business services and programs as the guide to technology services and programs. Well intentioned, but perhaps because it started with the IT focus, EA has remained firmly fixed within our culture as an IT activity. Gøtze comments on this, stating that “the EA profession is mired in a technology paradigm that grossly undersells its capability to bring coherence to the entire business.” There’s that term again: ‘coherence’. So what does Gøtze mean by ‘coherence’ and how is he defining it? Is this something fundamentally new, or just a new buzz-word to throw into the EA/IT jargon to spice it up a little?

There’s a detailed definition on the Coherency Management website, but it seems that the coherency issue revolves around what we have traditionally referred to as Knowledge Management and Business Intelligence. Gøtze observes that business is currently in a period of ‘incoherency’ due to information overload: “This period of incoherency starts with the recognition that we simply have too much information to process. One might say that that the unintended plague of the information age is …information. Not information in and of itself, but rather, incoherent information.” In his definition ‘Coherency Management’ is intended to architect order and structure around the definition of, and use of, business information.

So how does this relate to business/IT alignment? I’m still not sure but we can take some guesses. Business/IT alignment is the recurring priority for business executives in multi-year surveys and is not going to go away. One element within the concept of alignment is information management, which is also a pressing business driver for change. EA can address a small area of IM, by developing and standardizing data/information architecture, but without the context of business architecture, technology architecture and application architecture, this will do little to address the KM/BI issues. Although I admire Gøtze for trying to come up with a new way to encapsulate the issues around enterprise information, I’m not sure that introducing new terminology is the way to do it, and I’m having a difficult time seeing how ‘coherency’ replaces ‘alignment’. Whether or not an organization practices ‘Coherency Management’, there will continue to be a need for Business/IT Alignment.

Note: Quotes from John Gøtze web site: