Subtitled “Creating the Ultimate Corporate Strategy for Information Technology”, you might go and pick up the recent book called FruITion by Chris Potts (blog, articles) expecting yet another book about business and IT alignment. You probably wouldn’t expect a novel. Actually, you will get both, because FruITion is a novel about the relationship between IT and business.

So maybe I’d better note: Spoiler alert!

We follow CIO Ian Taylor during a week in an enterprise in London where new strategies are created and heads are rolling. Effectively, we follow how Ian becomes a corporate strategist, learning to write one-page documents with just text and numbers, and how he gets a new job title and a seat in the executive committee. The enterprise ends up replacing Ian the CIO with Ian the Chief Internal Investment Officer, CIIO.

It’s not a murder mystery, but we do have a victim. The victim is the IT strategy, and it is the CIO who ‘did it’ while committing strategic harakiri as The Last CIO, only to be resurrected as the CIIO.

Potts tells the story though Ian’s thoughts and conversations. Here’s an example from a conversation between Graham, the Group Strategy Director, and Ian:

“I’m not sure about Enterprise Architecture. What’s that all about?”

“It’s the people who do what we currently call Strategy.”

“What do they ‘architect’, as you call it?”

“Business processes, information, systems, technologies.”

“That’s not enterprise, that’s capital.” He saw my blank look. “Factors of Production. Economies.”

“Economies or not, it’s what everyone calls Enterprise Architecture.”

He seemed to accept this retort, at least for the time being.

“Well, if it’s a core competency, we’ll integrate that, and Business Amalysis, into my own strategy group and learn where they fit.”

p 172-173

And later, in the end, Ian tells us:

“One of the first things that Graham did with his new Enterprise Architects was to get them architecting ‘enterprise’ as defined by economics, rather than just ‘capital’. He wanted them working on people’s ideas and motivations for creating maximum value from the capital we were investing in, as well as helping to shape that capital.” p 214

Actually, these two places are just about the only places in the book where Potts/Ian talks (literally) about EA. There is quite a bit more talk about capital and investment strategies. Had the book been a bit longer and more educational, I’m sure Ian the CIIO would eventually have introduced ValIT, balanced scorecards, and EVM.

If it were me writing the story, I would have chosen to have Graham, Ian and the others talk about coherency management, embedded architecture and evergreening the enterprise. Potts brings us only half-way there, but at least goes in the right directioon I think, by emphasising the need for strategy alignment.

Potts did an interview with Claudia Imhoff, which I found interesting to listen to. Partly becuase Potts talks about the book, but also because I found Dr Imhoff’s comments and questions quite revealing: She doesn’t get it (Potts message), and I’m afraid she is not the only person not getting the message.

The book’s title, Fruition, is a good one. But it’s a pity that Potts offers the usual, narrow meaning of the word, as bearing of fruit, getting value, reaping the benefits. As John Smith has taught me, there is a Buddhist three-fold logic of Ground, Path, and Fruition, where fruition means direction and level of development, the creation of an enlightened culture. This may be what Potts means by “architecting ‘enterprise’ as defined by economics, rather than just ‘capital'”, but I’m not sure.

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