Tag Archives: Len Fehskens

Different Words Meant Different Things, Part 3

By Leonard Fehskens, The Open Group

In the second part of this series, I examined the effect of our definition of enterprise on how we think about EA.

To close, I’ll consider the implications of a more inclusive concept of enterprise on the future of Enterprise Architecture.

The current cohort of EAs who have grown accustomed to a misnamed and narrowly focused discipline will eventually retire.  They will be replaced, over time, by EAs who learn the discipline in academic programs rather than by making it up on the job.  They will chuckle in amusement at a “body of knowledge” that is like that of medicine before germ theory, geology before plate tectonics, or astronomy before heliocentrism.  These programs are being created now, and academics are not interested in teaching a discipline with an irrational and inconsistent vocabulary.  They don’t want to have to explain to their students that it is for “historical reasons” that “enterprise means the IT part of a business.”

The focus of an academic program on Enterprise Architecture will necessarily reflect the prevailing concept of enterprise.  The commonly used model of Enterprise Architecture being about people, process and technology provides a useful context for considering this influence.

An IT-centric concept of Enterprise Architecture, like the one currently espoused by most of the community, will emphasize the role of information technology in supporting the needs of the business.  It will include just enough about business and people to enable practitioners to address the goal of “aligning IT with the business.”

A concept of Enterprise Architecture based on the idea of enterprise as business will emphasize business, especially business processes, as they are the primary locus of technological support.  It will include just enough about information technology and people to enable practitioners to address the goal of making IT a strategic asset for businesses.

A concept of Enterprise Architecture based on the idea of enterprise as human endeavor will emphasize the role of people, and be built around the sociology and psychology of individuals, groups and organizations, especially leadership and management as means to achieving organizational goals.  It will devote some attention to business as a particular kind of enterprise, but will look at other forms of enterprise and their unique concerns as well.  Finally, it will consider technology in its most general sense as the means of instantiating the infrastructure necessary to realize an enterprise.  There will be a lot of harumphing about how the conventional wisdom is correct by definition because it is what is practiced by the majority of practitioners, but there is a noisy and insistent contingent that will continue to point out that the world is not flat and the sun does not go around the earth.  Only time will tell, but however you measure it, over 90% of most organizations is “not-IT”, and the IT-centric perspective is simply so imbalanced that it can’t ultimately prevail.

Adopting a broader concept of enterprise consistent with its meaning in common English usage does not in any way invalidate any of the current applications or interpretations of Enterprise Architecture.  It simply allows the application of architectural thinking to other kinds of purposeful human activity besides commercial business organizations to be subsumed under the rubric “Enterprise Architecture”.  All entities that are enterprises by these more restrictive definitions clearly fit unchanged into this more inclusive definition of enterprise.

 Len Fehskens is Vice President of Skills and Capabilities at The Open GroupHe is responsible for The Open Group’s activities relating to the professionalization of the discipline of enterprise architecture. Prior to joining The Open Group, Len led the Worldwide Architecture Profession Office for HP Services at Hewlett-Packard. He majored in Computer Science at MIT, and has over 40 years of experience in the IT business as both an individual contributor and a manager, within both product engineering and services business units. Len has worked for Digital Equipment Corporation, Data General Corporation, Prime Computer, Compaq and Hewlett Packard.  He is the lead inventor on six software patents on the object oriented management of distributed systems.

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Different Words Mean Different Things, Part 2

By Leonard Fehskens, The Open Group

In the first part of this series, I proposed distinct meanings of enterprise, business, organization and corporation.

As I noted earlier, you don’t have to agree with the distinctions I am making here.  But words are a finite, “nonrenewable” resource – if you treat these four words as interchangeable synonyms, you will not be able to make these distinctions without finding other words to make them for you.  In particular, you will not be able to distinguish an endeavor from the means of realizing it (similar to confusing an architecture and a blueprint).  You will not be able to distinguish one particular kind of endeavor (for example, a commercial endeavor) from other kinds of endeavors.  You will not be able to distinguish one particular kind of organization from other kinds of organizations.

Treating these four words as synonyms makes these words unavailable to describe larger and more inclusive domains for the application of architectural thinking.  What’s more, it does so needlessly.  This discipline doesn’t need synonyms any more than an organization needs multiple different systems that do the same thing.  Synonyms are redundancies that reduce the expressive power of the language we use to talk about what we do.  We need to be able to make distinctions between things that are important to distinguish from one another, and there are only so many words available to us to do so.

I acknowledge that for most of the community of practicing business and enterprise architects, most if not all of their practice occurs in the context of business-as-commercial-entities.  It is therefore not surprising that many people in the Business and Enterprise Architecture communities would not believe these distinctions are worth making, and be perfectly happy to (if not insistent that we) treat these words as synonyms.  But we have to be careful to avoid the example of the six blind men and the elephant, and being able to explain a predisposition to make these words synonymous doesn’t make it the right thing to do.

There’s even a contingent that insists that enterprise doesn’t just mean a commercial business organization, that it means a specific kind of commercial business organization, one that exceeds some critical threshold with respect to its scale, complexity, sophistication, ambition or consequence.  This is a bit like insisting that the implied “building” in “(building) architecture” means “commercial building”, or more specifically, “skyscraper.”

The problem with this concept of enterprise arises when one tries to specify the objective criteria by which one distinguishes a mere business from the bigger, more complex, more sophisticated, more ambitious or more consequential business that deserves to be called an enterprise.  It is certainly the case that the larger, more complex, more sophisticated, more ambitious and more consequential a commercial business organization is, the more likely architectural thinking will be necessary and beneficial.  But this observation about Enterprise Architecture does not mean that we ought to define enterprise to mean a large, complex, sophisticated, ambitious and consequential commercial business organization.

Why have so many naval vessels been named Enterprise?  Why was the Starship Enterprise from the Star Trek franchise so named, and why was this thought to be an appropriate name for the first space shuttle?  It was not because these vessels embodied some idea of a commercial business organization or because the word connoted a big, complex, sophisticated, ambitious or consequential business.  And surely if the latter had been the reason, there would be many lesser vessels named simply “Business”?

There are two significant consequences to basing Enterprise Architecture (EA) on a concept of enterprise that is limited to a particular kind of organization.  The first has to do with the applicability of the discipline, and the second has to do with how we educate enterprise architects.

If we restrict the definition of enterprise to a specific kind of purposeful activity, whether the criteria we use for this restriction are subjective or objective, we must either argue that architectural thinking is inapplicable to those purposeful activities that do not satisfy these restrictions, or we have to find a word to denote the larger class of purposeful activities to which architectural thinking applies, a class that includes both the restricted concept of enterprise and all other activities to which architectural thinking applies.

If enterprise means the same thing as commercial business organization, what do we call an entity that is not a commercial business organization (e.g., a church, a hospital, a government, or an army)?  Does Enterprise Architecture not apply to such endeavors because they are not created primarily to conduct business transactions?  What do we call organizations that are not businesses?  If we want to talk about an organization that is a business, why can’t we just use the compound “business organization”, which not only does not erase the distinction, it makes clear the relationship between the two?  Similarly, if we want to talk about an enterprise that is a business, as an enterprise, why can’t we just use the compound “business enterprise”?

Similarly, what should we call the architectural discipline that applies to human enterprise in general, and of which any more narrowly defined concept of Enterprise Architecture is necessarily a specialization?

Expanding definitions

The recent surge of interest in “Business Architecture” is, in my opinion, reflective of both the realization by the community that the historically IT-centric focus of Enterprise Architecture is unnecessarily circumscribed, and the lack of a systematic and internally consistent concept of Enterprise Architecture shared throughout that community.

There is a growing faction within the EA community that argues that most of Enterprise Architecture as practiced is actually enterprise IT architecture (EITA), and calling this practice EA is a misuse of the term.  Despite this, the widespread adoption of the egregiously oversimplified model of an enterprise as comprising “the business” and IT, and thus, Enterprise Architecture as comprising “Business Architecture” and “IT Architecture”, has led to the emergence of “Business Architecture” as a distinct if ill-defined concept.

It seems to me that many people consider Enterprise Architecture to be so hopelessly tainted by its historic IT-centricity that they view the best course to be allowing Enterprise Architecture to continue to be misused to mean EITA, and letting Business Architecture take its place as what EA “should have meant.”  I note in passing that there are some people who insist that EA “has always meant,” or at least “originally” meant, the architecture of the enterprise as a whole, but was hijacked by the IT community, though no one has been able to provide other than thirty year old recollections to support this assertion.

As I noted at the outset, I think Enterprise Architecture should encompass the application of architectural thinking to human endeavors of all kinds, not just those that are primarily business in nature, including, for example, governmental, military, religious, academic, or medical enterprises.  Yes, these endeavors all have some business aspects, but they are not what we normally call businesses, and calling the discipline “Business Architecture” almost unavoidably encourages us to overlook the architectural needs of such non-business-centric endeavors and focus instead on the needs of one specific kind of endeavor.

We have the words to name these things properly. We simply have to start doing so.

In part 3 of this series, I’ll consider the implications of a more inclusive concept of enterprise on the future of Enterprise Architecture.

 Len Fehskens is Vice President of Skills and Capabilities at The Open GroupHe is responsible for The Open Group’s activities relating to the professionalization of the discipline of enterprise architecture. Prior to joining The Open Group, Len led the Worldwide Architecture Profession Office for HP Services at Hewlett-Packard. He majored in Computer Science at MIT, and has over 40 years of experience in the IT business as both an individual contributor and a manager, within both product engineering and services business units. Len has worked for Digital Equipment Corporation, Data General Corporation, Prime Computer, Compaq and Hewlett Packard.  He is the lead inventor on six software patents on the object oriented management of distributed systems.

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Different Words Mean Different Things, Part 1

By Leonard Fehskens, The Open Group

Over on the LinkedIn Enterprise Architecture Network discussion group there is a thread on the relationship between Enterprise Architecture (EA) and Business Architecture that as of late November 2012 had run to over 4100 comments.

Some of the sprawl of this thread is due to the usual lack of discipline in staying on topic.  Some of it is due to the rehashing of well-worn themes as newcomers arrive.  It seems clear to me though, that even when long time contributors try to move the subject forward, a lot of the back and forth that fails to converge is a consequence of the community’s lack of an appropriate and widely shared vocabulary.

In particular, there are four words that many in the Enterprise and Business Architecture communities seem to use interchangeably – enterprise, business, organization and corporation.

Before I tackle this subject, there is some context I should provide.

First, people who know me consider me to be obsessive about the precise use of language, and they’re right.  I think of Enterprise Architecture as more a craft than a science, and as such, the language we use to express it is ordinary language (as opposed to, for example, mathematics).  To me it follows that it is especially important that we use that language carefully.

Second, I’m coming at this from the perspective of creating a profession and its supporting ecosystem.  I believe a profession should be broadly applicable, with specializations within the profession addressing more narrowly focused concerns.

Finally, though much of the discussion about Enterprise Architecture is in English, I acknowledge that for a large fraction of the community English is a second (or third) language.  So, while this post is specifically about English usage, I suspect much of it applies as well to other languages, and I don’t want to imply that the conventions of English usage are the only ones worthy of consideration.

That’s enough by way of preamble.

The EA community may not have agreed upon definitions of many of the words it uses, but as these words are drawn from the vernacular, the rest of the world does.  This conventional usage makes clear distinctions between enterprise, business, organization and corporation.

While it is true that these words all have some sense in which they are roughly synonymous, they have primary definitions that distinguish them from one another.  I think we ought to observe these distinctions because they are useful, especially in that they allow us to sensibly relate the concepts they represent to one another, and they do not needlessly foreclose the broader application of these concepts.

First, I’m going to propose definitions for these words to be used in the context of Enterprise Architecture.  Then I’m going to look at what these definitions imply about the relationships between the things these words denote, and how the current usage obscures or denies these relationships.

It’s very possible, if not likely, that you will not agree with these definitions.  I’ll deal with that later.

Enterprise

The Oxford English Dictionary (Compact Edition, 1971) defines “enterprise” as:

Derived from the French entreprendre, “to take in hand, undertake”.

    1. A design of which the execution is attempted; a piece of work taken in hand, an undertaking; chiefly, and now exclusively, a bold, arduous, or momentous undertaking.
      • b. engagement in such undertaking
    2. Disposition or readiness to engage in undertakings of difficulty, risk, or danger; daring spirit.
    3. The action of taking in hand; management, superintendence. Obsolete.

So, enterprise means “undertaking” or “endeavor,” especially one that is relatively ambitious.  Implicit in this concept of enterprise is the intentional action of one of more people.  It is intentional in the sense that the action is intended to achieve some outcome.  The role of people is important; we do not generally consider machines, regardless of their purpose, to exhibit “enterprise” in this sense.  For me, the essential properties of an enterprise are people and their activity in pursuit of explicit intent.

This is a deliberately, very broadly inclusive concept of enterprise.  All of the following are, in my opinion, enterprises:

  • A child’s lemonade stand
  • A club
  • A professional society
  • A committee or working group
  • A town, state or country government
  • An international/multinational coalition
  • A military unit
  • A department or ministry of defense
  • A for-profit, non-profit or not-for-profit corporation
  • A partnership
  • A consortium
  • A church
  • A university or college
  • A hospital

Business

English speakers commonly use the word “business” to mean three things, and are usually able to infer the intended meaning from context.  These three common meanings of business are:

Business-as-commerce: The exchange of goods and services for some form of compensation for the costs and risks of doing so.

Business-as-commercial-entity: An entity whose primary activity is the conduct of some form of business-as-commerce.  In colloquial terms, the primary purpose of such an entity is to “make money”, and if it does not “make money” it will “go out of business.”

Business-as-primary-concern: The primary concern or activity of some entity.

These three different commonly understood meanings of business make it possible for someone to say something like:

“The business of my business is business.”

I.e., “The business-as-primary-concern of my business-as-commercial-entity is business-as-commerce.”

Organization

An “organization” is a structured (i.e., “organized”) group of people and resources, usually acting in concert to achieve some shared purpose.

Corporation

Finally, a “corporation” is an organization structured and operated in a particular way so as to satisfy certain legal constraints and thus benefit from the legal consequences of that conformance.  Strictly speaking, a corporation is a legal entity that has an organization associated with it.  In the case of a “shell” or “dummy” corporation, the associated organization’s people and resources may be minimal.

Observations

Based on these definitions, one can make some observations.

An organization is typically the means by which an enterprise is realized.  Small scale enterprises may be realized by a single individual, which is a trivial case of an organization.

Not all organizations are business-as-commercial-entities.  Organizations that are not businesses will almost certainly conduct some business-as-commerce as an adjunct activity in support of their primary intent.

Not all enterprises have as their intent some form of business-as-commerce. An organization that realizes such an enterprise will not be a business-as-commercial-entity.  While all business-as-commercial-entities realize an enterprise, not all enterprises are realized by business-as-commercial-entities.

Not all organizations are corporations.

Not all business-as-commercial-entities are corporations.

These relationships are depicted below.

 Len diagram

This is a three-part series that discusses how our vocabulary affects the way we conceptualize Enterprise Architecture, Business Architecture and their relationship.  Part 2 will examine the effect of our definition of enterprise on how we think about EA. 

 Len Fehskens is Vice President of Skills and Capabilities at The Open GroupHe is responsible for The Open Group’s activities relating to the professionalization of the discipline of enterprise architecture. Prior to joining The Open Group, Len led the Worldwide Architecture Profession Office for HP Services at Hewlett-Packard. He majored in Computer Science at MIT, and has over 40 years of experience in the IT business as both an individual contributor and a manager, within both product engineering and services business units. Len has worked for Digital Equipment Corporation, Data General Corporation, Prime Computer, Compaq and Hewlett Packard.  He is the lead inventor on six software patents on the object oriented management of distributed systems.

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Cannes Conference Day 1: Communication Key for Business Transformation, According to Open Group Speakers

By The Open Group Conference Team

Video recap by Dave Lounsbury, CTO of The Open Group

Much like the wind that blows through the Côte d’Azur, talk of business transformation swept through Cannes like a warm breeze yesterday as Day 1 of The Open Group Cannes Conference concluded. The underlying theme of the day was communication and shared languages – a common concept for all enterprise architects, but this time with a slight twist.

Innovator Dr. Alex Osterwalder presented the first session of the day entitled “Business Models, IT and Enterprise Transformation,” which discussed concepts from his well-known book “Business Model Generation.” As Dr. Osterwalder explained, often times there’s a language gap between IT and strategy when it comes to business models, which is why long meetings are largely unproductive.

Dr. Alex Osterwalder explaining the business model canvas

Dr. Osterwalder stressed the importance of simplicity in models, meaning that business models should be created in such a way that anyone in the company can understand them upon first glance. This is the basis for a concept Osterwalder calls the business model canvas, a literal illustration of an organization’s business model using the following key assets – key partners, key activities, key resources, value propositions, customer relationship, channels, customer segments, cost structure and revenue streams.

The audience was then encouraged to work in pairs and use the business model canvas to break down the business model of one participant. Each group had eight minutes to map out the nine components on a large sheet of paper representing the business model canvas using post-its. The audience enjoyed this exercise, which demonstrated that creating a business model does not have to be a laborious process, and that simple is often times best.

Dr. Osterwalder went on to discuss real-life examples such as Apple’s iPod and Nestle Nespresso, dissecting each company’s business model utilizing the business model canvas to learn why both endeavors were so successful. Apple was disruptive because as Steve Jobs said when the first iPod was released, “It’s a thousand songs in your pocket.” The iPod created a dependency on the product and the iTunes service, and one of the unknown factors of the customer relationships was that iTunes made it so easy to upload and manage your music that the barrier to transfer services was too high for most consumers. Nespresso’s business model was built on the creation of the single drink aluminum cans, the product’s key resource, which are only made by Nespresso.

Companies of all sizes have used the business model canvas to adjust their business models, including Fortune 500 companies and government organizations, and Dr. Osterwalder thought that enterprise architects can act as a bridge between strategy and IT facilitating communication between all facets of the business and overseeing the management of business models.

BNP Paribas saves 1.5B Euro through Careful Business Transformation

In the next plenary session, Eric Boulay, CEO of Arismore, and Hervé Gouezel, Advisor to the CEO of BNP Paribas, looked at how enterprise architects can do a better job of presenting CEOs with Enterprise Architecture’s value proposition. Conversely, Boulay stated that the CEOs also need to outline what expectations need to be met by enterprise architects in order to enable business transformation via enterprise architects.

Boulay argued that a director of transformation is now needed within organizations to manage and develop transformation capability. The results of Enterprise Architecture must be merchandised at the C-level in order to communicate business value, and the director of transformation would be enable architects to continue to invent through this new role.

In the same session, Hervé Gouezel discussed the 2009 merger of BNP Paribas and Fortis Bank and the strategy that went into creating a somewhat seamless transition. The original plan had three phases: phase 1 – take six days to pick new management and six weeks to define taskforces, workgroup organizations and stabilization measures; phase 2 – take six months to plan and synergize; and phase 3 – implement projects and programs over a three year period.

Needless to say, this was a huge undertaking, and the goal of the three-phase process was to save the company 500 million Euros. With careful planning and implementation and by following the three-phased approach, BNP Paribas saved over 1.5 billion Euros – three times the targeted amount! This goes to show that careful planning and implementation can lead to true business transformation.

The Semantics of Enterprise Architecture

Len Fehskens, VP of skills and capabilities at The Open Group, presented the final plenary of the day. Fehskens revisited Enterprise Architecture’s most basic, yet seemingly impossible question: How do you define Enterprise Architecture?

Bewildered by the fact that so many different opinions exist around a discipline that nominally has one name, Fehskens went on to discuss the danger of assumptions and the fact that assumptions are rarely made explicit. He also exposed the biggest assumption of all: We’re all sharing the same assumptions about Enterprise Architecture (EA).

Fehskens urged architects to remain open-minded and be aware of the differing perspectives regarding what EA is. The definition of Enterprise Architecture at this point encompasses a variety of opinions, and even if your definition is “correct,” it’s necessary for architects to understand that logical arguments do not change strongly held beliefs. Fehskens ended the session by presenting the teachings St. Augustine, “Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance. Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth. Let us seek it together as something which is known to neither of us. For then only may we seek it, lovingly and tranquilly, if there be no bold presumption that it is already discovered and possessed.”

In other words, Fehskens said, before Enterprise Architecture can move forward as a discipline and fulfill its potential within the enterprise, architects must first learn to agree to disagree regarding the definition of EA. Communication must first be established before true business transformation (and the value of EA) can be realized.

Day 2 of the conference looks to be equally exciting, continuing the theme of enterprise transformation. To view the sessions for the remainder of the conference, please visit: http://www3.opengroup.org/cannes2012

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