Book Review: RecrEAtion by Chris Potts

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RecrEAtion: Realizing the Extraordinary Contribution of Your Enterprise Architects

Chris Potts, Technics Publications, New Jersey, 2010, 226pp


This is a very different book about enterprise architecture. You can see that immediately from the cover; it depicts something that looks like an explosion, and the title is rendered in an odd mix of upper and lower-case characters, with the „ea‟ in the middle in a larger font than the rest of the title. The title itself is ambiguous, as it might mean recreation in the sense of playful diversion, or recreation in the sense of creating again. If you get what this book is saying, you‟ll see that both meanings apply.

The book is apparently a sequel of sorts to an earlier book titled “fruITion”, but not having read that precursor, I can assure you that this volume stands quite successfully on its own. It‟s a quick, easy read, but if you‟re not already „on its wavelength‟ you may mistakenly dismiss it as irrelevant to enterprise architecture as you know it.

At face value, this is the self-narrated story of one Simon Rathbone, newly hired as the VP of Enterprise Architecture for an unnamed company in an unnamed business, headquartered in New York City, but with facilities all over the world. In his first few weeks with his new employer, Simon travels extensively, and successive chapters of the book describe his encounters with his colleagues in a succession of cities. This story serves as a sort of parable or allegory, though more explicit and rather less momentous than, say, The Pilgrim‟s Progress. In case you might not get the message, each chapter ends with a set of concise „Observations‟, and it is these observations that are the real substance of the book.

That the business of Simon‟s new employer is left unspecified says something telling about both Chris Potts‟s concept of enterprise architecture and the way he thinks it is best shared with the reader. I happen to agree with much of that concept of enterprise architecture, but if I didn‟t, I‟m not sure that the way Potts presents it would change my mind. More than just the nature of the unnamed company‟s business is left unsaid; almost all of Simon‟s insights are out-of-the-blue „ah hahs!‟ or revealed truth gleaned from a colleague‟s remark. Why these things ought to or must be the case is left to the reader to figure out. The model that Simon develops, EEAA (Establish, Explore, Activate, Apply), with each of the four steps having four primary focuses, struck me as a bit arbitrary and perhaps contrived. I also thought the language got a little too wooly in places; e.g., when Simon concludes that enterprise architecture should be: “centered on the structure and space we give people for their enterprise to flourish”; I think I know what he means, but it would have been helpful to get some confirmation. This is a book, not a conversation, and I can‟t reply to Simon: “so, what you‟re saying is …”.

I don‟t want these quibbles to detract from the fact that this book articulates what an increasing number of enterprise architects believe to be a properly businesscentric, rather than IT-centric, concept of enterprise architecture. The collection of „Observations‟ that express this concept and some of its consequences is itself worth the price of the book and the time it takes to read it. Highly recommended, with the reservation that if you‟re certain enterprise architecture is about IT, it may read like a lot of New Age blather.

Len Fehskens is the Vice President, Skills and Capabilities for The Open Group. He is responsible for The Open Group’s activities relating to the professionalization of the discipline of enterprise architecture.

Journal of Enterprise Architecture

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