I recently attended the Intersection 22 Conference in Stockholm where EDGY was previewed. EDGY is a new graphical design language for visualising enterprises. This new open source design language shows great promise as a tool to bridge across siloed teams. Redefining Enterprise Architecture into a more holistic, cross functional form of “Enterprise Design” that drives shared understanding. Note that EDGY is planned to be fully released to the public in early 2023 and as this blog is based on the preview version some of the details are subject to change prior to its public version one release.
So who are the Intersection Group? They are an international not for profit organisation that encourages cross functional collaboration (hence the name Intersection - intersection between disciplines). Before diving into EDGY - which stands for Enterprise Design Graphical interplaY - it is worth covering the first word: enterprise and how Intersection defines it:
An enterprise is an endeavour of people with a shared ambition.
This (intentionally) simple statement is backed up by the following rationale:
“Enterprises are structured using various organisation forms, such as companies, associations, groups of companies, departments, institutes, etc. and consist of people performing activities, building and using structures to achieve a set of outcomes. As such, an enterprise is similar to a sailing boat people can use to navigate towards their shared purpose across the ocean which is our global society. It is meant to be efficient whilst providing enough flexibility to change course when needed to avoid obstacles and dangers.”
So with that out of the way, back to EDGY. Lets kick off with the fundamentals - which are it’s Enterprise design facet elements:
The facet elements shown in the visual above are Identity (top left in green), Architecture (top right in blue) and Experience (bottom in red). The sailing boat in the middle is the enterprise navigating around these facets ( in reference to the enterprise definition in the previous paragraph).
Identity is all about why the organisation exists and what really matters to it. The beliefs, messages and purpose that make up the shared identity of the organisation.
Architecture is the holistic Enterprise, Business and Technology Architecture. The intentionally designed and emergent capabilities, structures and assets needed to make an enterprise operate.
Experience is the role of the organisation in people’s lives. The value created for people including the tasks, journeys and the channels used for those interactions.
Intersection believes that these areas are often separate siloed considerations and often totally teams thinking about these different aspects. Often these facets and teams lack common ground and understanding: “Instead of separate design discipline silos focusing on certain elements only – brand, product, organisation, capability, process, information or technology – we need to consistently interconnect existing disciplines and the design elements they usually deal with.”
“What is needed is an Enterprise Design practice that enables us to design enterprises through three coherent facets: identity, experience and architecture. By overcoming the biases and limited horizons of isolated perspectives and looking at their intersections, we can co-design the enterprise in a disciplined, structured and holistic way to deliver on its underlying purpose.”
Whilst on the surface EDGY can seem very simple - perhaps just a very well thought through Venn diagram? The reality of course is you can’t get rid of complexity. As per Tesler’s law - all you can do is displace it somewhere else. In the case of EDGY the complexity is displaced into the more detailed views of the elements and in linkages between them. However you can use EDGY at a very high level and then get into deeper related views (referred to as boards) when needed. This then allows for a straightforward view for executive leadership for example that can then be expanded upon when getting into the details in the more detail focused User Experience, Architecture / other teams.
As shown in the picture above the overlap between the different facets is where Organisation, Brand and Product arise. The intersection between identify and architecture gives rise to the organisation - most obviously the organisation structure. The intersection between identity and experience creates brand (both the internal employer brand and the brand seen by the customer. Finally Architecture and experience defines the products (or services) that the organisation provides to its customers and stakeholders.
There are more detailed definitions of what sits below these but if I am honest there might be a case for some of the more detailed views being defined by existing modelling standards? There is a danger of reinventing the wheel by taking the model too far down. I think the core value of EDGY comes from creating high level alignment between teams. The diagram below gives a high level overview of the next level down shapes and definitions:
Whilst any new diagramming style or format is likely to attract feedback and criticism the intentions behind EDGY are for it to solve genuine problems in communicating and collaborating across complex organisations. Too often diagrams are overly domain or role specific making them hard for non specialists to penetrate and understand. In a world that’s ever changing, getting increasingly complex and is often polarised having a tool to create shared understanding and consensus is surely welcome? I believe getting a pragmatic balance between creating a shared understanding and not reinventing the wheel is going to be key in the practical application of EDGY in organisations.
It’s still early days for EDGY as it is still being reviewed (full disclosure I have been part of the review process) and will be released as Open Source early in 2023 along with a supporting book. I will continue to keep a close eye on its development and look forward to providing an update next year once it is launched and I’ve used it in anger. Whether EDGY truly simplifies or simply adds to the noise remains to be seen!