The concept of the “Nearest Common Manager” in Enterprise Architecture

I’m going to share a secret.  Something that no one talks about, but is critical to understand if you are to be an effective Enterprise Architect.  Are you ready?

People do what you pay them to do.

What a letdown.  Everyone knows that, right?

But we don’t talk about it because it is an assumption of every day work.  Those assumptions drive a great deal of behavior in an enterprise.  In Enterprise Architecture, we must think about the assumptions, because assumptions can stop progress without anyone realizing it.  Assumptions can impede communications.  Assumptions can cause good behaviors to be punished and bad behaviors to be rewarded.

So let’s look at this assumption a little more closely.  Who pays you?  Well, the guy or gal who can fire you if you don’t perform, that’s the person who pays you.  So, if your manager says “run every decision past me,” you are going to run every decision past the boss.  You are doing what you are paid to do.

This creates a hierarchy in an organization that is persistent and rather absolute, especially if you can be blamed.  No one will defy their manager’s manager.  On the flip side, if you are an individual contributor, you have no idea if you are doing what the CEO wants.  Only your manager tells you what to do.

How does this affect Enterprise Architecture?

EA’s are often called to work “across silos” or to collaborate with different groups.  There is no single manager that everyone in your “virtual team” reports to.  You cannot go to a single manager and ask him or her to support your efforts.

One concept that you should be aware of is the “Nearest Common Manager.”  This is the lowest ranked person that everyone on your virtual team ultimately reports to.  In many companies where I have worked, the nearest common manager is the CEO.

The thing that you should be aware of: whoever the nearest common manager (NCM) is, someone who is in communication with the NCM has to have your back… someone who the NCM knows and trusts has to know what you are up to, and has to agree with it.

When you hear the term “executive support,” this is what we mean.  Someone who can provide the air-cover that you will need with the nearest common manager.

 

By | December 16th, 2016|Enterprise Architecture|0 Comments

Translating business capability maps into business impact

Creating a business capability map is just part of the challenge businesses and chief information offices face. Taking the information in the map and making it work and translate into real, tangible business impact can often present far more obstacles than the development of the map itself but without this crucial step the benefits of undertaking the task of creating a business capability map are generally lost. (more…)

By | December 15th, 2016|Newsletter|0 Comments

Does Business Architecture Start With Value Chains?

Creating value chains can be integral part of decision-making thanks to their ability to illustrate how a firm is delivering a valuable product or service to market. A value chain can support other decision tools and benefit competitive strategies with the additional information they supply. (more…)

By | December 14th, 2016|Newsletter|0 Comments

The Repository Won’t Save EA

business-woman-tiredOne thing most Enterprise Architects have in common: frustration with resistance to change.  Channeling the words of some of my friends, frustration sounds like this: “We know many of the answers to common problems in IT, especially in how systems are developed and used, how data is organized and mastered, and how capabilities should produce shared components or systems.  We know many of the answers… but no one listens!”

Yep.  We do work and sometimes, no one uses it.  Or we develop advice, and no one follows it.  Common problem.

For some reason, the “answer” that I’ve heard bandied about is to buy software.  “If we only had a repository for architecture, then people would use our models.”

um – no – not really.

If your models are not used, putting them into a collaborative storage and retrieval system will not get them used.  It will make them more available, but in 85% of the cases, availability is not your problem.  Either no one sees the value in using your models, or they don’t know how to read them, or using your models works against some political aspect of their lives.

It’s not that your stakeholders didn’t know the model was there.  It’s that they don’t care.

Adding a repository won’t make them care.

Your first order of business is to build demand for the architecture models.  Once demand is there, worry about the repository.  Until then, a simple modeling tool will work.

By | December 8th, 2016|Enterprise Architecture|0 Comments

Disruption – why you need business architecture

Business Architecture is, on occasion, a difficult sell.  In many companies, it can be tough to get senior leaders to give you to remit to use the tools and techniques of business architecture.  This is especially true in organizations that think of Enterprise Architecture as an IT function.  The following video answers the question “Why do we need Business Architecture?”

Your feedback is encouraged.

 

By | November 30th, 2016|Enterprise Architecture|0 Comments

The European EABOK and Enterprise Architecture Pattern Catalog

A number of years ago, I joined up with a small group of architects determined to create an EABOK (Enterprise Architecture Body of Knowledge).  We got off to a good start and I even bought the domain (eabok.org).  However, the Mitre Corporation (a federally funded research and development corporation) trademarked the name before we did, based on a white paper they had released in 2004.  I was out-lawyered.  So the name was theirs.  They wanted to do an EABOK as well.

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By | September 24th, 2016|Enterprise Architecture|1 Comment

Defining Your Value Proposition

In the Enterprise Business Motivation Model, I require a business to define their value proposition independent of other facets of their business model.

Some folks resist.  After all, they insist that they know what their value proposition is.  Why write it down? They sell valuable stuff!  It’s valuable, damnit!  That’s why they exist.  10,000 customers can’t be wrong.  For customers.  For the owners.  To make money… yada, yada, yada.  It’s all a confusing jumble of words.

Describing your value proposition is necessary.  It is critical.  If you don’t understand, and agree upon, your clear value proposition, you cannot get agreement on strategy.  Lack of common agreement becomes an insurmountable obstacle.  Often the best way to demonstrate the need for this consistency is to ask each of the top managers of the company what the value proposition in, then present the differences to the CEO.  Go ahead.  Shock him (or her).  It’s a good exercise.

What’s in a value proposition?

I often find, when working with clients, that discussing the value proposition is tough.  There are nearly always different value propositions, depending on the viewpoint of the stakeholder.  A value proposition answers the question: “What value do you provide to me?”  Clearly, the answer can depend on “who is asking the question?”  In addition, each stakeholder may need to hear more than one answer.

Stakeholders come in all forms.  There are owners / investors, customers, partners, employees, and public / government.  Each wants something different from you.  There can be a pretty wide gap in these different perspectives.  The gap between the value proposition from one viewpoint to another creates an issue in how a company aligns.

For my example, I use an analysis I did on a National Airline from a few years back.  Let’s call it “Elbonia Airlines” for the sake of this discussion.  The company was set up as a publicly traded commercial business and had taken on a good bit of debt.  The national government rescued it after the economy collapsed, refinanced its debt, and put in a new CEO.  All very public and quite messy.

Let’s look at some realities.[/fusion_text]

Elbonia Air Stakeholder Required Value / Value Proposition
Government owner
  • Reliable service to remote areas of the country
  • Hire citizens to do the work – limit outsourcing
  • Don’t lose money
  • Keep ticket prices low
  • Keep borrowing and debt in check and in alignment with the private sector
Private Investor
  • Lower risk investment due to government backing
  • Reasonable return on investment / dividends
Customer
  • Reliable, comfortable, safe services
  • Similar customer experience to competitors
  • Low ticket prices
  • Convenient travel times
  • Desirable destinations
Partner
  • Dependable relationships and agreements
  • Reliable payment for services
Employee
  • Empowered opportunities to contribute
  • Reasonable opportunities for advancement
  • Fair market wages
  • Safe and comfortable working conditions
Typically, the biggest problem for a commercial organization is the difference in requirements between the investors and the customers.  For some companies, there can be a huge difference, with the investors driving for revenues that cause the customer satisfaction to fall dramatically (such as checking account fees at your local bank).  For an airline, “fuel surcharge fees” are similarly problematic as they are usually seen as an attempt by the airline to make the ticket prices look lower than they are.

The biggest challenge to this particular business model, however, is the difference in value proposition between the perspectives of the two chief types of investors: the government investor and the commercial investor.  The value of a national airline to it’s country government is very different from the value of the stock to a commercial investor.

It is the delicate balancing act between these two kinds of investors that got the government airline in trouble in the first place.  The airline had taken on debt because they had expanded service to a number of smaller destinations that are primarily appealing to foreign tourists.  Those services were created to provide subsidies for unprofitable routes that the government demanded, and to keep ticket prices low on the unprofitable routes.  However, the recession had caused the new tourist routes to become unprofitable.

The airline simply owned too many aircraft for the profitable routes they had, had no flexibility to drop unprofitable routes, and competition from other commercial airlines was keeping down ticket prices.

How did they solve the problem?  By changing the relationship with the government.  The government became a partner, not just an investor, in particular routes.  That allowed the government to subsidize those routes and get out of the business of caring about the overall airline.  The main commercial routes were expected to be competitive and profitable while the “required” routes were subsidized so that they wouldn’t lose money.

All this was visible by examining the value proposition as an independent element of the business model.  Simply doing a “SWOT” analysis wouldn’t have focused leadership on this kind of problem, or this kind of solution.

By | September 13th, 2016|Enterprise Architecture|0 Comments

Making the Case for Developing a Mobile Strategy

Implementing a mobile strategy can bring huge benefits to a business when done right, helping corporations to improve revenue streams, functionality and streamline operations. There are many reasons why businesses decide to incorporate mobile into their activities and it’s inevitable that at some point enterprise architects will be faced with the challenge of implementing the new and disruptive technology.

Integrating mobile technology into a business means that employees and customers can always access information, potentially improving both sales and productivity. Other benefits to embracing the modern mobile movement include building brand recognition, greater sharing and utilising of information and sourcing future business opportunities. (more…)

By | September 6th, 2016|Newsletter|0 Comments

Nick Malik speaking at BBC on ‘Building Demand for Strategy for Non-Strategy Organizations’

Heading up Vanguard EA as Founder and Principle Consultant is Nick Malik, with over a decade in enterprise architecture and more than thirty years in high tech, he has a wealth of experience and advice to offer. Ahead of giving a presentation at the Building Business Capabilities (BBC) conference in Las Vegas, Nick explains why his presentation ‘Building Demand for Strategy for Non-Strategy Organizations’ should be on your list of presentations to attend.

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By | September 6th, 2016|Newsletter|0 Comments

Does Strategic Alignment Get In the Way of Mobile Information Distribution?

For enterprise architects, alignment to a strategy is often a core principle.  They are well known for building governance mechanisms that trace all programs back to a strategy.  But does that get in the way of self-organization?  The wave of corporate implementation of mobile strategies is once again raising the question: How closely should we adhere to the principle of strategic alignment? (more…)

By | September 4th, 2016|Newsletter|0 Comments