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Do you perform Information Architecture or a Data Architecture?

By |2016-07-10T00:41:37+00:00November 21st, 2014|Enterprise Architecture|

So, full disclosure, I care about Wikipedia.  Call me dumb, I know.  Wikipedia has been described, alternatively, as the best platform ever invented for fostering useless arguments among ignorant people /and/ the most successful encyclopedia effort of all time.  The truth, as always, lies between these extremes.

Well, I’m part of a small team that is working to clean up the Wikipedia pages dealing with Enterprise Architecture.  One thing that we noted recently is the fact that there are two pages, similar, both rather poor, that cover essentially the same topic.

One page is called “Information Architecture” and the other is called “Data Architecture.”

(more…)

The Architecture Manager – the Forgotten Enterprise Architecture Role

By |2014-11-11T16:46:03+00:00November 11th, 2014|Enterprise Architecture|

I’ve met many Architecture Managers over the years.  Sometimes they go by the title of “Chief Enterprise Architect” or “Chief IT Architect” and other times, the title is “Vice President of Architecture and Strategy” or some variant.  The men and women called to serve in this unique role have a distinct, and uniquely important role to play in the success of the Enterprise Architecture function in their enterprise.  Yet precious little is said about them.

In this article, I’ll touch one some of the key qualities I would expect to find in a successful Architecture Manager.

What value does an Architecture Manager provide

As the role of Enterprise Architect matures in organizations around the world, we’ve begun to see the tremendous impact that an effective architecture manager provides.  In many ways, the Architecture Manager is the single most important role in the department, but also the most difficult role to fill.  That is because, typically, the role is filled by a person who “moves up” from being an Enterprise Architect.  Unfortunately, being an excellent EA is poor preparation for this particular role.

An Architecture manager is:

  • An expert at “selling upwards” – Convincing management of the need, role, measures, and successes of the EA function as a whole.
     
  • An expert as “peer selling” – Convincing enterprise peers of the value of requiring their staff to collaborate with an architect, especially when doing so forces a change on the processes they would otherwise use.   (this is one of the most difficult and valuable activities an Architecture Manager can do).
     
  • A visionary for the development of the function – Convincing the team, the management, and internal partners of the vision and desired impact of Enterprise Architecture in the organization, keeping in mind both short term and long term goals.   Without vision, the function cannot grow. 
     
  • A good people and resource manager – Capable of aligning people to roles that can be successfully performed, helping his or her staff to grow to meet their potential, and finding new resources from within and without the enterprise capable of performing an architecture function.   It’s amazing how many architects move up to a manager role and have no idea how to do this well.  This blind spot can kill a team within a year.

 

In my travels, I’ve met both good Architecture Managers and not-so-good Architecture Managers.  The ones in need of improvement nearly always struggled at one of the above.

What are the responsibilities of an Architecture Manager

Enterprise Architects are rare birds… especially good ones.  There are many folks who have worked to become Enterprise Architects, and a few who succeeded in recognizing the uniquely holistic role of an EA.  Typically an EA has to manage through influence alone, because it’s rare that an EA has a team of resources assigned to him or her.  But an Architecture Manager is in a different position.  They do have a team, and unlike other efforts where they could be objective about a business leader’s business processes and functional alignment, they now have to perform architecture on themselves.  Sometimes, they succeed.

If you find you need to hire an architecture manager, you’ll need a list of responsibilities for your hiring team.  Just copy the following list.

The responsibilities of an Architecture Manager include:

  • To set the vision, goals, and measures of success for the Enterprise Architecture function within an enterprise, recognizing the current team maturity, skills of the team members, and readiness of the enterprise to accept the role as desired.
  • To measure the value of the efforts of the Enterprise Architecture function in a neutral manner and present those measures at appropriate times to stakeholders within the enterprise to earn buy in for the function and the funding it requires.
  • To create, refine, and oversee execution of the internal processes of the Enterprise Architecture function, including documenting processes, building support for points of interaction, and ensuring the deliverables match the expectations and timing needed by internal partners and stakeholders.
  • To manage the team members of the Enterprise Architecture function effectively and within the required parameters set by Human Resources.  This includes hiring staff, setting team goals, and conducting performance reviews.
  • To manage the assignment of resources to necessary priorities within the enterprise to meet conflicting strategic needs, and shielding the team members from being pulled out of role.
  • To act as an evangelist for the role of Enterprise Architect within the enterprise, working to build support for the function and its staff members among internal partners.

 

What should an Architecture Manager know

Some of this is pretty obvious, but it’s worth stating anyway.  The architecture manager has to be familiar with enterprise architecture.  But they also have to be familiar with how things can work in an organization, especially if the focus of the EA program is related to IT (as it nearly always is).

  • Experience with and understanding of the deliverables and value proposition of Enterprise Architecture.
  • Deep understanding of the methods and processes an appropriate EA framework. 
    • For telecom, this would be Frameworx (formerly NGOSS and eTOM).
    • For US federal government, that would be the FEA or DODAF.  (in different countries, there are different governmental frameworks). 
    • For private business, the leading frameworks would be TOGAF in first, with a tiny number of organizations still using Zachman. 
    • A small but growing number of companies use the Pragmatic EA Framework (PEAF). 
    • Most organizations roll their own, often from TOGAF, so starting there is the safest.  Note that a certification in TOGAF or the Zachman Framework is a great start.
  • Strong written and oral communication skills
  • Strong and demonstrable systems thinking and strategic thinking skills.  The ability to capture the key elements of a system into a simple abstraction that empowers good decisions.
  • Solid business financial skills.  Demonstrable ability to perform cost benefit analysis and manage the budget of a team.
  • Strong business negotiation skills, influence, conflict resolution, and political savvy
  • Demonstrable leadership in Portfolio Management, Project Management and Enterprise Change Management
  • Multiple years of Strategic Planning experience, preferably in a governance role

 

What should an Architecture Manager NOT do

In many cases, people who move into the role of Architecture Manager worked their way to that role as an architect.  They may have been a technical architect, solution architect, business architect, or enterprise architect.  In many organizations, these roles are deeply technical.  Of all the architecture managers I’ve met, the overwhelming majority are technologists.

Unfortunately, most technologists don’t have the skills to focus on the responsibilities listed above.  It is tempting to continue to be a technologist once moving to this role.  It is also suicide.  Your term as the “Vice President of Strategy and Architecture” will be short if you cannot step back and let your team perform the technologies or modeling activities typical of an architect.  This means, for the architecture manager himself or
herself: No modeling,  No coding,  No time spent geeking out.  (Ok, exception, fiddling on the side is fine, especially if you want to “stay warm” with your technical skills… but nothing deliverable.)

Where should I look to find a good Architecture Manager

First place is the same as you’d expect for any role: find a person who was successful as an Architecture Manager in another enterprise.  Be careful of people who performed  but did not succeed as an Architecture Manager.  Most folks fail.  Find out if the function continued after they left, and if their team enjoyed working for them, and if their stakeholders saw fit to provide an increased level of interaction with their staff members.  Look at examples of their teams’ deliverables and ask about their ability to build and maintain new business processes.

Second option is to bring in an experienced architect and let them take on the role.  Assuming the team already exists and is well accepted within the organization, this is a reasonable approach.  Finding a seasoned architecture manager is extraordinarily difficult, so this may be the only rational option.  The person you select should have worked for at least six years as an Enterprise level architect, with increasing levels of responsibility, and should preferably have been a resource manager at some other point in their career.  If the program does not already exist, see the next section.

Third option is a seasoned manager who has no experience as an Enterprise Architect.  This may be a distinguished technical architect, or the leader of a highly visible program in the past.  These folks are expected to bring expert team leadership skills and deep technical skills.  The biggest challenge that they will face is being able to adequately learn the role.  Unlike most other management roles, the Architecture Manager must be able to SELL the value of the role of Enterprise Architect, and that is extraordinarily difficult to do if the manager wasn’t an architect first.  The learning curve is very steep.  To pull this off, the Architecture Manager will need a good mentor or an experienced consultant to help guide them through the first year in role. 

Building a program around an Architecture Manager

If you don’t already have a functioning Enterprise Architecture program, your very first hire will be the Architecture manager.  This role will be doing a great deal of heavy lifting in that first year.  Setting up processes and deliverables.  Making sure that the stakeholders buy in to collaborating with those processes.  Hiring and situating staff.  Creating priorities and managing resources.  Setting up measurement and demonstrating value.  It’s a tough road to build from scratch while providing value.

The only advice I can give: do NOT build a new EA program around an Enterprise Architect who has never been an Architecture Manager before.  That is simply too much for a single person to handle.  Going from EA to Architecture Manager of a new program is a huge leap, and I have never seen it be a successful approach in the long term.  The person you hire may be a “survivor” who knows how to avoid being fired, but that won’t make them effective.  Once they move to another role in the enterprise, the function will likely vanish.

You need the Architecture Manager to be effective.  To build a program with lasting value.  To build a program that matures over time. 

So if you are building a new EA program, build it around an experienced Architecture Manager.  Then support them with resources that they did not ask for: (a) an outside expert who can provide a neutral point of view and sounding board as they build and struggle that first year, and (b) Serious “air cover” so that they have the time needed to build the team, create the processes, build support, and demonstrate early value.

Conclusion

The single most important person in the Enterprise Architecture function is the Architecture Manager.  This critical role is part visionary, part marketer, part people manager, and part evangelist.  They have to change the organization and keep the change from undoing itself.  The role of Enterprise Architecture is highly dependent upon the skills and the focus of this key role.  Choose wisely.

When does EA start to care about sociocultural influences?

By |2014-08-13T11:24:38+00:00August 13th, 2014|Enterprise Architecture|

Organizations do not work, in real life, like they work on paper.  On paper, there are departments (all shaped like a neat rectangle) and business processes with neat inflows and outflows of responsibility and information.  On paper, you improve things by modeling things on paper, and then moving things around, on paper, then teaching people to follow the process that your neat paper diagrams represent.

In real life, there are human beings and the tools that they use.  Sometimes the tools move information from one person to another.  Sometimes, they just aid in communication.  People meet and get to know other people, and they learn to trust some, and distrust others.  Some folks have different measures and motivations and just “pass by” one another.  Some subset of these people will have shared cultural values and expectations.  There may be many cultures in an organization: both because the organization is in multiple places, and because people from multiple places join an organization.  Also, “business culture” arises as leaders achieve successes and people learn to use certain “cultural expectations” to get things done efficiently. 

Reality is a lot messier than pretty rectangles. 

Enterprise Architects apply science and engineering and aesthetics to the challenge of organizational change.  We are unique in that most other “change artists” are not focused on engineering and some even ignore science.  (see Daniel Pink’s TED Talk on the Surprising Science of Motivation).  Few even know how to spell aesthetics.  Yet, when you are dealing with systems that contain and include people, you have to use aesthetics, and you are ill prepared for success if you ignore science.  Engineering is a mindset as much as a class of methods.  It involves applying the things that science has discovered and using that understanding to build great (and sometimes terrible) things.  Engineers build on ideas and use them, often experimenting on systems that are too complex and intertwined for “pure science” to get arms around.

As Enterprise Architecture is such a young science, we have relied to heavily on the “boxes and lines” model of enterprises, and not enough on the messy but important sociocultural view of an enterprise.  We find it easier to document, and model, and even simulate, processes as though people were interchangeable and their relationships didn’t matter. 

That is just lazy.

It is time to get up off our collective butts and start working out ways to understand sociocultural influences, relationships, and architectures.  We have to build ways to detect, measure, and consider these structures when we measure capabilities, or improve processes, or suggest automations, or evaluate business models, or any of the two dozen things that EA’s do. 

The value of EA often comes to an executive in the form of a reasoned opinion that is based on data that no one else is looking at.  Let’s consider the possibility that examining sociocultural influences can provide interesting opinions that an executive will find valuable.

We should consider sociocultural information if:

  1. Sociocultural influencers can impact the speed of change in an organization.
  2. Sociocultural connections can impact the decision making and governance processes
  3. Sociocultural strengths would allow rapid improvement in business capabilities needed for a shift in strategy
  4. Sociocultural blind spots would prevent an organization from recognizing an existential threat

 

Think about it.  Do you believe that any of those statements are false?  I can find ample examples for each one.  So if sociocultural interactions matter, why are we not tracking them, learning from them, using them to make decisions?

It’s only hard because we haven’t tried.

(This post inspired by the many similar pleas shared by J.D. Beckingham in social media).

Call to survey – Is your EA program valuable?

By |2014-07-23T09:42:59+00:00July 23rd, 2014|Enterprise Architecture|

This is the first time I’ve done this, so I’m hoping that my friends will contribute your opinions: I’ve created a survey  asking a few basic questions about how your Enterprise Architecture program is valued, or not valued, by your organization.

KwikSurvey Poll – Does your Enterprise Architecture program deliver value?

Note that this is a free survey tool that doesn’t allow me to collect text responses unless I pay, which I didn’t, so there are no text response fields.  If you want to comment on the survey questions or assumptions, please jump over to LinkedIn and comment in this thread:

LinkedIn Discussion – Do you have an effective or ineffective EA Program

All comments are anonymous.  I will publish the results on this blog.  This is just an informal data collection exercise but one that I think may provide a little insight into how you and your peers measure the value of your Enterprise Architecture program.

Being Forgotten in the Internet of Things

By |2014-06-30T11:04:28+00:00June 30th, 2014|Enterprise Architecture|

We all know that Google lost a landmark legal case recently.  As of now, a citizen of Europe has the “right to be forgotten” on the Internet.  As of now, a citizen of Europe can ask Google to “forget” them, so that a search of their identity will not return embarrassing information from the past.  This allows a person to live past a mistake.  Your college indiscretion, and that time you were fired for photocopying your butt, or the time you got drunk and drove your car into a swamp and had to be rescued… all of that can “go away.”

However, this becomes much more difficult when we consider the emerging Internet of Things (IoT).  In the Internet of Things, the “stuff” that you own can generate streams of data that do not remain within your control.  That data is called “Information Property.”  It is the information that YOU generate, in the things that you do.  I believe that if YOU create a bit of information property, you should own it.

That information property, thousands of tiny bits of data about you or your activities, will wander out of your house, or your car, or your phone, to companies and governments running cloud-based data centers.  That swarm of data surrounds you, and be used to profile you, track you, predict your actions, influence your choices, and limit your abilities to get “outside” the system.  Most folks will not have any problem with this cloud of data.  At least not at first. 

Where we will first feel the pain of this cloud of data: when you want to be forgotten.

A parallel that does work

We have been dealing with “data about you” for a while.  When you apply for a loan or a credit card, the information you submit becomes the property of your creditor, and they share that data with credit reporting agencies, along with your payment history, employment history, residential history, status of property ownership, and basically any other factor that finance companies feel would influence your likelihood to pay your debts.  The US Federal Government has placed some controls on this data, but not many.  Europe has placed entirely different controls.  You have no right to be forgotten, but you do have the right to limit their memory to a decade.  That allows you to “get past” a mistake or series of mistakes.  But you are always “known.”  However, a mistake can be forgotten. 

This is a model we can use.  Here is data, about you, outside your control, that get’s “forgotten” on a regular basis as it gets old.  There is a possibility in the credit reporting world for being “forgotten” because the data is tied to you, personally.  It is ALL personal data. 

This is not (yet) true in the Internet of Things.  If your car sends data to a smart roadway system, there is a great deal of information about where you go, and when, but under most circumstances, your identity is not tied to that data.  It’s the identity of the CAR that is sent, but not the identity of the driver or passenger.  That can be seen as an advantage, because it is tough to link that data to you, but it is possible, and therefore it will occur.  You will be found.  And when it does occur, you no longer have any easy mechanism to PROVE that the data from your car relates to you. This means that if any government creates a policy to allow you to be forgotten, the car data will not go away.  You can’t CLAIM that data because it is not directly linked to you.  You don’t own it.

Think this is a minor problem?  After all, your city doesn’t have a smart roadway yet, and your car doesn’t send data, so this problem is a long way off, right?  Wrong.  If we don’t think of this now, privacy will be sacrificed, possibly for decades. 

The environment of regulations sets the platform by which companies create their business models.  If we create a world where you cannot claim your data, and you cannot manage your data, other people will start claiming your data, and making money.  Once that happens, new regulations amount to government “taking money” from a company.  The typical government response is to “grandfather” existing practices (or to protect them outright).  No chance to change beyond a snail’s pace at that time.

A proposal

I propose a simple mechanism.  Every time you purchase a device on the IoT, you insert an ID into the device.  This ID is a globally unique ID (my tech friends call this a GUID) which is essentially a very large random number.  You can pick up as many as you want over your lifetime, but I’d suggest getting a new one every month.  A simple app can create the GUID and manage them.  Every item you purchase during that month gets the ID for that month.

Every bit of data (or Information property) sent by the device to the swarm of companies that will collect and work with this data will get your GUID.

Note that your GUID allows those companies to link your data across devices (your phone, your car, your refrigerator, your ATM card, your medical record, etc).  Is this allowed?  Perhaps one government or another will say “no” but that control will be easily worked around, so let’s assume that you cannot control this.  The thing I want to point out is that this kind of linkage is POSSIBLE now, it’s just more difficult.  But difficulty is being overcome at a huge rate with the number of computing devices growing geometrically.  Let’s assume that folks can do this NOW and that you will NEVER be able to control it.

Therefore inserting an ID is not giving up control.  You don’t have it now.

But it is possible, with the ID, to TAKE control.  You will be able to submit a request to a regulated data management company (a category that doesn’t yet exist, but it is possible), then those systems can identify all the data records with your ID, and delete them.  Only if you can claim your data can you delete it.  By inserting a GUID into your Internet-of-things, you have gained a right… the right to claim your data, and therefore delete it.

It will no longer be a choice of sending a single message to a single search firm like Google.  The request to delete will have to go to a broker that will distribute the request, over time, to a swarm of data management companies, to remove data tagged with these IDs. 

Some implications

Now, before anyone complains that a company, once they have data, will never let it go, I would submit that is nonsense.  90% of the value of information comes from samples of that data of less than 2% of the population.  In fact, the vast majority of data will be useless, and plenty of companies will be looking for excuses to toss data into the virtual trash bin.  If a customer asks to delete data, it costs a micro-cent to do it, but that data is probably clogging things up anyway. 

Getting a company to spend the money will probably require regulations from large players like the EU, the USA, China, Japan, Brazil, and India. 

The time to act is now

Now is the time to ask for these regulations, as the Internet of Things is just getting started.  Companies that understand the ability to create and manage these IDs, and respond to the request to delete information, will have a leg up on their competition.  Customers will trust these companies more, and the data will be more accurate for consumers of these data services. 

You cannot delete “information property” until you can claim it.  The ID is the claim. 

EA Debt

By |2014-06-24T23:41:00+00:00June 24th, 2014|Enterprise Architecture|

(Note: I’ve added an addendum to this post)

It has been many years that we have lived with the concept of technical debt.  Martin Fowler did a good job of describing the concept in a 2003 article on his wiki.  Basically, the idea is that you can make a quick-and-dirty change to software.  You will have to spend time to fix that software later.  That additional time is like an interest payment on debt that you incur when you made the change.  Fixing the code to make it more elegant and clean “pays down the debt” so that future changes cost less to make.

I’d like my fellow practitioners to consider joining me in extending this idea to the enterprise.

Organizations change, and sometimes the changes have to be made quickly.  Processes that are implemented “quick and dirty” may have poorly defined roles, overlapping responsibilities, and duplicate accountabilities.  It may work, and it may be necessary to hit a deadline.  However, these “dirty” processes have the same problem that dirty code does – it costs more later to fix them. 

In a sense, partial process or accountability “fixes” in an organization create “enterprise architecture debt” or “EA debt.”  We run into it all the time in organizations.  Here are some examples that I’ve personally seen:

  • One team is responsible for checking the quality of all manufactured products and making sure that they get to distributors.  However, products that are custom developed have their own quality check and distribution function.  Effectively, two different teams duplicate a couple of functions.  This could be simplified, and doing so would likely reduce costs and improve consistency in quality checks. 
     
  • The marketing team uses data mining techniques to identify potential customers (prospects) and enters them into a system along with attributes like segment, predicted value, and targeting within specific marketing programs.  When a new customer reaches out to actually purchase a product, however, the customer record is created in a CRM system that is not linked to the marketing record.  Consistently linked customer information could provide valuable information about the effectiveness of marketing programs as well as enriching customer information for the sale of service and ongoing sales.
      
  • An outpatient specialty radiology department in a Hospital requires patients to be registered separately from other hospital services in order for patients to be handled.  For most patients, this is not a problem.  However, for patients within the hospital, the separate registration requirement creates opportunities for errors as information is hand-transcribed from one system to another.
     
  • A retailer sets up an e-commerce division to sell their wares online.  However, inventory and warehousing the new e-commerce site is not integrated into existing store systems.  The ecommerce “store” is treated as another physical store.  This works, but any attempt to allow customers to purchase online and pick up at a store become problematic because the retailer has no way to handle purchases made in one store to be fulfilled by another.
     

These, and a thousand more situations, are the result of “partial” or “messy” implementation of organizational changes.  They are a form of “EA debt” because any change to the organization that hits these capabilities will be more expensive to change in the future as complexity slows down the organization.  In effect, EA debt is like taking a Lego set and gluing the pieces together.  The parts will remain just as they are, but the will be very difficult to change in the future if something needs to change.  (Apologies to “The Lego Movie” for the metaphor).

Why call this “EA debt?”  Because it is not a financial term.  It is nearly impossible to accurately measure all of the EA debt in an organization.  It is, however, fairly straight forward to measure monetary debt.  So we have to be careful not to use terms like “enterprise debt” or “organizational debt” as these may be confused with general accounting concepts.  Just as technology teams sometimes twist the concept of an “asset” to apply to an information system, Enterprise architects are using the metaphor of debt to refer to one of the root causes of difficulty in making organizational change.

Addendum: I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this idea is not novel.  It’s fairly self-evident.  It was my mistake that I didn’t go looking for other references to the idea before writing the above post.  Laziness.  No excuse.  While the concept of technical debt does in fact trace back to Ward Cunningham (inventor of the Wiki), as discussed by Martin Fowler in the referenced blog post, the application of that concept was first applied to EA in 2008 in the Pragmatic EA Framework, and is part of the current version as well.  I’d give a link to that presentation if I could but the best I’m able to do at this time is a general link to PEAF at http://www.pragmaticea.com.  Kevin directly responded below with links into his material .  It is no disgrace to be in the shadow of Kevin Smith (author of PEAF).  It is an error, however, to appear to originate the idea.  For that, my apologies.

Enterprise Initiatives – A Train Built By Monkeys

By |2016-07-10T00:14:01+00:00June 3rd, 2014|Enterprise Architecture|

Business leaders demand alignment, right?

Many folks frame enterprise architecture (EA) as a function that is necessary because organizations need alignment.  In that mind set, the primary value proposition of EA is to create initiatives that are aligned to strategy, are feasible, well scoped, and should result in a fit-for-purpose organization and information infrastructure.  In this way of thinking, it is up to the enterprise architect to figure out what trains need to leave the station, where they are going to go, and when they need to arrive.  All the passengers have tickets and all the conductors have schedules and everyone is set and ready to go.

Note that I highlighted two words: “create initiatives.”  In this view of enterprise architecture, once those initiatives are created, their work is done.  Projects teams “drive the trains” and move the people and get the work done.

Source: Train Wallpapers

I have a problem with this viewpoint.  Consider this question:  Does enterprise architecture “go away” after the initiative is framed, business case is proposed, and the funding cycle is complete?

The answer is emphatically “no.”

Alignment is not your (real) problem

You see, the real problem is NOT alignment.  It’s execution.  Creating a great strategy is tough, but getting your organization to change to meet that strategy is far tougher.  Sure, part of that problem is solved with alignment.  Alignment is necessary because it gives you the right mix of things to do.  It is essentially a planning activity.

But execution is not a planning activity.  There are far more screw ups in the execution than in the planning.  So if the EA is trying to bring about the changes that an executive has demanded, in order to make a strategic change actually occur, he or she cannot stop when “alignment” has been achieved.  The role of the EA has to continue all the way through execution to make sure that the “train” (the initiative) reaches the right destination.  That is why, within Microsoft Services, we refer to Enterprise Architecture efforts using a “framework for value realization.”

The Train Metaphor

The train metaphor is problematic because we think of a train as a tightly engineer marvel of modern efficiency running on a pair of rails that are carefully laid out.  Initiatives are not like that.  Business initiatives are like a train built by monkeys. They are not remotely similar to marvels of modern efficiency.  They are noisy, rattling, energy wasting, Rube Goldberg machines that would fall apart at the drop of a hat if not for the efforts of many people, often unsung heroes, who keep everything moving in the same direction.

What’s more, that train is running on a network of tracks that interlock and weave and visit multiple places from different directions, full of dead ends.  There is rarely a central dispatching office(PMO) watching over the whole operation and even when there is, it rarely has good information on which to base decisions, reducing it to a status-reporting role.  Without oversight and plenty of assistance, the business initiative “train” may end up stalled in some wayward place, abandoned.

 

Uyuni-Tour

Photo: R. Lowsek Source: Uyuni – Bolivia’s Train Graveyard

Execute the Strategy — Keeping the Monkey Train Running

Enterprise architects have a duty to complete their mission: execute the strategy and realize business value.  Creating the schedule and planning the route is not enough to deliver business value.  An enterprise architect must actually ride the train (or watch to make sure it moves through a particular set of stations).  He or she must listen to the rattles it makes as it switches from one direction to another, evaluate the alternatives of design and implementation, and consider whether the train is carrying too much or too little cargo (scope) for it to handle.  Most importantly, an enterprise architect must be focused on making sure that the train, upon reaching the destination station, actually delivers value when it gets there.

All too often, a train (project) will drop scope or change course along the way.  It may get to the right station, eventually, but along the way, the conductor had to lighten the load, so he dropped a few cars.  The conductor (project manager) declares success when the train hits the station.  To him, it doesn’t really matter if the time delay caused by the “Left Turn at Albuquerque” meant that the cargo missed its connection.

According to project management professionals, it is up to the business stakeholder to make sure that the value is delivered properly.  The enterprise architect has nothing to do with it, right?  The twist is that the operational business stakeholder rarely cares about the enterprise perspective.  He or she may be interested in “local success” that can be reached,  regardless of the compromises taken along the way.  In this case, both the project manager and the business stakeholder declare success, while the actual value needed to reach the strategy is lost.

So success leads to failure.  The train gets to the right station, perhaps even “on time,” but without actually delivering the value.  The wrong cargo is delivered or it was left behind along the way.    This describes countless “business initiatives” that I’ve seen over the decades.  It’s so common, we have a term for it: watermelon project (green on the outside, red on the inside).  Maybe we should call it a “dead strategy walking.”

The Role of Enterprise Architecture in Oversight

A business initiative is not a smooth, well oiled machine.  If it were a machine, it would be a train built and operated by monkeys.  Parts would fall off, or be added on, for reasons unexplainable, and the direction taken would depend on the whims of political decisions that can seem arcane and undecipherable on a good day.  Getting an initiative going is not the hardest thing you will do in your life.  Far tougher is riding atop the initiative train, making sure that it doesn’t do really dumb things, or fall off the rails, and gets to the actual intended destination with the value proposition intact.

An enterprise architect is an invaluable element for ensuring that business value is actually realized from an initiative.  An EA will collect metrics, prior to the initiative, that illustrate both the problem to be solved and the various other measures of productivity and business value that could be impacted as the program proceeds.  He or she will do more than just collect and report on value realization.  He or she will use the opportunity of collecting this information to guide key decision makers towards decisions that maintain enterprise value and away from decisions that diminish enterprise value.

The enterprise architect, in the best case, is involved in key decisions through this oversight process: how processe
s are to be changed, where activities (both operational and change focused) should occur, how people will get ready for change, how the change will be orchestrated to ensure that operations don’t lose value, what information will be leveraged, what systems will be impacted and in what way, what lifecycle considerations must be taken into account (both service, information, systems, and technology life cycles), and what dependencies will be created or relinquished. In most of these decisions, the EA is not the final decision maker.  He or she is there to provide the “enterprise perspective” and argue on behalf of senior leaders whose strategy may be impacted.  In a best case decision matrix, an EA would be able to escalate a disagreement to a governing board that includes a broad array of enterprise stakeholders.

Conclusion

The role of an Enterprise Architect is focused on much more than simply “aligning initiatives to strategy.”  They are also called upon to oversee those initiatives as they proceeds through execution, and to advocate on behalf of the enterprise all along the way.  Let’s recognize that a plan has no impact on an organization… only the initiative that follows the plan (or not) can change things.  When the Enterprise Architect oversees these initiatives, he or she has the opportunity to fulfill their promise to execute strategy and realize business value.

Does anonymity promote ill-informed consensus?

By |2014-05-05T14:12:49+00:00May 5th, 2014|Enterprise Architecture|

There are a spate of new Social Media apps that have emerged lately, all of which allow people to post comments and ideas anonymously.  They are being quickly adopted, especially among the very important 13-18 year old “adolescent market.”  They are also being quickly banned for promoting cyberstalking, cyberbullying, and otherwise cruel behavior.  Does anonymity protect cruelty?  And what does that say about more established Anonymous sites, like Wikipedia?

Normally I don’t comment on Social Media.  My regular readers know that I tend to focus primarily on enterprise architectural concerns like business model viability and strategic alignment.  But there is an interesting cross-over between Enterprise Architecture and Social Media, especially anonymous social media: the creation of community consensus.

The state of anonymity

For those not keeping up, there is a spate of new social media apps that have emerged lately, from Whisper to Secret to Yik Yak, that allow smartphone users to sign up and then post messages unfiltered and anonymously.  When in anonymous mode, users tend to say things that they feel uncomfortable saying on Twitter or Facebook (where their friends, family, and coworkers may discover a side of them that they may not agree with). 

YikYak especially is troubling because it uses a geolocation filter… you can see things posted by people within a certain distance of you.  Sounds innocent, right?  After all, young adults filtering through Bourbon Street festivities in New Orleans could share that a particular bar was playing really good jazz, or that drinks are strong and cheap across the street.  But you may quickly see the problem when I use two words: middle school.  Already, some High Schools and Middle Schools have had to ban the app because it became a platform for bullying and cruel comments.

The effects of anonymity

But what does it mean to be anonymous?  What are these comments that the guy next to you would like to send to “the world” without anyone knowing it was him?

You can look for yourself at Whisper.sh.  I spent a few minutes browsing through some of today’s messages.  Most were simple secrets… many were sexual or related to dating.  Some were work related.  Most had responses from equally anonymous people, and most were fairly benign.  Of course, there could be some judicious editing going on for the sake of casual surfers like me that own a Windows phone (and therefore can’t use the app).  Secret and Yik Yak don’t even make an effort to show any of their messages on their website.  It’s all in the app (once again, only for IPhone or, in the case of YikYak, android).

Of these, I think Yik Yak is the most interesting from a consensus point of view, because it is the only one that attempts to filter according to a community.  GeoLocation, especially when it comes to universities or even small towns, is sure to limit the reach of a message to people who share something in common with you.  That sense of “sharing something in common” is really what defines a community, and consensus only really matters in a community.

Anonymity and consensus

Does anonymity work to create consensus?  Sure.  Think of standing in a large crowd.  If one person yells something, you don’t normally turn to them and identify the source before considering, and possibly agreeing with, the content.  This is the very essence of a political rally or a protest march.  Taking in unfiltered ideas and deciding on them, on the spot, is part of how consensus is built.  Of course, there is no good way to take in ONLY good ideas when you are in a crowd.  We count on the crowd to do that for us.  If someone in a political rally yells “Death to the other guys!” we would expect the folks standing next to them to react, possibly causing the rabble-rouser to back down.  (Unless your protest march is in Karachi or Tehran or Cairo… but that’s another post).

In that sense, standing in a crowd is only “partially” anonymous.  There are still people who can see you, and if you do something really outrageous, there are people who could react by hitting you.  This is why you won’t find many people who will go to a crowded Yom Kippur (Jewish) service and stand up in the middle of the crowd and yell “Hitler was right!”  Pandemonium. 

But consensus and anonymity online is very different than standing in a crowd, and I think we need to be aware of the differences. 

The perils of anonymity online

Online, you can make claims that are difficult for another person to dispel, without consequence at all.  There is no one next to you ready to elbow you when you use name calling, or circulate unfounded rumors, or simply make things up!  Even when we use our actual names, we may participate in a discussion where we are not in the same room, or even the same continent, as our peers, and this can cause problems.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve witnessed this on LinkedIn.  A person will ask a question about frameworks, and I may point them to PEAF (a framework created by Kevin Smith).  No problem.  But if Kevin himself gets on the thread and mentions PEAF, his messages are blocked and he may even be kicked out of the discussion.  Why?  Because someone somewhere made a spurious charge (that he makes money when you use PEAF, which is not true).  Since the administrators of most LinkedIn Groups are anonymous, they can make bad decisions without consequence.  There is no good way for Kevin to clear his name of these charges because he does not know who the administrators are, and they appear unwilling to consider the possibility that he is not, in fact, using the platform to promote his own self interests.  Rumor rules the roost.  Not good.

I believe that the same thing applies to Wikipedia. 

Wikipedia, with its millions of articles, has emerged as one of the chief sources of encyclopedic content on the Internet.  It is widely respected, and most search engines make a point of returning Wikipedia entries near the top of their search results.  However, the administrators on Wikipedia are mostly anonymous.  (They use pseudonyms to do their editing work). 

This causes the same problems to occur in Wikipedia that occur in any other setting where people can be anonymous… mostly benign behavior with occasional outburst of bad behavior (with nearly no consequence). 

There is an essay (not a policy) on Wikipedia that says “Only Martians Should Edit.”  This policy says that some topics are so controversial that anyone associated with the actual content would be too biased to edit the content in a neutral manner.  Therefore, topics dealing with such things as State or Provincial politics, or national boundary disputes, or whether specific historic events should be counted as a genocide.  These things trigger strong emotions, so having people edit the articles as though they are “from Mars” can be a good policy.

On the other hand, for some topics that are very narrow, it is not possible to edit the article without knowledge of the subject.  If you are not an expert in African pop music, you may not do a good job discussing Azonto music and dance from Ghana.  In this case, an editor with no grounding in the subject is likely to make mistakes. 

The problem is that Wikipedia is based on consensus, and you may find yourself editing a page on Wikipedia where you have to build consensus among anonymous people, people that may or may not have ANY understanding of the subject matter.  And those people can be nice, or
cruel, with no consequence.  There is no one in the crowd next to them ready to elbow them for making an outrageous statement… because the other editors don’t know if the statement is outrageous!  You can build credibility on how well you enforce the rules, and then use that credibility to attack someone, and no one else can tell the difference.

Anonymity: Handle With Care

I’m of the opinion that anonymity on the Internet has to be handled with care.  There are times when it is necessary, especially when attempting to avoid governmental or organized oppression to free speech.  On the other hand, there are times when it is a license for ill-informed people to promote nonsense as a consensus.  After all, one third of Louisiana Republicans have been misled into thinking that Obama is to blame for the poor response to Hurricane Katrina.  I can think of a other examples of an ill-fated consensus among the ill-informed, but rarely one so laughable.

I believe that Sites and Apps should not leverage anonymity as a feature.  I make exceptions for Tahrir Square and Occupy Wall Street, etc, where rumor may be the only information you can trust, but that is not what these apps do. For normal social interactions, anonymity is actually a problem.  On Wikipedia, I believe that anonymity has outlived its usefulness. 

Business Architects: What’s at the “core”?

By |2014-04-04T17:04:11+00:00April 4th, 2014|Enterprise Architecture|

I made an interesting mistake, today… one that comes up from time to time.  I used a business term in one way, and some members of my audience understood what I meant, while others did not.  In this case, the word was “core”.  The word has two different definitions.  Unfortunately, the definitions are quite different, at least in an Enterprise Architecture context.

The dictionary definition of “core” reflects the problem.  Bing dictionary defines “core” as the “central” or “most important” part of something.  Notice the word “or.”  Either meaning can be intended.

This goes to an old idea of putting the most important part of something in the middle.  In ancient kingdoms, the capital city was often very centrally located, usually near a convenient transportation route (like a river) that offered quick access to all parts of the kingdom (within reason).  So, the word core can mean “most important” or it can mean “in the middle.”  In the past, those two meanings were synonymous.

But in business, the thing “in the center” is not the most important thing.  Porter illustrates this with his (now famous) value chain model:

Porter’s Value Chain.  Image source.

What is the most important part of that model?  It’s the bottom-half, illustrated as the “primary activities” or value chain.  Porter is smart enough to avoid the word “core” because it has the connotation of “in the center” when he wanted to illustrate that value chains are not “in the center.” They traverse “end-to-end”. 

Porter seems to be somewhat alone in avoiding the term “core.”  Many business books and resources use the term “core” when referring to the primary activities.  There are countless illustrations, if you bing for images with the search phrase “business core”, where you are looking either at a set of service offerings or a value chain.  The following diagram is a business architecture reference model for the hospitality industry.  The name of this model: Core Business Domains and Processes. 

Core Business Domains and Processes – Hospitality Technology Next Generation Reference Architecture

On the other hand, there are also illustrations of business where “shared” items are at the center, and non-shared items are “at the edge”.  Illustrations like this one are also quite easy to find:

Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

In business architecture, do we illustrate “core” things to be “shared things at the center of a circle” or do we mean “core” to be “the most important things?”

In Enterprise Architecture, the distinction becomes more problematic.  Shared things are often the LEAST important thing from the perspective of the business, not the MOST important thing.  For example, the HR department is often a shared function, and unless the company is an HR service provider, that business function is not part of the value stream.  On the other hand, from the perspective of information architecture, the shared things are the most important and the non-shared things are the least important.  For example, a single understanding of “customer” is critical, especially when that understanding is shared across marketing, sales, and customer service.  It is shared, common, and very important.   

Now, add a specific use of the word “core” that is used in EA:  the notion of a “core diagram” as described in the book “Enterprise Architecture As Strategy” from Ross and Weill.  In that sense, the diagram itself may vary depending on which one of the operating models is being used, but the model itself is a shared, common understanding of the key items that are shared (whether that is process, information, or both).  In that case, the thing that is important is the thing that is shared.  That is called “core.”

Two years ago, I made a presentation to the Open Group conference about creating core diagrams using a method I created called “Minimum Sufficient Business Integration.”  In that method, I use the word “core” many times to refer to “shared” items that are central to an organizations’ Enterprise Architecture. 

So, what definition should I use for “core” when having a discussion about business and enterprise architecture?  Should the word “core” refer to “the most important” thing, or “the most shared” thing?

I don’t have a good answer.  Perhaps the best answer is to avoid the word “core” altogether. 

Climbing the ladder from EITA to EA

By |2014-03-10T13:50:59+00:00March 10th, 2014|Enterprise Architecture|

One of the most common problems in Enterprise Architecture, and one I get asked about routinely, is the “ladder” problem.  Many Enterprise Architecture teams are formed by assembling a group of talented technologists into a team and giving them a charter to “go do EA.”  The problem is that most of these teams have no credibility outside the technology group, and cannot really operate as a “bridge between business and IT” if they don’t have the relationships and knowledge that they need to be an Enterprise Architect.  Building those relationships and that credibility takes time… sometimes many years.  Until they make that transition, the team is an Enterprise IT Architecture team (EITA) and while that is useful, the value proposition of EA remains unfulfilled.

I call this “climbing the ladder” from EITA to EA. 

While the entire team should work on this, only a few will succeed.  Good news: That’s all you need.  However, it’s important that everyone makes the attempt to climb the ladder.  As a manager, I have no magic “test” to determine, for certain, which member of the team will make the transition and which won’t.  I once thought I did, but reality proved me wrong.  So everyone makes the attempt.  Those who remain EITA’s can continue in that role for the EA team, or they can transfer to a different group where their technical skills are valuable and needed.

So, how is this done?  How does an individual EITA climb the ladder?

You need four things:

  1. business knowledge
  2. empathy (and good reflective communication skills)
  3. courage
  4. air cover

Business Knowledge

Business knowledge is the one that should, on the surface, be the easiest of the three to acquire.  Unfortunately, it seems to be one that is sorely lacking among EITA’s who are attempting to make this transition.  What do I mean by business knowledge?  I mean the ability to understand the basic concepts of business at a working level.  In other words, can you answer these questions coherently:

  1. Explain the difference between value and cost from the perspective of the provider of a product or service
  2. For Contoso in Q4 CY2013, they saw sales to new customers increase while market share decreased.  Explain.
  3. Give an example of a disruption in bricks-and-mortar business triggered by mobile computing
  4. When your company acquires another company for cash, explain how the balance sheet is impacted
  5. Explain how opening a new channel for your customers can result in a decrease in sales
  6. Give an example of a good strategy that failed in your industry or market.  Why did it happen?

Where do you get business knowledge?  There are a gazillion books that will give you the basics.  Universities are helpful as well.  With the wide array of support, Enterprise IT Architects should have no difficulty learning these things… yet it’s startling how many don’t.  I have some friends who insist that an MBA is needed.  I disagree with that, but college courses do help.  I hold out the most hope for success with a blended program like that offered by the Enterprise Architecture degree at Pennsylvania State University. 

Empathy and Communication Skills

There has been a good bit of ink spilled about technical topics: mobile platforms, SOA, security, etc.  These help with the EITA side of the job.  But they don’t do much for the architect who needs to climb the ladder.  To successfully make that move, most architects need to invest in training on their soft skills.  This means building up the following:

  • Listening – Can you elicit the emotional context behind your stakeholders strategies and goals?  Can you truly “hear” them?  There are courses, and books, and online videos, that can help you to become a more conscious listener.  Not only will this help you climb the ladder, it will also help you in your relationships with family and friends. 
     
  • Empathy – The art of empathy in business is one where you feel as your stakeholder feels.  Don’t confuse with sympathy.  Big difference.  Empathy is a selfless act, and your ego has to be put into check if you are going to learn empathy.  There are many folks in architecture who struggle with ego, ambition, and condescension.  I struggle as well.  But if you don’t tame this beast, and build your capacity for empathy, your stakeholders will have a difficult time connecting with you.  As the old saying goes: They won’t care what you know, unless they know that you care. 
     
  • Negotiation – You will be frequently called upon to find a way for two people, with different perspectives, to come to a solution where both people “win”.  These “win-win” solutions form the basis for successful endeavors of many kinds, not just in business.  But if you don’t know how to negotiate, your usefulness as a bridge-builder is seriously limited. 
     
  • Positional Awareness – this means the ability to “see” how the organization works from various perspectives, and to position yourself, and your value proposition as to provide you the ability to influence that system.  It also means being aware when other folks are doing the same thing, which has the effect of changing your landscape out from under you.  Some folks call this “politics.”  I call it necessary.
     
  • Selling – Yep, I said the dreaded “s” word.  Many architects view “sales” as a dirty word.  After all, Sales people use emotions, leverage relationships, and often don’t even understand the details of what they are selling.  The sale is more important than the actual people!  Ouch.  It’s true.  Sales professionals are often competitive individuals who have been known to compromise their integrity for the sake of the transaction.  But that doesn’t mean that the tools and techniques of sales aren’t useful, or effective, or critical to success.  These techniques are mission critical.  So take professional training in sales.  How to hook a lead.  How to build excitement.  How to connect to your stakeholders’ underlying motivations.  How to use emotion to communicate.  How to ask for the sale.  How to follow up.   The use of color, design, and simplicity to convey a message.  All of that. 

Courage

Did you know that courage can be learned?  I guess I always knew it was possible, but I never really considered it until I found myself with a situation where I needed to use courage, and needed others to do the same.  I was playing the role of a SOA architect, and I needed to convince development teams and technical architects to adopt a set of patterns that would help the enterprise, but may actually add complexity to their own project.  I needed to walk into rooms and see if I could demonstrate, convince, cajole, argue, and/or negotiate my way to changes that were not in the obvious best interests of the team itself. 

I taught myself courage.  I taught others courage as well.  Part of teaching, and learning to be courageous, is to put your efforts into perspective.  See your work as necessary to a “bigger picture” and be very aware of how much you can get away with before others decide that they cannot actually follow your lead or support your efforts.

Courage is not the lack of fear or operating outside of dangerous situations.  It is the conscious choice to move ahead despite danger.  As the Will Smith character in “After Earth” tries to teach his son, “D
anger is real.  Fear is a choice.”  Sometimes, as an Enterprise Architect, you will have to tell someone powerful something that they don’t want to hear.  The situation can end badly, impacting your ability to continue working as an Enterprise Architect, or worse, resulting in you losing your job.  These dangers are very real to many EAs. 

Courage means that you will need to move ahead anyway.  It does not mean you should be reckless in the face of danger.  It is OK to be cautious at times.  But real success often requires boldness, and your bold actions cannot be made without the courage of your convictions.      

Air cover

There is a difference between “being courageous” and “being stupid.”  The difference is support: do you have the support you need, by someone higher up the food chain, to take on the challenge of climbing the ladder in most organizations.  This support from above is critical to your success.  I call it “air cover” (a reference to a military situation where ground troops can request a deadly strike on an enemy to be dropped from planes, missiles, or artillery). 

In a business setting, air cover means that you have successfully convinced leaders in various places around the company that you can be trusted.  They believe that you are valuable and that your motivations are in the right place.  So when a problem occurs, or one of your standards is challenged, or your roadmap makes a stakeholder angry, that leader can step in and sooth sore egos. 

I cannot indicate the importance of air cover.  For architecture managers, if you don’t provide air cover for your team, you are worse than an ineffective leader… you are a disgrace.  And for architecture practitioners, if you don’t build the relationships you need to build so that you will have the air cover when you need it, you are not being courageous.  You’re being stupid, reckless, or chaotic (take your pick).  To climb the ladder, someone has to be holding the ladder.  That’s your air cover. 

Conclusion

Climbing the ladder is a difficult challenge for any Enterprise IT Architect (EITA).  It takes dedication, support, and some significant innate abilities.  However, for many who take on this challenge, the rewards are excellent.  I truly love Enterprise Strategy Architecture.  I hope to see many of you “in the trenches” with me, fighting to make our ecosystems healthier, stronger, and more agile every day. 

Caveat: certification and frameworks

You’ll notice that I never mentioned Certifications or Frameworks in the discussion above.  That’s because I’ve met and known hundreds of Enterprise Architects.  Certification was only useful to make them more effective as an EITA.  It made no difference for climbing the ladder.  Certification will help with some skills and a great deal of knowledge.   A certification may build confidence, reduce churn in your team, and make your results easier for others to read and follow.  I’m not putting down certifications.  I’m just pointing out that this step comes with experience, not certification.  At least, not yet.

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