Horrifying Tales of Enterprise Architecture Gone Horribly Wrong

31 Oct 2023

by Ardoq

Application Portfolio Mis-Management

It’s four days til the deadline. An Enterprise Architect, Mason, sits alone in a darkened room, struggling to make sense of the data on his screen. Empty cans of energy drink were scattered across his desk. He was under immense pressure from the CIO to pull together an overview of their applications. It’s been weeks, and yet he was still so swamped with spreadsheets and a looming deadline of 31 October. So many spreadsheets, so little time. He sighs and looks around the darkened office with red-rimmed eyes.

The clock strikes midnight, and the dependency map he’s been manually putting together in PowerPoint starts to swim before his eyes. None of it is making sense anymore, and he yells out in frustration. But then, someone–or something– screams back at him from somewhere in the dark, empty office.  

He didn’t dare to take a look. Maybe it was the overwork getting to him, and he just needed to go home and get some sleep. Yet his curiosity gets the better of him. He slowly gets up out of his chair and, quietly, hesitantly, walks through the long hall of empty desks and flickering fluorescent lights. He holds his breath as he peers around the corner to where the sound came from. He gasps and then sighs in relief.

It was just the CISO, Nicola, looking just as exhausted as Mason felt. “Ugh. Spreadsheets, so many spreadsheets,” Nicola says, looking up at Mason with bloodshot eyes. 

“I thought I was alone in the office at this hour,” Mason replied. 

“No, we are all struggling with these spreadsheets,” Nicola replies as she rolls her eyes. “I don’t know how I’m ever going to get this report done in time. The worst part? It never gets any easier or faster, no matter how many times I’ve done this.”

How to Master the Mayhem?

The arduous exercise of getting a thorough application portfolio overview can feel like being stuck in a never-ending hell loop without the right tools. Relying on outdated, disconnected spreadsheets, countless interviews with application owners, and then trying to make sense of all the data collected is a nightmare that EA teams can avoid.

The worst part is that this nightmare is only the tip of the iceberg. These tedious approaches to Application Portfolio Management also drag down companies and can be fatal to agility, efficiency, and innovation. The whole business is poisoned by the after-effects. 

The dark destiny of Mason and Nicola does not need to be the fate of every EA organization. New data-driven EA platforms like Ardoq leverage integrations to automate data collection and consolidation, process that data, and use it to generate visualizations automatically. Where wading through a swamp of spreadsheets to identify optimization opportunities may take two months or more, Ardoq can drastically shorten this time by 50% or more.

Now, doesn’t that sound frightfully efficient?

enterprise architecture horror stories

Prioritization Paralysis

It’s a dark and stormy night. The clock strikes 12, and a bolt of lightning illuminates CIO Tom’s home office. It’s his first month into this new role, and he is still drowning in data yet lacking the insights he needs to figure out which initiatives the company needs to prioritize. He was afraid it was going to be yet another long night with no answers.

Time was ticking, but he was no closer to understanding which of the 148 projects documented supported organizational strategy and their technological dependencies than 2 weeks ago. He feels like he is being haunted day and night by the complex and convoluted ecosystem of tools that he inherited from his ghastly predecessor.

He opens Jira with a weary sigh but then sees an error message he wasn’t expecting:

“Unable to import data” says the screen.

“But it’s Jira,” he says to no one– or so he thinks. “It can’t be that hard to create issues in Jira with this lousy tool.”

From nowhere, a ghostly whisper comes, “I told you to buy a flexible platform,” and Tom is so tired he can’t even tell if it’s real or an imagined specter born from exhaustion. He felt like he was losing his mind. How on earth was he going to have any kind of meaningful report and recommendations ready for the board meeting in a week? 

Only Unhappy Endings?

There is no greater horror than trying to extricate some kind of actionable insights or overview of a chaotic IT landscape, yet this is the kind of madness CIOs like Tom not only face but need to overcome regularly. Like an all-consuming creature of the shadows (or should we say, shadow IT?), enterprises and their technology often grow unchecked, and it’s a seemingly impossible task to begin untangling where they add value and connect to strategy. 

The light at the end of the IT tunnel is that this doesn’t have to be the only grim fate for CIOs and their teams. Platforms like Ardoq can help shine a light on what really matters to the company, where people, process, and technology interconnect, and which of these are critical for driving strategic objectives forward.

Data Ransom Doom

It’s All Hallows’ Eve, and the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Nicola, is finally wrapping up some days of grueling data compliance reporting. Just one more thing before she could head home for some very overdue rest. With bloodshot eyes she watches the completion bar inch past 70%, then 80%, almost there. It halts at 95%, and it sends a chill down her spine. Something is wrong, terribly wrong. Her heart is pounding, and there is a horrible sinking feeling in her gut, but she can’t explain why. She tries to shrug it off as an overreaction; laggy progress bars happen all the time when downloading and uploading documents. 

Then, an error message appears:

“Server error. Data security breach. Ransom required.”

Nicola’s face turns white, “Wait, what? But how?”

She tries to close the window, reboot her computer, anything, but nothing works. Just the terrifying, insistent glare of the ransom request. She feels herself breaking out into a cold sweat, knowing she might have to call the CEO at almost midnight with the worst news possible and no answers about how this happened or what the real impact would be on the company.

Outdated documentation on the enterprise’s IT meant that Nicola and the CEO wouldn’t know until several painful weeks later that an employee on the Product team had unknowingly brought in the malicious ransomware on a USB stick they had found. They had kept it, thinking it was handy, not knowing the real price when they plugged it into their laptop on the office network. By the time the rest of the organization had realized it, the damage was done, and a hefty ransom was paid out.  

Better Safe Than Sorry

Despite regular security awareness training, slip-ups will still happen. Nicola’s chilling night and the weeks after were like a living nightmare, but if her organization had had an up-to-date overview of applications, data, and teams, they would have taken a much shorter time to respond to the ransomware crisis and understand its impact on the company as a whole. They could have sped up their damage control efforts or, better yet, have preempted such an attack and had clearer protocols in place on who and what needed to be done to recover access to critical systems.

Write Your Own Digital Transformation Destiny

The tales of Nicola, Mason, and Tom may have triggered dark, repressed memories of your own digital transformation horror stories, and we know that there are many when it comes to EA and EA platforms.

However, their fates need not be what befalls you and your organization. Get some quality reading this Halloween with the latest insights, approaches, and trends from our Digital Transformation newsletter. 

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Ardoq Ardoq This article is written by Ardoq as it has multiple contributors, including subject matter experts.
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