Wednesday, June 18, 2008

EA as a profession

(prompted by discussions of ethics)

Many people claim to be IT professionals. Most Enterprise Architects I have met see themselves as IT professionals. It always makes me wonder what they mean by the word professional.

The word comes from "profession" in the sense of a public declaration, such as an oath -- so the word had an ethical sense from the start. In most of the traditional professions this was intended as a guarantee that the professional (priest, lawyer, doctor, etc.) would act according to a code of ethics and provide advice consistent with that code, rather than whatever was best suited their self-interest or misrepresenting the truth to suit a paymaster.

It seems that people now use the word in several different ways now, for example:
  • People, such as athletes and sex workers, who get paid for what is normally a pastime and no particular ethical sense is implied. In the former case gamesmanship replaces sportmanship (winning is more important than honest effort); in the latter play acting replaces genuine passion.
  • Profession to a code of ethics, such as medicine, law, or architecture, where there remains an ethical sense of someone who professes to the code.
  • Being a member of a professional body: this implies a level of training (e.g. academic), a set of recognised approaches or methods, and a professed set of standards that are adhered to. This is the sense more commonly used in trades.
The problem in IT is that people are never very clear on what they mean by the word professional.

Many EA's would recognise a common body of recognised practice, and many when questioned know what they should be doing, and how they should be advising people - though they don't bother offering this advice (because they know it won't be well received). They are often asked to do things they know doesn't make sense (suiting a paymaster's goals e.g. political, personal, immediate, rather than doing what makes sense for the enterprise or the long term) and they do what they know to be poor practice (wrong methods, wrong tools, wrong skill sets, wrong focus, etc.). This is a challenge that needs to be addressed.

See: Justifying EA

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