Enterprise Architecture is an emerging area of business activity that analyzes organizations from an information processing perspective to align its IT investments and usage with the business’ needs.
Enterprise Architects typically use one or more industry-developed best-practice frameworks, such as TOGAF or FEAF, that call for modeling as-built and target architectures using semantic modeling systems such as Archimate.
Archimate is typical in its use of a “Business Actor” element to represent a generic person, which is to say, to serve as an existentially instantiated variable for a person.
But people are actually also infrastructure, application and business elements. From the perspective of the infrastructure of a business, our bodies are no different than routers, switches, cables or computer workstations and peripherals. Our autonomic nervous system processes are no different from system software, and our habituated thought processes are no different than application software.
In fact, it is hard to avoid observing that the entire OSI Stack and similar layered models of IT engineering seem to originate from the same Helmholzian conception of human bodily and social functioning that underlay the development of the sibling fields of modern physiology, psychology and physics.
Why would that matter?
It matters because Hermann von Helmholz was responsible for the materialist turn in Euro-American science in the nineteenth century. He rejected Aristotle’s principle that final cause, the purpose and ultimate end of a thing, be the primary condition of its existence, towards which the other three conditions (material cause or what it’s made of, formal cause or how it’s structured, and efficient cause or what agency brought it into being) align themselves. Instead he placed material and formal cause at the center of being, reduced efficient cause to rule-driven change in form or structure, and dismissed final cause as not residing in things at all, but rather, only in the mind of the perceiver.
Resistance to this sort of materialist reductionism has never abated. In Enterprise Architecture, the mandate to align the material and formal causes of information processing tools and practices with the business needs that give rise to them, participates in that on-going resistance. But the resistance is weak and mostly yielding. The Helmholzian physiology that underlies modern allopathic medicine shunts off final cause to the fields of psychology and sociology. Similarly the Helmholzian physiology that underlies modern IT engineering shunts off final cause to the fields of Human Resources, Organizational Behavior, Management Science and Business Analysis. The result is that Enterprise Architecture treats all IT as if it were a Helmholzian human organism, yet at the same time refuses to treat human organisms as intermingled with IT.
The concepts of “digital business” and “the Internet of Things” strongly suggest that business needs are quickly spelling the end of this fence-sitting refusal to follow the IT field’s Helmholzian anthropomorphic architectural framework to its logical conclusions.
As human bodies individually cyborgize, the artificial organism of IT is colliding and merging with the very bodies upon which it was originally modeled. Each human body engaging with IT already comes to IT packaged with a physiological model ingrained into our culture by two centuries of Helmholzian biology and medicine, a model that mirrors the IT architectural framework that was originally modeled on it.
It may seem counter-productive to follow the logic of this reunion of original and copy by merging the original into the copy, but the alternative is to continue to do Enterprise Architecture in a bifurcated manner that directly contradicts the fundamental materialist principles upon which both IT and the science of human behavior are founded. If we are to make any sense at all of our human endeavors through Enterprise Architecture, we must incorporate human bodies into our modeling of IT, and we should have been doing so all along.
It’s not as if management science has been shy about treating humans as machine componentry. It just glosses over that practice by artificially siloing that activity from the treatment of machines as machine componentry.
By explicitly diagramming and documenting human bodies and their information processing activities in the same way we do our machines, we strip away all pretense that we have not been doing this all along. And we are finally able to confront the underlying materialism of modern science, engineering, medicine and, as we shall see, law, and critique it properly to develop a new and improved set of principles upon which to find a more ecologically balanced, yet no less human-purpose-driven, method of social living, including those aspects of social living we call “business” or “IT.”
Once we begin diagramming Enterprise Architecture without excluding human bodies (which, in materialist thinking, includes human minds) from the picture, we are able to see the limitations of both Helmholzian human physiology and the architecture of IT in general that is based on it.
To understand their limitations, we must first recognize their strengths. By including humans, our Enterprise Architecture diagrams become much simpler, sophisticated, elegant and whole. By unpacking the stick-figure “Business Actor” glyph into its physiological componentry, we are able to map specific aspects of each human resource’s functionality to specific non-human resources’ same. Each job classification becomes a device type, and each job description becomes a catalog of infrastructure services that those devices are used-by. The required skills and the mental procedures or habits (know-how) they represent, by which the job incumbent executes steps within defined business processes, become application components used-by application services that realize business functions, which are in turn used by business services.
And there is no longer any need to distinguish between “automated” and “manual” processes. They are all “automated” by a mix of human and non-human machinery, and have their fast and slow phases, the slow phases mapping usually, but not always, to steps processed by human bodily machinery. But human computers, which were the physical objects (almost all female) originally referred to by the term “computer,” actually perform a vast array of IT functions far, far faster than VLSI-based computers, and always have. In fact most of these they perform infinitely faster, because VLSI-based computers cannot do them at all.
It becomes far more clear in this properly blended model how to improve the efficiency and fidelity of the architecture and its functioning to the business’ purposes. But that very clarity also realizes the framework’s limitations.
There is a somewhat controversial extension to the Archimate grammar called the Motivation module. It deals with business drivers and goals. Another extension, however, would seem to be needed to deal with the special characteristics of human computers. I am not talking about mental and physical health and workplace safety, for these can already be modeled in the same way the maintenance of machinery is modeled in the visual grammar. I mean freedom, liberty, indeed the very inherent aspect of things in general that Helmholz rejected – the vital force, the soul that is its own business driver, that resides in each and every human computer.
In order to provide a successful model of how IT can best facilitate success in a business, it must follow the Helmholzian materialist logic to its final conclusion, laying out all the human and non-human material and structure involved, and all their business-relevant motions, in a single diagram. But we must also then add a Liberty module to the grammar to deal with the decidedly non-materialist aspect of human computing machinery, that it is recognized under U.S. law as having vital force, couched in terms of fundamental rights directed towards each individual human computer’s life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
Is a separate grammar module really required to model this, though? It should not be. We ought to be able to use the Motivation module to model it all. We just need to loosen or work around any grammatical constraint that forbids human infrastructure-application-business stacks from having intrinsic Business Goals and pointing to themselves as their own Business Drivers. Each individual human computer is a business, after all, selling her own labor, and in collective bargaining joins an aggregate business. Our model already accommodates individual human contractors and affiliates, so this should not be too difficult to handle within the grammar.
In particular, we need to model the human computers’ individual rights, their U.S. Constitutional rights, State Constitutional rights, and international Human Rights. And then we need to model our Equity and Inclusion policies, protocols and procedures in relation to those rights. Absent this modeling, and this aspect of the IT Enterprise Architecture, we can achieve neither an efficient nor an effective IT alignment with the business. The highly intertwined human computers would not function as hoped or expected, dragging down the functioning of the entire business, and we would fail to meet our compliance requirements, both contractually with workers and in regard to regulatory rules, standards, statutes and jurisprudential principles.