A Tale of Two Cities

I’ve recently been travelling in Asia working for a client delivering architectural training and was struck by the amazing contrast between the last two cities I visited, Singapore and Bangalore (or Bengaluru as it is now known). The contrast between these two cities set me thinking about Enterprise Architecture and how the approach to city planning can make or break how a city functions. For those not familiar with these two cities here are my fleeting observations (based on a few days spent in each). Singapore is a city state with a population of 5 million people. The predominant industries are shipping, financial services, manufacturing and tourism. Singapore’s airport (Changi) is a modern airport which is the international hub for Singapore Airlines with good connections via the metro (known as MRT) to the city. The airport offers free wi-fi in all areas (I have a theory that the amount of free wi-fi you can get in a city is an indicator of the economic vitality of a place). Architecturally the city is a mix of old colonial style buildings (Raffles Hotel) and ultra-modern new buildings (the Marina Bay Sands hotel for example). Walking around the city you are struck how there is no graffiti, virtually no litter and no begging as well as by the large number of malls with designer shopping on offer and the usual Western outlets (Starbucks, Marks and Spencers, DKNY etc). There is very little serious crime (there being the mandatory death penalty for murder, rape and dealing in drugs). Whilst there is a lot of traffic the roads are well laid out with no significant traffic delays (at least whilst I was there). See here for another view of this city/state.

By contrast Bengaluru is the third most populous city in India with an estimated population of 8 milllion and has seen rapid growth over the last 10 years due to it being the centre for outsourcing (especially IT with nearly all the large IT companies like Infosys, WiPro, HP and IBM having large development centres there). There is an international airport but with no good quality connections to the city. Virtually all visitors are business travellers with very little tourism. There is 15 minutes free wi-fi available in the business lounge only and even then only once you have surrendered your email and mobile phone number. A rapid transport system is being built (which was meant to be operational this month). Architecturally there are some modern buildings (mainly in the technology parks) together with large numbers of shanty towns and hastily constructed, low-cost apartments. Walking around the city you are struck by the vast amount of rubbish with dogs and cows wondering around. Despite it being a “high-tech” city there is still very obvious poverty with begging and homeless people sleeping on benches and in doorways. There are very few Western style shops  and virtually no designer outlets.

So what Enterprise Architecture conclusions are to be drawn by comparing these two cities given we often compare Enterprise Architects with city planners and Solution Architects with building architects?

  • Enterprise Architects have a clear vision (captured as blueprints) of what IT systems the enterprise has and how they need to evolve to support the business strategy, maybe over a one, three and five year outlook. Walking around Singapore (and talking to people that live there) you get the impression there is a “master plan” being enacted. To some extent Singapore only exists because of the efficiency of its infrastructure and the quality of living it can provide to its citizens. This naturally pulls in people and businesses that can take advantage of that infrastructure.
  • Enterprise Architects define roadmaps showing how the enterprise will get from where it is today to where it needs to be (recognising that changes will be happening all the time). Singapore has clear plans for how the state will grow over the coming years. For example there are plans in place for various extensions of the MRT, some of which are currently under construction. It is expected that by the network will have of 540 km of track by 2050 which will be more than London’s 408 km tube system.
  • Enterprise Architects need to be aware of both what functionality is required but also what qualities and constraints these functions will be delivered to.
    Enterprise Architects define clear principles that should be followed by Solution Architects architecting the individual buildings. Whilst there are several old colonial buildings as well as regional styles (China Town has some of the best Chinese architecture I have seen) Singapore has some of the most cutting edge modern architecture around. Despite this there is a strong sense of “harmony” amongst the styles and the feeling there are underlying principles that are in place to help achieve this harmony.
  • Enterprise Architects enforce strong governance to enforce the blueprints, roadmaps and principles and ensure they are being followed. Singapore has strong (and severe) governance that enforces its laws. There have been very few recorded murder cases over the last decade and those there have been have nearly always ended in the guilty person being executed.

Both cities are great places to visit, I’m sure Bengaluru will get to where Singapore is eventually, after all India is experiencing 8% growth which economists reckon will continue for some years to come. The Indian people have a tremendous attitude to work, what is needed is the good and honest governance of their leaders to turn cities like Bengaluru into a true, modern 21st century city.

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