Top 10 Things an EA Should Be Thinking About (Part 2)

January 12, 2011

A couple of months ago, we published part 1 of Top 10 Things an EA Should Be Thinking About.  Now we add a few more, with considerations for the New Year.  To get started, I will repeat what we said in part 1 as the means of introduction…

…Our list represents the Top Ten (or so) things that we think true Enterprise Architects should be thinking about.  As always, this represents our thinking that Enterprise Architects should be focused on the whole of the enterprise, business and IT perspectives, long-term business strategy and transformation, and the impact that has on the work that needs to be done beyond the here and now.  Not the kinds of things that solution architects, data architects, application architects, infrastructure architects, or security architects should be thinking about – What should ENTERPRISE architects be thinking about?

Not listed in order of importance – they are all important.  Also, we would like to tell you that a typical IT-centric Enterprise Architect may not be able to answer these questions or think about them as completely as they should – in which case, they need to seek out the appropriate business and/or IT professionals to discuss these topics with from the perspective of their enterprise.

6.  With increasingly creative business partnerships forming in the marketplace, how can we effectively share information and collaborate with partners while protecting business confidentiality and adhering to regulatory concerns.  Are there general rules we should develop?  This is a dilemma of the new century.  The types of partnerships forming between suppliers and buyers, between former and even current competitors, between public entities and constituents, and between producers and consumers are primarily being created to share/consume information rather than products and services.  Another factor to consider is the element of trust, as the use of information outside the enterprise boundaries may be impossible to monitor and control. 

7.  As increasing amounts of information about customers, markets, transactions, sensor status, etc. flow into our company, are we able to effectively analyze that information to increase profits and/or value to our constituents?  Can we handle it, manage it, store it, protect it, etc.?  Which work processes must change or be invented to operate in the new environment?   The amount and size of data are increasing at a tremendous rate for most companies.  While the hardware to move, secure and store this data is an issue in and of itself, the more pressing issue is how to utilize the information to your enterprise’s benefit.  The focus needs to be on the information consumers.  Who can use the information to support their work activities and/or decision making processes?

8.  How does our enterprise “measure” or represent value?  What are the most important factors of success to our executive leaders?  Are they being measured?  How can EA facilitate the achievement of those success factors?  We are often asked how to measure the value of EA.  Short answer: Measuring EA’s value is dependent on the measurement of value in other activities influenced by EA, and most organizations are not mature enough in their general performance management capabilities to support the ability to measure the value of EA.  So the workaround is to figure out how EA can enable those factors that are most important to executives and show the indirect linkage that EA has to contributing value.  But it all starts with understanding what your executives value.

9.  With the current aggressive pace of marketplace and technology change, have we made the right decisions to be nimble enough to respond ahead of our competitors?  How important is agility to the business and are we prepared to be innovative?  How can I make the enterprise understand the need for adaptability?  This is not a NEW question, by the way, as those of you who have followed us for the last 15 years know.  But as time goes by and these paces continue to accelerate, these questions become even more important…as we have been saying for the last 15 years.

10. Where are the decision-making bodies and processes disconnected in our enterprise?  And once you identify them, how can you create a visualization of these broken chains?  EA is part of the planning and decision making ecosystem of your enterprise.  Influencing decisions and plans for investments and implementations is the outcome of a well functioning EA program.  In order to do this effectively, you need to identify where to influence these decisions and convince executive leadership that EA has a place in the process.

We would love to hear what are readers are thinking about in 2011.  Please share with your comments.

Things EA’s Should Think About – External Collaboration

November 2, 2010

One of the many interesting outcomes of today’s business climate is the increasing variety of new business partnerships. Traditional boundaries between organizations are giving way to innovative and creative relationships, driven by a combination of necessity and opportunity. Cross-company information exchange and collaboration is the central success component.

Organizations are discovering that there is often more to implementing these partnerships than is apparent at the outset, and the issues multiply with each new relationship. For example, “How can we effectively share information and collaborate with partners while protecting business confidentiality and adhering to regulatory concerns”? Those are just two among many important considerations. Issues intrinsic to external collaboration have far-reaching implications. Identifying and addressing them is tailor-made to the broad, cross-enterprise, cross-domain perspective and analyses that an EA group can bring to the table.

Many organizations are discovering that the volume of requests to share information is increasing with each new business partnership, as is the type of information exchanged. Increasingly, they are seeing demand for bi-directional collaborative interactions, in near real-time, and with a frequency that makes it difficult to respond in time to address the market opportunity. Furthermore, these collaboration requirements are contextual and don’t always fit into a standardized approach. Not only will different companies have different needs, but it is likely that there will be many different models even within a single company based on the type of partnership and the participating departments. Some cross-organization collaborative examples we have seen include legal negotiations, multi-company engineering activities, resource scheduling /provisioning, joint marketing initiatives, barter arrangements that include trading excess production capacity for a right to access an organization’s client base in a foreign market, and many other variations.

It is likely that a single standard solution cannot address the full range of scenarios an organization might encounter. The EA group should work to raise the visibility of the most pertinent issues. They should guide the creation of a general framework, including a set of rules, principles and approaches that can address them. Here are just a few of the questions organizations we work with are beginning to ask:

  • What is the business vision for partnerships? How will they grow and evolve? Where do they fit in our overall enterprise model? Which business processes, business functions and information areas are involved? What is the business value to enabling these partnerships?
  • What confidentiality, proprietary, legal and regulatory issues are relevant? What other business risks are in play?
  • What patterns of external collaboration exist with potential partners? Are there standardized business patterns and collaboration models that will broadly satisfy business need?
  • How should external collaboration integrate with our own internal collaboration models and enabling infrastructure? Should it? Do we grant access to external parties?
  • How do we protect our proprietary and confidential information from being intentionally or accidentally passed on to other parties? How do we protect theirs? Do we restrict unauthorized copying? Do we lock access, encrypt, etc.?
  • How do we address different data definitions, data security zones, data classifications, etc.?
  • How do we ensure timely and scheduled updates to our partners? How do we alert each other to changes? How do we ensure partners are not working with expired information?
  • Etc.

So, what should enterprise architects do? Get ahead of the conversation, not so much that you get tuned out, but enough that you begin asking the right questions to gauge the enterprise need. Use a multi-pronged communications approach to get the conversation started with business leaders, IT leaders, your own team and other stakeholders. Techniques can include individual discussions, facilitated sessions, and internal social media postings. Once you get a sense for the appetite of the enterprise you may see traction develop. Begin to create hard artifacts for discussion; capabilities analysis first, then principles, then iteratively build increasingly detailed models, specifically business architecture models. Remember that, at any time, you may get too far ahead for anyone to care. You can always park your work and come back to revisit later.

External collaboration is just one of the many questions that enterprise architects might want to think about in the next year. A proactive EA group’s role is to be thinking about high impact, enterprise-wide constructs at least in enough detail to have an appreciation for the issues, the scope and scale of possible approaches. Doing so will inform the organization enough to make the proper decisions when time becomes the critical constraint.

Business Architecture vs. IT Architecture

June 26, 2009

We are finding Business Architecture (BA) to be one of the most misunderstood but high-profile interests of business executives, CIOs and enterprise architects alike. They are asking questions like:

• Is BA the key to enabling business transformation through an enterprise (EA) effort?
• Does everyone have a business architecture?
• Is it owned and driven by the IT organization or the executive leadership of an organization?
• Can you truly enable business transformation with an IT-centric view of Enterprise Architecture?

For decades what IT professionals have called Enterprise Architecture is actually IT architecture. What we see most of the time is an EA effort mostly, if not solely, conducted within the IT function. There are certainly benefits to be achieved from IT architecture – improved adaptability, standardization, cost reduction, reduced integration complexity, and quicker time of delivery tend to be the chief objectives of most IT-led EA efforts. However, the lack of business participation, especially from those with strategic leadership, and the lack of distinction between BA and ITA will keep EA efforts from truly supporting or even contributing to an organization’s transformation efforts.

EAdirections is exploring three perspectives of the structure of EA from traditional to transitional to a truly transformational view. They will demonstrate how you must evolve the view of enterprise architecture as you go through different stages of maturity:

• How the Traditional View of EA supports the establishment of a strong IT foundation for the enterprise
• How the Transitional View of EA enables a more adaptive and agile foundation for quicker solutions delivery
• How the Transformational View of EA leads to true business transformation

Some EA efforts evolve to become more transformational based on the need and request of senior leadership seeking help with major business transformation. However, most EA efforts are going to have to develop the models, language and value proposition in order to get business leadership interested in architecting enterprise business transformation.

Outside the Box: Thoughts on Enterprise Innovation

June 26, 2008

Last week I listened to a presentation by, and then talked with, Curt Miller, CTO and Co-founder of SinglePoint ( SinglePoint has 84% of the market for interactive television solutions (iTV) in North America. Said differently, when you watch a reality TV show and you have the opportunity to vote using SMS, the odds are that SinglePoint is receiving your text message and tabulating the results. (Curt was speaking at the GoldenGate user conference in San Francisco as GoldenGate is the key technology that enables SinglePoint.)

SinglePoint’s clients range from NBC to ObamaMobile. Since many reality shows use the results in real-time to change the direction of the show, SinglePoint handles up to 2,000 message per second per carrier (which is as fast as the carriers can deliver them) and provides results to the studio in as little as 5 to 10 seconds. During his presentation, Curt asked everyone to get out their cell phone and send a numeric string he gave us. While we were ‘voting’, Curt switched from PowerPoint to his network monitor and we saw the votes stream in; and then he immediately broke down the votes by carrier (Verizon was the most used).

As I sat listening to Curt I couldn’t help but wonder how a large, complex enterprise might use this technology. We talk a lot about the leadership that mature EA teams can provide in driving innovation across the enterprise. We have noted before that organizations as diverse as USAA and WW Grainger have promoted their Chief Architects to Chief Innovation Officers.

So I sat there thinking “Okay Larry, you’re a smart guy. Is there any applicability of SinglePoint’s technology in a large company?” What I kept coming back to was the opportunity for real-time employee feedback. How many executives want to know about staff morale, what staff are worried about, etc? How many companies ask HR to run employee surveys on topics ranging from job satisfaction to benefits? And how many employees believe those surveys have any impact?

In occurred to me that using SinglePoint, a CEO could hold a teleconference, a WebEx meeting, or simply stream video to staff and hold a town meeting. The CEO could get real-time feedback on a whole range of issues, even asking “tell me which of the following concerns you the most” and then addressing the issue. The CEO could pose simple questions such as “Would you rather have more vacation days, a bigger contribution to your 401k, or better health insurance?”

As many of you know, my wife and I lived outside of Boston for almost 18 years in the small town of Acton, MA. Acton, like hundreds of other New England towns, still has a Town Meeting form of government. If you are not familiar with Town Meeting government, it means that there is no city council and everything, from school budgets to dog leashes, is put to a vote – a ‘live’ vote – with the phrase “All those in favor stand and be counted.” Town Meeting is great when you have a few hundred citizens but Acton has a population of over 20,000 which means that Acton’s Town Meeting, when we lived there, was spread across the high school with hundreds of people crammed into the gym, the theater, every nook and cranny as ‘counters’ counted. Note to Acton: “All those in favor enter 1.”

I am more than happy to talk to your leadership team about how they might use this technology to re-architect employee feedback, customer relationships and a host of other services.

I am still waiting to hear from Obama and McCain on my suggestion that they ought to integrate SinglePoint into their press conferences.

EA Futures From 22F

June 14, 2007
At this very moment I am stuffed in 22F on a completely full flight returning from New York and it gave me a chance to look at my journal, and review the notes from a couple dozen or so conversations I have had this week and last. While none of my conversations were specific to EA, there were a number of very consistent and complementary themes which will, I suspect, impact the EA of complex organizations over the next several years. 
First, the conversations.
Yesterday, I spent several hours with Hardev Dhindsa who has a small firm, Exact Solutions, whose iWatch technology is installed on roughly 2,500 performance critical servers in 7 of the 10 largest investment banks (e.g. Lehman, Goldman, JPMorgan, Barclays) and no where else – let me repeat – “no where else”. 
I was introduced to Hardev by a mutual friend who thought I could give him some insight into the potential market for his product and help with strategic planning. As that conversation progressed, Hardev and I began talking more and more about the evolution of IT (in the broadest sense) over the next few years.
(At some point I will write more about the evolution of ‘systems management architectures’ but for the moment let me say that Hardev has built a query-level performance monitoring tool that is lightweight, non-invasive and used by all of these banks to ensure very high (subsecond) service levels for SQL queries. The simple fact is that tools from CA, Tivoli, HP, BMC, et. al. provide effective OS monitoring, database monitoring and network monitoring but they don’t provide insight into the performance of SQL queries. Nor do these tools help ‘support staff’ identify which queries create problems. Hardev’s approach is as brilliant as it is simple. And DBAs faced with unrealistic pressures to ensure performance should embrace iWatch to simply prove – “Hey, it’s not a database problem!” But that’s another blog.)
On Monday, I spent a couple of hours with Harold Heath who is Enterprise Technical Architect at Citigroup and someone I have chatted with for awhile. In the course of that conversation, Larry Burgess, another EA at Citi who I have met before, joined us.
Last week, I was at the GoldenGate User Group Conference where I delivered the closing keynote. (In the interest of full disclosure, I have been on GoldenGate’s Board for about four years and I think they are the leader in transactional data management.) I had the chance to speak to a number of GoldenGate’s clients and partners. Attendees included end users such as UBS, JPMorganChase, Visa, BofA, First Data, Shell, Sabre, MGM, ADP, etc. and partners including IBM, HP, Teradata, Ingres, GE Healthcare, Cerner, Amdocs, etc. The conference had one of the best CIO panel discussions I have ever heard. On the panel were Roger Burkhardt who was CTO at NYSE for 6 years (before recently joining Ingres as President & COO), Penny O’Hara who is CIO for BT Health which is leading the re-engineering of healthcare delivery across the UK, and Craig Murphy who just retired as CTO of Sabre Holdings.
Now to my journal.
So, I talked with and listened to a bunch of really bright people. At first my notes appeared to be all over the road but I eventually reduced them to a consistent set of nine, very concise, ‘EA Futures’. After reviewing my first draft I decided that my desire for conciseness might, unfortunately, demonstrate the Law of Unintended Ambiguity (I just made this Law up), so I thought a little ‘translation’ might clarify as needed.
Here we go…the 9 EA Futures to come out of my recent conversations are:
1. ‘Electron-ification’ of all business processes is the goal. Translated as “straight-through processing in as ‘real-time’ as we can make it is how we want everything to work.”
2. Self service everything.  Translated as “most users that need to interface with #1 should just do it themselves any time they want; they get better service and we reduce headcount, wahoo!!”
3. Active data warehouses. Translated as “‘electron-ification’ requires ‘self-service’ which means information has to be current not just accessible”; said differently, “we can’t do #1 and #2, unless we do #3”.
4. Pan-process/pan-service.  Translated as “we need to take an enterprise view of everything (i.e. #1, #2 and #3”) whether we are talking about business processes or application services”.
5. ‘XML-ification’ of the enterprise. Translated as “this is how #1 thru #4 talk to anything most of time, and talk in a very agile way, but XML has a lot of overhead”.
6. Horizontal scaling is a must. Translate as “#1 thru #5 means way more bandwidth, way more storage and way more processing so you better think in terms of building out and not up”.
7. Cost-effective computing is required. Translated as “relentless focus on driving down the cost of terabytes, gigabits and MIPS in the context of #1 thru #6 and the requirement that you bow toward San Francisco everyday” (note: San Francisco was Gordon Moore’s birthplace).
8. Open systems is a key strategy. Translated as “Linux” or “you can’t get #7 done without it, and if you can’t get #7 done forget about #6, and if you can’t get #6 done you can’t afford what’s really required for #1 thru #5.”
9. Zero downtime. Translated as “planned outages are just as bad as unplanned outages so you better correctly architect and enable #6 thru #8 so you can deliver #1 thru #5”.
Yeah, it was a stimulating two weeks. And this blog barely scratches the surface.

Dangers of ‘EA Senility’

June 1, 2007

In the last couple of weeks, I have spoken to two clients who had common symptoms which I have termed ‘EA Senility’.  Both are Chief Architects in large, global companies.  Their EA functions are mature by any measure.  Strong EA governance and communication.  Completed TOGAF-like frameworks that are comprehensive, fully populated, current and well crafted.  Artifacts are polished.  In short, they are models of EA excellence and could serve as case studies for newly minted EA teams.

There is only one problem. 

Both Chief Architects believe they are slowly losing the support of leadership – both within IT and the BUs.  By ‘loss of support’ I don’t mean ‘anti-EA’ sentiment but rather a loss of relevance and interest. Both wanted insight and advice on how they could return to their ‘glory days’.

One of the clients had just had a meeting with their new CIO ,who was hired from the outside after the long-serving CIO retired.  One of the first things the new CIO asked was “How is ‘open systems’ incorporated into the enterprise architecture?”. 

The fact is there isn’t any open systems ‘stuff’ in either client’s EA.  No Linux.  No MySQL.  No Apache.  ‘No nothin’. I found this hard to believe. 

In talking with them I found that projects had come forward with open systems proposals but, it became clear to me, that ‘governance’ and ‘process’ and ‘standards’ eventually ground out innovation.  The EA teams had effectively become inhibiters of business change.  In their old age they had gotten away from the raison d’etre – to enable the business.

When, as architects, we stop looking forward and we stop innovating then we should retire.  We have become ‘the man’.  We have become senile. 

‘Senility’ doesn’t happen to the young, it happens to the ‘mature’.


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