Why I won't be going to Open Group London

Today’s the last day for the ‘Early Bird’ for the Open Group London conference (Twitter hashtag #oglon) on enterprise-architecture and the like. It’s being held in my ‘home-city’ – just over fifty miles away. In principle, it’s one of the flagship conferences for my profession. And there’s a fair number of people listed there who I’d really like to meet up with again. So in principle, yes, I ought to be there. No question.

But this time I’m not going. Sorry.

A bunch of different reasons, really.

One is that it’s become just that much too expensive. The full three-day conference is priced at well over a thousand pounds; even a single-day pass is something like four hundred. Sure, that’s not so much for a large corporation to pay, even in these cash-strapped times: but for a solo consultant that’s a serious amount that needs to be weighed against everything else. I’ve been to a fair number of Open Group conferences over the past few years, but to be honest the only way I’ve been able to afford it has been that they’ve allowed speakers to go in at the Member rate, which used to be something like a third of the price. Yes, in principle, I could save money by joining, and getting the Member rate the proper way: but again, that’d be several thousand pounds a year, because Open Group still only support a per-organisation membership, with no allowance at all for small companies or individuals. And to be blunt, I object strongly to Open Group’s notion that it’s ‘fair’ that an individual should have to pay the same membership-fee that’s paid by the whole of IBM: somehow OG still don’t seem to grasp that I and the many other solo-consultants in this space would literally be getting far less than a thousandth of the per-person value for our membership-money…

Which brings me to the second reason: I do enjoy those conferences, yet I’m really not getting much value for money there any more. The Open Group conferences are great if you’re into IT-architecture – which I’m not. IT-architectures are right out on the fringes of the work I do these days, which is mostly about the architecture of the enterprise as a unified whole. Open Group do of course insist that they’re doing ‘enterprise-architecture’, with TOGAF and the like: but in reality it’s still only enterprise IT-architecture – which is not the same thing at all. And whilst it’s true that there’s a been lot more mention of business-orientation in the descriptions for the past few conferences, in practice it’s clear that it’s still little more than a surface veneer on top of the same old IT-centrism. Which I suppose is fine, in its way, for IT-folks, but it doesn’t have much business relevance – let alone relevance at a true enterprise scope. To again be blunt, it’s still pushing the EA profession in a direction that all but guarantees business-irrelevance, and reinforces still further the infamous ‘business/IT-divide’ – which doesn’t help anyone in the longer term. I’ve had a lot of value from those conferences in the past; but in reality that value has mainly been to clarify for me that the Open Group’s version of ‘enterprise’-architecture was pretty much exactly what I’m not doing, and help me hone my understanding and explanation of what I am doing instead.

Open Group’s focus and heritage are all about IT standards and IT-architectures. Which is fine: someone has to do that, I’m very glad that someone does do that, and to me there’s no doubt whatsoever that Open Group do it very well indeed. Yet their involvement in enterprise-architecture has been more like an historical accident, a scope that grew and grew far beyond IT because the reality is that that’s the only way it would it work. Their natural reflex, though, is to keep trying to force it back into the IT-domain, where it frankly does not belong: enterprise IT-architecture is important in its own right, and is also important as one aspect of whole-enterprise architecture, but it is not the whole of EA! And now that there are other less IT-centric EA conferences, such as Integrated EA and IRM-EAC, it’s clear that I’m likely to have better value for my ‘conference-buck’ there than at yet another IT-only Open Group conference.

(There’s one aspect of enterprise-architecture, though, that fits right within Open Group’s chosen remit of ‘boundaryless information flow’ and that urgently needs their attention: standards for information-exchange between enterprise-architecture toolsets, preferably covering the span of the whole of the ‘toolset-ecosystem‘. Open Group have had a preliminary standard for this languishing on the back-blocks for half a dozen years or more: is there any chance it could revived and brought up to date?)

I’ll next be speaking on whole-enterprise architectures at AE Rio 2011 in Brazil next week, and at IRM-EAC 2011 in London in early June. If you’re going to either of those conferences, perhaps see you there?

And for Open Group London, and probably for other EA conferences as well, is it perhaps time to revive that fine old tradition of the ‘fringe festival’ – where those who don’t fit in with the criteria for the formal festival get a chance to showcase their work as well? Several folks have happily suggested that around the IRM-EAC conference we could have a ‘#nottheeac‘ meetup, complete with its own ‘official beer’ (London Pride, of course!); perhaps we could organise a ‘#notoglon‘ EA fringe-festival as well?

Either way, if you’re going to Open Group London and you’d like to meet up, just drop me a line: I’ll be around. Just not at the conference itself.

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