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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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Transitioning The Open Group Examinations from Prometric to Pearson VUE

By Andrew Josey, VP, Standards & Certification and Deborah Schoonover, Director, Certification, The Open Group

The Open Group is moving to Pearson VUE as its new examination provider for IT certification exams.

At the time of writing this article (October 2016), we are in a period of dual operation, with most exams available at both Prometric and Pearson VUE.  Through January 31, 2017, you will have the option to take exams at Prometric testing centers, as you have in the past, and must do so if you are holding a Prometric voucher. There’s no change to the exam registration process with Prometric. Effective February 1, 2017, Pearson VUE will be the sole provider of our certification exams.

As part of the transition to Pearson VUE, we are changing the registration process. To take an exam at a Pearson VUE testing center, you will need an Open Group web account, even if you plan on registering for an exam by phone or in person, so that we can ensure your certification history is kept in sync. You can register for an Open Group web account at www.opengroup.org (select login).

In the rest of this article we cover a number of key questions about the transition.

Q: When are The Open Group exams moving to Pearson VUE?

A: Most Open Group exams are currently available at Pearson VUE today and the remaining exams will be soon. We are running a dual operation, with many exams being offered at both Prometric and Pearson VUE during this transition period. See our exam registration page for a current listing of where different exams are being offered: https://certification.opengroup.org/take-exam.

The Open Group exams will be offered at Prometric through January 31, 2017. After that date, exams will only be available at Pearson VUE.

Q: Can I use my exam voucher at either exam provider today?

A: No, you must use your voucher at the designated exam provider. If your exam voucher code starts with “OG”, then it is for Pearson VUE, otherwise it must be used at Prometric, for exams scheduled through January 31, 2017.

Q: Am I required to have an exam voucher to take an exam at Pearson VUE?

A: No, you can also pay by credit card when registering for the exams.

Q: How do I know if my exam voucher is for Prometric or Pearson VUE?

A: If your exam voucher code starts with “OG”, then it is for Pearson VUE. All other codes are Prometric vouchers.

Q: Can I exchange my Prometric voucher for a Pearson VUE voucher?

A: No. Prior to January 31, 2017 you should use your Prometric voucher to book an exam at Prometric. Starting February 1, 2017, your Prometric voucher will be automatically accepted at Pearson VUE (if the code starts with any of the following two characters: 23, 50, 93, 95, 96, 98, 2X, 9X, SX, ZC, ZX). You won’t need to exchange your Prometric voucher, you will be able to use it directly within the Pearson VUE exam registration system.

Q: Will my Prometric voucher be accepted at Pearson VUE?

A: If you received your voucher from an Open Group Accredited Training Course Provider, then yes, your Prometric voucher will be accepted at Pearson VUE after January 2017. If your voucher is valid and unused, then starting February 1, 2017 you will be able to use you voucher to book an exam with Pearson VUE.

Prometric vouchers beginning with any of the following two characters: 23, 50, 93, 95, 96, 98, 2X, 9X, SX, ZC, ZX will be automatically usable at and accepted for exam registration at Pearson VUE after January 31, 2017.

If your voucher begins with any of the following two characters: ER, G2, G3, GP, or P2, then NO, your voucher will not be accepted at Pearson VUE. These vouchers must be used at Prometric by January 31, 2017.

Q: How do I use my Prometric voucher at Pearson VUE?

A: Starting February 1, 2017, if your Prometric voucher is unexpired and unredeemed, you will be able to use it directly when registering at Pearson VUE. Go to https://certification.opengroup.org/take-exam for instructions on how to register. When you get to the payment screen, enter your Prometric voucher number.

Q: What do I do if my Prometric voucher expires after January 31, 2017?

A: If your Prometric voucher has an expiration date after January 31, 2017 and the voucher code starts with the any of the following two characters, your voucher will be accepted at Pearson VUE starting February 1, 2017:

23, 50, 93, 95, 96, 98, 2X, 9X, SX, ZC, ZX

If you have one of the above voucher codes and wish to take your exam before February, you must schedule your exam at a Prometric test center.

If your Prometric voucher starts with any of the codes listed below, the voucher was purchased directly from Prometric and must be used at a Prometric test center by January 31, 2017:

ER, G2, G3, GP, P2

Any vouchers starting with code ER, G2, G3, GP, or P2 that are not used by January 31, 2017 will cease to be valid.

Q: Can I use my Prometric voucher to register in January for an exam in February?

A: No. Your Prometric voucher will not be accepted at Pearson VUE until February 1, 2017.

Q: If I failed the Combined exam at Prometric, can I retake the failed part at Pearson VUE?

A: Yes, you can retake the failed part at Pearson Vue. If the account you use to log in to Pearson VUE contains the email address you used when you took your exam at Prometric, then we will be able to match your new exam results to your prior results.

See our Pearson VUE Frequently Asked Questions for more information about taking an exam at Pearson VUE or our exam registration page to Register for an Exam at Pearson VUE.

@theopengroup

By Andrew JoseyAndrew Josey is VP, Standards and Certification overseeing all certification and testing programs of The Open Group. He also manages the standards process for The Open Group.

Since joining the company in 1996, Andrew has been closely involved with the standards development, certification and testing activities of The Open Group. He has led many standards development projects including specification and certification development for the ArchiMate®, TOGAF®, POSIX® and UNIX® programs.

He is a member of the IEEE, USENIX, UKUUG, and the Association of Enterprise Architects (AEA).  He holds an MSc in Computer Science from University College London.

 

 

by-andrew-josey-and-deborah-schoonoverDeborah Schoonover is the Director of Certification at The Open Group, responsible for the development and operation of The Open Group’s certification and accreditation programs. In this role, she engages with various working groups to define each program and the policies and legal documents that underpin the program, defines the business requirements for and oversees development of the underlying software systems, and oversees operational delivery of the certification services.

Prior to joining The Open Group, Deborah held development, quality management, and marketing roles at Cadence Design Systems. Deborah holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Lehigh University and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Boston University.

 

 

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The Role of Enterprise Architecture in Platform 3.0 Transformation

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

Our transition to the highly-connected realm of Platform 3.0 will radically disrupt the way that we approach Enterprise Architecture (EA).

The current architectures and methodologies will simply not hold up in the era of Platform 3.0 – characterised by the forces of big data, mobility, the Internet of Things, and social media colliding.

In the Platform 3.0 era, power shifts to the customer – as we choose from a range of services offered conveniently via digital channels. By embracing Platform 3.0, organisations can respond to newly-empowered customers. New entrants can scale at unprecedented rates, and incumbents can pivot business models rapidly, while entering and exiting new markets as opportunities emerge.

EA plays an essential role in making these possibilities a reality. EA infuses IT into the DNA of the business. No longer is it about ‘IT’ and ‘business’. Technology is absolutely integral to the entire business, and business leaders are quickly realising the fundamental truth that ‘if you can’t change the system, you can’t change the business’.

A new and exciting Platform 3.0 architectural reality is emerging. It’s composed of microservices and platforms that are combined in radical new ways to serve point-in-time needs – powering new-found business opportunities and revenue streams, dramatically transforming your organisation.

Platform 3.0 refers to radically different ways for the organisation to securely engage with partners, suppliers, and others in your value chain or ecosystem.”

Managing volatile change

But, while driven by an urgent need to transform, to become faster and more agile, large organisations are often constrained by legacy infrastructure.

With an EA-focused approach, organisations can take a step back, and design a set of architectures to manage the volatile change that’s inherent in today’s quickly-digitising industries. EA allows business systems in different departments to be united, creating what The Open Group (the vendor-neutral global IT standards and certifications consortium) aptly describes as a “boundaryless” flow of information throughout the organisation.

Platform 3.0 refers to radically different ways for the organisation to securely engage with partners, suppliers, and others in your value chain or ecosystem. For a retailer, stock suppliers could access real-time views of your inventory levels and automatically prepare new orders. Or a factory, for example, could allow downstream distributors a view of the production facility, to know when the latest batch run will be ready for collection.

In almost every industry, there are a number of new disruptors offering complementary service offerings to incumbent players (such as Fintech players in the Banking industry). To embrace partnerships, venture-capital opportunities, and acquisitions, organisations need extensible architectural platforms.

More and more transactions are moving between organisations via connected, instantaneous, automated platforms. We’re seeing the fulfilment of The Open Group vision of Boundaryless Information Flow™ between organisations and fuels greater efficiencies.

Architecting for an uncertain future

We need to architect for an uncertain future, resigning ourselves to not always knowing what will come next, but being prepared with an architectural approach that enables the discovery of next-generation digital business opportunities.

By exploring open standards, this transformation can be accelerated. The concept of ‘openness’ is at the very heart of Platform 3.0-based business transformation. As different business systems fall into and out of favour, you’ll want to benefit from new innovations by quickly unplugging one piece of the infrastructure, and plugging in a new piece.

Open standards allow us to evolve from our tired and traditional applications, to dynamic catalogues of microservices and APIs that spark continuous business evolution and renewal. Open standards help up to reach a state of radical simplicity with our architecture.

The old-world view of an application is transformed into new applications – volatile and continually morphing – combining sets of APIs that run microservices, and serve a particular business need at a particular point-in-time. These APIs and microservices will form the basis for whatever application we’d like to build on top of it.

Architects need to prepare themselves and their organisations for an uncertain future, where technology’s evolution and businesses’ changing demands are not clearly known. By starting with a clear understanding of the essential building blocks, and the frameworks to re-assemble these in new ways in the future, one can architect for the uncertain future lying in wait.

Platform 3.0 requires a shift towards “human-centered architectures”: where we start acknowledging that there’s no single version of the truth. Depending on one’s role and skill-set, and the level of detail they require, everyone will perceive the organisation’s structure and processes differently.

But ultimately, it’s not about the user, or the technology, or the architecture itself. The true value resides in the content, and not the applications that house, transmit or present that content. Human-centered architectural principles place the emphasis on the content, and the way in which different individuals (from inside or outside the organisation) need to use that content in their respective roles.

As the EA practice formalises intellectual capital in the form of business models and rules, we create an environment for machine learning and artificial intelligence to play an essential role in the future of the organisation. Many describe this as the future of Platform 3.0, perhaps even the beginning of Platform 4.0?

Where this will eventually lead us is both exciting and terrifying.

@theopengroup

by-stuart-macgregor-ceo-real-irm

Stuart 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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The Open Group Paris Event to Take Place in October 2016

The Open Group, the vendor-neutral IT consortium, is hosting its next global event in Paris, France, between October 24-27, 2016. The event, taking place at the Hyatt Regency Paris Étoile, will focus on e-Government, as well as how to address the dimensions of e-Society, e-Technology and e-Management.

Industry experts will look at issues surrounding business transformation, business analysis, information sharing, e-Health, privacy and cybersecurity. Sessions will examine the strategic execution and the application of emerging technologies and management techniques to e-Government. Presentations will also include the latest on the European Interoperability Reference Architecture (EIRA) and the Regulatory Impact of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on Personal Data Architecture.

The event features key industry speakers including:

  • Rob Akershoek, ‎Solution Architect (IT4IT), Shell
  • Robert Weisman, University of Ottawa
  • Roland Genson, Director, General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union
  • Olivier Flous, Vice President of Engineering, Thales Group

Full details on the agenda and speakers can be found here.

The focus of Monday’s keynote sessions will be Standardized Boundaryless Information Flow™ and how Enterprise Architecture can be used in e-Government. There will also be a significant emphasis on business transformation, with the Tuesday plenary and tracks looking at successful case studies, standards as enablers, and architecting the digital business.

Further topics to be covered at the event include:

  • IT4IT™ – managing the businesses of IT, vendor adoption of IT4IT™ and a CIO-level view of the standard
  • Open Platform 3.0™ – the customer experience and digital business, architecting Smart Cities and how to use IoT technologies
  • ArchiMate® – new features of ArchiMate® 3.0 and a look at open standards in practice
  • Open Business Architecture – examining the new Open Business Architecture standard and how to address enterprise transformation

Member meetings will take place throughout the course of the three-day event for ArchiMate®, Architecture, Healthcare, IT4IT™, Open Platform 3.0™, Open Trusted Technology and Security Forum members.

Registration for The Open Group Paris event is open now, is available to members and non-members, and can be found here.

@theopengroup #ogPARIS

 

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IT4IT™ and TOGAF® – How Do They Fit Together?

By Michael Fulton, President, Americas Division of CC and C Solutions

In my role leading work in both the Enterprise Architecture space as well as the IT Transformation space, I am frequently asked how IT4IT™ and TOGAF®, an Open Group standard, fit together, and how the Enterprise Architecture profession fits into the IT4IT context.

My experience working with clients in this space has led me to look this question from two key perspectives.

The first perspective is from the vantage point of the CIO using IT4IT to look at his or her organization for improvement opportunities. At this level of enquiry there are two primary views: the IT Value Chain and the Level 1 Reference Architecture.

By Mike Fulton, President, C C and C SolutionsBy Michael Fulton, President, CC and C Solutions

By Mike Fulton, President, C C and C SolutionsFrom this perspective, Enterprise Architecture is a small piece of the overall big picture.

There are 29 functional components in the Level 1 reference architecture of which EA is simply one of many.  Within the EA functional component it is appropriate to use whatever architecture framework we see fit, to guide process or best practices for Enterprise Architecture.

TOGAF, along with counterparts like DODAF, FEAF, Zachman and others, simply fits into this box and needs to be integrated with other parts of the IT organization through the development of the Service Architecture.

For a CIO, IT4IT gives me a way to look across my organization, and to assess all its functional components for quality or maturity (or whatever other factor is important) and to decide where my biggest pain points are.

IT4IT also gives the CIO a very clear way to understand the data needed to manage an IT organization and provides a framework for evaluating how well that data is flowing across the different organizational silos.

A second perspective for which IT4IT is useful is that of an Enterprise Architect.  As an Enterprise Architect, it would be my job to look across the entire enterprise.  We use the Porter Value Chain here as one simple representation of a way to segment your Enterprise Architecture according to TOGAF.

 

By Michael Fulton, President, CC and C SolutionsAs you can see from the highlight on the diagram, IT is one of several areas in the business.  Each of these areas might have an industry reference model appropriate for use for one or several of the areas.

Examples include ARTS, BIAN, SCOR, VCG, APQC or many others.  IT4IT in this context is simply a reference architecture for managing the Technology Development (or IT) support function.  IT4IT provides us with the details we need to truly understand how IT needs to work.

 

By Michael Fulton, President, CC and C Solutions

Neither perspective on how to use IT4IT is more or less important.

The CIO can get significant value from using IT4IT in a top-down manner as a strategic assessment tool to drive improvement across the IT function and help transform the IT Operating Model.

The Enterprise Architect can get significant value from using IT4IT in more of a bottom-up manner as a reference model to speed up architecture work and to drive vendor integration and standardization in the IT Management tool space.

Regardless of whether you use IT4IT in a top down or bottom up manner, it helps to understand how the pieces fit together for you and your organization.

 

By Michael Fulton, President, CC and C SolutionsMichael Fulton is currently President, Americas Division of CC and C Solutions, a global Enterprise Architecture and IT Transformation Consulting and Training company.  Michael is an experienced architect with almost 10 years of experience in Enterprise Architecture and over 20 years of IT experience. He is TOGAF Certified, IT4IT Certified and a Cloud Certified Architect and has led IT4IT Architecture, Cloud Architecture, IT Strategic Planning, Disruptive Cost Innovation, IT Leadership Development, and EA Capability & Training Development at Fortune 50 Company. Michael also spent time working across the entire IT Lifecycle, including time in Service Management, Program Management, Project Management, Application Development, and IT Operations. Mike is an experienced speaker and trainer, a practiced leadership and strategy coach and mentor and is well known across the industry. He brings a strategic viewpoint and the ability to communicate with all levels of the organization.

@theopengroup

 

 

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The Enviable Pedigree of UNIX® and POSIX®

By Andrew Josey, VP, Standards and Certification, The Open Group

Technology can be a fickle thing. Spurred by perpetual innovation, the one constant in the tech industry is change. As such, we can expect that whatever is the hottest thing in the industry today—Cloud, Big Data, Mobile, Social, what have you—will be yesterday’s news within a few years’ time. That is how the industry moves and sustains itself, with constant development and creativity—all of which is only getting faster and faster.

But today’s breakthroughs would be nowhere and would not have been possible without what came before them—a fact we sometimes forget. Mainframes led to personal computers, which gave way to laptops, then tablets and smartphones, and now the Internet of Things. Today much of the interoperability we enjoy between our devices and systems—whether at home, the office or across the globe—owes itself to efforts in the 1980s and 1990s to make an interoperable operating system (OS) that could be used across diverse computing environments—the UNIX operating system.

Created at AT&T Bell Laboratories in the early 1970s, the UNIX operating system was developed as a self-contained system that could be easily adapted and run on commodity hardware. By the 1980s, UNIX workstations were widely used in academia and commercially, with a large number of system suppliers, such as HP, IBM, and Sun Microsystems (now Oracle), developing their own flavors of the OS.

At the same time, a number of organizations began standardization efforts around the system. By the late 1980s, three separate organizations were publishing different standards for the UNIX operating system, including IEEE, ISO/IEC JTC1 and X/Open (which eventually became The Open Group).

As part of the standardization efforts undertaken by IEEE, it developed a small set of application programming interfaces (APIs). This effort was known as POSIX, or Portable Operation System Interface. Published in 1988, the POSIX.1 standard was the first attempt outside the work at AT&T and BSD (the UNIX derivative developed at the University of California at Berkeley) to create common APIs for UNIX systems. In parallel, X/Open (an industry consortium consisting at that time of over twenty UNIX suppliers) began developing a set of standards aligned with POSIX that consisted of a superset of the POSIX APIs.  The X/Open standard was known as the X/Open Portability Guide and had an emphasis on usability. ISO also got involved in the efforts, by taking the POSIX standard and internationalizing it.

In 1995, the Single UNIX Specification was created to represent the core of the UNIX brand. Born of a superset of POSIX APIs, the specification provided a richer set of requirements than POSIX for functionality, scalability, reliability and portability for multiuser computing systems. At the same time, the UNIX trademark was transferred to X/Open (now The Open Group). Today, The Open Group holds the trademark in trust for the industry, and suppliers that develop UNIX systems undergo certification, which includes over 40,000 tests, to assure their compatibility and conformance to the standard.

These tri-furcated efforts by separate standards organizations continued through most of the 1990s, with the people involved in developing the standards constantly bouncing between organizations and separate meetings. In late 1997, a number of vendors became tired of having three separate parallel efforts to keep track of and they suggested all three organizations come together to work on one standard.

In 1998, The Open Group, which had formed through the merger of X/Open and the Open Software Foundation, met with the ISO/IEC JTC 1 and IEEE technical experts for an inaugural meeting at IBM’s offices in Austin, Texas. At this meeting, it was agreed that they would work together on a single set of standards that each organization could approve and publish. Since then the approach to specification development has been “write once, adopt everywhere,” with the deliverables being a set of specifications that carry the IEEE POSIX designation, The Open Group Technical Standard designation, and the ISO/IEC designation. Known as the Austin Group, the three bodies still work together today to progress both the joint standard. The new standard not only streamlined the documentation needed to work with the APIs but simplified what was available to the market under one common standard.

A constant evolution

As an operating system that forms the foundational underpinnings of many prominent computing systems, the UNIX OS has always had a number of advantages over other operating systems. One of the advantages is that those APIs have made it possible to write code that conforms to the standard that can run on multiple systems made by different vendors. If you write your code to the UNIX standard, it will run on systems made by IBM, HP, Oracle and Apple, since they all follow the UNIX standard and have submitted their operating systems for formal certification. Free OSs such as Linux and BSD also support the majority of the UNIX and POSIX APIs, so those systems are also compatible with all the others. That level of portability is key for the industry and users, enabling application portability across a wide range of systems.

In addition, UNIX is known for its stability and reliability—even at great scale. Apple claims over 80 million Mac OS X systems in use today – all of them UNIX certified. In addition, the UNIX OS forms the basis for many “big iron” systems. The operating systems’ high through-put and processing power have made it an ideal OS for everything from supercomputing to systems used by the government and financial sectors—all of which require high reliability, scale and fast data processing.

The standard has also been developed such that it allows users to “slice and dice” portions of it for use even when they don’t require the full functionality of the system, since one size does not fit all. Known as “profiles,” these subsets of the standard API sets can be used for any number of applications or devices. So although not full UNIX systems, we see a lot of devices out there with the standard APIs inside them, notably set top boxes, home routers, in-flight entertainment systems and many smart phones.

Although the UNIX and POSIX standards tend to be hidden, deeply embedded in the technologies and devices they enable today, they have been responsible for a great many advances across industries from science to entertainment. Consider the following:

  • Apple’s Mac OS X, the second widely most used desktop system today is a certified UNIX system
  • The first Internet server for the World Wide Web developed by Tim Berners Lee was developed on a UNIX system
  • The establishment of the World Wide Web was driven by the availability of connected UNIX systems
  • IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer, a UNIX system, was the first computer to beat World Chess Champion Gary Kasparov in 1997
  • Both DNA and RNA were sequenced using a UNIX system
  • For eight consecutive years (1995-2002), each film nominated for an Academy Award for Distinguished Achievement in Visual Effects was created on Silicon Graphics computers running the UNIX OS.

Despite what one might think, both the UNIX and POSIX standards are continually under development still even today.  The community for each is very active—meeting more than 40 times a year to continue developing the specifications.

Things are always changing, so there are new areas of functionality to standardize. The standard is also large so there is a lot of maintenance and ways to improve clarity and portability across systems.

Although it might seem that once a technology becomes standardized it becomes static, standardization usually has the opposite effect—once there is a standard, the market tends to grow even more because organizations know that the technology is trusted and stable enough to build upon. Once the platform is there, you can add things to it and run things above it. We have about 2,000 application interfaces in UNIX today.

And as Internet-worked devices continue to proliferate in today’s connected world, chances are many of these systems that need big processing power, high reliability and huge scale are going to have a piece of the UNIX standard behind them—even if it’s deep beneath the covers.

By Andrew JoseyAndrew Josey is VP, Standards and Certification at The Open Group overseeing all certification and testing programs. He also manages the standards process for The Open Group.

Since joining the company in 1996, Andrew has been closely involved with the standards development, certification and testing activities of The Open Group. He has led many standards development projects including specification and certification development for the ArchiMate®, TOGAF®, POSIX® and UNIX® programs.

He is a member of the IEEE, USENIX, UKUUG, and the Association of Enterprise Architects (AEA).  He holds an MSc in Computer Science from University College London.

@theopengroup

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Filed under Association of Enterprise Architects, Certifications, digital business, EA, enterprise architecture, Internet of Things, IoT, IT, operating system, Oracle, Single UNIX Specification, standards, Uncategorized, UNIX

Using Apprenticeships to Develop Your IT Workforce: A Conversation with Andy Ruth

By The Open Group

It’s no secret that the IT workforce is suffering from a skills gap. Not only are there not enough workers available to fill tech positions at many companies, but even the workers available may not possess the skills that companies need today to deal with the rapid changes being brought about by digital transformation.

Andy Ruth, Managing Director of Sustainable Evolution, spoke at The Open Group Austin 2016 in July about one way companies can tackle the skills gap—apprenticeship programs. We spoke with Andy about the state of the IT workforce, why apprenticeship works and how it can help bring a new and more diverse population of workers into the IT workforce.

What are some of the things currently stymieing the IT work force?

There are a couple different things that are really a challenge. We have an older workforce that is being replaced in large part by a younger workforce. That younger workforce is smaller and many don’t have fundamental knowledge of what’s going on under the covers because they grew up learning in a world with higher levels of abstraction. For instance, if someone learns Python or Rails, they may not have the deeper understanding and stronger foundations that they might if they were to start with C or C+. I was coaching a kid that’s going to MIT, and he asked ‘What do I need to do while I’m there?’ I suggested he build an operating system for one of the new IoT processors and learn the C language. He countered with ‘Well, C’s not in use anymore and nobody builds operating systems,’ to which I said, ‘Perhaps, but that builds deep understanding and good fundamentals. You’ll know how things work and you can think deeply about it. That’s what you need is that foundation, just like you need to be able to do simple math before algebra, trig and physics.’ So, I think part of it is the shift in what and how the workforce learns.

We also are in a time of such tremendous change in IT. IT is about people, process and technology. In the past we have had big shifts in technology, then we change process and people to match. Right now we have change in all three, each having an impact on the other two. Technology change is the easiest to adopt since we are geeks and naturally track it. Process change is a bit more challenging and not as interesting, so a bit harder. People are the hardest to change because they like working the way they like to work. They don’t like to be told what to do or how to do it, and really don’t feel they need someone to tell them they need to change. Having change in people, process and technology at the same time is disruptive to people.

The change is especially hard for architects since we typically have a number of years in the industry and everything is completely different from what we grew up with. We are responsible for planning the changes needed to people, process and technology, and if we haven’t experienced it we don’t know how to get started. Also, a lot of us want to stick with the old ways or haven’t needed to change yet. We used to ask ourselves if we should still code as an architect, now if we are not coding we are not relevant.

We’ve also changed the way we develop software and the way that IT works altogether. We shifted from waterfall to agile approaches, and now DevOps is the latest approach. With architecture, we no longer have the luxury of doing heavy design and evaluation. Rather, we get started and learn as we go. If we take the wrong path, we start over. I think that it’s a challenge across the board. Worst of all, many of us haven’t worked in modern IT environments so we’re not able to teach the younger folks how to be successful in the new paradigm. Unless people have been in a start-up environment, they probably haven’t worked in the modern IT workspace.

Why is there a disconnect between the skills IT people are learning and what the workforce requires?

Two groups of people need education or reeducation. Let me address the new workforce or kids going to college first. It takes about three years to get a curriculum change into the college system, so there is a natural lag. Some colleges work closely with start-up companies or big comm and those colleges can make the change fairly quickly. For the colleges working with some of the older echelon companies that have been playing it safe, they don’t have the awareness of what’s going on in the industry, so they’re slower to change their curriculum—those are the two key pieces.

In terms of the workforce at large and their reeducation, IT has been run the same way for a long time and business has run so close to the bone. There are a lot of companies that are not operating in SOA environments and are not ready for the digital transformation going on right now. People have not been able to apply modern IT techniques at work, and hands-on is the best way to learn. Since they haven’t changed, a lot of existing staff haven’t learned the new technologies and approaches.

In the early 2000s we shifted from a structured and composed N-tier environment to decomposed integration (SOA) environments. Some companies have adopted that and some haven’t. Now we’re moving from SOA on-premise to leveraging the Cloud. People and organizations who haven’t adopted SOA yet have to take two major leaps with their people, process and technology. A majority of companies are in that boat, where they have to shift to service orientation and then have to figure out how to design for the cloud. That is two gigantic leaps, and people can take one leap at a time—often unwillingly, but they can take it. When they have to jump two levels, it kills them and they’re paralyzed.

Is that part of the reason we’re now seeing companies doing bi-modal IT?

Bi-modal or multi-model are needed to successfully adopt modern concepts and complete digital transformation. In some conversations I’ve had, there’s a difference of opinion in what bi-modal means. One is, you have an IT department that runs at two different speeds. The first speed is for the systems of record, and the second is for systems of integration. Another way to put that is that you have a consistent core and you have agility at the edge. When you move from a large system and start decomposing it, you pick off integration pieces and develop using more agile approaches. For the big back-end chunks, you take more time planning and longer timeline efforts.

Another, much more controversial definition of bi-modal is that you gracefully retire the old guard by bringing in fresh talent while modernizing your IT environment. You have the old guard maintain the current environment and the new people work on the transition to the new environment. Once you have enough talent and technology operating in the new environment you deprecate the old. If you can’t get the experienced people to shift to the new ways, they are part of that deprecation process.

What can companies do to better train and maintain employees? That seems to be a continual problem at most companies.

Invest in people and spotlight the ones that are making the shift to modern IT. That’s my passion area. As I have worked with IT groups I’ve seen the retraining budget go from about $14,000 per year per person down to a few thousand dollars down to almost zero. At the same time, there have been massive layoffs occurring all over the place so there’s no loyalty or reason to learn. Experienced people have little or no loyalty to the companies they work for and new entrants only work for a company for about 18 months, then move. If you’re a millennial in any job for more than three years then other millennials start looking at you funny like you can’t get another job. In that type of environment there’s not a lot of emphasis on the company investing in the employee or in the employee having company loyalty.

The way that I’ve been approaching it, and it’s been very successful, is by setting up apprenticeship programs very much like journeymen do in construction, or in hospitals where doctors go through residency programs for on-the-job training. I break the skills acquisition into two pieces—one is the very specific skills for the organization that can’t be taught but need to be experienced through on-the-job training. For instance, I am talking to one organization that needs 250 people on staff that can do integration. They either can’t find the talent or the talent is out of price range or unwilling to move. So I gave them an approach where they take the concept of apprenticeship and bring in people that have the key entry level skills and the right work ethic, and then pair them with someone that’s experienced with integration in that environment. The person being mentored shadows the mentor to see how it’s done, and then the mentor shadows the person being mentored and provides coaching to accelerate the apprentice’s competence. You can do that for the skills associated with business capability.  

The other thing you do is help the apprentice with the foundational skills that are not specific to the job or to a business capability. The interpersonal skills, time management or whatever general skills they need to survive and maintain decent work/life balance. For these type of skills you provide external training and discussion rather than job shadowing. You make the mentor responsible for the care and growth of that individual, and you tie the mentor’s yearly review goals to their success at growing the new talent.

Have you been able to implement that at some specific companies and has it be successful?

I can’t name the companies but yes, I have been able to do it. I have also been operating my company this way to create and improve the process and build out the tools and training to support apprenticeship. I’ve been successful accelerating new workforce entrants into productive employees, and with moving existing staff into more advanced or different roles. I’ve been able to move people from traditional IT shops to agile and DevOps type environments, from dev leads to architects, and from traditional architects to modern IT architects.

The most recent and most exciting is to take kids that are not going to be able to finish college. They have the skill to get a degree but don’t have the money or interest in completing it. I’ve been taking them from doing minimum wage jobs to shifting them over and getting them into the workforce and making them productive. I’ve been able to move people into IT-related jobs as well as other business-related positions.

I apprentice them by using customer journey mapping. I teach them how it works and then have the apprentices transcribe the interviews I record and when I do a whiteboard workshop, I have them transcribe those notes into an Excel spreadsheet. I could do that electronically or with automation, but by having them do it, they learn the overall rhythm and language of business and they start to understand it. Then by talking with them about the customer journey from discovery through support or separation, they understand what the customer journey looks like. They also understand the underpinning interface with the company and how the business works and how they interact with the customer. That has been wildly successful.

With that basic knowledge they learn new skills very quickly, allowing me to focus more on helping them grow a strong work ethic and better time management. I drive through objectives rather than hours worked. I let them manage themselves so they gain a lot of confidence and they drive forward and push themselves. The other thing I do is, for the life skills they may not have, I teach those. For instance, a lot of them don’t know how to budget. I tell them not to budget using money—budget using hours. Think about a cup of Starbucks coffee as 70 minutes of your time in order to pay for it, think of your apartment rent as two weeks work, think of your car as a week’s pay. I get them thinking that way and money becomes tangible, and they get better at budgeting. 

With these entry level people who are transitioning from minimum wage jobs, are they also being hired by a company or are you teaching them the skills and then they go out and get a job?

It works both ways. I’ve helped companies get apprenticeship programs going and also apprenticed people, then they go get jobs or take jobs with the companies I consult with. Before we start, the customer and I agree I’ll be using some unskilled people to help them grow, and in return the company has the opportunity to hire the person when they are ready. I pay my apprentices a living wage as I grow them and expose them to my customers. I’m very transparent about how much they cost me and how much they have to earn to break even, and I tell them that in every business, that’s what they’re looking at. I teach them that, and then as they are introduced to my customers, my customers are welcome to hire them. Gigantic win for my employees and my customers.

This seems like it could be another avenue to help solve some of the diversity problems that the tech community is facing right now. Have you also been looking at apprenticeships in that manner?

Absolutely I have. This is another thing that is near and dear to my heart. The reason that I’m in IT is because my sister went into IT in the mid-1970s. I watched her live through that horrible time for women in IT. I’ve tried to do my part to help create a more diversified workforce in IT. Now my daughter is in IT and her journey was 10 times better than my sister’s. Not perfect, but better. Since then I have worked to identify what is broken and fix it.

I’ve also worked with a lot of kids who are disadvantaged, and I’ve been able to help them move up and into IT. Once they see a way out of their current environment and have hope, and that all it takes is some effort on their part, they are in. They’ve got somebody that believes in them and willing to invest time in them, and they’re all over it, working harder and better than most of the privileged kids that I’ve worked with, or the ones that feel like they’re entitled.

What can employers do to make their employees more loyal these days?

That’s a tough one because when you look at it, millennials are different. The big five leadership indicators manifest different and they are not driven by the same incentives. There’s a big shift with millennials and there will be for future generations but there are a lot of things you can do culturally to address that. A lot have to do with the policies that you have. For instance, companies that allow you to bring a dog in or work remotely or wear jeans and a t-shirt, or bow ties, those little things help.

But what I’ve found is the number one thing that has helped is to have millennials form relationships with the people that have a lot of experience and giving them time to grow relationships and skills. Every millennial I’ve reached out to and worked with has been hungry for the relationship and growth. They don’t want platitudes, they want people who really want to interact with them and have a genuine interest in helping them. Once you show that, big win.  

The other thing you have to do is let them experiment and not put them in a box. You have to put a group of them together and let them figure out their own boundaries and just make it an objective base. I think doing that helps an awful lot. So building those relationships, which you can do through an apprenticeship program and then providing some freedom so they can operate in a different way, those are two of the things you can do. The heavy handed review cycles and trying to either intimidate or incent millennials with money is not going to work. A lot of them have a high-minded idea of the way they world should work, and they’re going to be more loyal if the company they work for represents that or if the manager they work for represents that.

What are some of those ideals that they’re looking for?

Most of them are worried about the world and want it to be a better place. They see the disparity between the highest paid and lowest paid, and they want fairness and to work as a group, and for the group being successful. A lot of their idealism is centered on those concepts, and allowing them volunteer time to work with charities and have outreach programs.

What role can certification programs such as The Open Group’s play in helping to close the skills gap?

It can play a gigantic role by providing frameworks and methodologies that reflect today’s IT environment. I think we also have to shift the way that we do certification and training and a lot of that is starting to happen. We’re starting to move the bar and have a lot more practical and hands-on certifications and training.

I think we need to shift from taking an online course and then going to a place and taking a test to working with and interacting with another person. An example of that is the top certifications for architects that The Open Group has, those are based on defending your experience and going through an interview process with peer members of that group, and them saying yes, this person is what they say. Using a test you can’t do that.

This type of approach makes it a lot more personal. What you will see over time is that people say ‘I had so and so on my board’ or ‘I had this person mentor me,’ and they start talking about their lineage based on the people they’ve worked with in the industry. If we shift more toward that type of validation as opposed to using multiple choice tests, we’ll be a lot better off.

I also think you’ll see hybrid industry/customer certifications just like you see industry/customer training. Someone will join a company and get trained and certified, but that certification will be able to follow the person rather than go away when they leave the company. What you’ll see is when an employee decides to leave, they can take part of the external facing portion of a credential with them, and only lose the internal portion. For the piece they lose, they will rely on their resume.

The other big area where you’ll see a shift in certification is, rather than being tied to technology and platforms, certification will be tied to business capabilities and business outcomes. You’ll certify that someone can build a solution toward a specific business outcome or capability that’s trying to be enabled.

@theopengroup #ogAUS

By The Open GroupAndy started his career in IT as a technical expert in consulting roles and well as staff roles. In the mid-1990s, he shifted from delivering IT capability to delivering training, speaking at conferences and writing books and training covering the IT space. The end of the 1990s Andy joined Microsoft as a subject matter expert working on their public training and certification programs.

He grew to own curriculum development, then certification development, and then creating and delivering new training and certification programs. Additionally, Andy spent time as a role owner, defining job roles, levels, career ladders and compensation models to field-based architects and consultants. Over the last several years, Andy employs his talents as a consultant helping with business and IT strategy, and has a passion for workforce development.

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Filed under Certifications, devops, EA, Enterprise Architecture, enterprise architecture, Internet of Things, IT, operating system, Professional Development, skills gap, Standards, The Open Group, The Open Group Austin 2016, Uncategorized