/Tag: Architecture

The Purpose of an Enterprise Architecture Framework

By |2013-10-14T23:15:00+00:00October 14th, 2013|Enterprise Architecture|

Can Social Media create new ideas?  Here’s an example where the answer is “yes.” 

I recently blogged about EA models, and what makes them interesting.  I was thinking about providing insight to people who were in the mood to send me updates to the EBMM… a rather tactical post to deal with a rather pedantic an uninspiring issue: logistics of change.  On Twitter, however, a discussion broke out among rather distinguished architects that took the logic of my post to it’s natural resolution, and it was well beyond my limited thinking to have considered it when I wrote the original blog post.  In other words, they read my post, added insight, and create a novel idea, derived from mine, that I had not considered.

It started with consummate twitter user Mark Nielsen (manielse) noticed my blog post and recommended it.  Tom Graves retweeted Mark’s comment and added his own.

@tetradian: MT @manielse: By @nickmalik: What makes models interesting <<blog link>> #EntArch >important for all EAs

Richard Veryard then added his own interpretation, restating the premise of my last post.

@richardveryard: #entarch @tetradian @manielse  @nickmalik implies purpose of model is to answer specific set of questions – support a given reasoning process

Tom then did something really interesting.  Using a little judicious editing, he create a new conclusion: one that I did not make in my post.

@tetradian: @richardveryard “implies purpose of model is to … support a given reasoning process” – yes, agreed / @manielse @nickmalik #entarch

And there we go into new territory.  Richard caught an implication from my reasoning that I had simply assumed, without examining or testing.  Tom then took that implication and used it to reach a higher implication, and called it out in the open.  So let’s examine that resulting implication and then apply that logic a bit further to see where it goes.

The purpose of a model is support a given reasoning process

My prior blog post focuses on the questions that you want your model to answer.  You create a model to answer a question.  If you don’t know what the question is, you won’t answer it (or you will bury your answer in details that are not pertinent to the question).  So first ask the question. 

But why are we asking a question?  This is the leap that Richard and Tom took.  Let’s understand that asking questions, for their own sake, is a rather detached activity.  Enterprise Architects tend to live a little closer to the practical world than that, so we are asking questions that are useful, not just interesting.  And what makes a question useful?

We ask a question, and model the answer, for a couple of reasons:

  • We want to guide thought in ourselves.
  • We want to guide thought in others.
  • We want to answer a question asked of us.
  • We want to examine the results of asking a question that we find particularly interesting.

 

Note that I did not say that we are guiding action.  We are guiding thought.  In some cases, thought precedes action.  In other cases, not so much.  But the role of the Enterprise Architect may be to suggest action, and it may include overseeing that action to ensure alignment to goals, but Enterprise Architects are rarely the driver of action.  Someone else funds the action and drives for conclusion.  We are the people who guide thought.  If we were living in a feudal society, we are not the King… we are his advisors. 

The idea of “supporting a reasoning process” is clearly the first two bullets.  We want to guide thought.  We are walking through a reasoning process, either for our own decisions or for the decisions we will lead others to (sometimes both at once). 

Tom’s edit takes on new ground because he allows us to draw a meta-conclusion: that ultimately a model may lead us to a reasoning process when we were not actually planning for it to.  This is the fourth bullet above, and one that I wasn’t really considering when I wrote the post.  What if we don’t know where the model will lead, until we create the model?  What if we are simply modeling because doing so is literally a form of reasoning in itself?  What if we can ask questions of the model that we didn’t think were relevant and wouldn’t have bothered asking, but can only ask because we have the model to answer it?

Now, to extend the thinking just a bit.  What is an architectural framework?  While there are many definitions, there is one possible definition I’d like to propose: an architectural framework is composed of a reference model describing the essential elements of a system, and a series of methods for building instance models within that reference model.  In other words, a framework is a model and the tools to use it to build more models.

The Purpose of a Framework

If the purpose of a model is to support a reasoning process, then, by extension, the purpose of a framework is ultimately to support a particular theory of organizational evolution. 

This notion flies in the face of most framework development efforts. 

Taxonomic transformation, like that proposed by Zachman fans, is a model-driven design approach to mostly IT solutions.  The descendants of TAFIM, including TOGAF and DODAF, follow a methodological approach that builds from a solution standpoint, but which supports the core concept of a single-page enterprise architecture.  Service oriented frameworks like MODAF, FEAF and NGOSS are somewhat middle out, with the core concept being composability of services.  Business oriented frameworks tend to focus on classification of motivations, and usually start with some kind of metamodel like the OMG BMM, the BMGen canvas, or my own EBMM.

Under here are the theories of evolution of a successful organization… but it will take a little archeology to figure out what those theories really are.  Just as we can look at the remnants of cultures long passed and deduce elements about the way that those people lived, we can look at frameworks and deduce the ideas that the framers of the framework had about how organizations could, or should, or must develop. 

Frameworks, like models, are designed to answer a specific set of questions.  But more than that, they are designed to support a logical train of thought from understanding of a situation through proposing a pathway through it to meet a vision of success.  If your organization can only really support one fundamental approach, then you must choose the frameworks that can deliver on that approach in an effective way.

Consider these aspects of each framework.   Consider the idea that frameworks are an outward expression of inner assumptions.  Then, go looking for those assumptions.

If this is where we start, with the underlying assumptions, it is fairly easy to see why some frameworks are appealing to specific people and even corporate cultures, where others are not.  If the framework doesn’t support your view of organizational transformation and evolution, it is tougher to understand and apply it.  Your organization’s culture, politics, and history may end up doing more to help you to select an EA framework than you think.  After all, you can always extend a framework to include a method, but it is tough to deal with the problem of a framework that simply doesn’t support the way people in an organization think about themselves and their mission.

This is important because EA has been struggling for years to understand what the possible directions are for academic study and scientific examination.  Using this approach, we can refine and develop succinct theories of organizational development, merge similar frameworks, build commonalities among approaches, and even compare results of company development “in the wild” to see where these approaches lead.

And the Credit goes to…

Who authored the new idea?  Who cares.  I won’t take all the credit.  Perhaps it was first Richard Veryard riffing on my post and then Tom Graves creating a new idea by removing words. Perhaps I went to the conclusion after reading that edit.  I don’t know.   Perhaps it was just social.  Perhaps it is an idea that has already been proposed elsewhere.  I respect that possibility as well. 

Regardless, I think there is a real idea under here.  We have artifacts, real artifacts, to take to our original authors as well as social anthropologists and archeologists.  Let’s ask for analysis and intent.  Let’s find out what those underlying assumptions really are.  We may discover that there are underlying theories of organizational evolution upon which we can base the ongoing development of the EA profession.

Ten Ways to Kill An Enterprise Architecture Practice

By |2013-09-05T18:30:19+00:00September 5th, 2013|Enterprise Architecture|

Have you seen practices that you know could kill an Enterprise Architecture practice?  I have.  A recent LinkedIn thread asked for examples, and I came up with my top ten.  I’d love to hear your additions to the list.

How to screw up an EA practice

  1. Get a senior leader to ask for EA without any idea of what he is going to get for it. If necessary, lie. Tell leaders that EA will improve their agility or reduce complexity without telling them that THEY and THEIR BUSINESS will have to change.
  2. Set no goals. Allow individual architects to find their own architecture opportunities and to do them any way they want.   Encourage cowboy architecture.
  3. Buy a tool first. Tell everyone that they need to wait for results until the tool is implemented and all the integration is complete.
  4. Get everyone trained on a "shell framework" like Zachman. Then tell your stakeholders that using the framework will provide immediate benefits.
  5. Work with stakeholders to make sure that your EA’s are involved in their processes without any clear idea of what the EA is supposed to do there. Just toss ’em in and let them float.
  6. Delete all the data from your tool. Give no one any reason why. You were just having a bad hair day.
  7. Get in front of the most senior people you can, and when you get there, tell them how badly they do strategic planning.
  8. Change your offerings every four months. Each time, only share the new set of architectural services with about 20% of your stakeholders.
  9. Create a conceptual model of the enterprise that uses terms that no one in the enterprise uses. Refer to well known business thinkers as sources. When people complain, tell them that they are wrong. Never allow aliases.
  10. Every time you touch an IT project, slow it down. Occasionally throw a fit and stop an IT project just for fun. Escalate as high as you can every time. Win your battles at all costs.

Your career will be short. 🙂

We do what you say we will do – Integrity By Architecture

By |2013-07-06T15:12:08+00:00July 6th, 2013|Enterprise Architecture|

One of the chief complaints of senior executives in midsize and large companies is that their organizations don’t “execute” on the goals that they set.  This concern is so common, it’s the butt of jokes.  Entire systems of governance and measurement are created specifically to provide assurance to senior execs so that they can maintain some level of public integrity.  Yet, when Enterprise Architects describe their roles to their peers, it is surprisingly rare to hear them talk about this issue.  That is a mistake.  Let’s talk about how to tell the story of Enterprise Architecture as the maintainer of executive integrity.

In 2003, when Motorola sent their CEO Chris Galvin packing, USA Today wrote about what a “good guy” he was:

He turned out to be a lackluster CEO, which, sadly, often seems to be the case when good guys land in the corner office. Friday, Motorola said Galvin would resign. Motorola under Galvin had suffered through six years of disappointing results, laid off one-third of its workforce, failed hugely on new ventures like Iridium, and waited for turnarounds that never happened. The board apparently had had enough; Galvin thought he’d better leave.

I have to say I feel bad for Galvin. Of course, I wasn’t a Motorola shareholder who watched the stock go from $60 (split-adjusted) in 2000 to about $11 last week. Nor am I a laid-off Motorola employee. And yes, Galvin was paid handsomely: $2.8 million in salary and bonus last year.

Did Galvin fail, or did Motorola fail to execute on Galvin’s strategy?  The board of Motorola, and the board of any company, won’t see a difference.  Note that this story has happened over and over in high-tech, from Steve Ballmer to Michael Dell, usually without the board firing their CEO.  Far from being limited to high-tech, stories abound of retailers (Best Buy), manufacturers (General Motors), and financial services companies (too many to name) that have suffered through strategies that failed to pay off.

Here’s what stockholders see: you said “X” would happen and it didn’t.  You lied. 

From their perspective, the CEO loses credibility for lack of integrity.

Integrity is a personality trait and a virtue.  A person has integrity when they can be trusted to perform exactly as they said that they would perform.  In other words, they “do what they said they would do.”  This person makes a commitment and keeps it.  This means that they make commitments that they are fairly sure that they CAN keep, and they don’t forget the commitments that they made.  In every high-performing team that I’ve been a part of, each member had a high level of integrity.  Integrity is key to developing trust.  If you do what you say you will do, people will trust you.

Executives need to develop trust just as much as individual contributors do.   For private for-profit organizations, those stakeholders own stock, and purchase the goods and services of the company.  For public organizations, those stakeholders are voters and legislators.  Where an individual contributor must earn the trust of his manager and his or her peers, an executive is in a very visible position.  They have to build trust daily. 

Building that trust requires that they make bold pronouncements about the things that the organization will do under their leadership… and then their organization has to perform those activities.  And that’s a key difference.  When an individual contributor says “I will do this,” they are talking about their own performance.  Rarely are individual contributors held accountable for failures of the people that they cannot control.  Executives, on the other hand, are not talking about their personal performance.  They are talking about the performance of the many (often hundreds, sometimes thousands) of people under them. 

An executive doesn’t actually “control” the people under him.  He or she must lead them.  Sure, there can be an occasional “public hanging” (as Jack Welsh used to encourage), but, for the most part, the executive’s ability to speak with integrity comes from the trust he has in his organization to perform.  In other words, how will with “they” correctly do what “I” said they would do?

Enterprise Architecture is a keeper of executive integrity

Enterprise Architecture is the only profession (that I know of) that is focused on making sure that the strategy announced by an executive actually comes to pass.  Enterprise Architects exist to make sure that the needed programs are created, and executed well, keeping in mind the end goals all along the way.  EA’s go where angels fear to tread: to execute strategies and produce the desired results if they can be produced. 

If you value executive integrity, EA is an investment worth making.

Placing Architecture Properly into Scrum Processes

By |2016-09-28T22:44:52+00:00June 11th, 2013|Enterprise Architecture|

As I’m about to complete my share of a longer engagement on using Lean principles to improve the processes at an online services firm, it occurred to me that the efforts we undertook to properly embed Architecture practices into their Scrum process were novel.  I haven’t seen much written about how to do this in practice, and I imagine others may benefit from understanding the key connection points as well.  Hence this post.

First off, let me be clear: Agile software development practices are not at all averse to software architecture.  But let’s be clear about what I mean by software architecture.  In an agile team, most decisions are left to the team itself.  The team has a fairly short period of time to add a very narrow feature (described as a user story) to a working base of code and demonstrate that the story works.  The notion of taking a couple of months and detailing out a document full of diagrams that explains the architecture of the system: pretty silly.  (more…)

The “Right” Representation of the EA Value Cycle

By |2013-04-29T17:10:58+00:00April 29th, 2013|Enterprise Architecture|

In the world of Enterprise Architecture, we are still creating “shared” understanding of how to tell our stakeholders what we do.  There is no consistency in our diagrams or our descriptions just yet.  This post will discuss the different ways we present the value stream of Enterprise Architecture and will attempt to select a particular viewpoint that can be useful for the majority of situations.

First, let’s address the most commonly shared representation: TOGAF.  The TOGAF ADM model illustrates a sequence of activities that starts with a preliminary phase and works its way through each of the levels of architecture.  Basically, TOGAF illustrates a straight-through process from phase A through phase H to develop and use architecture. 

 image

First off, I’m no huge fan of this illustration.  I always wondered how you get to an architectural vision prior to considering the architecture of the business.  Also, the notion of a center point focused around requirements management feels weirdly tactical.  At the level of an Enterprise Architect, I’m dealing with strategies and measures of success.  At the level of a technical architecture, the word “requirements” has an altogether different meaning.  Grouping together the notion of “strategic needs” with “technical requirements” may make sense to a technologist, but I don’t know a single business stakeholder of EA that would agree with grouping those two rather distinct things. 

Who is our audience?

These observations bring me to my first key consideration: If we want to communicate the value stream of Enterprise Architecture, we first should consider the audience, “who are we communicating to?”  If we are communicating to a stakeholder of EA, we should show them the bits of EA that are relevant to them, and we should not show them the bits that are not. 

It is not cynical to gloss over the complex bits of EA when talking to a business stakeholder… it is practical.  In fact, we do it all the time.  If you buy cable TV services, a person from the cable company may come to your house and install a coax cable to your home.  He will mess around with a cable box for a few minutes, and then, if you are lucky, he will show you how to do simple things like changing channels and recording your favorite shows.  Then, he’s off.  He does NOT spend an hour describing the various technical aspects of signal transmission and digital carrier signals.  Why should he?  You don’t care.  You want to watch TV, not get a degree in electrical engineering.  And the same applies to EA.

Secondly, if we want to communicate EA, let’s recognize that different people interact with Enterprise Architecture in different ways.  Business stakeholders will interact with Enterprise Architecture to ensure that their strategies are being executed effectively, with minimal interference, and producing a result that considers things like security, cost of ownership, and the ability to cope with rapid changes in the marketplace.

Recap:

  1. We have to care who we are speaking to, and we have to reflect the things that they care about.
  2. We have to show them the details that matter to them and obscure the details that don’t.
  3. We should illustrate the activities in the context of the processes that they understand, and not at a conceptual level that may be difficult to relate to their daily experience.

 

The ADM from TOGAF is an odd bird, because it attempts to be all things to all people.  It represents EA in a way that every stakeholder can use, but honestly, no stakeholder can use it.  It is not wrong.  Far from it.  But it is not useful because it violates every single one of the rules above.  The ADM reflects the EA viewpoint, but not the viewpoint of the customers of EA at a level that they can grasp, understand, and most importantly, use.  So let’s keep the ADM in our court, and create a view of the EA process that is relevant to our stakeholders.

So who are our stakeholders?  For the sake of this post, I’m going to select one set of stakeholders and ignore the rest.  Is that correct?  Nope, but it is practical for a blog post.  What this means is that the rest of this post produces an answer of the “right” representation only for one class of stakeholders… another representation would likely be needed for different people.  That is the nature of EA.  Let’s not fret it.

Stakeholders: Non-technologists

There is a widely held view in Enterprise Architecture that an EA must be technically savvy in order to be effective.  There are certainly business architects who are quite effective who are not technologists, but in order to move UP to the notion of an EA (which includes business architecture, information architecture, solution or application architecture, AND technology architecture), you would need to be technically capable. 

I won’t belabor the point about whether it is correct to view Business Architecture as a subset of Enterprise Architecture.  It is the wildly predominant view.  (A poll that I put on LinkedIn that asked this question found that well over 80% of EA respondents agree that EA generally includes every aspect of business architecture.  That’s pretty overwhelming.)

That said, our biggest struggles in EA rarely involve conversations with other architects.  While there may be a great deal of confusion, there is rarely a lack of buy-in for architecture among architects, or even technologists.  Our key challenge, when it comes to communication, comes when we are talking to non-technologists.  In other words, the proverbial “business” stakeholders of EA.  (Please don’t flame me about whether IT is part of the business or not. That is a useful conversation, but it is outside the scope of this post).

Therefore, for the rest of this post, I will focus on the non-technology stakeholders of Enterprise Architecture.  These are people whose chief concerns are not technical concerns.  We could say that they care about financial performance, role clarity, cycle time, cost effectiveness, market position, revenue growth, opportunity costs, business drivers, and many other factors outside the realm of technology concerns.  People in this category include senior business leaders (CEO, COO, CFO, CIO, CMO, etc), as well as business unit leaders (General Managers, Sales Division Leaders, Product Development and Marketing, Customer Service, Online Services, etc). 

In order to communicate directly and well to these folks, lets recognize that they don’t care about the aspects of architecture that are technology focused.  While the WANT good technology, and will BENEFIT from good technology, they will assume that the technology issues can be handled effectively without bothering them with details.  To refer to our previous metaphor, they want the cable compa
ny to handle the technology, so that they can deal with changing channels.

So, let’s take the ADM, and trim out the stuff that non technologists rely on, but don’t need to have a conversation about.  They assume it is there.  That includes the preliminary stage, as well as architectural vision, requirements management, information systems architecture, technology architecture, and architecture change management.

The ADM now looks a bit different.  In fact, we can put it in a single row with a looping arrow.  Note that, in TOGAF, the Business architecture phase includes both current state assessment and future state modeling.

image

Representing the processes of the non-technical stakeholder

We have removed the confusing bits from the view of the non-technical stakeholder, but it is tough to say that we are at the point where we are relevant.  After all, the non technical stakeholder has a business process that he uses when working with changes to his or her business.  We are not representing that process. 

The process, frequently described in dozens of bits of EA literature, starts with an understanding of the current situation within the business.  Then, when the business creates a strategy, we bring these two bits of information together (current state and strategy) to create a vision for the future.  This is the order that the non technical stakeholder may recognize… not the generalized view of the ADM.  So it is time to break apart and rearrange the bits a little bit.  I will now step away from the “crop circles” representation since it is so far out of the experience of people who describe business processes.

image

In this view, we can begin to see the steps that an Enterprise Architect would perform that are visible to a non-technical stakeholder.  Just for the sake of clarity, this doesn’t mean that the technical steps are absent… it just means that our technical efforts don’t have to be paraded around in front of our non-technical stakeholders. 

Note that I relabeled the ADM steps. 

  • Business Architecture becomes Current State Evaluation, and Strategy Development
  • Opportunities and Solutions becomes Future State Modeling
  • Migration Planning becomes Roadmap Development
  • Implementation Governance becomes two things: Funding and Initiation (the Project Portfolio Management aspects) and Oversight and Governance (the governance of ongoing activities).
  • Architecture Vision is cut down to only the elements relevant to the non-technical stakeholders: the evaluation of the current state of the enterprise.

 

Let me point out that the TOGAF process assumes a different order of activities than the diagram above.  From the standpoint of the stakeholder, this is what makes sense, regardless of how TOGAF describes the stages.  This is why I’m no big fan of TOGAF as a methodology.  It doesn’t reflect reality.  On the other hand, the elements above are fairly well understood. 

Also note that I’m not saying that the substitutions listed above are equivalent.  In fact, I’d argue violently that Business Architecture is far more than Current state evaluation and Strategy Development.  However, from the viewpoint of the non-architect, business architecture is a process that is involved with the development of business models (current and future), and that’s about it.  There is a great deal of effort that is not seen by the stakeholders.

In other words, the blue model above is only showing the tip of the iceberg, and relabeling the phases according to what is (approximately) visible, not what is actually there. 

This is an important part of explaining an activity to a stakeholder, and it is a skill that every Enterprise Architect must get good at.  You have to explain your activities in the context of what a stakeholder understand and recognizes… not in the context of all your work.  It’s not about you. It’s about the stakeholder.

 

The Rules of Value Streams

There are a few problems with the view above.  In order to understand the problems with that view, let’s mention a couple of rules for representing a value stream.  We will use these concepts because the ability to describe EA in terms of a value stream is important.  Value streams are sticky… they are easy to remember and easy to relate to.  If we want to remove the barriers to adoption of EA, we could do far worse than using this technique.  That said, there are some rules that we have to keep in mind:

  1. A value stream does not illustrate dependencies that are not really there.  Parallel efforts should be represented as parallel if that would improve understanding of how value is created.
     
  2. The value stream is illustrated as a sequence of high level processes in a straight line from left to right.  That said, a value stream must start with an event that is relevant to the customer who gets value.  It must end with the deliver of that value.  Any activity that is not part of that flow (from relevant starting point to value) should be represented “above” or “below” the value stream.  
     
  3. A value stream should be illustrated in its fully operational state.  In other words, it should describe a process that is running, not one that hasn’t been created yet.  Events that are relevant only for “start-up” activities can be included, but should not be the primary focus of a value stream.

 

So let’s apply rule #1.  Is it true that the current state of the organization actually feeds the development of strategy?  No.  In fact, the evaluation of the current state can happen completely in parallel to the development of business strategy. 

So the diagram could look like this one.

image

Here, we can see that there are, in fact, parallel activities for the understanding of the current state of the enterprise, and for the development of business strategy.  Where they first intersect is in the development of the future state (the opportunities and solutions phase from the ADM model).  You need both an understanding of the current situation and the needs of the future in order to describe where the organization should move towards. 

Now, let’s apply rule #2.  What is the event that the business considers to be relevant to start the value stream of Enterprise Architecture?  The Development of Business Strategy, of course.  So the flow should perhaps look more like the diagram below… (note, the arrows and activities are identical to the one above… the only thing different is the order on the page).

image

Now, let’s apply rule #3… that one is easy.  The arrow at the bottom that says “First TIme EA” can simply be dropped.  After all, the first time a process is run, it starts from somewhere.  It is simply irrelevant to the non-technical stakeholder to point out where that starting position is. 

Exception: if you run Enterprise Architecture as a consulting arrangement, you may want to leave that arrow in there.  After all, you will need to illustrate where the consulting arrangement will start.  That said, I have found that fewer and fewer EA initiatives begin with the hiring of a consulting firm. 

Providing context

When we started with the ADM, we assumed that there was a 700+ page methodology and framework behind the image, describing each step and what is included.  However, your stakeholder will not read the TOGAF or any other 700+ page body of information.  That would be absurd.  You need to add a little detail to the image to describe what is in each of these stages.

It’s also a good idea to “clean up” the diagram a little so that we use less space on the “arrows and boxes” and more engagement on the ideas of what is going on.  So the next modification of the process looks like this:

image

This diagram is a better one for informing the non-technical stakeholders of your Enterprise Architecture program about what it is that you do.  We remove a little of the “accuracy” about where an arrow starts and ends, but we add a great deal of context about what is happening along the way.

The “backward” arrow along the bottom clearly indicates that there are activities that flow outside the value stream but which are needed for each repeat of the cycle. 

Final words

Is this a perfect representation of the EA process?  I don’t believe in perfect things… just useful things.  But it is better, in my opinion, than showing a non-technical stakeholder the ADM or one of the “box and arrow” models above.  It uses the visual language of value streams and business process models, both widely recognized and used in business interactions.  It explains itself without going into a lot of detail.  And it clearly describes the end to end flow without restricting or dictating where Enterprise Architects start and stop (an important requirement, since maturing EA programs will change their scope as they mature).

I have shown this view to others, and some have wondered about the “backward flowing” process along the  bottom.  The alternative to showing something as “backward flowing” would be to illustrate it as a cycle (with arrows feeding “in” from the right and “out” from the left).  If it is a challenge for you to view the diagram without those arrows, I apologize.  I’d love to see other view of this model that illustrate the “cycle” in a way that still meets the “rules of the value stream” as discussed above.

I’d love to get feedback and insight from the community.  What do you think?  Does the last image above resonate?  What would you do differently?

How to Become a Hero for Growth

By |2013-04-22T21:59:33+00:00April 22nd, 2013|Enterprise Architecture|

One thing that happens when you work to develop change across an organization: you detect the “cultural” elements of an organization that often go unnoticed by the people involved.  Just as a “Fish discovers water last,” people working in a cultural context can be fairly unaware of the implications of their culturally influenced decisions.  “It’s the way we’ve always done it, here.”

One cultural influence that I’ve seen, quite often, in organizations that are struggling to grow past a particular size, is the “culture of heroes.”  This pattern of behavior has the following smells:

  • Whenever there is a problem with the servers, call Jack.  While it isn’t his current job, he’s the one who installed and designed the server environment, so he’s the logical one to fix it.  (Extend this beyond “the servers.  For every “area” of the system or the business process, there is a “person” who is the “hero” who can solve problems with that area.  There’s often an “uber-hero” above them all, who has to be called in for every emergency no matter what).
     
  • If someone asks me to do my job differently, I refuse until my manager specifically approves the individual change.  After all, my manager has done this job for years and years, and he or she knows best how to do it.
     
  • If I’m a hero or a manager, and I make a casual remark in a meeting that I want to have control over some minor aspect of a process, a subtle but IMMEDIATE shift occurs so that the process now has an extra step: to ask me for my approval of that minor aspect (even if it is something that has little or nothing to do with my actual accountabilities).
     
  • If an important new project is starting, the kickoff meeting cannot proceed unless a couple of heroes are in the room.  Absolutely no way.
     

These are signs of a culture of heroes.

And they are a big problem. 

Let’s first recognize that, for any snapshot of 100 people in the same role, there are two or three that have risen up to become well respected experts.  There are 20 or so that can lead a group, and the rest are following.  One of those “folks in the rest” may mature, of course, and may be ready in the future to lead or become one of those well respected experts.  These are not labels.  But, at any one point in time, the ratios often work out this way.

This is human nature.  Nothing wrong with that.  The problem comes when you feed it.

As a leader, you cannot avoid a variation in skills and experience.  However, the true leader recognizes that there are people who want to grow.  He or she will want to create an intentional culture that not only fosters that growth, but encourages individuals who are the experts to “step aside” a little, and allow the non-experts to have a chance at solving tough problems. 

If your culture keeps coming back to a handful of heroes, no one else in the team can grow.  The people who naturally WANT to grow will leave.  And you are left with an organization of people who don’t want to grow.

If no one in your organization wants to grow, the organization won’t grow.  Plain and simple.

Not only that, your organization won’t evolve.  It won’t improve.  It won’t optimize.  It won’t do ANYTHING interesting or new.  That’s because all the people who could benefit by change, all the people who have fresh ideas and novel approaches and interesting influences, have run away to other organizations where they can try those ideas out. 

And that is what the culture of heroes does… it kills the spark of change in a group of people.

So don’t let the heroes stunt the growth of your organization.  Look around.  If you have heroes who usually get called, ask THEM to be heroes in a different way… heroes for growth.

A hero for growth makes this decision:

  1. I listen when someone brings me a problem.
  2. I consider whether the person who has the problem should be empowered to solve it.
  3. I consider whether the possibility of them “doing it wrong” means that they will cost a great deal of money or some other business loss. 
  4. Then, I take the DEFAULT position of “let the person closest to the decision make it.” 
  5. I only take on a challenge if the people who should be doing it are asking for my help.  (Not their managers, or their peers, or their staff.)  And when I do, I take the attitude that I want to help that person grow… so I challenge them, include them, and inspire them.  When things work, they get credit.  When things fail, I take part of the blame (giving them a safe space to grow).  I don’t override them, belittle them, or ignore them.  I never ever point fingers.

 

If you are a hero in your organization, I challenge you right here to become a hero for growth.  Who knows… you may change your culture just by your leadership, and your example.

Has in-person communication become the unwilling victim of technology?

By |2013-04-08T04:32:57+00:00April 8th, 2013|Enterprise Architecture|

In Enterprise Architecture, one of the most important aspects of the job is not only to communicate, but to lead change.  In other words, it is great to have the data to point to a problem in an enterprise.  It is better to help that enterprise overcome it by changing something (processes, technology, training, staff levels, departmental structures, roles and responsibilities, artifacts, governance mechanisms, etc).  Change requires more than simple communication.  It requires a kind of in-person, face-to-face, listening and hearing and absorbing interaction that is difficult or impossible over written mechanisms like e-mail, word documents, and powerpoint presentations.

Our technology has led us to the point, in modern business, that we consider outsourcing and remote work to be a net benefit for all involved, but each of these “distance” mechanisms introduces the RISK of poor communication.  That risk is magnified when the person on one end of the line is hoping to change something that the person on the other end is doing.  Change is harder across distance, and that difficulty becomes magnified when dealing with the array of different interactions that are needed at the enterprise level.

I wonder if the PC revolution, that brought us personal access to written communication, has created a deep reliance on written communication in corporate processes.  I wonder, further, if that access to technology isn’t directly harming our ability to look a person in the eyes and communicate with them.

As a culture, we have moved from the age of face-to-face all the way to text-messaging-someone-in-the-same-room in the course of a single generation. 

Enterprise Architecture is more difficult because of this shift in communication patterns.  All forms of face-to-face communication are hampered by it.

Modern technology has done more to damage interpersonal communication than any other paradigm shift in human history.

This worries me.

AGILE architecture vs. agile ARCHITECTURE

By |2016-09-28T22:45:54+00:00April 5th, 2013|Enterprise Architecture|

As an architect involved in an agile implementation (my current gig), you can imagine how interested I was to see that there’s a new book on Agile Architecture, and perhaps how disappointed I was to see that it focused on SOA and Cloud.  That’s not to put down SOA or the cloud.  I’m a huge fan of both.  But it wasn’t the area of agility that I was hoping that a book, with that title, would address.  The misunderstanding was mine, not the authors.  I haven’t read the book yet, but I’m sure I will.

That moment of misunderstanding crystallized a thought: how even a two word phrase like “agile architecture” had two completely different meanings.  The opening scene of the movie “The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey,” puts a rather humorous twist on this idea, when Gandalf introduces himself to Bilbo Baggins (who has apparently forgotten having met him as a boy). (more…)

Humility and the Art of Enterprise Architecture

By |2013-02-26T16:46:41+00:00February 26th, 2013|Enterprise Architecture|

As a lot, Enterprise Architects are not terribly humble people.  We name frameworks after ourselves, and sometimes go to great lengths to correct the “misinterpretations” of others who describe our work in a way that we don’t agree with. 

Yet, recognizing that the field is young requires that we should be willing to change as the field of EA changes; that we should be willing to look back on our models, developed in the past, and admit that we missed a few steps that we wouldn’t miss today.

I recently had the opportunity to discuss, on LinkedIn, a blog post that I made five years ago.  I look back on that blog post and must admit that my opinions are a bit different now than they were five years ago.  I still agree with my post, but I would certainly use different words today than I used in the past.  I am more than willing to admit it. 

I also look at the efforts of Alexander Osterwalder whose Business Model Canvas has proved both practical and flawed.  He missed the fact that he needed to create a differentiation between the customer’s needs and the value proposition of the business offering to fill some of those needs.  Did he go back and create an updated canvas?  Nope.  He created a new canvas to describe demand as though it fits with his older one (hint: it’s a mess). 

The venerable John Zachman, probably one of the most humble men I’ve met, also made this same mistake.  While his original model was only a couple of columns, and was updated only a few years later into the table we see today, the field of EA has changed.  The table is no longer representative of companies with multiple business models (most of them) and the lack of a “customer” row simply relegates his "ontological table” to the dust bin. 

Neither man will change.  They have “legacy” models, with their names attached.  To paraphrase Forrest Gump, humble is as humble does.

I would like to think that my willingness to upend my EBMM and replace it periodically with new versions shows my willingness to admit that (a) I’m often wrong, and (b) I’d rather learn than become stale.  That said, I’m no paradigm of humility, myself. 

After all, a truly humble EA would not have written this blog post. 

(As my teenage daughter would say: Oh snap, you pwned yourself!)

Should Business Architects use the Business Model Canvas at the Program level?

By |2013-01-31T10:51:21+00:00January 31st, 2013|Enterprise Architecture|

In the Open Group conference at Newport Beach, I listened to a series of presentations on business architecture.  In one of them, the presenter described his practice of using Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas to create a model of his program’s environment after a business program (aka business initiative) is started.  He felt that the canvas is useful for creating a clear picture of the business impacts on a program.  There are problems with this method, which I’d like to share in this post. 

Let me lay out the context for the sake of this post since there is no business architecture “standard vocabulary.” 

A “business program” is chartered by an “enterprise” to improve a series of “capabilities” in order to achieve a specific and measurable business “goal.”  This business program has a management structure and is ultimately provided funding for a series of “projects.”  The business architect involved in this program creates a “roadmap” of the projects and to rationalizes the capability improvements across those projects and between his program and other programs. 

For folks who follow my discussions in the Enterprise Business Motivation Model, I use the term “initiative” in that model.  I’m using the term “program” for this post because the Open Group presenter used the word “program.”  Note that the presentation was made at an Open Group conference but it does NOT represent the opinion or position of the Open Group and is not part of the TOGAF or other deliverables of the Open Group.

The practice presented by this talk is troubling to me.  As described, the practice that this presenter provided goes like this: Within the context of the program, the business architect would pull up a blank copy of the business model canvas and sit with his or her executive sponsor or steering committee to fill it out.  By doing so, he or she would understand “the” business model that impacts the program. 

During the Q&A period I asked about a scenario that I would expect to be quite commonplace: what if the initiative serves and supports multiple business models?  The presenter said, in effect, “we only create one canvas.”  My jaw dropped.

A screwdriver makes a lousy hammer but it can sometimes work.  The wrong tool for the job doesn’t always fail, but it will fail often enough to indicate, to the wise, that a better tool should be found.

The Osterwalder’s business model canvas makes a very poor tool for capturing business forces from the perspective of a program.  First off, programs are transitory, while business models are not.  The notion of a business model is a mechanism for capturing how a LINE OF BUSINESS makes money independent of other concerns and other lines of business.  Long before there is a program, and long after the program is over, there are business models, and the canvas is a reasonable mechanism for capturing one such model at a time.  It is completely inappropriate for capturing two different models on a single canvas.  Every example of a business model, as described both in Osterwalder’s book and on his web site, specifically describe a single business model within an enterprise.

I have no problem with using business models (although my canvas is different from Osterwalder’s).  That said,  I recommend a different practice: If the business initiative is doing work that will impact MULTIPLE business models, it is imperative that ALL of those business models are captured in their own canvas.  The session speaker specifically rejected this idea.  I don’t think he is a bad person.  I think he has been hammering nails with a screwdriver.  (He was young).

Here’s where he made his mistake:

multistream value chain

In the oversimplified value stream model above, Contoso airlines has three business models.  The business owners for these three businesses are on the left: Bradley, Janet, and Franklin.  Each are primarily concerned with their own business flows.  In this oversimplified situation, there are only two programs, each with one project.  If the session speaker were working on the Plantheon program, his idea works.  there is only one business model to create.  That nail can be hammered in with a screwdriver.  Lucky speaker.  Showing Franklin his own business model is a good thing.

But if we are working on the Flitrack program, what do we show Franklin?  if we create a “generic” canvas that includes cargo, he will not recognize the model as being applicable to his concerns.  He will not benefit and neither will the program.  In fact, Franklin will think us fools because he had a presentation from Plantheon yesterday showing him an accurate model… don’t you people talk?

Program Flitrack should have one-on-one conversations with Bradley and Janet to develop their business models.  The business model that Franklin cares about does not need to be created again.  It can come out of the repository.  The Flitrack program would consider all three models as independent inputs to the business architecture of the organization impacting the program. 

Anything less is business analysis, not business architecture.