It’s Easy to Solve Problems on a Whiteboard
This post is about Markitecture – a combination of marketing and architecture for IT solutions. Whether it is on a whiteboard or a PowerPoint slide, markitecture is typically a one page informal illustration of a system’s structure and interactions. It shows the major components, their relationships and has a few carefully selected labels and text that describes the design philosophies embodied in it. While it is easy to create and there value in a markitecture, it doesn’t qualify as Architecture and it isn’t sufficient for solving the real underlying problems.
On the positive side, markitecture grabs attention, describes the design philosophy of a system, facilitates discussion and decisions, is easy to understand, and is a useful starting point for deeper analysis. A markitecture is an excellent vehicle for facilitating discussion by stakeholders during design, build, review, and throughout the sales process.
On the negative side is the fact that it is “informal” and therefore doesn’t connect to other critical elements such as projects, services, organizational responsibilities, and the like. Or it does so only at a conceptual level. It focuses on the major components which means it is also incomplete; the few well-chosen labels and text are not only incomplete, but also have no commonly agreed taxonomy. In short, a markitecture can’t be used to plan or build a system or solution architecture.
So what is the solution? As Amar Nadig suggested in his blog, it is possible to “Google Map” your enterprise. This enables the architect to maintain linkages between strategies, products, channels, brands, business functions, organizational units, operational systems, data stores, technologies, projects and the investment portfolio. And once you have the data linking all these components in a structured repository, you can use the computer to create a model – or visualization – of relevant aspects of the architecture.
If you think this is unrealistic to achieve, check out the Cisco case study which is an excellent example of the effective use of visualized architecture. Cisco has been a user of the BOST™ Toolkit for over 5 years and has industry awards and recognition for its strong architecture practice.
This doesn’t mean that architects should stop using creative whiteboard sketches or PowerPoint illustrations for key executive communications, but a good architecture must go much deeper than a nice picture.