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Thank you James McGovern for creating a post out of the comments left on your blog. Now I'm going to add a bit more meat to the bones.

The age old battle between Formalism (Creating a system of rules that can determine the outcome of any case, without reference to external norms) and Hermeneutics (interpretation and understanding of social events by analysing their meanings to the human participants and their culture) is played out everyday in businesses, board-room and bus-stops all over the world everyday probably since the beginning of time.

What does this mean? Well often the route cause of why many businesses aren't good is because of how the people who make decisions think and therefore how they solve problems.

It's been known for sometime that 'linear thinking', or thinking in a straight line is dangerous for a business as knee-jerk reactions fight the symptoms of a problem and not the cause.

People that can think laterally or logically are better for  business because they examine a problem from more sides than the obvious and poke around under the hood of a problem and get into the detail to discover the real reason.

So now we understand the type of people we like in business then why do we use process? Can you see the paradox?

Processes are usually built to follow a set path that someone else deemed that this is the way to do the job right so nothing is missed and in the right sequence. Everyone knows there place and role. Great?

It's a load of garbage! The nature of a good business is it's ability to adapt and take advantage, in other words a good business is one that can handle change ... and what are process really bad at? Changing themselves.

Someone who thinks just in terms of processes is a Formalist, so what about Hermeneutics? Well this type of thinking likes to make tools and templates and the freedom to pick the right thing for the right job but it's up to the individual to chose the right path.

So, I like Hermeneutics and I'm not a lover of Formalism, if you hadn't of guessed and I'm pretty much with mainstream thinking on this one but now this where I go off the tracks and straight off into Unconventionalville, I believe that a really good business need to balance both Formalism and Hermeneutics and learn where is the best time to use one or the other.

The great thing about Formalism is that it deals with repetitive stuff that really should be automated and/or abstracted building good 'Foundations of Execution'. Hermeneutics is about moving the business forward, spotting opportunity, refinement and applying building better and better Foundations of Execution. Formalism and Hermeneutics are very much like Yin and Yang.

So how does this help IT align with business? Easy, business and IT are one of the same thing, IT is a business unit. It's not a service as some would have us believe but a vehicle that helps business do business like a pipeline or a delivery truck.

It's pretty obvious then that if you are going to build a pipeline you ask someone that knows about them to join the meeting with you, same with a truck, you want to know what trucks are capable of these days. Same with IT, if you are going to change the way you do business better invite IT to your meetings.

IT is how modern business does business, IT will tell you whether your good idea is a flyer or that your wasting time, but if your IT department can't honestly tell you that you have a sick IT department that needs healing.

Posted on Monday, October 22, 2007 9:15 PM Main , Technical Architecture , Enterprise Architecture | Back to top

Comments on this post: Enterprise Architecture: Thoughts on IT & Business Alignment

# re: Thoughts on IT & Business Alignment
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Hi Dave,

This post is a great read, I've just subscribed to your site.

On the Formalism vs. Hermeneutics discussion - there is one area where I think that this is a real problem, and that is in the formalised methods for Enterprise Architecture.

My belief is that what is needed is a light-weight framework which has a rigorous methodology but is easy to apply, and which can be focussed as necessary at particular target areas of the business.

Most approaches (Zachmann, DoDAF, TOGAF etc.) are anything but lightweight, and so formalised that they actually stifle the lateral thinker to the point of boredom.

Being an Enterprise Architect, you might be interested in the article, 'Understanding Enterprise Architecture complexity", and the attached comments, on my blog .

When I posted "IT exists for one reason" on (and also on my blog) the first reaction I received was:

“I like the approach. IT is simple, but there are many participants in our industry who use IT complexity as a make work exercise. [you have] summed it up beautifully...simple to understand...simple to explain!”

Your phrase "helps business do business like a pipeline" caught my eye.

If you read "IT exists for one reason" and "Alignment? We need the big picture" on my blog I think you may see why.

By applying these concepts, the complexity of the Business and IT relationship can be simplified and easily communicated, letting the Hermeneutists within IT understand how they support the ambitions of the business.

Left by Paul Wallis on Nov 14, 2007 6:18 PM

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