July 12, 2011
As more and more organizations embrace Enterprise Architecture with a concerted effort in Business Architecture (BA),. we are beginning to see one of the common pitfalls of IT Architecture (ITA) spill over — too much focus on the tactical, project level. Apparently, getting business representatives involved in applying EA discipline to the business architecture does not mean that the effort will remain high level, strategic and forward thinking. Just like many ITA efforts, BA efforts result in the identification of work that needs to be done to support the enterprise’s transformation. And also like many ITA efforts, once the resulting work is started, many of the BA participants find themselves involved in the transformation effort. Another factor that needs to be considered is the lack of dedicated BA resources, such as a Chief Architect or Business Architect or BA team. The BA efforts are usually staffed entirely by a virtual team, all of whom have real, demanding full-time jobs.
If you are trying to avoid an overly tactical focus for your BA efforts, here are some suggestions to consider:
- Dedicated BA Resource. A dedicated resource, not assigned to specific BA initiatives, but also not holding a full-time non-BA position is probably not feasible in many organizations. However, those going through significant transformation efforts could easily justify a resource to keep pushing the transformation agenda, overseeing the BA initiatives, maintaining a focus on future change, and organizing and managing the BA virtual team. If a full-time dedicated resource is not feasible, consider finding a leader who can dedicate some time to the effort, 25-40% minimum, while not getting deeply involved in individual BA initiatives.
- Strategic Agenda Items for Regular Meetings. Most BA groups have regularly scheduled meetings, weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, etc. By having every third or fourth meeting focused on new strategies, new technologies, new changes, rather than ongoing initiatives; the group will still be able to push the transformation work forward, while also continuing to architect the future business. Another alternative is to always have at least one agenda item that is of a strategic, future oriented topic at each meeting.
- Maintain a Portfolio vs. a Project Perspective. Rather than providing oversight to individual projects and implementation initiatives, focus on providing input to the investment decision-making function(s) of the enterprise, and track the overall portfolio’s progress against expected strategic outcomes. Leave the cost, budget, resource, and schedule issues to the project management staff.
All of these suggestions are not new. They are the same kind of actions that successful ITA groups have been employing to maintain a strategic perspective for years.
July 12, 2011
For an EA practice to be effective EA leaders must pay attention to both the “style” of how their team operates and the “substance” of the work they produce. While that guidance isn’t new, in practice I often find that many leaders don’t have the balance quite right. It is worth revisiting as a general EA Tip.
First, what do I mean by “style” and by ‘substance”? (note: I chose those words because it sounded like a catchy blog title) For the sake of this article, I define “substance” to be the “work product” of the team as viewed by EA consumers wanting hard deliverables like frameworks, models, standards, roadmaps, strategy papers, and other related content. “Style” refers to “how” the team works with the rest of the organization in creating and utilizing their content: engaging business and IT leadership, fostering a collaborative environment; choosing communications vehicles, the words they use, and the “posture” of how they present themselves to the rest of the organization.
Many EA teams disproportionately direct more effort to the substance of the work than to building a sense of ownership and socializing the desired changes. In essence, they under serve the “style” elements. Granted, substance is critical. No matter how good the soft skills are or how convincing the leaders are, if the content isn’t solid then nobody will follow. But what is more surprising to many teams is that even the most elegant and perfect deliverables often don’t have impact. Why? – Because the team hasn’t positioned the larger workforce to embrace enterprise architecture content and to use it in their day to day work.
Improving the EA team’s style is often where we spend time with clients, specifically working on the “art” of practicing EA. Though many EA’s wish there was a methodological approach to these softer elements, there really isn’t one that works in all cases. People, perspectives, culture, and individual skills vary widely from organization to organization. One approach is to look to lessons learned from the organizational change management discipline, particularly as they apply to driving change across and down into an organization. There are tried and true techniques for preparing organizations for change, conducting education and awareness campaigns, gaining support and participation, and communicating effectively through a variety of different channels. After all, one of the valuable outcomes from EA is helping an organization move from an emphasis on tactical execution and silo behaviors to one that includes a larger, enterprise-wide strategic element. Substance is great, but style really does matter.
July 12, 2011
One of the topics, although not new, that seems to be a regular topic of discussion among clients, peers, prospects and vendors is organization change management. More specifically, how can EA be successful without an accompanying Organizational Change Management program? Once you get into these discussions; however, the answer to the aforementioned question is “Yes!” but the discussion morphs into what we really mean by Organizational Change Management relative to EA. Much like the term Enterprise Architecture, I think Organizational Change Management means a lot of different things to different people. And also like the term Enterprise Architecture, I think there are some things that we can establish a position on to make the effort more meaningful and effective.
- Enterprise Architecture defines the changes necessary to support strategic direction in 5 core areas: Business activities, business information, application portfolio, data, and IT infrastructure. The first two are the realm of Business Architecture, while the final three are the responsibility of ITA architecture, although this is for purely semantic and separation of responsibility purposes. BA and ITA changes are related and should be coordinated accordingly.
- Organizational Change Management is the process for altering other aspects of the enterprise that leadership need changed, such as the organization’s structure, resources, capabilities and behaviors. These changes are necessary to enable and leverage the coming changes of the Enterprise Architecture. This includes training for new skills, using new systems and information capabilities, identification of obsolete and new roles within the workforce, understanding the impact on the reporting structure of the enterprise, and introduction of new technology capabilities to the affected workforce.
- Organizational Change Management, like EA, is not intended to concentrate on change within the IT environment, but rather holistic, enterprise wide change and the accompanying implications within a complex ecosystem.
In general, we believe that aspects of organizational change management happen as a byproduct of some implementation efforts, such as training for a new system, or part of a strategic planning effort, or even some mature HR programs. But there seems to be a lack of systemic, coordinated organizational change management that is related to a corresponding EA program, introducing significant change into an enterprise. We are not suggesting that EA teams take on additional responsibility, but like other necessary disciplines that have accompanied EA as a part of an enterprise’s significant transformation – governance, portfolio management, service management, and value management to name a few – EA teams can articulate and demonstrate the need for a professional approach to organizational change management.
July 12, 2011
If you read my post on “Style AND Substance” I stated that an EA team shouldn’t spend disproportionate energy on content creation without also paying attention to the many softer, stylistic elements associated with leadership and influence. One without the other and the team will fail. In this “EA Tips” post on “substance vs. structure” I offer that an EA leader should worry only slightly about organization and team structural issues and spend as many cycles as possible jump starting the EA team and getting them to work together to produce meaningful content (strategies, standards, roadmaps, etc.).
Every EA team I work with these days is overloaded. I believe that much of the time spent worrying about structure and organization is time better spent elsewhere. Yes, I know that there are just some HR issues that must be addressed, team members need job descriptions and performance plans, and frankly most people won’t even join a team unless they have a reasonable understanding of their responsibilities and how performance will be recognized.
Beyond that, though, I find that many leaders find themselves slicing and dicing roles too finely and creating a lot of unnecessary work for themselves. In fact, doing so often works against the team and inhibits their ability to be effective. The team becomes just a container for a collection of individual contributors, basically working alone and rarely interacting. The very essence of EA is that everything, in some way or another, depends on everything else. The more you separate coverage areas, the more difficult it is to stitch it all together.
Basically, I am saying to not sweat the organizational issues any more than you must to get a few strong players onto your core team. Don’t be too concerned about segmenting responsibilities discretely among domains. Let individual assignments adapt to the content needs of the enterprise and allow your core group to float among them, learning, growing, and sharing perspectives. Encourage everyone to work together as a team and dynamically rotate individual leadership and deliverable assignments. The team will be better off and the members will be as well, plus less time will be spent deciding who does (and doesn’t) do what and more time will be spent on results.
July 12, 2011
George and I are often asked ”How is EA different between smaller and larger organizations?”
There are a number of differences (amount of available resources, degree of complexity, flatness of the organization structure, number of elements in the application portfolio, etc.) that affect the approach, effectiveness, readiness and deliverables of EA. But one that I think is one of the more complex to deal with and has the biggest impact on the effectiveness of, is the level of federation vs. centralization of EA.
In a smaller organization, there is much more of a tendency to standardize as much as possible due to the lack of resources for specialized technologies and skills and the propensity to outsource as much as possible, especially now with the progress of the cloud. In larger organizations, there is usually a lot more inertia behind standardizing the infrastructure beyond the desktop, outsourced or not, while a lot of pressure from business users to have uniqueness at the desktop and within the application and data portfolios. While this pressure exists from individual users or departments, there seems to be a lot more understanding within the business leadership that complexity and costs are getting out of control without more standardization of systems and data. So the question becomes “What do we standardize and what do we federate?”
Three keys to being successful with federation decisions:
- Understand your business’ operating model. As discussed in a previous entry, the operating model concept from “Enterprise Architecture as Strategy” is a guide to the level of business process standardization (application standardization) and business process integration (data standardization) that the business requires.
- Develop a capability map or taxonomy for your systems to identify the overlaps that exist within your application portfolio. These capabilities tend to be a mix of functional (business) and technology capabilities that are delivered by automated solutions. Using a simple matrix to relate your applications to the capabilities delivered by that application tends to be very revealing of the potential candidates for reducing redundancy. However, capabilities are defined at a higher level than individual systems user requirements, to there is still going to be some compromising that is necessary when eliminating/replacing duplicate applications.
- Don’t go overboard. Not everything that could be standardized needs to be standardized. Identify the areas that will have the biggest impact, whether that be cost savings or increased functionality or good will, and prioritize standardization efforts accordingly.
As you develop a better idea of what areas to standardize, you can begin institutionalizing your foundational architecture within the infrastructure, operations and development groups. This will result in professionals in these areas spending a majority of their time on areas that are unique, and quite likely contribute to the competitive advantage of your business.