Tag Archives: Jeanne Ross

Enterprise Architecture and Enterprise Transformation: Related But Distinct Concepts That Can Change the World

By Dana Gardner, Interarbor Solutions

For some, if you want enterprise transformation, you really need the organizing benefits of Enterprise Architecture to succeed.

For others, the elevation of Enterprise Architecture as an essential ingredient to enterprise transformation improperly conflates the role of Enterprise Architecture, and waters down Enterprise Architecture while risking its powerful contribution.

So how should we view these important roles and functions? How high into the enterprise transformation firmament should Enterprise Architecture rise? And will rising too high, in effect, melt its wings and cause it to crash back to earth and perhaps become irrelevant?

Or is enterprise transformation nowadays significantly dependent upon Enterprise Architecture, and therefore, we should make Enterprise Architecture a critical aspect for any business moving forward?

We posed these and other questions to a panel of business and EA experts at last month’s Open Group Conference in San Francisco to deeply examine the fascinating relationship between Enterprise Architecture and enterprise transformation.

The panel: Len Fehskens, Vice President of Skills and Capabilities at The Open GroupMadhav Naidu, Lead Enterprise Architect at Ciena Corp.; Bill Rouse, Professor in the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering and the College of Computing, as well as Executive Director of the Tennenbaum Institute, all at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Jeanne Ross, Director and Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Center for Information Systems Research.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Why is enterprise transformation not significantly dependent upon Enterprise Architecture, and why would it be a disservice to bring Enterprise Architecture into the same category?

Fehskens: My biggest concern is the identification of Enterprise Architecture with enterprise transformation.

First of all, these two disciplines have different names, and there’s a reason for that. Architecture is a means to transformation, but it is not the same as transformation. Architecture enables transformation, but by itself is not enough to effect successful transformation. There are a whole bunch of other things that you have to do.

My second concern is that right now, the discipline of Enterprise Architecture is sort of undergoing — I wouldn’t call it an identity crisis — but certainly, it’s the case that we still really haven’t come to a widespread, universally shared understanding of what Enterprise Architecture really means.

My position is that they’re two separate disciplines. Enterprise Architecture is a valuable contributor to enterprise transformation, but the fact of the matter is that people have been transforming enterprises reasonably successfully for a long time without using Enterprise Architecture. So it’s not necessary, but it certainly helps. … There are other things that you need to be able to do besides developing architectures in order to successfully transform an enterprise.

Gardner: As a practitioner of Enterprise Architecture at Ciena Corp., are you finding that your role, the value that you’re bringing to your company as an enterprise architect, is transformative? Do you think that there’s really a confluence between these different disciplines at this time?

Means and ends

Naidu: Transformation itself is more like a wedding and EA is more like a wedding planner. I know we have seen many weddings without a wedding planner, but it makes it easier if you have a wedding planner, because they have gone through certain steps (as part of their experience). They walk us through those processes, those methods, and those approaches. It makes it easier.

I agree with what Len said. Enterprise transformation is different. It’s a huge task and it is the actual end. Enterprise Architecture is a profession that can help lead the transformation successfully.

Almost everybody in the enterprise is engaged in [transformation] one way or another. The enterprise architect plays more like a facilitator role. They are bringing the folks together, aligning them with the transformation, the vision of it, and then driving the transformation and building the capabilities. Those are the roles I will look at EA handling, but definitely, these two are two different aspects.

Gardner: Is there something about the state of affairs right now that makes Enterprise Architecture specifically important or particularly important for enterprise transformation?

Naidu: We know many organizations that have successfully transformed without really calling a function EA and without really using help from a team called EA. But indirectly they are using the same processes, methods, and best practices. They may not be calling those things out, but they are using the best practices.

Rouse: There are two distinctions I’d like to draw. First of all, in the many transformation experiences we’ve studied, you can simplistically say there are three key issues: people, organizations, and technology, and the technology is the easy part. The people and organizations are the hard part.

The other thing is I think you’re talking about is the enterprise IT architecture. If I draw an Enterprise Architecture, I actually map out organizations and relationships among organizations and work and how it gets done by people and view that as the architecture of the enterprise.

Important enabler

Sometimes, we think of an enterprise quite broadly, like the architecture of the healthcare enterprise is not synonymous with information technology (IT). In fact, if you were to magically overnight have a wonderful IT architecture throughout our healthcare system in United States, it would be quite helpful but we would still have a problem with our system because the incentives aren’t right. The whole incentive system is messed up.

So I do think that the enterprise IT architecture, is an important enabler, a crucial enabler, to many aspects of enterprise transformation. But I don’t see them as close at all in terms of thinking of them as synonymous.

Gardner: Len Fehskens, are we actually talking about IT architecture or Enterprise Architecture and what’s the key difference?

Fehskens: Well, again that’s this part of the problem, and there’s a big debate going on within the Enterprise Architecture community whether Enterprise Architecture is really about IT, in which case it probably ought to be called enterprise IT architecture or whether it’s about the enterprise as a whole.

For example, when you look at the commitment of resources to the IT function in most organizations, depending on how you count, whether you count by headcount or dollars invested or whatever, the numbers typically run about 5-10 percent. So there’s 90 percent of most organizations that is not about IT, and in the true enterprise transformation, that other 90 percent has to transform itself as well.

So part of it is just glib naming of the discipline. Certainly, what most people mean when they say Enterprise Architecture and what is actually practiced under the rubric of Enterprise Architecture is mostly about IT. That is, the implementation of the architecture, the effects of the architecture occurs primarily in the IT domain.

Gardner: But, Len, don’t TOGAF® at The Open Group and ArchiMate really step far beyond IT? Isn’t that sort of the trend?

Fehskens: It certainly is a trend, but I think we’ve still got a long way to go. Just look at the language that’s used in the architecture development method (ADM) for TOGAF, for example, and the model of an Enterprise Architecture. There’s business, information, application, and technology.

Well, three of those concepts are very much related to IT and only one of them is really about business. And mostly, the business part is about that part of the business that IT can provide support for. Yes, we do know organizations that are using TOGAF to do architecture outside of the IT realm, but the way it’s described, the way it was originally intended, is largely focused on IT.

Not a lot going on

What is going on is generally not called architecture. It’s called organizational design or management or it goes under a whole bunch of other stuff. And it’s not referred to as Enterprise Architecture, but there is a lot of that stuff happening. As I said earlier, it is essential to making enterprise transformation successful.

My personal opinion is that virtually all forms of design involve doing some architectural thinking. Whether you call it that or not, architecture is a particular aspect of the design process, and people do it without recognizing it, and therefore are probably not doing it explicitly.

But Bill made a really important observation, which is that it can’t be solely about IT. There’s lots of other stuff in the enterprise that needs to transform.

Ross: Go back to the challenge we have here of Enterprise Architecture being buried in the IT unit. Enterprise Architecture is an enterprise effort, initiative, and impact. Because Enterprise Architecture is so often buried in IT, IT people are trying to do things and accomplish things that cannot be done within IT.

We’ve got to continue to push that Enterprise Architecture is about designing the way this company will do it business, and that it’s far beyond the scope of IT alone. I take it back to the transformation discussion. What we find is that when a company really understands Enterprise Architecture and embraces it, it will go through a transformation, because it’s not used to thinking that way and it’s not used to acting that way.

Disciplined processes

If management says we’re going to start using IT strategically, we’re going to start designing ourselves so that we have disciplined business processes and that we use data well. The company is embracing Enterprise Architecture and that will lead to a transformation.

Gardner: You said that someday CIOs are going to report to the enterprise architects, and that’s the way it ought to be. Does that get closer to this notion that IT can’t do this alone, that a different level of thinking across disciplines and functions needs to occur?

Ross: I certainly think so. Look at companies that have really embraced and gotten benefits from Enterprise Architecture like Procter & GambleTetra Pak, and Maersk. At P&G’s, IT is reporting to the CIO but he is also the President of Shared Services. At Maersk and Tetra Pak, it’s the Head of Global Business Processes.

Once we get CIOs either in charge with more of a business role and they are in charge of process, and of the technology, or are reporting to a COO or head of business process, head of business transformation, or head of shared services, then we know what it is we’re architecting, and the whole organization is designed so that architecture is a critical element.

I don’t think that title-wise, this is ever going to happen. I don’t think we’re ever going to see a CIO report to chief enterprise architect. But in practice, what we’re seeing is more CIOs reporting to someone who is, in fact, in charge of designing the architecture of the organization.

By that, I mean business processes and its use of data. When we get there, first of all, we will transform to get to that point and secondly, we’ll really start seeing some benefits and real strategic impact of Enterprise Architecture.

Gardner: There’s some cynicism and skepticism around architecture, and yet, what we’re hearing is it’s not in name only. It is important, and it’s increasingly important, even at higher and higher abstractions in the organization.

How to evangelize?

How then do you evangelize or propel architectural thinking into companies? How do you get the thinking around an architectural approach more deeply engrained in these companies?

Fehskens: Dana, I think that’s the $64,000 question. The fundamental way to get architectural thinking accepted is to demonstrate value. I mean to show that it really brings something to the party. That’s part of my concern about the conflation of enterprise transformation with Enterprise Architecture and making even bigger promises that probably can’t be kept.

The reason that in organizations who’ve tried Enterprise Architecture and decided that it didn’t taste good, it was because the effort didn’t actually deliver any value.

The way to get architectural thinking integrated into an organization is to use it in places where it can deliver obvious, readily apparent value in the short-term and then grow out from that nucleus. Trying to bite off more than you can chew only results in you choking. That’s the big problem we’ve had historically.

It’s about making promises that you can actually keep. Once you’ve done that, and done that consistently and repeatedly, then people will say that there’s really something to this. There’s some reason why these guys are actually delivering on a big promise.

Rouse: We ran a study recently about what competencies you need to transform an organization based on a series of successful case studies and we did a survey with hundreds of top executives in the industry.

The number one and two things you need are the top leader has to have a vision of where you’re going and they have to be committed to making that happen. Without those two things, it seldom happens at all. From that perspective, I’d argue that the CIO probably already does report to the chief architect. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs architected Microsoft and AppleCarnegie and Rockefeller architected the steel and oil industries.

If you look at the business histories of people with these very successful companies, often they had a really keen architectural sense of what the pieces were and how they needed to fit together. So if we’re going to really be in the transformation business with TOGAF and stuff, we need to be talking to the CEO, not the CIO.

Corporate strategy

Ross: I totally agree. The industries and companies that you cited, Bill, instinctively did what every company is going to need to do in the digital economy, which is think about corporate strategy not just in terms of what products do we offer, what markets are we in, what companies do we acquire, and what things do we sell up.

At the highest level, we have to get our arms around it. Success is dependent on understanding how we are fundamentally going to operate. A lot of CEOs have deferred that responsibility to others and when that mandate is not clear, it gets very murky.

What does happen in a lot of companies, because CEOs have a lot of things to pay attention to, is that once they have stated the very high-level vision, they absolutely can put a head of business process or a head of shared services or a COO type in charge of providing the clarification, providing the day-to-day oversight, establishing the relationships in the organizations so everybody really understands how this vision is going to work. I totally agree that this goes nowhere if the CEO isn’t at least responsible for a very high-level vision.

Gardner: So if what I think I’m hearing is correct, how you do things is just as important as what you do. Because we’re in such a dynamic environment, when it comes to supply chains and communications and the way in which technology influences more and more aspects of business, it needs to be architected, rather than be left to a fiat or a linear or older organizational functioning.

So Bill Rouse, the COO, the chief operating officer, wouldn’t this person be perhaps more aligned with Enterprise Architecture in the way that we’re discussing?

Rouse: Let’s start with the basic data. We can’t find a single instance of a major enterprise transformation in a major company happening successfully without total commitment of top leadership. Organizations just don’t spontaneously transform on their own.

A lot of the ideas and a lot of the insights can come from elsewhere in the organization, but, given that the CEO is totally committed to making this happen, certainly the COO can play a crucial role in how it’s then pursued, and the COO of course will be keenly aware of a whole notion of processes and the need to understand processes.

One of the companies I work very closely with tried to merge three companies by putting inERP. After $300 million, they walked away from the investment, because they realized they had no idea of what the processes were. So the COO is a critical function here.

Just to go back to original point, you want total commitment by the CEO. You can’t just launch the visionary message and walk away. At the same time, you need people who are actually dealing with the business processes to do a lot of the work.

Gardner: What the is the proper relationship between Enterprise Architecture and enterprise transformation?

Ross: I’d say the relationship between Enterprise Architecture and enterprise transformation is two-way. If an organization feels the need for a transformation — in other words, if it feels it needs to do something — it will absolutely need Enterprise Architecture as one of the tools for accomplishing that.

It will provide the clarity the organization needs in a time of mass change. People need to know where they’re headed, and that is true in how they do their processes, how they design their data, and then how they implement IT.

It works just as well in reverse. If a company hasn’t had a clear vision of how they want to operate, then they might introduce architecture to provide some of that discipline and clarity and it will inevitably lead to a transformation. When you go from just doing what every individual thought was best or every business unit thought was best to an enterprise vision of how a company will operate, you’re imposing a transformation. So I think we are going to see these two hand-in-hand.

What’s the relationship?

Rouse: I think enterprise transformation often involves a significant fundamental change of the Enterprise Architecture, broadly defined, which can then be enabled by the enterprise IT architecture.

Naidu: Like I mentioned in the beginning, one is end, another one is means. I look at the enterprise transformation as an end and Enterprise Architecture providing the kind of means. In one way it’s like reaching the destination using some kind of transportation mechanism. That’s how I look at the difference between EA and ET.

Fehskens: One of the fundamental principles of architecture is taking advantage of reuse when it’s appropriate. So I’m just going to reuse what everybody just said. I can’t say it better. Enterprise Architecture is a powerful tool for effecting enterprise transformation.

Jeanne is right. It’s a symmetric or bidirectional back-and-forth kind of relationship.

Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, an enterprise IT analysis, market research, and consulting firm. Gardner, a leading identifier of software and Cloud productivity trends and new IT business growth opportunities, honed his skills and refined his insights as an industry analyst, pundit, and news editor covering the emerging software development and enterprise infrastructure arenas for the last 18 years.

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San Francisco Conference Observations: Enterprise Transformation, Enterprise Architecture, SOA and a Splash of Cloud Computing

By Chris Harding, The Open Group 

This week I have been at The Open Group conference in San Francisco. The theme was Enterprise Transformation which, in simple terms means changing how your business works to take advantage of the latest developments in IT.

Evidence of these developments is all around. I took a break and went for coffee and a sandwich, to a little cafe down on Pine and Leavenworth that seemed to be run by and for the Millennium generation. True to type, my server pulled out a cellphone with a device attached through which I swiped my credit card; an app read my screen-scrawled signature and the transaction was complete.

Then dinner. We spoke to the hotel concierge, she tapped a few keys on her terminal and, hey presto, we had a window table at a restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf. No lengthy phone negotiations with the Maitre d’. We were just connected with the resource that we needed, quickly and efficiently.

The power of ubiquitous technology to transform the enterprise was the theme of the inspirational plenary presentation given by Andy Mulholland, Global CTO at Capgemini. Mobility, the Cloud, and big data are the three powerful technical forces that must be harnessed by the architect to move the business to smarter operation and new markets.

Jeanne Ross of the MIT Sloan School of Management shared her recipe for architecting business success, with examples drawn from several major companies. Indomitable and inimitable, she always challenges her audience to think through the issues. This time we responded with, “Don’t small companies need architecture too?” Of course they do, was the answer, but the architecture of a big corporation is very different from that of a corner cafe.

Corporations don’t come much bigger than Nissan. Celso Guiotoko, Corporate VP and CIO at the Nissan Motor Company, told us how Nissan are using enterprise architecture for business transformation. Highlights included the concept of information capitalization, the rationalization of the application portfolio through SOA and reusable services, and the delivery of technology resource through a private cloud platform.

The set of stimulating plenary presentations on the first day of the conference was completed by Lauren States, VP and CTO Cloud Computing and Growth Initiatives at IBM. Everyone now expects business results from technical change, and there is huge pressure on the people involved to deliver results that meet these expectations. IT enablement is one part of the answer, but it must be matched by business process excellence and values-based culture for real productivity and growth.

My role in The Open Group is to support our work on Cloud Computing and SOA, and these activities took all my attention after the initial plenary. If you had, thought five years ago, that no technical trend could possibly generate more interest and excitement than SOA, Cloud Computing would now be proving you wrong.

But interest in SOA continues, and we had a SOA stream including presentations of forward thinking on how to use SOA to deliver agility, and on SOA governance, as well as presentations describing and explaining the use of key Open Group SOA standards and guides: the Service Integration Maturity Model (OSIMM), the SOA Reference Architecture, and the Guide to using TOGAF for SOA.

We then moved into the Cloud, with a presentation by Mike Walker of Microsoft on why Enterprise Architecture must lead Cloud strategy and planning. The “why” was followed by the “how”: Zapthink’s Jason Bloomberg described Representational State Transfer (REST), which many now see as a key foundational principle for Cloud architecture. But perhaps it is not the only principle; a later presentation suggested a three-tier approach with the client tier, including mobile devices, accessing RESTful information resources through a middle tier of agents that compose resources and carry out transactions (ACT).

In the evening we had a CloudCamp, hosted by The Open Group and conducted as a separate event by the CloudCamp organization. The original CloudCamp concept was of an “unconference” where early adopters of Cloud Computing technologies exchange ideas. Its founder, Dave Nielsen, is now planning to set up a demo center where those adopters can experiment with setting up private clouds. This transition from idea to experiment reflects the changing status of mainstream cloud adoption.

The public conference streams were followed by a meeting of the Open Group Cloud Computing Work Group. This is currently pursuing nine separate projects to develop standards and guidance for architects using cloud computing. The meeting in San Francisco focused on one of these – the Cloud Computing Reference Architecture. It compared submissions from five companies, also taking into account ongoing work at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), with the aim of creating a base from which to create an Open Group reference architecture for Cloud Computing. This gave a productive finish to a busy week of information gathering and discussion.

Ralph Hitz of Visana, a health insurance company based in Switzerland, made an interesting comment on our reference architecture discussion. He remarked that we were not seeking to change or evolve the NIST service and deployment models. This may seem boring, but it is true, and it is right. Cloud Computing is now where the automobile was in 1920. We are pretty much agreed that it will have four wheels and be powered by gasoline. The business and economic impact is yet to come.

So now I’m on my way to the airport for the flight home. I checked in online, and my boarding pass is on my cellphone. Big companies, as well as small ones, now routinely use mobile technology, and my airline has a frequent-flyer app. It’s just a shame that they can’t manage a decent cup of coffee.

Dr. Chris Harding is Director for Interoperability and SOA at The Open Group. He has been with The Open Group for more than ten years, and is currently responsible for managing and supporting its work on interoperability, including SOA and interoperability aspects of Cloud Computing. Before joining The Open Group, he was a consultant, and a designer and development manager of communications software. With a PhD in mathematical logic, he welcomes the current upsurge of interest in semantic technology, and the opportunity to apply logical theory to practical use. He has presented at Open Group and other conferences on a range of topics, and contributes articles to on-line journals. He is a member of the BCS, the IEEE, and the AOGEA, and is a certified TOGAF practitioner.

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The Open Group San Francisco Conference: Day 1 Highlights

By The Open Group Conference Team

With the end of the first day of the conference, here are a few key takeaways from Monday’s key note sessions:

The Enterprise Architect: Architecting Business Success

Jeanne Ross, Director & Principal Research Scientist, MIT Center for Information Systems Research

Ms. Ross began the plenary discussing the impact of enterprise architecture on the whole enterprise. According to Ross “we live in a digital economy, and in order to succeed, we need to excel in enterprise architecture.” She went on to say that the current “plan, build, use” model has led to a lot of application silos. Ms. Ross also mentioned that enablement doesn’t work well; while capabilities are being built, they are grossly underutilized within most organizations.

Enterprise architects need to think about what capabilities their firms will exploit – both in the short- and long-terms. Ms. Ross went on to present case studies from Aetna, Protection 1, USAA, Pepsi America and Commonwealth of Australia. In each of these examples, architects provided the following business value:

  • Helped senior executives clarify business goals
  • Identified architectural capability that can be readily exploited
  • Presented Option and their implications for business goals
  • Built Capabilities incrementally

A well-received quote from Ms. Ross during the Q&A portion of the session was, “Someday, CIOs will report to EA – that’s the way it ought to be!”

How Enterprise Architecture is Helping Nissan IT Transformation

Celso Guiotoko, Corporate Vice President and CIO, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

Mr. Guiotoko presented the steps that Nissan took to improve the efficiency of its information systems. The company adapted BEST – an IT mid-term plan that helped led enterprise transformation within the organization. BEST was comprised of the following components:

  • Business Alignment
  • Enterprise Architecture
  • Selective Sourcing
  • Technology Simplification

Guided by BEST and led by strong Enterprise Architecture, Nissan saw the following results:

  • Reduced cost per user from 1.09 to 0.63
  • 230,000 return with 404 applications reduced
  • Improved solution deployment time
  • Significantly reduced hardware costs

Nissan recently created the next IT mid-term plan called “VITESSE,” which stands for value information, technology, simplification and service excellence. Mr. Guiotoko said that VITESSE will help the company achieve its IT and business goals as it moves toward the production of zero-emissions vehicles.

The Transformed Enterprise

Andy Mulholland, Global CTO, Capgemini

Mr. Mulholland began the presentation by discussing what parts of technology comprise today’s enterprise and asking the question, “What needs to be done to integrate these together?” Enterprise technology is changing rapidly and  the consumerization of IT only increasing. Mr. Mulholland presented a statistic from Gartner predicting that up to 35 percent of enterprise IT expenditures will be managed outside of the IT department’s budget by 2015. He then referenced the PC revolution when enterprises were too slow to adapt to employees needs and adoption of technology.

There are three core technology clusters and standards that are emerging today in the form of Cloud, mobility and big data, but there are no business process standards to govern them. In order to not repeat the same mistakes of the PC revolution, organizations need to move from an inside-out model to an outside-in model – looking at the activities and problems within the enterprise then looking outward versus looking at those problems from the outside in. Outside-in, Mulholland argued, will increase productivity and lead to innovative business models, ultimately enabling your enterprise to keep up the current technology trends.

Making Business Drive IT Transformation through Enterprise Architecture

Lauren States, VP & CTO of Cloud Computing and Growth Initiatives, IBM Corp.

Ms. States began her presentation by describing today’s enterprise – flat, transparent and collaborative. In order to empower this emerging type of enterprise, she argued that CEOs need to consider data a strategic initiative.

Giving the example of the CMO within the enterprise to reflect how changing technologies affect their role, she stated, “CMOS are overwhelming underprepared for the data explosion and recognize a need to invest in and integrate technology and analytics.” CIOs and architects need to use business goals and strategy to set the expectation of IT. Ms. States also said that organizations need to focus on enabling growth, productivity and cultural change – factors are all related and lead to enterprise transformation.

*********

The conference will continue tomorrow with overarching themes that include enterprise transformation, security and SOA. For more information about the conference, please go here: http://www3.opengroup.org/sanfrancisco2012

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Filed under Cloud, Cloud/SOA, Data management, Enterprise Architecture, Enterprise Transformation, Semantic Interoperability, Standards

MIT’s Ross on How Enterprise Architecture and IT More Than Ever Lead to Business Transformation

By Dana Gardner, Interarbor Solutions

This BriefingsDirect thought leadership interview comes in conjunction with The Open Group Conference this month in San Francisco.

The conference will focus on how IT and enterprise architecture support enterprise transformation. Speakers in conference events will also explore the latest in service oriented architecture (SOA), cloud computing, and security.

We’re now joined by of the main speakers, Jeanne Ross, Director and Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Center for Information Systems Research. Jeanne studies how firms develop competitive advantage through the implementation and reuse of digitized platforms.

She is also the co-author of three books: IT Governance: How Top Performers Manage IT Decision Rights for Superior Results, Enterprise Architecture As Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution, and IT Savvy: What Top Executives Must Know to Go from Pain to Gain.

As a lead-in to her Open Group presentation on how adoption of enterprise architecture (EA) leads to greater efficiencies and better business agility, Ross explains how enterprise architects have helped lead the way to successful business transformations. The interview is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. The full podcast can be found here.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: How you measure or determine that enterprise architects and their practices are intrinsic to successful business transformations?

Ross: That’s a great question. Today, there remains kind of a leap of faith in recognizing that companies that are well-architected will, in fact, perform better, partly because you can be well-architected and perform badly. Or if we look at companies that are very young and have no competitors, they can be very poorly architected and achieve quite remarkably in the marketplace.

But what we can ascribe to architecture is that when companies have competition, then they can establish any kind of performance target they want, whether it’s faster revenue growth or better profitability, and then architect themselves so they can achieve their goals. Then, we can monitor that.

We do have evidence in repeated case studies of companies that set goals, defined an architecture, started to build the capabilities associated with that architecture, and did indeed improve their performance. We have wonderful case study results that should be very reaffirming. I accept that they are not conclusive.

Architectural maturity

We also have statistical support in some of the work we’ve done that shows that high performers in our sample of 102 companies, in fact, had greater architecture maturity. They had deployed a number of practices associated with good architecture.

Gardner: Is there something that’s new about this, rather than just trying to reengineer something?

Ross: Yes, the thing we’re learning about enterprise architecture is that there’s a cultural shift that takes place in an organization, when it commits to doing business in a new way, and that cultural shift starts with abandoning a culture of heroes and accepting a culture of discipline.

Nobody wants to get rid of the heroes in their company. Heroes are people who see a problem and solve it. But we do want to get past heroes sub-optimizing. What companies traditionally did before they started thinking about what architecture would mean, is they relied on individuals to do what seemed best and that clearly can sub-optimize in an environment that increasingly is global and requires things like a single face to the customer.

We also have statistical support in some of the work we’ve done that shows that high performers in our sample of 102 companies, in fact, had greater architecture maturity. They had deployed a number of practices associated with good architecture.

Gardner: Is there something that’s new about this, rather than just trying to reengineer something?

Ross: Yes, the thing we’re learning about enterprise architecture is that there’s a cultural shift that takes place in an organization, when it commits to doing business in a new way, and that cultural shift starts with abandoning a culture of heroes and accepting a culture of discipline.

Nobody wants to get rid of the heroes in their company. Heroes are people who see a problem and solve it. But we do want to get past heroes sub-optimizing. What companies traditionally did before they started thinking about what architecture would mean, is they relied on individuals to do what seemed best and that clearly can sub-optimize in an environment that increasingly is global and requires things like a single face to the customer.

We really just need architecture to pull out unnecessary cost and to enable desirable reusability. And the architect is typically going to be the person representing that enterprise view and helping everyone understand the benefits of understanding that enterprise view, so that everybody who can easily or more easily see the local view is constantly working with architects to balance those two requirements.

Gardner: Is this a particularly good time, from your vantage point, to undertake enterprise architecture?

Ross: It’s a great time for most companies. There will be exceptions that I’ll talk about in a minute. One thing we learned early on in the research is that companies who were best at adopting architecture and implementing it effectively had cost pressures. What happens when you have cost pressures is that you’re forced to make tough decisions.

If you have all the money in the world, you’re not forced to make tough decisions. Architecture is all about making tough decisions, understanding your tradeoffs, and recognizing that you’re going to get some things that you want and you are going to sacrifice others.

If you don’t see that, if you just say, “We’re going to solve that by spending more money,” it becomes nearly impossible to become architected. This is why investment banks are invariably very badly architected, and most people in investment banks are very aware of that. It’s just very hard to do anything other than say, “If that’s important to us, let’s spend more money and let’s get it.” One thing you can’t get by spending more money is discipline, and architecture is very tightly related to discipline.

Tough decisions

In a tough economy, when competition is increasingly global and marketplaces are shifting, this ability to make tough decisions is going to be essential. Opportunities to save costs are going to be really valued, and architecture invariably helps companies save money. The ability to reuse, and thus rapidly seize the next related business opportunity, is also going to be highly valued.

The thing you have to be careful of is that if you see your markets disappearing, if your product is outdated, or your whole industry is being redefined, as we have seen in things like media, you have to be ready to innovate. Architecture can restrict your innovative gene, by saying, “Wait, wait, wait. We want to slow down. We want to do things on our platform.” That can be very dangerous, if you are really facing disruptive technology or market changes.

So you always have to have that eye out there that says, “When is what we built that’s stable actually constraining us too much? When is it preventing important innovation?” For a lot of architects, that’s going to be tough, because you start to love the architecture, the standards, and the discipline. You love what you’ve created, but if it isn’t right for the market you’re facing, you have to be ready to let it go and go seize the next opportunity.

Gardner: Perhaps this environment is the best of all worlds, because we have that discipline on the costs which forces hard decisions, as you say. We also have a lot of these innovative IT trends that would almost force you to look at doing things differently. I’m thinking again of cloud, mobile, the big data issues, and even social-media types of effects.

Ross: Absolutely. We should all look at it that way and say, “What a wonderful world we live in.” One of the companies that I find quite remarkable in their ability to, on the one hand, embrace discipline and architecture, and on the other hand, constantly innovate, is USAA. I’m sure I’ll talk about them a little bit at the conference.

This is a company that just totally understands the importance of discipline around customer service. They’re off the charts in their customer satisfaction.

They’re a financial services institution. Most financial services institutions just drool over USAA’s customer satisfaction ratings, but they’ve done this by combining this idea of discipline around the customer. We have a single customer file. We have an enterprise view of that customer. We constantly standardize those practices and processes that will ensure that we understand the customer and we deliver the products and services they need. They have enormous discipline around these things.

Simultaneously, they have people working constantly around innovation. They were the first company to see the need for this deposit with your iPhone. Take a picture of your check and it’s automatically deposited into your account. They were nearly a year ahead of the next company that came up with that service.

The way they see it is that for any new technology that comes out, our customer will want to use it. We’ve got to be there the day after the technology comes out. They obviously haven’t been able to achieve that, but that’s their goal. If they can make deals with R&D companies that are coming up with new technologies, they’re going to make them, so that they can be ready with their product when the thing actually becomes commercial.

So it’s certainly possible for a company to be both innovative and responsive to what’s going on in the technology world and disciplined and cost effective around customer service, order-to-cash, and those other underlying critical requirements in your organization. But it’s not easy, and that’s why USAA is quite remarkable. They’ve pulled it off and they are a lesson for many other companies.

Gardner: Is The Open Group a good forum for your message and your research, and if so, why?

Ross: The Open Group is great for me, because there is so much serious thinking in The Open Group about what architecture is, how it adds value, and how we do it well. For me to touch base with people in The Open Group is really valuable, and for me to touch base to share my research and hear the push back, the debate, or the value add is perfect, because these are people who are living it every day.

Major themes

Gardner: Are there any other major themes that you’ll be discussing at the conference coming up that you might want to share with us?

Ross: One thing we have observed in our cases that is more and more important to architects is that the companies are struggling more than we realized with using their platforms well.

I’m not sure that architects or people in IT always see this. You build something that’s phenomenally good and appropriate for the business and then you just assume, that if you give them a little training, they’ll use it well.

That’s actually been a remarkable struggle for organizations. One of our research projects right now is called “Working Smarter on Your Digitized Platform.” When we go out, we find there aren’t very many companies that have come anywhere close to leveraging their platforms the way they might have imagined and certainly the way an architect would have imagined.

It’s harder than we thought. It requires persistent coaching. It’s not about training, but persistent coaching. It requires enormous clarity of what the organization is trying to do, and organizations change fast. Clarity is a lot harder to achieve than we think it ought to be.

The message for architects would be: here you are trying to get really good at being a great architect. To add value to your organization, you actually have to understand one more thing: how effectively are people in your company adopting the capabilities and leveraging them effectively? At some point, the value add of the architecture is diminished by the fact that people don’t get it. They don’t understand what they should be able to do.

We’re going to see architects spending a little more time understanding what their leadership is capable of and what capabilities they’ll be able to leverage in the organization, as opposed to which on a rational basis seem like a really good idea.

Getting started

Gardner: When you’re an organization and you’ve decided that you do want to transform and take advantage of unique opportunities for either technical disruption or market discipline, how do you go about getting more structure, more of an architecture?

Ross: That’s idiosyncratic to some extent, because in your dream world, what happens is that the CEO announces, “This is what we are going to be five years from now. This is how we are going to operate and I expect everyone to get on board.” The vision is clear and the commitment is clear. Then the architects can just say, and most architects are totally capable of this, “Oh, well then, here are the capabilities we need to build. Let’s just go build them and then we’ll live happily ever after.”

The problem is that’s rarely the way you get to start. Invariably, the CEO is looking at the need for some acquisitions, some new markets, and all kinds of pressures. The last thing you’re getting is some clarity around the vision of an operating model that would define your critical architectural capabilities.

What ends up happening instead is architects recognize key business leaders who understand the need for, reused standardization, process discipline, whatever it is, and they’re very pragmatic about it. They say, “What do you need here to develop an enterprise view of the customer, or what’s limiting your ability to move into the next market?”

And they have to pragmatically develop what the organization can use, as opposed to defining the organizational vision and then the big picture view of the enterprise architecture.

So in practice, it’s a much more pragmatic process than what we would imagine when we, for example, write books on how to do enterprise architecture. The best architects are listening very hard to who is asking for what kind of capability. When they see real demand and real leadership around certain enterprise capabilities, they focus their attention on addressing those, in the context of what they realize will be a bigger picture over time.

They can already see the unfolding bigger picture, but there’s no management commitment yet. So they stick to the capabilities that they are confident the organization will use. That’s the way they get the momentum to build. That is more art than science and it really distinguishes the most successful architects.

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If you are interested in attending The Open Group’s upcoming conference, please register here: http://www3.opengroup.org/event/open-group-conference-san-francisco/registration

Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, an enterprise IT analysis, market research, and consulting firm. Gardner, a leading identifier of software and cloud productivity trends and new IT business growth opportunities, honed his skills and refined his insights as an industry analyst, pundit, and news editor covering the emerging software development and enterprise infrastructure arenas for the last 18 years.

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