Less is More – a Lesson in Architecture

While listening to my colleague’s webinar, “Seeing clearly with enterprise a

Paula Ziehr Paula Ziehr

While listening to my colleague’s webinar, “Seeing clearly with enterprise architecture (EA)-based application portfolio management (APM),” the term “less is more” was running through my mind.

I looked up the original meaning and found that it was a favored motto of German-American architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886 – 1969). Familiarity with his name dawned on me when I further read that he is the architect of the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) in Berlin – not 15 minutes from where I am writing this article.

It is  one of my favorite buildings in Berlin with its clean structures, openness and transparency. And though it looks very geometrical and static, it is a building that constantly changes its outside appearance depending on the weather, time of day and viewpoint. I also know from personal experience that the inside is used for everything from art installations (inside its walls and on the roof), to choreographed car premiers inside the main hall – and their related Greenpeace protests on the grounds outside.

The parallels of the minimalist architecture movement and the goal of APM in the era of business digitalization struck me as apt. Aren’t we as enterprise architects seeking – as Mies did – “to establish a new architectural style that could represent modern times…?” Doesn’t the IT agility demanded for digitalization require “extreme clarity and simplicity… a minimal framework of structural order balanced against the implied freedom of unobstructed free-flowing open space?” Isn’t that what EA in the digital era strives to provide to digital business solution architects: clear structures and guidelines to build upon and an uncluttered space for information to move unhindered from system to system? Another tactic from van der Rohe: “…he enlisted every element and detail to serve multiple visual and functional purposes”. Aha! Re-use – an ambition of every enterprise architect.

And here is where we arrive back at our webinar for EA-based APM. Get rid of the redundant, the unnecessary, the unwanted. Keep only what is needed to keep operations running effectively and efficiently and what is of value to existing business and essential for business development. To do this you will need an APM approach that is based on an EA repository to ensure the breadth and depth of information necessary to assess applications and make good TIME (tolerate, invest, migrate, eliminate) decisions. It should be an approach that is informed by business capability maps to keep the business context and purpose clear. And it should incorporate the IT planning discipline to ensure execution. And such an approach will do this for you:

  • Improve application alignment to business strategy
  • Increase the agility and flexibility of the application portfolio in responding to business requirements
  • Reduce the running and project costs of the application portfolio
  • Reduce business risk exposure caused by threats related to applications

I could go on and on here about the benefits of EA-based APM but I won’t because less is, after all, more.