Enterprise Architecture Smart Thinking

Ivory Tower Anti Pattern

Exploring the Ivory Tower Anti Pattern.

Ivory Towers are created by intellectual elitism, over-specialisation and condescension.

The Ivory Tower Anti Pattern is a trap for the idealist, perfectionist and the aloof.

Elegance, sophistication and aesthetics are not substitutes for architectural realism.

The Reification Fallacy (that which is abstract being treated as if it were real) contributes to this Anti Pattern, as it distances architects from the reality of the ‘physical system’. This has significant potential to ‘add height’ to the Tower. Better that the lead architect is a ‘(wo)man of the people’ than a reclusive intellectual giant.

ivory tower

Anti Pattern Name:The Ivory Tower.

Type: Behavioural, Managerial, Architectural, Organisational.

Problem: Idealism pushes realism into the quicksand, then stands on its head. Aesthetics and perfectionism trump viability.

Context: Enterprise Architecture.

Forces: Architectural cloisters, intellectualism, perfectionism, disconnection of the architectural function and ‘the coal face’, communication problems.

Resulting Context: ‘Beautiful’ designs that could never be implemented, solution architects with no tangible transformation plans, Enterprise Architecture is not used, islands of innovation spring up in the shadows of the Ivory Tower.

Solution(s): Ensure that visionaries are also realists, watch out for ‘Gold Plating’, governance of architectural functions (reviews and challenges, timescales and costs, references etc.), stakeholder engagement and communications. Disrupt architectural seclusion.

By Steve Nimmons

Steve is a Certified European Engineer, Chartered Engineer, Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, Royal Society of Arts, Linnean Society and Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. He is an Electric Circle Patron of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, a Liveryman and Freeman of London and serves on numerous industry panels. He is a member of Chatham House, the Royal United Services Institute and the Chartered Institute of Journalists.

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