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Customer Experience and Transformation in Financial Services – Part 2

By Stuart Macgregor, CEO, Real IRM and The Open Group South Africa

This is Part 2 of a two part series.  Part 1 can be found here.

The financial services industry is undergoing massive change. For financial services companies to achieve transformation and digitisation, addressing the architectural foundations is the starting point.

Chapter 4 – Customer Engagement Model (Part 2)

So, this is not simply about technological advancement. The harsh reality is that financial companies have fallen out of touch with customer needs. These disruptors have arrived to serve an unmet need.

In the era of the modern-day customer, more demanding and empowered than that of decades ago, should banks still be rolling out vanilla services like cheque accounts, credit cards, and rewards programmes?

Should banks still be classifying customers into vast segments based primarily on monthly income? Should they still be quantifying affordability and risk in the same way? Should they still seek to derive their non-interest income from monthly fees and transaction fees?

The entrance of new disruptors proves that most of these practices, embedded into the anatomy of a bank, often prevent the bank from meeting the modern customers’ expectations.

For another perspective on the needs and expectations of digital customers, we can look at The Open Group ‘ROADS principles’. These can be summarised as follows:

  • Real Time: The customer can commence or progress a journey at any time, with responses and updates tailored in real-time to meet the customer’s evolving needs.
  • On Demand:The service provider has the flexibility to adapt and adjust the services delivered to the customer on demand.
  • All-Online: The customer is able to accomplish all activities and transactions associated with the journey online. An offline channel need only be used if absolutely required to handle a physical product or service.
  • Do-It-Yourself: The customer is provided with the capability, and has the choice, to complete the activities and transactions associated with the journey alone. Interaction with a service provider representative is not required.
  • Social: The journey is tightly integrated with digital social media, so at any stage of the journey the customer is able to access social media for advice, recommendations and feedback.

Financial companies’ general inability to respond  to these demands can often be linked back to fundamental architectures and tools.

These are the outdated architectures that are unable to conduct impact assessments, not able to fully leverage resources and technical capabilities, and not able to find meaning in the masses of customer data and documentation stored inside their four walls.

We can define this as the concept of Big Data: teasing out the learnings from the masses of structured and unstructured customer data streamed from various sources and systems – with the goal of creating customer-specific engagement tactics.

Chapter 5 – Customer Engagement Model (Part 3)

To survive the onslaught from advancing attackers to the financial services industry, we advocate ‘outside-in thinking’ – working backwards from the customer frontline (designing the experiences that customers will love) – and then plotting the internal processes that support the customer experience vision.

This systems-thinking approach uncovers the optimal roles and relationships within the organisation, the metrics on which to evaluate success, and maps the reinforcing loops that will accelerate change and enhance value delivery. Keeping EA at the centre of the reengineering process ensures a sharp focus on the information that’s required to make these new processes successful.

Organisations can now understand where underlying data is housed, how it can be best integrated between systems and across functions, and how information should be delivered to  those team members that are tasked with supporting customers. This is brought to bear in business capability maps, causal loop diagrams, process models, value-chain diagramming, and the like.

The leading financial services firms of tomorrow will use these these insights, to invest in architectures and systems that creates superior customer experiences. Ultimately, this is the only approach that can help financial companies stay relevant in the face of new and disruptive threats.

It goes without saying that customer experience is felt at the various digital and traditional touchpoints with which customers engage. But ‘touchpoints’ in the truest sense of the word incorporate any engagement that the consumer has with the financial services brand, products, services, or staff.

A number of models seek to define these customer touchpoints. The Open Group’s Customer Experience Reference Model, for example, notes that any organisation needs to look beyond itself, and take a wider view of the broader ecosystem when understanding the customer journey.

To measure progress, the Customer Experience Reference Model suggests defining a set of key performance indicators. Depending on the organisation and its strategy, these could take a multitude of forms – including Net Promoter Scores, click-through rates, churn rates, average revenue per customer, cart abandonment rates, valency indexes, conversion rates, and much more.

Scenario: customer journey in the Insurance sector

Insurance policies traditionally involve reams of paper, reliance on customers to enter information accurately, and high back-office administration costs. They are typically updated on an annual basis, and do not reflect an accurate assessment of risk.

As a result of the inefficiencies in the system, insurance tends to be a very expensive item in household budgets.

But in the next few years, insurers will start consolidating feeds from connected devices within cars, geolocation data from smartphones, smart keys, as well as wearables (like smartwatches) and even ‘digestibles’.

Known in technology circles as the Internet of Things, this example shows how an insurer can far more accurately assess and mitigate risk – by tracking everything from driving behaviour, to cardiovascular activity, smoking habits, or whether or not a person has locked their house.

By developing customer insights at this level of detailed granularity, insurers are able to package accurate, personalised insurance premiums (rather than segmenting customers into broad risk groups, as they do today). Of course, customers who want to benefit from preferential, personalised rates, will sacrifice some level of personal privacy.

This leads us to the ethics of tracking intimate customer details for use in designing such personalised and fluid insurance policies – which dynamically adjust based on customer behaviour (for example, a trip overseas to a country with high crime statistics many cause a temporary increase in one’s premium).

Chapter 6 – Development Agenda

When considering the financial services enterprise of the future, it’s not enough to simply aim for excellent customer service. Unless this generates higher levels of profitability, better customer retention or improved customer acquisition, any customer service effort is going to be in vain.

These three questions above – relating to a financial services company’s business goals – should be guiding forces for the architecture team, as they create the optimal design for the future.

In essence, the firm’s architecture needs to enable the flow of information and investment of resources to the markets, segments, demographics and regions that offer the most profitable opportunities at any given time.

As financial companies come under increasing threat from new competitors, narrowing the focus to certain services, or markets, is a way of maintaining profitable leadership positions in certain areas – while exiting over-traded, hyper-competitive or unprofitable markets.

However, this is no longer a static, consistent landscape. To succeed, financial services firms should be “striving for continuous improvement and renewal”, as a recent Backbase/Efma Report describes.

From an EA perspective, this means one’s technology and application architecture must support the rapid and continuous delivery of new services and features to customers.

“The innovation planning cycle is far too slow for today’s high-speed digital banking environment,” notes the report, adding: “Today’s big digital players in other industries test and learn as part of an iterative process. They’re agile and experiment in real-time with their own customer base. The decision-making process is much faster and the rollout is fast … very fast!”

Across the breadth of architecture realms – from business, information, data, applications and technology – one’s EA frameworks should be designed with rapid prototyping and delivery in mind. By doing so, financial companies are able to capture new windows of profitable opportunity, react faster to changing customer demands, and produce new services in a cost-effective manner.

This could come in the form of instant home loan approvals, new services for wearable technology, or a concerted focus on a niche insurance segment. The specific opportunities depend on the company in question and where they are at a given point in time.

In short, having the architecture to unleash digital transformation, opens up new value streams for the bank and increasing satisfaction and loyalty for the customer.

Chapter 7 – Capabilities and Insights

The final McKinsey “timeless tests” looks at how to anchor customer centricity within the organisation, and align governance approaches and staff incentives to fit with the new customer service ethos.

From an Enterprise Architecture perspective, this is reflected in the maturity from ‘EA execution’ to ‘EA leadership’. The concluding article in our series on change management in EA highlights the hallmarks of a mature-state EA practice – the state of EA leadership.

EA helps to create the structures that will thrust customer-centricity to the forefront of all business decision-making. Specifically, it can support the organisation’s customer experience vision in the areas of:

  • Mandate and governance
  • Strategy
  • Performance management
  • Organisational transformation

But the reality is that so few firms ultimately realise the value of EA in their customer experience and digital transformation ambitions. Another of our series – on what catastrophes often cause the EA practice to implode – addresses the common reasons for this.

Because so few organisations fully leverage the power of EA, those financial services firms that do get it right, have a tremendous competitive advantage over their peers – who continue struggle away in disjointed silos, bondaged in unnecessary red tape.

Addressing these final two McKinsey tests requires a relentless focus on customer insights; and then ensuring the voice of the customer be heard when structuring, integrating or re-designing all business processes.

Without EA at the core of these endeavours, the organisation’s leadership cannot take full advantage of these rich sources of insights. More specifically, they wouldn’t have the architectural work products to improve resource allocation, reduce decision-making biases, assess strategic alternatives, manage change and complexity, or chart the innovation journey.

In this way, EA provides deeper insights into the unintended consequences of certain potential decisions – like company restructuring or deciding to enter a new market.

To conclude, the McKinsey tests represent the important questions that financial services organisations need to ask themselves as they seek to put the customer at the heart of their digital transformation initiatives.

And, as we’ve teased out in this series, having the fundamental architecture to support these goals, and prepare for an uncertain and volatile future, is an absolute prerequisite for success.

by-stuart-macgregor-ceo-real-irmStuart Macgregor is the CEO, Real IRM Solutions and  The Open Group South Africa. Through his personal achievements, he has gained the reputation of an Enterprise Architecture and IT Governance specialist, both in South Africa and internationally.

Macgregor participated in the development of the Microsoft Enterprise Computing Roadmap in Seattle. He was then invited by John Zachman to Scottsdale, Arizona to present a paper on using the Zachman framework to implement ERP systems. In addition, Macgregor was selected as a member of both the SAP AG Global Customer Council for Knowledge Management, and of the panel that developed COBIT 3rd Edition Management Guidelines. He has also assisted a global Life Sciences manufacturer to define their IT Governance framework, a major financial institution to define their global, regional and local IT organizational designs and strategy. He was also selected as a core member of the team that developed the South African Breweries (SABMiller) plc global IT strategy.

Stuart, as the lead researcher, assisted the IT Governance Institute map CobiT 4.0 to TOGAF®, an Open Group standard. This mapping document was published by ISACA and The Open Group. He participated in the COBIT 5 development workshop held in London in 2010.

 

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Customer Experience and Transformation In Financial Services – Part 1

By Stuart Macgregor, CEO, Real IRM and The Open Group South Africa

This is Part 1 in a two part series.

Chapter 1 – Introduction

The financial services industry is undergoing massive change.

Around the world, organisations offering banking, lending, insurance, trading, and payments services are realising that customer-centric, design-led approaches can revolutionise the way that financial services are delivered to a new generation of consumers.

But to achieve practical, sustainable transformation, financial services firms must turn their attention to their business architecture. Combined with sage business strategies, having the right architecture unleashes the dynamism and agility to succeed in the new digital era.

In other words, for financial services companies to achieve transformation and digitisation, addressing the architectural foundations is the starting point.

In this series, we’ll apply an Enterprise Architecture lens to McKinsey’s ‘10 timeless tests’ from its ‘Banking on customer centricity’ white paper’ – a litmus test for an organisation’s customer experience qualities.

These ‘tests’ are essentially questions that financial services companies need to ask themselves, areas to address, and activities they need to perform as they steer their way towards transformation and customer-centricity. They are housed within four distinct (but inter-related) groupings:

  • Vision and positioning: shaping the strategic direction, so that customers want to use your products and services, and employees feel highly engaged within your organisation.
  • Customer engagement model: defining the solutions and developing the go-to-market approach that will deliver exceptional customer value.
  • Development agenda: Ensuring your short-term growth and long-term success, with customer-oriented activities rooted in the pursuit of economic goals (and not just customer satisfaction).
  • Organisation, capabilities and insights: Anchoring customer-centricity within your organisation by creating optimal structures, incentives, capabilities and governance frameworks.

In this series, we’ll explore how the right business architecture is essential for your organisation to progress along any of these four dimensions.

Business architecture becomes the common vocabulary to define your organisation – across business units, silos, or geographies. It allows leaders to understand the complex, organic structures of the organisation. It forms the basis for strategy implementation and the context for programmes and projects.

More broadly, we’ll look at how Enterprise Architecture helps to free financial services firms from the tangled mess of legacy infrastructure, entwined over decades and decades, which hold them back from delivering exceptional customer experiences.

We’ll explore the ways in which Business Architecture supports rapid innovation and helps financial services companies to fend off the challenges from leaner start-ups in the FinTech space, from local telcos and retailers, and borderless digital giants like Google, Apple and Facebook.

And we’ll show how business architecture brings a new richness of customer insights – to develop closer customer engagement and tailor-made solutions.

Chapter 2 – Visioning and Positioning

Across nearly all industries, a brand’s value is increasingly dependent on the delivery of exceptional customer experiences.

In fact, services-oriented industries are those with the most burning need to create superb experiences that surround the direct (transactional) engagement.

Whether they’re in wealth management, business asset financing, general retail banking, insurance, or anything in-between, financial services firms will only remain relevant by continually delighting their customers. For this reason, embedding experience design into every facet of their services has become the mantra for any forward-thinking financial services organisation.

But – with often millions of customers to look after – so many financial organisations are struggling to translate these lofty ideals into tangible reality.

As noted by this Open Group paper titled Roads to a digital customer experience new technologies “are rendering obsolete the traditional frameworks and models that companies have been using to capture and design customer journeys and customer experiences”.

The answer? Start with the architectural building blocks

It’s only by developing the right architectures, processes, and systems that the organisation’s customer experience vision can find solid footing. By taking an Enterprise Architecture (EA) approach to experience design, the vision becomes a defined set of behaviours, incentives, and operational processes.

Ultimately, this spawns a new culture of customer-centricity that delivers meaningful enhancements to customers’ experiences. Empowered by new technologies and unshackled from outdated ways-of-working, staff are given the tools to execute on the customer experience vision.

EA enables the organisation to build a clear roadmap to transition from its current state, to its desired target state – by looking through the lenses of Business, Information, Data, Applications, and Technology (BIDAT).

By developing the roadmap in the context of these five domains, the organisation can pinpoint exactly how EA can facilitate the organisation’s goals of delivering exceptional customer experiences.

It unearths the complex inter-relationships within the organisation that impact customer experience, supports those that are responsible for designing and implementing the change.

For instance, EA helps firms understand where their customers’ data is housed, helps to eliminate duplications of this content, or identify overlapping systems that are trying to achieve the same objectives.

Ensure the brand and vision are guiding behaviour

As the financial services organisation moves from a product focus, to a customer experience focus, it becomes imperative to look at the internal company culture –  and eliminate the ways-of-working, cultures and habits that are no longer competitive.

This requires all areas of the organisation to come together and agree on the vision, and the definition of the target state that everyone will work towards.

By taking a transformative, almost ‘entrepreneurial’ approach to one’s operations, it becomes possible to start optimising and digitising processes, and decluttering wherever inefficiencies exist.

At a foundational level, EA enables the organisation to clearly delineate and distinguish between one’s functions, processes and capabilities.

EA enables the organisation’s leadership to link roles to processes, generate useful process guides, and define the training needs analysis for those various roles. Not only does this give individuals clear career paths; it also reduces the costs of producing training material (now that roles and processes are clarified and standardised).

Chapter 3 – Customer Engagement Model (Part 1)

In its paper ‘Disrupting beliefs: a new approach to business-model innovation’ McKinsey’s starting point is that “every industry is built around long-standing, often implicit, beliefs about how to make money”.

In retail banking for example, these beliefs include industry concepts like ‘share of wallet’, ‘cross-sell opportunities’, ‘acquisition costs’, and ‘lifecycle value’, among many others.

“[These beliefs] are often considered inviolable, “ continues the McKinsey paper, “until someone comes along to violate them. Almost always, it’s an attacker from outside the industry.”

Nowhere is this more apt than in financial services. Attackers from other industries are certainly threatening to invade the hallowed turf once reserved exclusively for banks, insurers, investment and trading providers, and others.

In retail banking, for example, these disruptive forces include the likes of:

  • Mobile wallets (such as M-Pesa)
  • New payments solutions (like Apple Pay or Square)
  • Cryptocurrencies (such a bitcoin)
  • Social lending (eg The Lending Club or Prosper)
  • Personal financial management tools (like Moven)
  • Crowdfunding (eg KickStarter)
  • Non-banks offering financial services (like Virgin or Discovery)

Other areas of financial services are certainly not immune to change as well. In the insurance realm, for example, disruptions like:

  • Usage-based vehicle insurance using GPS and accelerometers in smartphones or sensors
  • Online insurance aggregators and marketplaces
  • Other industries encroaching (eg insurance bundled offers from cellular providers or retailers)
  • Peer-to-peer insurance networks
  • Autonomous, self-driving vehicles in the not-too-distant future.

For incumbents, this presents a worrying reality: newer and more agile attackers won’t have the internal cost structural issues, the legacy infrastructure and higher head-counts – meaning these cost-efficiencies can be passed down to the consumer.

Part 2 to be published on The Open Group blog on November 29, 2016.

by-stuart-macgregor-ceo-real-irmStuart Macgregor is the CEO, Real IRM Solutions and  The Open Group South Africa. Through his personal achievements, he has gained the reputation of an Enterprise Architecture and IT Governance specialist, both in South Africa and internationally.

Macgregor participated in the development of the Microsoft Enterprise Computing Roadmap in Seattle. He was then invited by John Zachman to Scottsdale, Arizona to present a paper on using the Zachman framework to implement ERP systems. In addition, Macgregor was selected as a member of both the SAP AG Global Customer Council for Knowledge Management, and of the panel that developed COBIT 3rd Edition Management Guidelines. He has also assisted a global Life Sciences manufacturer to define their IT Governance framework, a major financial institution to define their global, regional and local IT organizational designs and strategy. He was also selected as a core member of the team that developed the South African Breweries (SABMiller) plc global IT strategy.

Stuart, as the lead researcher, assisted the IT Governance Institute map CobiT 4.0 to TOGAF®, an Open Group standard. This mapping document was published by ISACA and The Open Group. He participated in the COBIT 5 development workshop held in London in 2010.

 

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Filed under digital strategy, digital technologies, Digital Transformation, EA, Enterprise Architecture, Standards, The Open Group, Uncategorized

The Open Group Paris 2016 Event Highlights

By Loren K. Baynes, Director, Global Marketing Communications, The Open Group

In the City of Lights, The Open Group hosted the last quarterly event of 2016, October 24-27.  With the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe as backdrops, 200 attendees experienced a very full agenda featuring presentations and case studies on e-Government, Boundaryless Information Flow™, Enterprise Architecture (EA), Interoperability and much more.  The event was held at the Hyatt Regency Paris Étoile.

On Monday, October 24, Steve Nunn, CEO & President of The Open Group, welcomed all in fluent French, expressing his appreciation for the attendees from 26 countries who made the journey to the event.

It was an honor to have Emmanuel Gregoire, Deputy Mayor of Paris, begin the sessions.  His keynote was titled “Modernize, Innovate and Transform:  Paris Administration Case Study on e-Government.”  He provided great insight on how to successfully manage and architect such a tremendous endeavor with the objective of digital transformation.

Roland Genson, Director, General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union then spoke about “Standardized Boundaryless Information Flow”.  He stated without standards and interoperability, a transformation is impossible.  Boundaryless Information Flow is the key enabler for efficiency, cost-effectiveness and agility.  Roland also discussed the balance of openness, confidentiality and security.

The plenary continued with a presentation by Robert ‘Bob’ Weisman, CEO/COO, Build the Vision, Inc.  Bob, based in Ottawa, Canada, shared his key learnings on EA and e-Government.  Enterprise Architecture acts as the cohesive glue between the many management frameworks. Bob said that government has the reliability mindset and e-Government has the validity mindset, and an organization needs to ensure EA is used properly to manage the gaps.

The morning culminated with a European Interoperability Reference Architecture (EIRA) “State of Play” by Dr. Raul Mario Abril Jiminez, Program Manager, EU Policies, European Commission.  The EIRA v1.1.0 is based on TOGAF®, an Open Group standard, expressed in ArchiMate®, also an Open Group standard.  EIRA defines for cross-sector and cross-border interoperability.

by-loren-k-baynes-director-global-marketing-communicationsDr. Raul Mario Abril Jimenez, EU Policies, European Commission

Each session concluded with a Q&A, moderated by Steve Nunn, with many questions posed by attendees.

Two lunchtime presentations featured Phillippe Desfray, Director General & Product Manager, Modeliosoft and Dominique Marie, Lead Solution Consultant, Hewlett Packard Enterprise.  Phillipe discussed the need to combine standards to cover entire EA modeling scope.  Dominque shared how HPE uses the IT4IT™ standard with customers.

The afternoon offered tracks in Open Business Architecture (O-BA) and IT4IT programs, as well as continuing the theme of EA and Government.  A panel discussion was held on the preliminary O-BA standard, an Open Group standard. Subject matter experts were from Huawei Technologies, Philips and Capgemini. They stated the five key elements to BA are common language, holistic view, horizontal and vertical traceability, and integrated practice.

In the evening at the hotel, the attendees enjoyed a networking reception and sponsor exhibits.

Day two of The Open Group Paris, October 25, began with a conversation about business transformation with Steve Nunn and Eric Boulay, CEO and Founder, Arismore and Memority, and partner of The Open Group Paris. Eric stated that business transformation is continuous and never ends. It is a long journey with quick wins along the way.

by-loren-k-baynes-director-global-marketing-communications

Packed house in the Plenary on October 25

The theme of digital transformation continued with a joint presentation by Olivier Flous, Vice President, Engineering and Eric Cohen, Chief Enterprise Architect, both with the Thales Group.  According to Olivier and Eric, the three streams of the digital transformation framework are customer, operations, people.  Furthermore, EA helps manage the complexity associated with digital transformation.  Digital driven EA capability is based on an ecosystem collaboration and also applies lean thinking.

Ron Schuldt, Manager, Data-Harmonizing, LLC provided a brief overview of The Open Group O-DEF (Open Data Element Framework) standard. O-DEF is a prime example of The Open Group vision of ‘Making Standards Work™’.

The plenary further featured ‘Continuous Architecture – Reconciling EA and Agility’ by Renaud Phelizon, Senior Consultant, Arismore.  He explained continuous architecture is architecture based on shorter and richer feedback loops (build, measure, learn).

Tuesday’s plenary concluded with Bill Wimsatt, Oracle Business Architect, sharing his vision of architecting the digital business – a merger of customer experience and EA.  Bill said there is no more stratification as it is now becoming ecosystems.  “The advent of full digital business is to become the biggest business/ IT disruptor since the internet.” Digital Lifecycle Methodology consists of ideation, prototype and impact.

Partner lunchtime presentations on EA were offered by Lars Lundgren, Manager and Founder, Biner and Konstantin Govedarski, CTO, Smart360.

The afternoon agenda was full with tracks on Open Platform 3.0™, Digital Architecture, IT4IT, Automation and Standards in ICS Sytems, ArchiMate and Professional Development.  Presenters were from companies including Huawei Technologies, ExxonMobil, FEAPO, Capgemini, HPE and The Open Group.

The group then ventured to the evening off-site function at the quaint Le Chalet des Iles in the Bois de Boulogne. It was a fantastic night networking over an exceptional French meal.

Wednesday, October 26, consisted of many tracks / workshops on the subjects of Bridging Strategy and Implementation, Open Platform 3.0™, Architecting for IoT, Architecting Smart Cities and Agile EA. The speakers came from a wide range organizations such as the University of Stuttgart, IBM, Salesforce, Hitachi and BMW AG.

Members only meetings were held every day, including Thursday, October 27.

A special ‘thank you’ goes to our sponsors and exhibitors:  BiZZdesign, Good e-Learning, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Modeliosoft, Association of Enterprise Architects (AEA), Arismore, Biner, Mega, Orbus Software, Smart360

@theopengroup #ogPARIS

Looking forward to seeing you at The Open Group San Francisco, January 30 – February 2, 2017! #ogSFO

By Loren K. Baynes, Director, Global Marketing CommunicationsLoren K. Baynes, Director, Global Marketing Communications, joined The Open Group in 2013 and spearheads corporate marketing initiatives, primarily the website, blog, media relations and social media. Loren has over 20 years experience in brand marketing and public relations and, prior to The Open Group, was with The Walt Disney Company for over 10 years. Loren holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Texas A&M University. She is based in the US.

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A Reference Architecture for Interoperability in the European Union: A Conversation with Raul Abril

By The Open Group

Moving to a digital infrastructure requires far more interoperability and Boundaryless Information Flow™ than in the past. This is particularly true for digital transformation efforts within governments, many of which are known for being extremely siloed, where information exchange between government branches or agencies can be problematic.

The European Union is currently deploying an Interoperability Reference Architecture as part of its e-Government initiatives. We spoke with Raul Abril, Programme Manager, EU Policies for the European Commission, about how his team is going about building that architecture, which is known as the European Interoperability Reference Architecture. Raul will be a keynote speaker at The Open Group Paris 2016 on October 24.

Tell us a bit about the European Interoperability Reference Architecture. How was it designed and how is it currently being used?

First of all, the European Interoperability Reference Architecture (EIRA) came from a vision. This vision was that it had to fulfill a need, and the need was expressed in the existence of digital barriers across European borders, which is against one of the major political priorities in the European Union: The creation of a real and effective single market. It had to be a reference to build up solutions that are interoperable. This is important at all levels (local, regional, national, European) of public administration because many of the e-Government solutions were created in a silo mode. There was a need to provide a common framework for solutions architects to design their solutions in a way that would allow their solutions to be interoperable. There was a business need obviously, and then the way of implementing the EIRA came from my personal professional experiences. The European Commission in general and the Interoperability Solutions for public Administrations unit, ISA in short, in particular, through the ISA2 Programme, have brought state of the art approaches and talent on board in order to address such needs.     

How does the EIRA help provide a structure for interoperable e-Government solutions?

EIRA helps in different ways. One obvious way is that the EIRA is a controlled vocabulary. There are definitions, there are building blocks and there are relationships and the set for those things is in a controlled vocabulary. Why is that important? Because we need to understand each other, so one way of achieving interoperability is by achieving and expressing our designs in the same way.

I’ll give you an example of it in practicality. When you are a public vendor, when you are a government or a member state and you ask for offers and want to express your terms of reference, if we are all using the same controlled vocabulary, there is no doubt that the conformance will be better. But there are other ways. How is EIRA supporting interoperability? The answer also comes from another important concept—the interoperability specifications. Those interoperability specs should be based in open standards. What makes a building block interoperable should be described using interoperability specifications. This becomes a critical success factor for achieving interoperability between solution A and solution B. Why? Because by doing that then solution A and solution B will be using the same interoperability specs. Does it mean that both will be interoperable? Not necessarily, but if they don’t have that it will be almost impossible for them to be interoperable. That’s where the EIRA supports interoperability.

We have started identifying what interoperability specs, based on standards, should be referred in each of the building blocks in the EIRA. 

How is TOGAF® helping to inform the EIRA?

TOGAF, an Open Group standard, is one well known approach for enterprise architecture frameworks (EAF). Of course, there are other EAFs. The reason for using TOGAF was because we consider it appropriate in terms of openness, which is what we’re looking for. This does not mean that European public administrations will have to use TOGAF.

EIRA is a reference architecture. A reference architecture is basically a reference model married to an architectural style. The architectural style we selected for EIRA was SOA, service oriented architecture. That was a critical decision, which means that we wanted to conceptualize any type of solution as being service based, which means that we also care about the code components. But we are also putting attention on the behavioral part. That’s why we selected SOA.

The reference model explains the ontological properties of the components that you’re going to have. How do you designate names? What are the properties of the relationships between them?, etc. We selected ArchiMate®, an Open Group standard,  as the ontology for our reference model. So, the EIRA is based on ArchiMate as the reference model and in a service oriented architecture as the architecture style.

After explaining the “RA” in the EIRA acronym, we should explain now the “I” for interoperability. In general, reference architectures like the EIRA do not have the same ambition as enterprise architecture frameworks. EAFs like TOGAF have the ambition to provide support for the end-to-end design, implementation and lifecycle of a solution. Reference architectures focus on a specific aspect—in the EIRA case, interoperability—and they need to provide the most salient—not all—architectural building blocks that should be considered to address such specific aspects. The EIRA provides guidance on the most salient architectural building blocks to be considered when designing an interoperable solution.

For example, if you are going to design whatever solution for a business or government, one of the things you’ll consider is back-up services. You’ll consider security measures, and one of those will be backing up your data, files, etc. The EIRA doesn’t care at all about back-up services—it doesn’t mean we don’t care about security, but we don’t care about back-up services because it’s not an essential service for interoperability.

At the beginning we identified the key architectural building blocks that were the most salient for supporting interoperability. Today, the EIRA is the result of a collaborative effort. So far a community of representatives of central public administrations of six European Member States have participated in the design and releases of EIRA  with their feedback and  they’ve been validating  the building blocks that EIRA has as the most salient for interoperability.

Are there challenges that are specific to building Reference Architectures for e-Government? What are they?

The biggest challenges are related to what I said before—getting a consensus in the community on what the interoperability specs should be and the standards for each of them.

Another challenge, I think, is adoption. There is a well-known issue with technology adoption in general and with solutions/frameworks/models in particular. One thing is to have the solution and it’s another to get it adopted. We are not talking about, let’s say, solutions for consumers like smartphones. We’re talking about communities of users that are very special. Generally speaking, solutions architects, portfolio managers, policy makers and also CIOs. Those are the potential users of reference architectures.

There is a lot of effort in communicating and disseminating information, and I don’t underestimate the effort it involves. Our challenge is in demonstrating to users and member states how they can use EIRA to solve national interoperability problems—for example, between their central, regional and local administrations, which in many places are huge. When users realize that the EIRA provides value addressing domestic problems, then they are better equipped to address their interoperability issues in cross-border public services.

What benefits do you expect to be able to receive from using the EIRA?

I expect first of all reusability. With interoperable solutions, you are able to reuse the information that has been produced in another place. So, we support the only once principle. The second one is the elimination of digital barriers. By interoperability of solutions we mean something as complex as to have a solution A in one place that is able to send information to another solution B, and that solution B is able to understand the information that has been communicated without noise and to process it respecting ex ante organizational and legal agreed terms. So, this is a more complex level of interoperability than just a message exchange because, for example, it should support administrative processes across borders. In fact, there has been significant progress understanding what is exchanged (i.e. message, data, documents) not mentioning that the technological aspects are well standardized. The issue remains on what happens in both ends from a legal and organizational perspective.

Coming back to the ultimate benefit, the EIRA will support the digital single market. By having interoperability you eliminate digital barriers. This is a huge expected benefit.

This translates into direct benefits for the citizens and businesses. In Europe there is, by comparison with the U.S., less mobility than in the U.S. If you move from the U.S. East Coast to the West Coast, there may be a three-hour time difference, but you will have less problems with many things. You may need to get a driver’s license in a new state but they recognize each other’s driver’s licenses. Here there are a lot of things to be achieved with the mobility of citizens and their needs in terms of public services. In some cases, if you want to move from one country to another, it is possible to access the public services of our home country via a portal. If we would be able to replicate this approach in all Member States and, very importantly, in a coherent way, then we would provide a huge benefit to citizens and businesses. The EIRA allows implementing holistically interoperability, not just from machine to machine. 

@theopengroup #ogPARIS

by-the-open-groupRaul Mario Abril Jimenez works in the ISA unit as Programme Manager, EU Policies, European Commission. He recently relocated to Brussels from Barcelona. He has had permanent residences in San Diego (USA) where he worked for 6 years and before he was based in Copenhagen (DK) for 7 years. He has +35 years of IT professional services experience on international professional engagements in Financial & Telco industries. His knowledge domains are Research Methods (Quantitative & Qualitative Analysis), Marketing (Research, IS), IT R&D (Portfolio Mgmt, Product Mgmt), Project Mgmt, and IS & Technology (Knowledge Management, DSS, BI, Data Warehousing, DBMS, IS Design). Raul has been professor in several universities and been active publishing his research.

Raul holds a doctoral degree (Henley Management College, UK), a European PhD Certification (European Doctoral School on Knowledge Management, DK), an Ing. Sup. Informatics (UAB, E), and a Master in Project Mgmt (The George Washington University, USA). He is a PMP certified professional.

 

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Having the Right Conversations: A Q&A with Craig Alexander

By The Open Group

For many years now, IT departments have been accused of being out of alignment with the needs of the business. According to Craig Alexander, a strategic consultant for Hewlett Packard Enterprise in EMEA, IT4IT™ Reference Architecture has a chance to finally change all that.

Alexander, who has a background in large business transformations, says that Enterprise Architects (EAs) and IT departments alike should be looking at the successes and failures of past projects to help them better plan for what they need to do today.

We spoke to Alexander in advance of The Open Group Paris 2016 (October 24-27), where he will be speaking, about how the past can inform IT projects today, why ITIL is still relevant despite the new approach the IT4IT standard offers and how to have the right conversations that will move projects forward and better guarantee successful outcomes for everyone.

The title of your session is “To Plan for the Future, Look to the Past.” Why should EAs be looking backwards to look forward?

I’m not an architect. My background is in traditional service management practice moving into transition management and large-scale transformations, all of which have a business outcome.

If we look back through the eyes of IT4IT programs—whether it be large scale programs or transformations—we can pick up points and things we’ve done in the distant past and see where we’ve learned our lessons that helped to arrive at IT4IT standard. But moreover, we can project that forward in terms of ‘let’s not forget what we learned in the past and use that knowledge and that information as we move forward with IT4IT programs, so we’ll be better informed and better able to succeed.’

The thing that got me thinking about that was, I reached a certain age recently and started getting interested in history, where I’d never really been interested in it when I was younger. One of the things that comes out all the time when you study history, whether you’re talking about conflicts, financial crashes or similar significant events, is that if you look into the past you can find out what might happen again in the future. History tells us what could happen in the future. That was the somewhat tenuous link I made in my mind in terms of my role and ‘Wouldn’t it have been great if we’d had the IT4IT vision when we did this?’

One of the things I asked my very first customers on a project nearly 20 years ago was ‘Why are we here?’ At the time this drew strange looks and some incredulity with responses of ‘We’re here to do this, we’re here to do that.’ I remarked ‘That’s what we’re here to do—but why are we doing it?’ At this point the team looked puzzled and said ‘Well actually we hadn’t thought of that.’ The customer CIO then said, ‘That’s a good point—we should all understand why we’re doing what we’re doing,’ and proceeded to provide the context of the project. Then we all knew why we were there!

I’ve always used that approach, but it’s only been since the IT4IT Reference Architecture has come to the fore that common sense has started to prevail in the industry. It’s still very much the minority view, especially within IT teams. It’s not so much within architecture groups, especially those that are adopting IT4IT programs, but it’s very easy to get entrenched in technology and the benefits that can be most immediately realized with technology as opposed to how it reaches into why and how business plans succeed or fail.

Certainly in my time in the industry both at organizations within IT and at end-user organizations, one of the common things I’ve seen is that it’s very easy for clever, focused or driven people to be a little blinkered when it comes to the point of doing technology. I’ve never been one to advocate that approach. IT is not there for the sake of IT—IT is there for a business purpose. At some point prior to a project starting or a migration or change in supplier, someone made a business decision that led to that occurring. They didn’t make an IT decision. And that’s the realm in which I operate. I try to make sure anyone with an IT focus I work with has that perspective.

In what ways do you see the past of IT now informing the future?

We can look back at the origins of business decisions and what has arisen as a result of them—the standards that could have been used at the time, how they have supported progress and how they helped or restricted any transformation in an organization.

For example, a transformation may be primarily driven from an ITIL or architectural perspective over and above the supplier governance or integration—by aligning these factors differently the transformation results (i.e. business outcomes) could have been manifestly better for no additional cost.

That’s the sort of example of how we can use the IT4IT vision moving forward—think back to how it might have worked elsewhere, what you might have learned and project that forward and don’t be afraid to shout about it. For large transformation projects, the more experience and more wealth of knowledge you have can increase the chances of that transformation succeeding.

Has ITIL then proved to be inadequate for what customers need today?

ITIL is great and has proven to be for as long as I can remember. It was the first thing I did in my post-graduate role. It’s been very powerful for customers and continues to be. I see a similar route for IT4IT 15 years hence in terms of its adoption and development, regardless of industry. With respect to IT4IT, ITIL is much more focused on the delivery end of things as opposed to the strategic end of things and the reference architecture. That’s not to say it can’t touch on it, but it was never really designed to be that.

The observation we see retrospectively when we work within the realms of IT4IT is that ITIL was descriptive in its nature not prescriptive, which is one of the key differences in its nature. That prescriptive approach was very positive up to a point because it allowed organizations to adopt principles and work in a way where things are applied best. I’ve worked with organizations that have been very knowledgeable, astute and mature in that regard where things are very specific to the company. But one of the challenges that has arisen in the past has stemmed from the ability to apply interpretation to the standard.  For example in a multi-supplier environment where various organizations can all be applying ITIL but in ways which require complex integrations and create unnecessary difficulty when technology, legislative or supplier changes are required.

I will never criticize ITIL for what it was if for no other reason than it was the heart of what I did for a number of years and it helped to mature the IT Industry. Now the IT4IT standard has been launched and is being consumed, there is probably more than a fair share of—pun intended—revisionist history being applied to ITIL, which played a role for its time and will continue to play an important role moving forward. IT4IT, however, goes a bit further to make the connection toward business outcomes.

How does IT4IT better address the needs of organizations today?

The approach that I have been taking for the last 18 months within the HPE group I work in is rather than having an initial conversation with customers about a technology solution, something going out of support or more functionality, we’re having a conversation that starts with: ‘What are you trying to achieve? What are the business outcomes you’re trying to realize? We think technology might play a part in that.’ This is usually conducted in conjunction with an IT sponsor (a senior decision-maker or stakeholder) along with someone from the IT department. We’re being told by our customers that we’re having the ‘right’ conversations now. It’s a different conversation, but it’s the right conversation to have because it’s allowing IT to have discussions with leaders in terms that the business understands much more effectively.

An extreme example: One of our customers found themselves justifying funding for IT projects, something they had not really done in the past. Why? The business simply could not understand the value they would get from the projects. Despite all the use of acronyms and IT technology ‘speak,’ the customers’ needs were simple. Deliver value. Tell us what this will be and when we will get it. IT could not articulate this so consequently funding was being withheld.

Because IT4IT is structured around IT as a value chain supported by value streams, when using it logically it drives the conversation to value. Customers love this and realize immediately that the technology conversations they have been having with IT are the wrong ones. They want the value conversations and IT4IT has a major role to play here. Other customers have also told us ‘we’ve been having the wrong conversation’ even before we tell them how IT4IT can specifically address their own particular challenges; it’s like a light has suddenly been switched on. These are game-changing situations.

That’s been the most positive outcome—there’s so many things that historically IT departments never did. They’re starting to think in much more business terms. If we think back about the rhetoric in our industry three years ago there was a lot of ‘What is the position of the CIO? Should they be on the Board?’ There was all this conjecture about what that role should be. Increasingly, the IT department is being looked upon as just another business unit, so if the CIO is able to have the same conversation at a board level as finance or sales or marketing, that puts them at a better advantage;. IT4IT only serves to support that agenda.

In looking toward the past, how large a scope should IT organizations consider? Should they just look at what’s worked for them in the past or do they need to consider the industry as a whole?

For me, it starts at home. What has worked for us in the past? What are the things we know best? What are the parts of the company that are more challenging than others? Are there geographies where projects work? At the same time, in most organizations there will be individuals who have come from different industries, so exploiting all of their experience should always be taken into account. But the primary focus is what is being projected forward and taking that learning and the best knowledge and using it.

The people aspect is the hardest. You can take statistics from a number of years and derive any number of conclusions from that, but the behavior and the culture of the organizations are probably the strongest indicators of what a transformation’s impact will be It’s relatively easy to swap out IT, it’s not easy to change organizational behavior. It’s a lot harder to change the way people think or to motivate them toward certain outcomes. That’s where I would be trying to derive the most information from. It’s easy to prescribe a technology transformation, but if the organization as an entity don’t go along with that, no amount of technology change is going to make difference.

As a standard, how can IT4IT continue to evolve so that it remains relevant into the future?

There is no doubt that the timing for IT4IT is perfect. The industry is crying out for a prescriptive approach to running the business of IT. Value delivery and value realization will the lifeblood of IT in the future. So will IT4IT evolve? Almost certainly. As more organizations adopt IT4IT there will definitely be amendments and improvements. After all the current reference architecture is only version 2. Where I think the biggest impact could be is if organizations start to mandate IT4IT and vendors have to become IT4IT compliant. That’s when we will see even larger scale adoption and greater evolution of IT4IT.

At the end of the day, everything is geared toward digitalization, the digital transformation of organizations. That is the one common thing we see—irrespective of industry, geography, scale, or political environment—the digital agenda is governing everything. It is certainly our view at HPE that IT4IT is a very important means to achieving that. And when we start talking about IT4IT in the context of digital transformation, the resonance of the relevance of the IT4IT architecture and the approach to how an organization aligns with that resonates much more. At the same time, it also helps with the legacy side of things. It’s not just about IT4IT being relevant from a future technology perspective but it also allows organizations to manage the legacy with a forward looking aspect. So we see a lot of enthusiasm around that as well.

Organizations want a common way of running their IT, a common set of standards irrespective of the supplier, irrespective of the maturity of the technology, and IT4IT is giving them that option. We urge our customers to think big and start small. Start with the specifics, start with the most important areas of the business. Where are the needs to be addressed, pains and challenges first, and then progress from there and bring other parts of the organization into that way of thinking.

I use the analogy with my customers that if they’re using an airline’s app on their smartphone to change their flight, change their seat or purchase baggage, that’s not a new system that they’re using on their phone. That’s just the portal through which they view the old system that’s been around for 25-30 years and they want to be able to use that trusted system. So there’s a need to marry the user experience and the technology.

Is there anything that you can point to that accounts for the rapid adoption of IT4IT since its release?

I think for many organizations, IT4IT is bringing things into focus. Customers are usually reluctant to say ‘We’re really struggling to find something that’s working for us.’ Admitting to struggling with something is not something that many organizations like to share. I think for many organizations in the position where the digital agenda and the need to think like customers’ customers is very prominent, they’re making the connection between this standard and the prescriptive approach. IT4IT is industry, supplier and technology agnostic, and customers can take it on and adopt it in whatever appropriate way they see for their own organization; they can make it work regardless of how little or much knowledge they have in their organization because there’s also a community of organizations out there, like ourselves, who will help them with their transformation. I think there is a light bulb moment going on where they say ‘Yes, this could work,’ where instead of marrying two or three standards together to make it work for them, it’s a common way to move forward—that’s the recognition with which the uptake has manifested itself.

We have never had a prescriptive reference architecture for running the business of IT so it’s hardly a surprise that now we have one organizations are interested to find out more and work out how to use IT4IT. As also mentioned earlier, other approaches such as ITIL took a slightly different approach and IT4IT addresses a gap that has yet to be addressed by any other approach. So it really is the right thing at the right time!

For the press release of the launch of the IT4IT standard, click here.

For more information on The Open Group IT4IT™ Forum, please visit here.

The Open Group IT4IT™ Reference Architecture, Version 2.0 is available here.

@theopengroup #ogPARIS

by-the-open-groupCraig Alexander joined HP in December 2011 as a Strategic Transformation Consultant to deliver transformation initiatives linked to the adoption of software solutions with much of this focus was around SIAM-based initiatives for major clients. Since the end of 2014, he has focused on creating and initiating IT4IT-based initiatives for EMEA-based customers. His role consists of consulting with customers to promote the benefits of adopting an IT4IT approach to delivery and transformation whilst leveraging the expertise and capabilities of the wider Hewlett Packard Enterprise organization to deliver true business value.

 

 

 

 

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How Architects Can Survive and Thrive in the Digital Era: A Conversation with Peter Beijer

By The Open Group

Peter Beijer believes your job as an Enterprise Architect may be in jeopardy.

According to Beijer, Chief Technologist for the Office of the CTO for HP Enterprise and leader of the company’s architecture capabilities in EMEA, architects are being forced to change and evolve their role due to the digital revolution that all industries are currently facing.

Beijer believes that for Enterprise Architects to survive, they must do three things. First, they must learn to adapt and engage with the changes being brought by the digital shift and new development environments. Second, they must reach out and engage with today’s new business leaders to better understand the problems and opportunities that businesses and customers are facing. Finally, they must better develop their own personal brands in order to showcase their experience and credentials and show their worth to their organizations.

We spoke with Beijer in advance of The Open Group Paris 2016 event (October 24 – 27) to learn more about how he sees the state of the Enterprise Architecture profession today and what Enterprise Architects can to do remain relevant in the midst of a rapidly changing IT and business climate.

How are the current changes in IT affecting Enterprise Architects?

There is a digital shift going on—the whole world is going digital, and digital means a  business transformation for a lot of companies because they may get involved with human-centric customer engagement models that have very different dynamics than what they’re used to, so the skills of the Architecture profession are changing a lot. You have to be much more empathetic to be able to understand what the customers’ customer is doing and there is a whole new range of possibilities and platforms with technologies—it’s becoming very, very diverse.

That asks for more insight from architects to be able to do things. IT as such is changing—there are many forces driving that change. Everything is getting smaller, we are living on top of a mountain of data (which is self-propelling) and there’s also the societal impact of IT and the amount of information available to people. This whole change from the industrial way of doing computing, which was meant to help us do things, has transformed into an information society driven not by scarcity but by abundance. There’s an abundance of information, technology and platforms, and they have become very easily accessible to all of us. For example, where once we needed highly skilled specialists we can now do things now ourselves on a smartphone everywhere.

Within an enterprise, there has been a classic division between the business and IT, and we have always preached the paradigm, ‘We should align IT with the business.” But in fact business has become IT. However, the business people now have easy access to these new digital platforms so the IT department is lagging behind fixing legacy systems. Traditionally the role of the architect was always meant to collaborate with the business people to see how technology can advance the business.

But since IT has become so readily available—you can install mobile platforms, Cloud, or a business app by the press of a finger on an iPhone—what happens is business people are doing these things themselves more and more. Of course that is the very extreme end of the spectrum, but the net effect to the IT department is that business users want solutions more rapidly, more easily—they are not waiting for cumbersome projects.

For the architect, it’s ‘Welcome to the new world of IT.’ And you can question whether the architect is still needed when the click of a button allows you to engage with Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure or any other platform. So as the Architect, you’ve always done your projects, you’ve always carefully facilitated the discussions and guided decisions when defining solutions, and now you find yourself in a rapidly changing world where business people are building solutions themselves. You find yourself increasingly useless and no longer relevant.

On the other hand, if you pick up a role that articulates the value of these new technologies in the new business contexts that are emerging, you really have to change your job a lot to become meaningful. The fundamental value of architecting has not changed, but the spectrum of choices, the moving parts, the building blocks have greatly increased and it is against a background where everybody wants things very quick and very cheap. We are now living in a world where everybody says ‘Let’s fail fast and try many ideas.’ The architect by nature is more ‘Slow down. Are we making the right decision? Are we making the right choices?’ This is a bit counter or averse to the natural DNA of an architect. And that’s why the profession needs a wake up call.

How then can Architects remain relevant and meaningful within organizations? Why has it been so difficult for Enterprise Architects to show their value in companies?

That has always been a problem to show your business value as an Enterprise Architect. It has to do with making yourself relevant and being recognized by the organization. The question is, how do you do that?

First of all, the architect should actually be the first person to call on the business leader. Over the years, the discipline has been degraded a bit. Traditionally, we were the people that were engaging with the business, but the IT world has become very technical and in many organizations the architect has been degraded into a technical role while the original role of the architect was a liaison between business stakeholders and technical stakeholders. What the architect must do is to engage again with the business and build trust and confidence that they can make a difference in solving a problem, that they understand business language and that they can become empathetic.

That is one of the key skills that an architect must learn—to become empathetic and to understand what others do. They also need to understand the risks in building a system because things are going faster. They’re less cumbersome than in the early days but would a business really bet its success on not using an architect and run into risk on a project? You really need an architect to understand this whole playing field and the forces within the projects, the business opportunity, the key stakeholders, the customers’ customers and what technology can mean for them. Architects must understand the business language and build a level of trust where the business can have a dialogue where together they can explore the possibilities and see how they can make things happen. These are a couple of skills that architects need to develop.

How can Architects work on developing empathy as a skill?

That’s not an easy thing. That is because they must be much more business focused, learn much more business acumen, see how major trends in the industry effect the strategic intent of the company they’re working for. What is the whole value chain, or better, what is the value network? With the connectedness of today’s businesses we  think in terms of networks rather than of chains. Diving in and understanding these concepts and problems from a business perspective is one of the key skills they have to learn.

How do you then develop empathy? You have to work with these [business] people, you have to facilitate and guide dialogues so you can learn about those things and interact with the business. You have to actually think beyond the technology. It’s much more about understanding the usage of technology—the human/technology meta-narrative, so to speak. In the early days, people adapted to technologies. Nowadays, the technology must adapt to people and as an architect you have to understand that. The dialogues of that are on a much higher level of abstraction, so it is essential for architects to facilitate that dialogue but you also have to rapidly tie that down to technology possibilities. For example, how does a choice for a certain technology affect the value network that your organization is relying and expending on? Will it create a business blockage for the future?

What can Architects do to better showcase their skills and show their value to their organizations?

How can you step forward and say, ‘I have these skills’? This is where The Open Group Certified Architect program steps in because we provide a certification where we really evaluate the architect’s experience in doing these types of things.

As an architect, if you want to become relevant, you must adopt a skillset, and with that skillset you can qualify as an Open Certified Architect (Open CA). It’s about the skillset, the portfolio of experience you have built up as a professional can you prove that you have done that? Using those skills and experiences is a guide for an organization where they can have a resource pool of architects. In my organization, we are pretty serious about certification—we use it as a tool for career progression.

A profession framework gives organizations a consistent approach to industry recognized standards, the roles, the way people work, the methods they use, but also to develop training and education to get people there. It’s a quality assurance for professionals because that evaluation is done in a peer-based way where the certification of architects is evaluated by other architects. With certification, we have clearly defined standards—what is the industry consensus on a good approach for how people should work, the level of interaction needed with the business. The evaluation is probing whether you’re doing that, whether you’re capable of defining projects, delivering projects with a large degree of success. One of the key components is the conformance requirements for the Open Certified Architect—it basically tells you what skills and experience are necessary to seriously call yourself an “Architect.” 

If an organization wants to develop the career progression of architects and the standards for the way they work, a profession framework is a necessary instrument to develop and maintain the profession within an organization. Using a framework based on industry consensus, as with The Open Group, provides a good reference.  It is a very prestigious certification!

Within the Open CA program in The Open Group, we have 37 architecture methods that are recognized by the Specification Authority based on industry consensus. The methods help you establish architectural decisions, validate architectures to manage stakeholder requirements, basically define the transition from old to new or how to architect a solution for a business problem. Working according to an architecture method gives you a large degree of predictability for success instead of shooting from the hip and praying for the best. If organizations adopt a profession framework, they create an environment that enables people to practice and mature their profession. You create much more consistency with role definitions. A lot of organizations struggle with defining roles for their job families, so adopting a profession framework where the skills are clearly articulated and defined and can be evaluated by the means of a certification program can really increase the effectiveness of your workforce. And in developing standards, you can provide employees a roadmap for their career progression.

What steps can Enterprise Architects take to grow their careers over the next 5-10 years and continue to show value as the industry is changing?

The obvious answer for me is of course to get your Open Certified Architect certification. Once you have it, there is a three-year recertification that is not as cumbersome as the original certification. The initial certification a significant step for an architect. If you are an Open Certified Architect, you are a “Real Architect.” But it does require you to re-certify every three years, and that is a very short document that proves you are still architecting and maintaining your profession. Compare it to peer-reviewed professions such as lawyers and medical doctors.

One of the things we evaluate in that recertification is: Do you follow the industry? Are you following industry conferences? Are you following webinars? Are you maintaining your skills as an architect? Are you following the state of the art of the new disciplines related to architecture? The other thing we really encourage, because it’s a peer-driven evaluation, is that we encourage people to sit on boards to evaluate other architects going through the certification process.

So you keep your profession up to date, you understand what’s going on, you have to engage with your clients and give some evidence that you are still doing Architecture related work. You have to maintain your knowledge and experiences. As the industry is evolving toward a digital shift, of course everyone has to take webinars and keep up on industry trends, but to keep the Open Certified Architect certification, we ask you to do that otherwise you are no longer conforming to the conformance requirements.

@theopengroup #ogPARIS

by-the-open-groupDr. Peter Beijer is Chief Technologist in Hewlett Packard Enterprise, leading the Architecture Capability for Enterprise Services in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Recognized pioneer in HPE’s Solution Architecture Blueprinting methodology and core contributor to the development of the architecture profession. He is Chair of the Open CA Specification Authority.  Dr. Beijer received a doctorate (Ph.D) from the University of Amsterdam.

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Tackling Transformation in Government: A Conversation with Roland Genson

By The Open Group

It’s not just industry and corporations that are undergoing massive change due to digital transformation—governments worldwide are being equally affected by the need to create more efficient processes and to provide online services to citizens.

With 28 member states and three branches of government, the European Union (EU) is a prime example of just how complex transformation can be. We spoke with Roland Genson, Director in the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union—one of the EU’s three branches—in advance of The Open Group Paris 2016 event (October 24 – 27) about the challenges the Council is facing and how they are working with the two other branches of government to achieve interoperability and Boundaryless Information Flow™.

What is the role of the General Secretariat of the Council (GSC) of the European Union? What sort of services does the Council provide?

In a nutshell, in the legislative process level at the European Union you have three institutions. The most known to the public is the European Commission, which has a role to make proposals and draft new legislation and submit it to the two co-legislators. On one side there’s the European Parliament where you have directly elected parliamentarians and on the other side, the Council of the European Union—that’s us. In the Council of the European Union you have the 28 member states represented, much like, for example, if you look at the U.S. Congress, you have the House and the Senate. As the General Secretariat, we are supporting those 28 member states in the negotiation process, meaning providing conferences, logistics and policy advice but also managing and circulating all the information they need to work in 24 European Union languages.

Why has the GSC undertaken a digital transformation? What led to that and made it necessary?

If we look back at the past, until 2014 all the institutions had their own IT strategy, their own development and so on. But today with digital transformation it’s more and more obvious that we need a fit and interoperability framework. In most of the 28 member states you have e-Government initiatives and digital transformation processes ongoing, and we are in the middle of those. We cannot just look around us and find solutions that are competitive with everyone. We believe that we have to work together on common standards and interoperability frameworks to make sure that we are able to connect to all 28 members, to connect to the other institutions, the Commission and the Parliament, otherwise it will be impossible for us—and for them—to work efficiently.

What are some of the challenges that the GSC is facing as part of the transformation?

I see at least three challenges. The first challenge is an internal one. Within our organization we need seamless information flow between all services. That’s the first place where boundaryless needs to kick in to get rid of existing silos, to eliminate disruptions  between services.

The second challenge is “Brussels-based,” which means the need to have Boundaryless Information Flow between EU institutions. When a proposal comes from the Commission, it should enter into the Council and the European Parliament without any new disruption or without any data or format conversion. Our target should be an end-to-end legislative drafting and negotiation process between the Commission, Council and the Parliament.

The third challenge is to become boundaryless with regard to the GSC’s main stakeholders, which are our member states, so that we are able to serve all 28 member states (MS) with standardized content that can immediately be used and linked within each MS subject to national needs, specifications or legal requirements.

Furthermore, as an additional challenge, we also have responsibility with regard to the European citizens, so public information that our organization deals with can easily be made available and understood for further analyses and exploitation by the interested citizen. It’s our challenge to get EU knowledge out to the civil society.

How are those challenges being addressed as part of the project? How long has your transformation project been going on?

I took over the responsibility for this newly created directorate in 2014 with a clear shift from IT to business outcome or value. A lot of organizations had gone on the same path where, until a certain point, the digital environment was mainly designed by IT departments. We really have now a situation where the business needs and expectations come first. Internal clients and our stakeholders outside are our first priority and on the basis of their perspectives we should see what standards and subsequent IT solutions allow us to get there. We started this business driven process in 2014. Moreover my concern was to have it immediately started together with the other institutions, because it doesn’t make sense for the Council alone to try to find a way for “its” future when the European Commission and the European Parliament have the same challenges. I believe progress made on interoperability solutions for European public administrations (ISA) is equally a valid framework for all institutions to set the necessary standards. And with the European Interoperability Framework, the EIF, we would also have another basis for the GSC’s digital developments. Though we started late in 2014, there are quite a number of approaches, standards and tools that we can take on board and consider as viable options for the future.

Are standards being used to address the challenges of the project?

Absolutely. For example, today we write all of our structured documents on a MS Word-based tool, specifically designed for all our services. Today, this doesn’t make sense anymore. We understand that all the content drafting shall be XML-based, and when discussing with the Commission and the European Parliament, we understand that for legislative process marking, AKOMA NTOSO is the right standard, which leads us to explore the  market, where common standards have already been shared and explored by other communities or organizations.

What role is Enterprise Architecture playing in your transformation?

Our task today is to get all key business processes designed and  documented—getting a clear view on this and assessing them according to corporate’s strategy, priorities and challenges. As mentioned before, it’s rather complicated in the sense that we have to get it aligned in-house, but also with the Commission and the European Parliament and eventually with the member states. Somehow we have to find the best and easiest standard and operating model to get there. What I would like to avoid is to set up a new set of processes which would be too rigid and would not allow us to meet the necessary flexibility some services might need.

What advice do you have for those undertaking digital transformation within government? What do people need to think about when they’re working with government entities as opposed to corporations or businesses?

The General Secretariat of the Council is probably one of the smallest organizations in Brussels but when we look at the “Council” and the “European Council,” the two institutions we serve, the challenge ahead is quite impressive. We have to serve hundreds of ministers plus a community of national officials, front line delegates and back office support, which easily covers more than 200,000 people. Obviously we cannot enter into negotiations with 28 member states to see what would be the best standard or framework but we cannot ignore that things are going on. What we try to do is to identify digital champions and undertake a number of exchange of views  to see what to move on.

As an example, we had a visit to Austria, as the Austrian government is already far advanced in digital transformation. We will have next year the Estonian presidency for the European Union. Estonia is also a digital champion, so we will try to learn from their experience and take advantage of their presidency in order to launch new services and test to see if things meet the needs of most member states. If not, we will swiftly adapt and explore something else. It will be a different, an experimental approach. We need to engage with Member States and vice versa, to trigger a greater awareness of what delegations would like to achieve in terms of content and knowledge delivery.

What role can standards play in helping government with transformation efforts?

For me it’s rather obvious, that if we agree on the same standards in our organizations, all stakeholders would know what the criteria would be, for example when launching a public procurement. It would make multilateral interactions a lot easier. We would not just look at one specific tool or software and see what is compatible, we’d just refer to the standards as a basis. Everyone would know about that standard and subsequently be ensured that products based on that standard are interoperable, are compatible with the institutions or with my neighbor states. Standards also offer semantics. We work in 24 languages. If we want to be sure that one terminology is always used in the same way in different languages, we also need to invest a lot in semantic interoperability.

What standards are you looking at or currently using?

We plan to use TOGAF®, an Open Group standard, in close collaboration with our colleagues on the IT-side for business process management. We want to have a well-documented process map of the organization to allow this smart integration, interoperability and processing of the information. It’s the business architecture part of TOGAF.

Are there other things that governments need to consider when doing transformation projects?

In my view, what is crucial is to have a genuine engagement of all stakeholders at the highest level.. The three Secretary-Generals from the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council expressed their commitment in this respect. To make the expected progress, we equally need a full commitment by all Council members, e.g. national delegations. So we will learn from them and they will learn from us and we will be able to achieve results together to transform our organization. For me, this is crucial. It’s a change in the mindset, but we need to adapt to be able to quickly exchange best practices, lessons and failures, as a way to make progress.

@theopengroup #ogPARIS

by-the-open-groupRoland Genson is director at the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union, in charge of the Council’s document processing, recording, archiving, transparency and of the GSC’s libraries. He drives the redesign of the GSC’s knowledge and information management in order to align the organisation with digital innovation and with Member States expectations in this respect.

Until 2014, he was a GSC director covering Schengen, judicial cooperation and internal security cooperation under the Justice and Home Affairs policy framework.

From 1987 to 2007, he served in the Luxembourg law enforcement sector and than at the Ministry of Justice.

He is also a lecturer at the Universities of Luxemburg and of Liège.

Mr. Genson will be a keynote speaker at The Open Group Paris 2016 event on October 24.

 

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