Exploring ‘People’ as the key element in enterprise architecture implementation: A Critical Realist Perspective

Edi Triono Nuryatno   

TOGAF (2009) describes the purpose of Enterprise Architecture (EA) is to optimise enterprisewide systems – the often-fragmented legacy of data processes (both manual and automated) – into an integrated environment that is responsive to change and supports the delivery of the business strategy (The Open Group Architecture Framework [TOGAF], 2009). However, for a number of reasons organisations still have difficulties establishing an effective EA (Raadt & Vliet, 2008; Gartner, 2009; and Janssen & Klievink, 2012, among others) and various reports suggest up to two thirds of implementations do not fulfil expectations (Roeleven, 2010). Being organisation wide with a strong governance element EA has significant social implications and social dependence, yet many implementations wrongly treat EA as solely a technical program. This thesis argues that the lack of focus on the ‘people’ element of EA could be the reason why many organisations still struggle with EA implementation. Recognising the importance of people in EA implementation requires acceptance of implementation as a social program, heavily influenced by the structural and cultural systems surrounding the architecture. In order to address the need for greater recognition of the role of people and the social aspects of EA implementation, this thesis adopts critical realism (CR) and its most recognised methodology, the morphogenetic approach (MA). Realism emphasises ontology and strongly argues that ontology, methodology and epistemology are closely linked – as Fleetwood (2005, p. 197) suggests, ontology matters: “The way we think the world is (ontology) influences: what we think can be known about it (epistemology); how we think it can be investigated (methodology and research techniques); the kinds of theories we think can be constructed about it; and the political and policy stances we are prepared to take”. In order to examine the social implications of technology implementation it makes sense to adopt a wellrecognized social theory like critical realism. This social realist approach proposes an analytical separation between structure, culture and agency (people) in order to examine their interactions over time. The MA suggests three important cycles – structural conditioning, social interaction and structural elaboration that provide a platform for examining possible change. Archer also importantly suggests that the emergent properties of collectivities and individuals differ. Such a model has clear value for examining the “people” acceptance of the new impositions and opportunities provided by the EA implementation. It acknowledges the sociocultural consequences of interactions between the structure and the culture to provide particular situational logics that direct, but do not determine the actions of people. The MA emphasises strongly the role of time in situation examination suggesting that structure and culture predate subsequent actions by involved agents. The thesis describes particular situational logics or mechanisms emanating from the interaction between structural and cultural systems that encourage particular behaviours in response to the EA program. These actions are then further examined in the sequence of MA cycles. Since mechanisms are only effective if people adopt them or not, another important element in this study is the part played by “reflexivity”. Reflexivity highlights the linkage between people concerns, projects and practices as people act in order to promote their concerns, and form projects to advance or to protect what they care about most. Reflexivity is an important mechanism for explaining how people’s ultimate concerns impact on their approach to the impositions of EA. An Australian university implementing EA (termed UX for anonymity) has been used as a case study in this research – this fortuitous timing allowed a careful and detailed examination of implementation over a 3-year period from initial rollout to ultimate acceptance. The study describes the challenging environment of university implementation where “academic freedom” is paramount and individual and group autonomies are threatened by EA – the study presents the important mechanisms and situational logics that direct people’s actions within the complex social context of a university. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were used as the primary method of data collection across UX stakeholders. A range of interviews were held throughout the study period with the university IT Governance Committee, the University Architecture Board, the CIO, and the Enterprise Business Group, as well as individual end-users such as teaching staff, researchers, students, and administrative staff of the faculties, schools and service centres. The MA provided a basic structure for unravelling the social complexity and helped guide the interview questions to identify the generative mechanisms hidden in the real domain, and to highlight the conditions that encourage individual and collective acceptance of EA practices. The reflexivity indicator developed by Archer –ICONI– is used throughout to explain how personal projects are formed and how they mediate the exercise of structural/cultural constraints and enablement within EA implementation. Passive participation in regular EA implementation meetings at UX was also important and useful to unearth possible perceived causal possibilities emanating from within the program itself and evident within the social context of implementation. Underpinned by a critical realist perspective, the thesis demonstrates that the MA is a powerful analytical tool to uncover the hidden mechanisms (the situational logics of structures and cultures) and social responses that enable success of EA implementation. The research examines the particular situational logics evident within the University under study and how these provide opportunities and constraints to the acceptance of EA over time. Equally important was reflexivity theory in attaining knowledge and understanding about what it is about people’s internal relations that makes EA implementation succeed. This thesis offers organisations a means to focus on the deeper issues of EA implementation programs by understanding the social complexity surrounding the architecture. The recognition of people as a key element in EA implementation provides a useful explanation of how the key stakeholders (and their power, influence and interests) may constrain and enable EA implementation. By including reflexivity as an important mechanism, organisations will be in a better position to understand the role of people and their interactions with preexisting structures and cultures operating over different time periods – reflexivity suggesting that “people” always have the possibility to do otherwise than expected, largely dependent on their personal history and their current personal projects and ultimate concerns.

Published in 2017

Publisher: Edith Cowan University PhD Thesis

Open Access link

Date added: 08/13/2017

Enterprise Architecture   

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