Saturday, December 29, 2007

Best Practices in Architecture

Cover of Eero Saarinen, by Jayne Merkel

If architectural design is an apt metaphor for enterprise architecture, then perhaps the approaches of leading building architects also apply to enterprise design. In her authoritative review of the work of 20th century genius Eero Saarinen, architectural critic Jayne Merkel describes his studio's method:

1. Definition of the "functional program" with considerable research
2. "Expression of the program" in the concept
3. Selection of appropriate "structure"
4. "Design"
The client was involved in each phase, participating in the research to define and prioritize requirements, reviewing architectural concepts for resolving their specific conflicts and approving structural approaches, materials and budgets prior to beginning detailed design.

His were unusual, ambitious, challenging buildings. The variety in the work, the "style for the job" philosophy, as it was called, was really the result of the way he worked and the fact he believed architectural form should derive from function in the broadest possible sense.

He was singularly collaborative in his approach, using the resources of his clients, among them "the technical innovators of his period (General Motors, MIT, IBM, Bell Labs)" to automate design, adapt new materials, and refine his craft.

Eero could meet each client on his own terms. He respected his clients and what they wanted to do (something that many architects with their own objectives fail to do) because, though he believed architecture should aspire to be art, he saw it as one grounded in use.
Consultants, as enterprise architects, are well advised to adopt not only his approach but his collaborative style to designing business structures, processes, systems and offerings.
  1. Today's design teams can deploy wiki technology to engage all the client's resources in developing a thorough, shared, context-rich understanding of requirements, objectives and alternative solution concepts.
  2. Rapid visualization techniques and virtual meetings allow broad and early participation of users, influencers and decision-makers throughout the design process.
  3. Collaborative content management systems can capture design elements in secure vaults and maintain version control as reviewers make modifications or add detail.
  4. With appropriate controls, the key constituencies throughout the enterprise, including suppliers, can access relevant information and contribute to designs as they develop.

See Eero Saarinen by Jayne Merkel, (Phaidon Press, London, 2005), pp. 230-3
See also our previous post, Mastering Innovation Management, which contrasts the styles of Eero Saarinen and Frank Lloyd Wright

See our approach to
Retail Lifecycle Management™ (RLM) for a discussion of the application of PLM techniques to managing the process of store design and its related information. Click on the RLM topic in the Index of Content on This Site on the sidebar to the right of this blog.

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