Enterprise Architecture as Extreme Sport

Ray Lane has a post at Always-On called Are Web Services Really the Answer? He compares the current state of Web services with finding your way to Oakland:

The enterprise is very lost. It's as if you came to the Bay Area for the first time and wanted to get to Oakland. You're there at the airport and you stop to ask directions of ten different people, and they are all experts only on their own little locale. So they can tell you how to get anywhere in Atherton or Woodside, but all they know about Oakland is that it's somewhere to the east. What are you supposed to do with that?

Rays point is that what CIOs need is an answer to some very high level problems: how to make structural IT changes and save money and how to create flexibility to respond to changing business needs. Instead what they get is acronyms and partial solutions.

I believe that service oriented architectures and their implementation in Web services are a major step forward. Ray is right: there's still a lot of road left to travel before Web services are mature.

Still I have one major beef with what Ray says. Ray acts like its the IT industry's problem to solve and I don't believe that. I think it is each CIO's problem to solve. Web services provide a good tool, but they won't provide a complete solution or flexibility without an enterprise architecture. The roadmap that Ray's looking for, telling him how to get to Oakland, has to be created internally using the bits of local knowledge picked up from the natives.

You can't outsource this. The process of creating the roadmap is more important than the document itself. The countless meetings, the email flamewars, the hurt feelings, the coming together, the compromise are all part of what makes the enterprise architecture worthwhile when all is said and done. People like me can help you and advise you, but ultimately, this is the CIO's job. Its what makes being a CIO an extreme sport.