IT Architecture, Complex Systems, and Gardening

Daniel Isenberg's HBR Blog post, Everything You Know About Silicon Valley Might Be Wrong, raises interesting questions about whether it is possible to effectively recreate a complex system that evolved without a central plan. I couldn't help but wonder if the same idea applies to the realm of IT architecture.

Isenberg says:

So many people refer to the Silicon Valley model, but there is no Silicon Valley model any more than there is a Yosemite Park model. I have referred to this as the "striping the Zebra" fallacy: zebras are beautiful and they exist in nature, but they need to be left to breed. You cannot take a white jackass and paint it with black stripes to "create" a zebra.

Isenberg's article brings to mind an observation from Bex Huff, an Oracle ACE Director and the head honcho at BezzoTech. Bex, who has a master’s degree in civil engineering, challenged the commonly used analogy that equates IT architecture with building architecture. "Gardening is a more accurate analogy," Bex said, "or maybe Gene Splicing."

I think Bex is on to something. Maybe the bad rap IT architecture and IT architects get in some circles is the result of use of the term "architecture" to describe something that has little connection to the process of designing physical structures. And while the term "architecture" is deeply entrenched in the IT lexicon, maybe another term would better serve the process -- and solve some of the PR problems associated with architecture and architects. 

What would you call it?

(At this point I can't help thinking of a scene in the Beatles movie A Hard Day's Night.  A reporter asks George Harrison, "What do you call that haircut?"

"Arthur," says George.)


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