Circle Opinion

Invention or Innovation; Evolution or Revolution?

Dave Stewart

Our choice of language is critical in achieving effective communication, particularly in architecture-driven insight modelling. Terms like Enterprise, Business, and Solutions Architecture, and tools such as frameworks, viewpoints, models, elements, and relationships can be loaded. To some, these terms mean something specific; to others, they describe loosely understood aspects of a modelling ecosystem. 

When engaging with any enterprise in the context of architecture-driven insight modelling, it’s important to learn and use the business dialect. Learning to speak their language develops an understanding of how they think and what they want from architecture, and how to apply the modelling discipline to deliver it. 

In some instances, the rigid application of a particular modelling style, framework, notation, or language without considering why it is done that way can quickly distract from the main effort. 

Four years ago, I was part of the conception of a model to help an Enterprise understand an aspect of their world that had proven too difficult until then. This was mostly because: 

  • The data supporting the insight was dispersed across various loosely connected domains. 
  • Aspects of the data were subject to change. 
  • By the time enough information was gathered to derive insight, the data was already outdated. 

This marked the beginning of a rich and varied modelling journey, first to understand the logical representation of the Enterprise landscape in a manner that would deliver timely insights. ‘Keep it simple, start small’ was the mantra at this stage. Building a new model wasn’t an invention, as the tooling, modelling discipline, and enterprise data already existed, albeit dispersed. 

The model evolved over time, as most models do; as our thinking and understanding evolved, so did the model. Initially, changes were volatile, but they gradually stabilised as our thinking became more refined, and the model became more mature and stable. 

The greatest thing on this journey was the need to innovate. We had seen many patterns over the years, ways of describing enterprise landscapes in certain styles, or using our technology in specific ways. This model required a bespoke approach to meet an unprecedented demand for insight, which called for innovation to deliver. 

Each twist and turn in the model’s evolution demanded an innovative approach to achieve the desired outcome. I learned to describe modelling as more of an art than a science. Particularly challenging problems would occupy my mind for days, even weeks. My creative juices flowed best during the early hours, prime time for making progress. A home office setup was crucial, especially when a modeller wakes in the middle of the night with a eureka moment that must be realised quickly, or risk dissolving into a hazy dream by morning. 

Evolution is natural, invention isn’t always necessary, revolution can be a game changer, but in all of these, innovation is king. 

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Dave Stewart