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Keys to Enterprise Architecture Success

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

Avoiding the perils on the way to successful Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architecture (EA) is more relevant today than ever before – considering the accelerating pace of technology adoption, many new and disruptive market forces, hyper-competitive environments, and rapidly changing business models.

Together, these present a burning requirement for many organisations to ‘digitise the enterprise’.

EA supports the organisation develop an holistic representation of the business, its information and technology. This provides a business tool for managing complexity and change.

The myriad benefits from successful EA practices include:

  • Competitive advantage – with so few organisations “getting it right”, having a business appropriate and sustainable EA function allows the organisation to respond to change with greater speed, and derive huge competitive advantage.
  • Market reputation – EA is essential for the organisation to promote a reputation of being well-governed (for example, EA allows the organisation to comply with King III and other governance/compliance requirements). EA acts as the crucial linchpin between corporate governance and IT governance.
  • Business transformation – EA supports major business transformations, by clearly understanding the current state, and clearly articulating the desired end-state. In this way, EA provides a clear roadmap for transformation
  • Portfolio rationalization – a structured approach to EA helps with reducing the size and complexity of the organisation’s technology estate, and removing any duplications within the application and technology portfolio.
  • Strategic support function – professional EA consulting services support the efforts of many critical areas within the enterprise – such as strategic planning, governance, risk and compliance, and solution architecture

In essence, EA facilitates the fusion between business and technology based on the fact that if the organisation cannot change its systems, it cannot change its business. New entrants are often more ‘digitally agile’: they have the ability – for example – to embrace new cloud platforms without being tied to millstone of legacy systems and processes.

The strategic theme that underpins the EA practice, and helps guard against failure, is that of ‘running the EA practice like a business, with a clearly-defined solution offering’.

Keeping this philosophy top-of-mind – across the entire ambit of people, tools, process, content, and products/services – is fundamental to ensuring that one’s EA practice is business-appropriate, sustainable, and ultimately successful. By running EA as if it is a business in its own right, in support of the enterprise’s strategic goals, the EA capability is positioned to evolve in scope and importance, and add increasing value to the enterprise over time.

However, so many EA programmes fail to achieve meaningful results. More often than not, they either end up on the scrapheap of failed IT programmes and wasted investments, or limp along with limited and isolated impact within the broader organisation.

So, why do EA programmes so often fail?

The role of the Chief Architect in ensuring EA success

Analysts confirm that the single biggest reason for failed EA programmes is lack of leadership skills within the core elements of the guiding coalition and the EA team. At the nucleus, the Chief Architect is required to lead by example and inspire others, while remaining acutely tuned into business’ needs.

Acting as the keystone in the EA structures that are being built, the Chief Architect must be flexible enough to continually adapt the business case for EA, but remain unwavering in the eventual vision – that of modernising and optimising the way the organisation functions.

The resilience of the EA function ultimately depends on the strengths of the Chief Architect.

As EA inevitably takes some time to generate sustainable returns, the Chief Architect must maintain the enthusiasm of executive stakeholders and business partners, while dealing with the ever-present threat that some individuals may revert back to old habits, divert funds to other projects, or focus on short-term wins.

This is a delicate balance, and the skills that qualify someone as a great architect don’t necessarily make them a strong leader. The most essential attributes include business acumen, the ability to translate technology into simple business outcomes, the ability to listen, communicate, present to groups, articulate the vision of the EA function, and inject enthusiasm for the EA practice.

Of course, it goes without saying that the Chief Architect must also possess the right technical skills which allow her to guide and govern the EA portfolio. In staffing the EA function, organisations should consider candidates in the context of defined career ladders and skills assessments. It is only with the right skills background that the Chief Architect will be in a position the strategic importance of the EA function within the first year of their tenure, or the practice is at risk of dissipating.

Leadership also includes aligning the differing EA visions held by the various business units and stakeholders. Everyone has a slightly different spin on what EA should achieve, and how the organisation will achieve it. While keeping stakeholders involved in the project, the Chief Architect must influence, guide, and delicately meld these visions into a single cohesive EA strategy.

Finally, the EA practice is at risk if the Chief Architect and her team are not skilled in communicating with key stakeholders across both business and technology domains and at multiple levels within the organisation. Results need to be clearly measured and demonstrated to the business. The EA vision must be constantly reinforced throughout the programme as the practice develops in maturity.

Setting up the EA team for success; the core EA team

As important as her role may be, the Chief Architect cannot ‘go it alone’. Ensuring that the right core Enterprise Architecture (EA) team is in place is the next important step in avoiding potential EA failure. Led by a strong guiding coalition and steering committee, the team needs to consider how to manage the work, how to control delivery against the plan, how any blind spots will be identified, and how they will engage with the rest of the organisation.

None of this can happen just by accident. The starting point is to conduct a critical analysis of the skills requirements, and match this with the right people in the right roles. Any silos, or ‘stovepipes’ should be dismantled, in favour of greater collaboration and knowledge-sharing – giving the Chief Architect better visibility of everything happening within the team.

So, with a strong EA team at the nucleus, and skilled individuals in the various areas of the organisation, the Chief Architect is able to allocate resources efficiently and generate the best returns in the least possible time. Excellence in the execution of the EA tasks, from beginning to end, is only ever possible with quality staff involved.

There is an ever-present risk that the core team gets pulled into detailed operational work like solution delivery – while the strategic architectural role gets deprioritised. Another common risk is that the EA practice becomes something of a ‘dumping ground’ for disparate IT team members. For this reason, when a new Chief Architect is appointed, one of her first tasks is to assess the team capabilities, restructure, replace and recruit where necessary.

The goal is to ensure the right portfolio of skills is spread across the entire EA discipline – people with the right qualifications, tool proficiencies and psychometric profiles are working together in the optimal structure.

Organisational positioning

To have legitimacy among executive stakeholders, and to avoid knee-jerk, short-term approaches that merely address symptoms (rather than dealing with root causes), the appropriate placement of the EA function is fundamental to its success.

For example, if EA is housed within the area of the Chief Technology Officer then we can expect the focus to be all about technical architectures and solutions support. If it’s positioned under the Chief Information Officer, the focus is often more on supporting solution architectures.

Reporting into business strategy and governance structures reduces technology-centric thinking. Whichever is the case, we find that organisational structure shapes the behaviour and the strategies of the teams.

Appropriate structure and alignment within the organisation is critical for ‘expectation management’. We’ve seen many cases of senior stakeholders (within whose portfolio the EA function resides) making promises to executives, shareholders, or markets – creating unrealistic expectations of what EA is capable of doing at a particular level of maturity.

The organisational design must be fit-for-purpose, depending on the firm’s specific requirements and the state of maturity. The EA function will be hindered if its scope is not clearly defined, and does not span all of the horizontal EA domains (business architecture, information architecture, data architecture, application architecture and technology architecture) and vertical domains (integration, security and solution architecture).

If these areas are fragmented, it becomes tougher to answer questions around how they will integrate, who will be responsible for what, and how the organisation will build an integrated view of the target architecture. In highly federated, decentralised or geographically-dispersed organisations, the positioning becomes even more complex –  often being required to morph according to changing business priorities. This requires a clear understanding of what EA capabilities are performed globally, regionally and locally.

The EA team needs to simultaneously build the EA capability (and start delivering results), while selling this positive story to executives – in order to achieve their further buy-in. This may place greater pressure on the teams in the short-term, as milestones and commitments are thrust into the spotlight and must be met. We recall the principle of ‘publish or perish’, which is crucial to maintaining the involvement and support of executive stakeholders.

Executive sponsorship

The business executive must empower the EA function with a defined and widely communicated mandate. Failure to do so often results in ‘turf wars’ between the EA practice and related areas of the organisation, such as the Programme Management Office or Service Management.

To build on early momentum, EA education and communication should filter down from above as one of the organisation’s highest priorities. This helps to foster business stakeholder engagement and ensure that EA content is used in the right ways “on the ground”.

Executives are also able to remove many of the obstacles that could otherwise bring on the demise of EA in the organisation. Executive sponsors may be called on to influence budgets and vendor selection, or make the necessary structural changes to the teams, or ensure that architecture governance remains firmly on the agenda.

So, in summary, it is critical to have the right people, under the right leadership (the Chief Architect and her guiding coalition), working in the right structure within the organisation. Without all three of these things in place, the EA practice is at great risk of failure.

Ivory Tower syndrome

A common reason for the collapse of EA initiatives, is architects who become overly-enamoured with the conceptual aspects of their work. They return from their retreats away from the business, with elaborate frameworks, and little practical guidance on how to implement them.

These concepts will be presented to key influencers within the organisation, most of whom will not understand the content, so their complex reference architectures will be ignored. In this way, the EA team is perceived as living in an Ivory Tower – disconnected from the business and alienating stakeholders – often leading to the withdrawal of support and sponsorship from key people.

These complex frameworks are built in isolation from the business stakeholders on the ground.

Investing too much time in detailed documentation of the “as-is states”, and creating vast arrays of diagrams, gives the impression that progress is being made, when in reality, this flurry of visible ‘activity’ is being mistaken for progress.

This academic approach to EA leads to inertia in decision-making, a state of ‘deferred commitment’ where the fear of failure leads to an inability to act. The EA practice lives by the principle of “publish or perish” (describing how critical it is to deliver tangible outputs).

This leads to distorted perspectives, where the architect’s views of the business architecture and other architecture domains are not necessarily shared by their key stakeholders.

Architects who dogmatically force their models on stakeholders – without fully appreciating the changing business’ requirements or tailoring their services to meet the business’ demands – are bound to fail.

By focusing on tangible outputs, and running the EA practice like a business, architects can effectively maintain a stakeholder-centric approach to delivering business value.

Architects need to ‘get their hands dirty’ – such as getting involved in the actual modelling, investing time in mentoring people in architecture skills, closely following the business’ needs, and evolving the EA artefacts.

This should be combined with strong marketing and communications efforts – where architects constantly communicate and evangelise the value of the EA practice to business stakeholders.

If not, the team risks the ‘Ivory Tower syndrome’ setting in, and will lose the backing of the C-suite. Even if budgets are still provided for, the bigger work surrounding EA – like maturing the EA capability, business transformation and change management – will not be possible without active executive support.


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®. 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 Business Transformation, EA, Enterprise Architecture, Enterprise Transformation, Standards, The Open Group

TOGAF® User Group Meeting – The Open Group London 2016

By The Open Group

On April 27, the second TOGAF® User Group Meeting was held at The Open Group London 2016. The session brought together TOGAF users and stakeholders to share information, best practices and learning, for the development of individual practitioners’ knowledge and the standard as a whole. Discussions revolved around how to better use TOGAF in practice within different organizations and industries, success stories and areas of improvement, as well as suggestions as to how the standard can be improved upon in the future.

Central Hall Westminster conservatory was packed, as Steve Nunn, President and CEO of The Open Group, opened the meeting with a warm welcome to the community. He heralded the session as an initiative that was ‘trailblazing’ the way for the development of TOGAF®, an Open Group standard, which now has more than 55,000 certifications.

The session was hosted by Terry Blevins, a Fellow of The Open Group and Director of The Open Group Governing Board. Terry has been involved in development of the TOGAF standard for years and has been a major contributor to its development. He stressed that as the community continues to grow, it’s so important to hear real-world experiences of those using the standard to get a broader perspective on what works, what doesn’t, and how it can evolve.

To achieve this, the TOGAF User Group staged an ‘Open Debate’. Fashioned on an Oxford-style debate, it was designed to tap into people’s feelings about the TOGAF standard and allow questions and different points of view to be shared around the room. Standard debating rules were explained, before the proposition declaration was laid out:

“The TOGAF® Architecture Development Method (ADM) is not agile and therefore there is a need to change the specification to make it agile.”

Arguing ‘For’ the proposition was Chris Armstrong, President of Armstrong Process Group, Inc. and internationally recognized thought leader and expert in iterative software development, Enterprise Architecture, object-orientated analysis and design, the Unified Modelling Language, use case driver requirements and process implementation.

Arguing ‘Against’ the proposition was Paul Homan, Technology Strategy Consultant for IBM for eight years. He is a Certified Distinguished IT Architect, specializing in Enterprise Architecture joining IBM from end-user environments, having worked as Chief Architect in both the UK Post Office and Royal Mail. Not only has he established Enterprise Architecture practices, but also lived with the results.

By The Open Group

Open Debate with Paul Homan and Chris Armstrong

In order to understand the audience’s view at the outset of the debate, attendees were asked to vote on their existing standpoint. A few hands showed support for changing the specification to make it agile, and a few abstained. However, most hands were raised against the proposition, agreeing that the ADM was already agile in nature.

Chris then had seven minutes to argue his case – that the TOGAF ADM is not agile and needs to change. He conceded that very few people would steadfastly ignore change within their organization and aim to respond to it badly, however in the whole 692 pages of TOGAF version 9.1, agile is only mentioned twice, agility 6 times and lean is not mentioned at all. Furthermore, the mere fact that there are 692 pages could be taken to indicate the lack of agility altogether. The crop circle diagram that underpins the whole framework appears linear and waterfall in appearance, and so lacking in agility by nature. He argued that the only way that the TOGAF ADM can realistically support an agile enterprise is by becoming agile itself.

Likewise, Paul put his seven-minute case forward – arguing that the TOGAF ADM is agile and does not require any changes to make it so. He made the point that as an architect, everything has to have a reference system, and that the TOGAF ADM is a framework for developing architecture, not a style guide. The specification is actually part of a wider ecosystem of material, including pocket guides, whitepapers, translations and qualifications, and all of these items help to move the enterprise away from project management bureaucracy, towards agile project development. Enterprise Architects, he said, should live by the oath: ‘I will apply for the benefit of the enterprise, all architecture practices that are required’. This is so as to make agile more meaningful and relevant. Instead of relying on the framework, agility is created through just enough architecture, coupled with the interpretation and implementation of the framework by the practitioner. Therefore, skills are the most important element in these projects.

Following these opening statements, TOGAF users were encouraged to ask questions to the pair. A couple of these, included below, give a flavor of the discussion:

Q: Chris, you counted the number of times TOGAF uses the word agile – but how many occurrences are there where it says you cannot be agile and processes must take a long time?

A: Chris –Just because TOGAF does not say you cannot be agile, does not mean it is agile itself. The best laid plans will not work if the people delivering it do not see where they fit in and translate their work to the project they are implementing. We are not recognizing significant changes in delivery from the waterfall practices of many years ago.

Paul – It’s a prioritization exercise – we need to worry about the behaviors of practitioners and the interaction of enterprise architecture functions within a project, rather than the spec and other incentives. Accessibility is key – we can help people access this body of knowledge without having to rethink the whole body of knowledge

Q: The TOGAF standard is a reference model and we need to adapt to the particular needs of each organization, so how do you handle that?

A: Paul – It’s all about consumption. We have to consider that somebody has to be able to consume the guidance that we want to provide as EAs within a development project. We want them to be aware of what matters to us from an EA perspective – we shouldn’t be trying to out-design them, we should just think about what is relevant to us that they are potentially not aware of. This comes back to understanding your consumer.

It’s a bit like someone that comes to service the heating in a house. The consumer is the house owner and the servicer has a tool bag, which in this case is the TOGAF standard. It has all the tools in it you might need. Boilers will change, but what is really changing in an agile world is that customer experience is evolving. This would include their presentation, reliability and professionalism – customers get a good experience from behaviors and style, not the toolset. The tool bag will remain the same, but behavior and how it is applied needs to change and get better.

Q: Chris, are you saying that we should be working in a completely agile fashion and that waterfall methods are no longer relevant?

Chris – We need to acknowledge the complexity of various different organizations, and we need to find the balance between always evolving technology and approval times, for example. Agility in enterprise architecture is often compensating for a lack of agility throughout the rest of the enterprise – maybe solution delivery teams wouldn’t have to be so agile if everywhere else in the company was a bit more agile.

Q: The crop circle is a waterfall model, this is reflected in the spec itself, but if you keep the framework are we missing the opportunity to address different levels of agility?

Chris –  We need to change the crop circle. This might be met with great resistance but it implies that you have to wait to complete one phase to start the next one – you should be doing certain processes every day and not waiting to go from one stage to another.

Paul – The reader is lulled into the idea that there is a sequence and you must complete one phase before another. I think that there is always going to be a weakness in condensing a large body of knowledge into one diagram, and there is always going to be approximation which is what has happened from TOGAF® 9.1 into the crop circle. There are things we can assume – but this is why the spec says it’s not intended to be waterfall.

The two speakers then summarized their arguments. Paul reinforced his argument that the ADM is fit for purpose as a Hippocratic Oath for EAs, but what matters is the changes in our behavior to complement this. Chris stated that the spec does need to change, to add supplemental guidance so people can be guided in how to implement TOGAF as an agile framework.

When it came to the final vote from the audience, more people had been persuaded by the ‘for’ argument, to change the ADM spec, however the ‘against’ argument still had more support in the room. This conclusion demonstrated that there was a display of two sound and compelling arguments for each side, and Terry noted that more time for questions would be needed at the next debate!

Following the debate came two breakout sessions; ‘The Roles of People in TOGAF Driven Architecture Initiatives’ from Len Fehskens, Editor, Journal of Enterprise Architecture (AEA), and ‘Using TOGAF® for Digital Business Transformation’ from Sonia Gonzalez, The Open Group Architecture Forum Director. These sessions were used to open up a freer dialogue between users, to discuss their ideas and experiences around  the TOGAF standard.

Check out video highlights of the debate here!

Please join us at the next TOGAF® User Group Meeting taking place at The Open Group Austin 2016 July 18 – 21!

@theopengroup #ogLON #ogAUS



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Filed under Association of Enterprise Architects, Certifications, EA, Enterprise Architecture, Professional Development, standards, Steve Nunn, The Open Group London 2016, TOGAF®, TOGAF®, Uncategorized

The Open Group London 2016 – Day Two Highlights

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

After a fantastic first day in Central Hall Westminster, The Open Group London 2016 continued on Tuesday, April 26 as attendees looked forward to another excellent line-up of speakers and topics. The Open Group President and CEO Steve Nunn welcomed the audience and announced that a day after launch, the IT4IT™ Certification Program already had over 50 certified people signed up. The certification is achieved by individuals who demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the IT4IT™ Reference Architecture, Version 2.0 standard.  Steve was then joined on stage by The Open Group CTO Dave Lounsbury, to discuss digital transformation and enabling digital business, with a focus on IT’s critical role in helping to achieve this.

Tuesday’s plenary sessions then got underway, with a highly entertaining presentation from Ron Tolido, Senior VP, Group CTO Office, Global Insights & Data Practice, CapGemini. Ron used numerous Game of Thrones references to explain how the open business data lake could be a blueprint for agile, data-driven businesses. He was quick to point out though that data ran the risk of appearing to a business in many elephant-themed guises; be it the “white elephant” driving up costs, the “Dumbo”, i.e. a fantasy, or the ”elephant in the room” than nobody wants to mention. To summarize, Ron, continuing his Game of Thrones-themed talk, argued that we need “burning [big data] platforms that are the pièce de résistance of Enterprise Architecture”.

By Loren K. Baynes, Director, Global Marketing Communications

Steve Nunn, Ron Tolido

It was then the turn of Sven van Wilpen, Business Architect, Fokker Industries, and Stuart Boardman, Enterprise Architect, Resilient EA, to discuss digitization in the aerospace industry and more specifically, the Fokker Factory. Coincidentally, elephants reared their collective trunks for the second time in the morning, when Stuart described the role of the architect as herding elephants.

One of the most interesting discussion points that emerged from this presentation was around change management, and it became clear that Fokker was putting some great process in place to support stakeholders who have to deal with the change. Not only that, but it needed to be made clear to them why change would make their lives better. Stuart also talked about implementing the right kind of change, highlighting the fact that when you make a process digital, it works differently. Don’t just digitize that manual process, but change the process itself.

After the coffee break, Steve Nunn made a presentation to Serge Thorn with HSBC, in recognition of his tireless work on The Open Group Architecture Forum TOGAF Localization Committee.  TOGAF® is an Open Group standard.

By Loren K. Baynes, Director, Global Marketing Communications

Serge Thorn, Steve Nunn

At this point, Steve handed the reins over to Wipro’s Chief Enterprise Architect & Head of Academy of EA, Pallab Saha for the rest of the morning session, to talk first about the relevance of Enterprise Architecture for India, and then about how it is helping to turn aspiration into inspiration to make digital government a reality.

Pallab talked in great detail about the e-Pragati project, which was designed to bring all government services under one roof to illustrate this. He described it as a new paradigm in governance, based on a whole-of-government framework that transcends departmental boundaries. Helpfully, Pallab also showcased a great video that explained the initiative in more detail and it is interesting to note that this regional project is being championed as best practice for other provinces in India.

The afternoon saw the conversations split into separate tracks, focused on Healthcare, Open Platform 3.0™, ArchiMate®, and a series of TOGAF® 9 tutorials, including:

  • History of The Open Group Healthcare Forum, Jason Lee, Director, Healthcare Forum, The Open Group
  • Architecting Customer Experience: Driving Transformative Digital Business, Trishit Baran Sengupta, Enterprise Architect, Wipro
  • Using TOGAF®, ArchiMate® and Open FAIR for Business Driven InfoSec, Thorbjørn Ellefsen, Managing Business Analyst, Capgemini
  • Creating an EA for Genesis Housing Association, Michelle Supper, Enterprise and System Architect, Science Inspired Ltd

The second day of the London event concluded with a networking dinner at Emirates Stadium – home of the Arsenal Football Club. In addition to a private tour of the stadium, guests enjoyed live music and a scrumptious dinner.  Allen Brown, former CEO of The Open Group, was announced as a Fellow, an honor bestowed upon only a select few for their immense dedication and body of work at The Open Group.

By Loren K. Baynes, Director, Global Marketing Communications

@theopengroup #ogLON

By Loren K. Baynes, Director, Global Marketing Communications

Loren 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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Filed under Boundaryless Information Flow™, Cloud, Data Lake, Digital Transformation, EA, Enterprise Transformation, interoperability, IoT, open platform 3.0, Standards, Steve Nunn, The Open Group London 2016, TOGAF®, Uncategorized

The Open Group London 2016 – Day One Highlights

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

On Monday, April 25th, The Open Group London 2016 kicked off with an opening speech from The Open Group President and CEO Steve Nunn to a packed room at the Central Hall Westminster.  The magnificent venue is just a stone’s throw from the iconic Westminster Abbey. Almost 300 guests from 27 countries around the globe have joined this exciting, informative event.

After a warm welcome and a recap of the successes of The Open Group IT4IT™ Forum to date – including the launch of the Standard and Management Guide – Steve went on to announce the launch of the IT4IT™ Certification Program.

The IT4IT Foundation Certification is now available to individuals who demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the IT4IT™ Reference Architecture, Version 2.0 standard. The first level of certification being launched provides validation that the candidate has gained knowledge of the terminology, structure, basic concepts, and understands the core principles of the IT4IT Reference Architecture and the IT Value Chain.

Monday’s plenary sessions continued the focus on  IT4IT, beginning with a presentation from Tony Price, Director, WW IT4IT Strategic Consulting, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Erik van Busschbach, World-Wide Chief Technologist for IT Management, HPE Software Services CTO Office, Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Erik and Tony explained how organizations can use IT4IT to move away from talking about Architecture towards discussions around business value. Every audience wants value but they all perceive this value in different ways. Tony explained the importance of contextualizing value to individuals in order for it to be effective.

By Loren K. Baynes, Director, Global Marketing Communications

Erik van Busschbach, Tony Price, Steve Nunn

The IT4IT discussion also featured a joint presentation on ‘Managing the Business of IT’ from Michael Fulton, Principal Architect, CC&C Solutions; David Hornford, Managing Partner, Conexiam; Luke Bradley, Principle Architect, Technology Shared Services Centre, Vodafone Group; David Gilmour, Director, Panastra Pte Ltd, Singapore.

The speakers went into detail about the impact IT4IT can have on an organization. Mike Fulton started with the basics of IT4IT and the Value Chain model, before going on to discuss where IT4IT fits into TOGAF®, an Open Group standard, COBIT and Agile. Luke Bradley provided insight into how IT4IT was being used at Vodafone Group, where there are four main areas of transformation – process, service model, organization, and technology. The importance of getting away from bulk renewal projects and moving towards smaller sensible building blocks was stressed by David Gilmour, who also explained how IT4IT was a “jolly good thing” for business, which raised a smile in the packed-out room.

Gunnar Menzel, Vice President & Chief Architect Officer, ‎Capgemini, came to the stage proudly displaying his medal from the London Marathon from the day before the event – many congratulations to him for a fantastic time of 03:52:15! His presentation focused on how IT4IT can help with Agile DevOps. Businesses that realize DevOps’ full potential are more agile in providing new products and services and can deliver superior quality, but enterprises often encounter difficulties due to the growing number of product choices, definitions and services.

Gunnar directed delegates to The Open Group whitepaper, ‘IT4IT™ Agile Scenario’, which was released in February 2016 and includes a DevOps definition, DevOps Maturity Model as well as a DevOps Implementation framework.

The final session before Monday’s break for lunch came from Henry Franken, CEO at BiZZdesign and chair of The ArchiMate® Forum at The Open Group. Henry presented the results of a survey looking at business transformation, noting that a “business as usual” approach is preventing effective business transformation, along with a lack of strategic design insights and a lack of organizational commitment. He explained how businesses should be taking small steps to embrace change, collaborate on change and make sure to utilize techniques to digitize change capabilities.

The afternoon saw additional tracks taking place on IT4IT, Security and Enterprise Architecture, including:

  • Trusted and Secure OpenStack Cloud, Shawn Mullen, Cloud Security Architect, IBM, US
  • Seven Reasons IT4IT™ is Good News for Architects, Daniel Warfield, Senior Enterprise Architect, CC&C Americas
  • A Future for Enterprise Architecture, Len Fehskens, Chief Editor, Association of Enterprise Architects
  • Mils Initiatives: Emerging Open Group Standards for Modular Approach to Critical Systems, Rance DeLong, Staff Scientist – EC Projects, The Open Group

Sally Long, Director of The Open Group Trusted Technology Forum (OTTF), also presented on OTTF in a session which focused on cybersecurity and supply chain risks, how the standard and the accreditation can address them, and what steps organizations can take to assure products are more secure and enterprises stay safe. The presentation was a recap of a recently recorded webinar which can be found here.

Robert Wiesman, CEO at Build the Vision Inc., took the opportunity to discuss his use of EA as a business technique to conduct Architecture-based planning for a huge business transformation.

After a full day of sessions, the first day of the London event concluded with drinks and networking at the Central Hall Westminster.

@theopengroup #ogLON

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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Filed under Accreditations, ArchiMate, ArchiMate®, Boundaryless Information Flow™, Certifications, digital business, Enterprise Architecture, Enterprise Transformation, interoperability, IT4IT, OTTF, standards, Steve Nunn, The Open Group London 2016, TOGAF®, TOGAF®

Ensuring Successful Enterprise Architecture by Following Kotter’s Eight Stage Journey

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

These industry insights look at John Kotter’s eight stages of change management, and explore his timeless blueprint for effective change leadership. These change management principles can gel with an enterprise architecture (EA) roadmap to achieve business transformation.

The company’s EA practice is viewed as the engine room that powers the move towards transformation, and not the end-goal in itself. However, Kotter’s eight stages have a huge role to play in the development of an EA practice.

Stage 1 – Establishing urgency

The journey begins with breaking new ground, jolting people out of their comfort zones, and forcing them to deal with often uncomfortable realities. Change, in general, is something people tend to resist – and one of the first tasks for change agents is to overcome the powerful forces of tradition.

This stage requires executives to arrive at a brutally honest assessment of the company as it currently stands. It means exposing issues that may hinder growth and adaption in the future. It involves assessing the market realities, confronting macro, global forces – and identifying all the possible crises, barriers, sources of resistance, as well as potential opportunities.

Most importantly, it requires leaders and change agents to start removing the sources of complacency within the company. In other words, they must refute the reasons that some use to believe change isn’t necessary, or that the cost of change will be too great.

Establishing (or reinvigorating) the company’s EA practice is vital in making a successful start on the change journey.

EA rises to the fore as the primary toolset that will enable lasting positive change. It guides the company from a state of fragmented applications, organisational structures and processes – and builds an integrated and optimised environment.

In short, EA fuses the business model imperatives and the IT portfolio.

Establishing a sense of urgency among key stakeholders (a process that is triggered by the company CEO) makes the formation of change leadership structures possible. From an architectural perspective, these are bodies like business architecture governance committees, architecture review boards, and IT steering committees.

Without adequate governance, enterprise architecture will remain a theoretical concept that will fail to deliver any transformational business benefits. This, in fact, moves the process neatly on to stage two…

Stage 2 – Creating the guiding coalition

Kotter shows that a strong, core team (the “guiding coalition”) lies at the heart of any good change strategy. From there, the message of change radiates outwards to stakeholders throughout the broader company and its extended ecosystem.

Importantly, this coalition must possess people with one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Position of power… from executives, to line managers, to others with an influential stature in the enterprise, it is essential to enlist the support of decision-makers at an early stage.
  • Expertise… team members with diverse skill sets and points of view, and experience in many of the key areas of the enterprise.
  • Credibility… those involved in the coalition need to have strong reputations and the ability to sway the mindsets of others that are hesitant to buy in to the change strategy.
  • Leadership… it is essential for the team to include proven leaders who are capable of the kind of visionary, strategic thinking that the coalition will demand.

The team is pulled together by mutual trust, a shared vision for the future, and a passion to achieve these common goals. While at this stage the end-state of business transformation may not be in view, there is a shared recognition that the company needs to change the way it operates.

From an EA perspective, this guiding coalition sets the tone where EA starts to be viewed as a business entity of sorts. In a fully functioning EA practice, the company manages its ‘stock in trade’ (the corporate intellectual capital), and assembles the various components into EA products and services that address specific stakeholder requirements.

By starting to run the EA practice as if it was like a business in itself, even at these early stages, the coalition sets out on the right path – one that will eventually see the company formalising and packaging intellectual capital, and turning it into a corporate asset.

The business model will work if the various stakeholders within the company receive more value than their perceived cost of contribution. For example, HR may benefit from having a clear map of everyone’s role profile; internal audit may value the accurate view of weaknesses in the company’s internal processes. Something of a virtuous feedback loop develops.

Stage 3 – Developing a vision and strategy

In Kotter’s third stage – “developing a vision and strategy” – the guiding coalition sets to work on crafting the vision of change and transformation.

This typically runs as an iterative, sometimes even messy, process. Many different perspectives from the various stakeholders are considered, as different role-players provide a number of alternative ways to approach problems and reach goals.

As Kotter reiterates, this is a stage that encompasses both the head and the heart. It is a dynamic process that sees the value of strong teamwork rising to the fore – as the guiding coalition eventually settles on a unified approach..

A shared vision

Because of this complexity, the coalition can take weeks, even many months, to achieve a coordinated strategy for the future. Once established, a key contribution of the enterprise architecture (EA) practice is reducing the time taken to produce deliverables – such as the business capability map, for example.

Developing the vision requires the coalition spearhead a number of initial EA work-streams.

To begin with, a set of initial readiness assessments need to be conducted. These provide a clear barometer of where the organisation currently stands, in terms of the maturity and health of its existing EA practice, or its ability to easily embed a new EA framework. The assessments play a vital role in informing the vision for the future state.

Creating a library of definitions is an important early stage activity that ensures all the key stakeholders start from a common understanding of what EA, and a number of other important concepts and terminologies, really means.

Each of these needs to be considered across three dimensions: EA domains, the EA continuum and the EA architecture practice:

  • EA domains consist of business architecture, information architecture, data architecture, applications architecture, and technology architecture.
  • The EA continuum considers reference models at a group/enterprise level, an individual business or divisional level, as well as at product application and product focus level.
  • The EA architecture practice spans the areas of EA products and services, EA people, EA content (models, principles, standards, inventory, etc), as well as processes and tools.

Guiding principles are formulated across these three dimensions and serve as input to EA vision and strategy.

So, what exactly does the vision need to look like? While there is no singular approach to this, Kotter outlines a number of important characteristics inherent in any good vision that a guiding coalition composes.

He says it must be imaginable, desirable, feasible, focused, and flexible. Finally, it must be simple to communicate (something I will look at more closely in my next Industry Insight).

A guiding coalition

As the vision starts to crystallise, the coalition segments it into different work-streams – and assigns champions to each of these. Having individuals accountable for every aspect of the vision creates a strong sense of ownership, and ensures essential aspects are never overlooked.

It is only by following this thorough approach to developing the vision that the company can address its core system challenges at a root cause level, and overcome the well-worn situation of endless ‘quick fixes’.

It must be imaginable, desirable, feasible, focused, and flexible.

Too often, budget and time constraints force companies to address only the surface symptoms – by implementing disjointed, piecemeal improvements that fail to address the underlying issues, and serve to undermine the company’s EA practice.

These kinds of vicious cycles start circling throughout the organisation. As its structures become increasingly dependent on ad hoc quick fixes, they are continually weakened. In today’s competitive market environments, this is something that businesses can ill afford to let happen.

But, by following the vigorous approach to strategy and vision creation, the guiding coalition ultimately arrives at a strategic plan that describes how the business will transition, what the end-state will look like, and where investments, energy and focus need to be directed.

As everyone buys into the vision, change agents foster a better understanding of the ‘customer’ (internal stakeholders within the enterprise), the ‘products’ (the capabilities made possible by the EA practice), and how these products will be structured and packaged to address particular business needs.

Stage 4 – Communicating the vision

From the outset, the guiding coalition is responsible for communicating the EA vision to a nucleus group of stakeholders. As the EA practice develops momentum, the communication emanates outwards, to an increasingly broad group of stakeholders within the business.

Clearly, in this phase, timing is everything.

Over time, the EA practice evolves from its fledgling state, to greater levels of maturity. As this happens, the nature of the messages will change.

John Kotter (who advises on the eight stages of change management) says the communication needs to contain the following characteristics:

  • Simplicity (eliminating jargon and verbosity)
  • Metaphor-rich (pictures are worth a thousand words)
  • Multiple forums (leadership sessions, team meetings, newsletters, Intranets, etc)
  • Repetition (to reinforce the key messages and ensure they ‘sink in’)
  • Leadership by example (conduct from leadership that aligns with the communications and messaging)
  • Explaining apparent inconsistencies (address everything that seems counterintuitive or illogical, to avoid the communication being undermined)
  • Two-way communication (involving a feedback loop wherever possible greatly increases engagement and empowerment levels)

Put simply, the goal of this phase is to ensure the right staff are provided with the right information, at the right time – and empowered to work constructively within the new EA framework.

The advantages of formalising corporate intellectual property and establishing an EA practice need to be clearly articulated – at both an individual level and a company-wide level. If the EA vision is not clearly understood, people will very quickly disengage. They will revert to old habits and frameworks of working, and the timelines for the EA practice to start delivering business value will increase.

Too often, the coalition becomes overly enamoured with EA as a discipline – too ‘inwardly-focused’ – and forgets about the importance of communicating regularly with key stakeholders, business owners, and decision-makers across the organisation.

In fact, there is a continuum, ranging on the one end from the purist that “sits in an Ivory Tower” and becomes too academic and removed from the business, to the other end of the spectrum, with an EA practice experienced in the realities of the company, knows its challenges (eg, political, technical, legacy-related), and takes a pragmatic approach to EA.

The latter is the approach most likely to succeed in generating a sustainable and value-adding EA practice.

Over time, the EA practice evolves from its fledgling state to greater levels of maturity.

Here I use the analogy of running the EA practice like a business in itself: through delivering value to stakeholders one builds a relationship where people willingly engage with the EA practice. In this ideal scenario, positive word of mouth is created – which becomes one of the most valuable forms of internal communication.

Another very impactful form of communicating the vision is when the coalition exemplifies the behaviour it is seeking to establish in others, and ‘leads by example’. By becoming a role model, the coalition is more likely to succeed in its quest to develop new ways of working within the broader company.

Stage 5 – Empowering action

But communication alone is not enough. Ensuring the broad-based empowerment of people involves doing the following:

  • Teams need to understand the vision for business transformation and the EA value proposition that will enable it. Individuals must internalise this, consider what it means to them, and truly buy into the vision. They, in turn, will become ‘marketers’ of the company’s EA practice – articulating the vision to other stakeholders.
  • Teams need to receive quality, comprehensive training on the EA disciplines and activities as they relate to the individual’s particular function within the company. They must be empowered with the architecture content that allows them to start harvesting information.
  • From there, teams need to populate all of this existing content (such as business strategies, IT strategies, existing applications portfolios, etc) into an integrated EA repository, fully embedded in the organisation.
  • An EA methodology – such as TOGAF – is customised and tailored to the company. This means aligning the EA process with the systems development life cycle, strategic planning, corporate governance, and business process improvement, for example.
  • Any barriers, at any stage, need to be swiftly removed, so individuals are unleashed to work and to add value within the new framework.

Stage 6 – Generating short-term wins

Quick wins, even on a small scale, become the catalyst to building momentum in enterprise architecture.

By this point in the process of business transformation, the company has established and communicated the vision for change, and then begun the process of empowering the right teams to start executing on that vision.

Now, as it starts to package some of the early-phase model content, it becomes crucial for the fledgling enterprise architecture (EA) practice to generate some quick wins. Demonstrating tangible business value, even on a small scale, helps to maintain the interest of key stakeholders, and ensures the momentum doesn’t start to wane.

In fact, a virtuous cycle should begin to emerge: as the EA practice develops the operational capability to satisfy some business needs, stakeholders begin to recognise the business value. This leads to positive word-of-mouth being spread throughout the company, which in turn stimulates increased levels of demand from various quarters.

Ultimately, this demand translates into increased willingness to invest in the EA journey. With greater levels of buy-in, the EA practice’s operational capabilities continue to expand, and the cycle continues.

Stage 7 – Success breeds success

Short-term wins become the catalyst to building momentum in EA. John Kotter says these early successes are vital for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • Providing evidence that sacrifices are worth it: many staff within the coalition and other areas of the business have invested great time and energy in getting to this point.
  • Reward change agents with a pat on the back: adding business value is the biggest recognition of success.
  • Help fine-tune vision and strategies: insights learned from practically applying EA can be fed back into the strategic thinking.
  • Undermine cynics and self-serving resisters: tangible EA successes start to erode the credibility of naysayers.
  • Keep bosses on board: maintaining the support of line managers, executives, and other senior stakeholders happens naturally
  • Build momentum: more and more people are drawn into the developing EA practice, as people want to associate with a ‘success story’.

It goes without saying that these short-term wins need to be built on a sustainable and professional EA practice. The foundations must be strong – so the content can be easily accessed, and re-used for further process improvement in other areas of the business.

As the demand for business transformation increases, the EA practice needs to manage expectations and delivery. The EA team cannot take on ‘too much’ in the early stages, and be seen as the team that slows things down, or hampers innovation and change.

Essentially, the value that stakeholders derive from EA needs to continually exceed their perceived cost of contribution.

As the practice reaches out into the broader company, new opportunities emerge for specialists to contribute their unique insights. To keep the right people on the team, the company also needs to attend to human capital issues, like:

  • Ensuring key EA staff members have professional development paths and the opportunities to further their formal qualifications.
  • Providing mentoring (from within the organisation, or by pulling in outside mentors).
  • Performance management processes that ensure staff are accurately rewarded for their performance.

With the right team in place, the lead architect’s focus can shift from the everyday EA operations to higher-value activities. These include continually engaging with executives from across the business – to extend the scope of the EA practice and ensure it remains relevant and value-adding.

The value that stakeholders derive from EA needs to continually exceed their perceived cost of contribution.

The lead architect and the team can concentrate on understanding the potentially disruptive “nexus of forces” (cloud, mobility, big data and social), conducting impact assessments, scenario planning, and implementing new strategies.

The architecture team is then operating on all three levels – strategic, tactical and operational; and facilitating learning across the enterprise.

In this way, the chief architect and his EA team start to position themselves as trusted advisors and business partners to the company – becoming a crucial leadership support function. Ultimately, the true measure of the EA team’s worth is the extent to which the company engages with it, and the extent to which business transformation has been realised.

Stage 8 – Making it stick

Shifting from a state of architecture execution to architecture leadership is the next step in the EA journey.

Kotter’s final stage guides an organisation on the optimum ways that change can be embedded, anchored and matured. From an Enterprise Architecture (EA) perspective, these phases relate to the ‘professionalising’ of the EA practice.

Earlier, we looked at generating tangible “early wins” in the EA practice, and how they can echo throughout the organisation, as positive word-of-mouth spreads. The next step is to build on this momentum and to establish EA across every layer of processes, people, content, and tools, and products/services.

So, what are the hallmarks of a mature-state EA practice?

  • Entrenching the ethos of “running the EA practice like a business”… The foundation of the ‘business model’ includes five process areas: managing the business, enhancing market reputation, winning better business, delivering valued solutions, and growing the EA capability. In this way, resource allocation remains tightly synced with business need.
  • Innovation… EA essentially manages intellectual capital as an asset, translating tacit individual knowledge into organisational assets, in the form of models – which fuels constant innovation. Ideas are crowd-sourced from employees and partner ecosystems, and then analysed and prioritised according to business impact.
  • Strategic planning is dynamic and living… As intellectual capital becomes formalised as a corporate asset, the company can perform strategic planning at a higher level. This enables it to respond with agility to any changes in the external environment, as well as evolving business models within the company walls.
  • Business processes and capabilities become optimised… integrated business processes are naturally (willingly) enforced across the business. Process owners and system custodians focus on the right business capabilities and continually optimise processes.
  • Investment… The organisation targets its technology investment on IT assets that support identified and measurable business objectives, all within the framework of EA.

These fundamentals represent a shift from a state of “EA execution” to what can be referred to as “architecture leadership”.

In this state of advanced EA maturity, EA should also be repositioned and de-coupled from the IT department. Ideally, EA practice leaders should be moved to the office of the CEO, reporting to a function such as transformation management.

One of the most important facets of successfully transitioning from isolated early wins to EA leadership, which is embedded throughout the company, is ensuring key people are retained. The departure of important individuals can have catastrophic consequences at this stage – meaning EA never becomes entrenched.

For this reason, successful business leaders place a high emphasis on training, mentoring and further developing the EA teams. As ambitions soar, and people develop a passion for EA, industry bodies like The Open Group provide a useful outlet for this energy.

By contributing to the industry standards that are developed by The Open Group, individuals enjoy a greater sense of purpose – a tangible feeling that they are working on ‘something bigger’. Added to this, new opportunities open up, to develop their careers and networks.

For the company, this represents something of a win-win situation. By retaining these key specialists, it ensures the EA programme does not suffer interruptions or collapses.

As the success of the EA practice continues and the solution base expands, a virtuous cycle develops momentum: more and more ‘customers’ within the company start benefiting from EA, and more and more people are willing to invest in it.

The change process speeds up and becomes smoother; the ambit of EA broadens, and starts to influence every aspect of the business – including things like strategy planning, risk management, business transformation, and even mergers and acquisitions.

The essence of EA – that of managing complexity and change – is never forgotten. This new world requires new ways of thinking to address challenges and grab opportunities. Simply put, firms that continue to perpetuate old practices, will be left in the dust.

I’ll leave you with one of the pioneers of EA, John Zachman, who succinctly describes this essential fact:

“Increasing flexibility and reducing time to market… will only happen with responsible and intellectual investment, in developing and maintaining Enterprise Architecture, to deliver quality information, to produce a quality enterprise.”

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®. 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 London 2016 to Take Place April 25-28

By The Open Group

The Open Group, the vendor-neutral IT consortium, is hosting an event in London, April 25-28. Following on from the San Francisco event earlier this year, The Open Group London 2016 will focus on how Enterprise Architecture is enabling organizations to build better systems through architecting for digital business strategies.

The event will be held at Central Hall Westminster and key speakers include:

  • Steve Nunn,  President & CEO, The Open Group
  • Gunnar Menzel, VP, Chief Architect Officer, Capgemini Infrastructure
  • Shawn Mullen, Cloud Security Architect, IBM
  • Nemanja Kostic, Head of Application Architecture, Zurich Insurance
  • Gururaj Anjan, Enterprise Architect, Tata Consultancy Services

Full details on the range of speakers can be found here.

Monday’s keynote session, including presentations from both vendors and end-user organizations, will look at IT4IT™ and managing the business of IT. It will address how CIOs can go beyond current process-based approaches and equip their teams with the right information and tools to support new ecosystem collaborations, completely automate end-to-end workflows, and provide the business with the controls to govern IT.

The first UK/European TOGAF® User Group meeting will also take place on April 27. Attendees will have the opportunity to network with industry peers, expand their knowledge and collaborate to bring a strong user community.  The inaugural TOGAF User Group meeting in San Francisco earlier this year was very productive and engaging.

The London event will cover key themes relating to The Open Group industry forums including Healthcare, IT4IT, Open Platform 3.0™, and Risk, Dependability & Trusted Technology. Additional topics of discussion at the three-day event will include:

  • EA & Government – the increasing awareness of EA and the growing adoption of TOGAF® in India. Plenary presentations include a focus on the e-Pragati initiative of the state of Andhra Pradesh
  • ArchiMate® – New features and practical use cases
  • The Open Business Data Lake a reference architecture that demonstrates how to leverage more internal and external data, how to be more agile in creating insights for business value and how to improve the productivity of actually delivering it

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

Get event updates via Twitter – @theopengroup #ogLON

Sponsors and exhibitors include: avolution, BiZZdesign, Good e-Learning, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Troux by Planview, Association of Enterprise Architects (AEA), Orbus, Van Haren Publishing, itSMF UK

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What Hoverboards Tell Us About Compatibility and the Need for Standards

By Steve Nunn, President and CEO, The Open Group

Every holiday season, there is always one gift everyone just has to have. This past year, that honor went to the hoverboard, a self-balancing scooter reminiscent of the skateboards many of us rode as kids, but with an electric motor and only two wheels—and even harder to master!

But, just as quickly as the hoverboards were flying off the shelves in December, sales for the scooters plummeted by mid-January when questions arose regarding the safety of the electrical components that make up the scooters’ drive train system. The toys became linked to a number of fires across the U.S. and, just between December and mid-February, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported receiving complaints about more than 52 hoverboard-related fires in 24 states, resulting in not only $2M in property damage, but the destruction of two homes and an automobile. In addition, many of the major retailers that had been carrying the product-–including Amazon, Target and Wal-Mart, have currently discontinued sales of the product over the fire concerns.

The self-balancing scooter industry is clearly hurting these days. How can a product that was the darling of the moment—featured on many Instagram, Vine and YouTube accounts, that gained the attention of celebrities from Jamie Foxx to Justin Bieber—so quickly turn into a pariah?

In short—a lack of compatible standards.

Although many hoverboards actually carry the UL seal and claim to conform to safety standards set by UL (Underwriters Laboratories), an independent product testing company that sets safety standards, what has come to light since the product fires is that, while many of the individual components being used in self-balancing scooters are indeed safety compliant, they are not certified to be used together, making the entire product potentially unsafe. One radio announcer may have said it best when he likened the issue to having a car that was safety approved, and a surfboard that was safety approved, but when you put the surfboard on top of the car, it doesn’t mean the car will float.

The hoverboard controversy serves as a painful lesson for makers and manufacturers about component compatibility, and the need for standards that address not just individual product components but also the product as a whole. The sad thing is that could have been avoided had makers taken the time to test the components together, or create a standard that certifies the components can work together safely.

By contrast, The Open Group certification of products that conforms to the UNIX® standard has taken this “components working together” approach for more than 20 years. The Single UNIX Specification was created, in part, to take care of just this type of problem. In 1993, when the standard was created, there were so many UNIX APIs being used in various segments of the technology industry.  The three leading standards bodies that were creating UNIX standards decided to come together to design one standard that would be comprised of a superset of the most widely used UNIX APIs. Even then, there were a large number of APIs that made up the first version of the standard. In fact, the original standard, SPEC 1170, was named thus because it included a set of 1,170 compatible UNIX APIs.

This level of compatibility has always been a critical part of the UNIX standard. Since many vendors across the industry have created their own APIs and flavors of UNIX over the years, compatibility across those systems has been the key to interoperability for UNIX systems throughout the industry. Whenever a product is certified under the Single UNIX specification, it is guaranteed to both conform to the standard, and also be interoperable with any other certified products and any of the APIs contained under the umbrella of the single specification.

Today, there are more than 2,000 separate APIs contained in the UNIX standard—all compatible with each other. To reach this level of compatibility, The Open Group, which administers the Single UNIX Specification, performs extensive testing on any product submitted for certification under the UNIX standards. Any system that is UNIX certified has gone through more than 40,000 tests to assure their compatibility and conformance to the standard.

Among the more unique attributes of the Single UNIX Specification is that the standard also contains a three-pronged guarantee for interoperability. Not only does UNIX certification guarantee a certified product conforms to the standard, but every vendor that certifies a product to the standard also agrees that its product will continue to conform to the standard while certified.  The vendor also guarantees to fix any problems with the product’s conformance within a prescribed amount of time, should the product fall out of compliance.

This type of warranty and level of rigor within the standard further guarantee that all the components are compatible and will work together. The high level of testing around the standard has worked extremely well throughout the years. In the entire history of UNIX certification by The Open Group, there has only been one challenge to a product’s conformance to the standard—and it was a very obscure calculation that was taken very seriously, and quickly fixed by, the vendor. Because every vendor who participates in the program relies on a guarantee that every other vendor’s products all conform to the standard, the system takes care of itself.

Of course, non-compliance to the Single UNIX Specification is unlikely to lead to house fires or spontaneously combusting skateboards. But there are a great many technologies that businesses and consumers rely on everyday that work together because of the compatibility that UNIX offers. If there were bugs in those systems, our desktops, mobile phones, our Internet-enabled devices—even the Internet itself—might not work together. Without the guaranteed component compatibility offered by common standards like the Single UNIX Specification, one thing is for sure—we would all be a lot less productive.

UL has announced that they are in the process of developing a standard for hoverboards. The new certification, UL 2272, will focus on the safety of the combined electrical drive train system, battery and charger combination for self-balancing scooters. It is not yet known when the standard will be available.

By Steve Nunn, President and CEO, The Open Group

Steve Nunn is President and CEO of The Open Group – a global consortium that enables the achievement of business objectives through IT standards. He is also President of the Association of Enterprise Architects (AEA).

Steve joined The Open Group in 1993, spending the majority of his time as Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel.   He was also CEO of the AEA from 2010 until 2015.

Steve is a lawyer by training, has an L.L.B. (Hons) in Law with French and retains a current legal practicing certificate.  Having spent most of his life in the UK, Steve has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2007. He enjoys spending time with his family, walking, playing golf, 80s music, and is a lifelong West Ham United fan.




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