Focus of Enterprise Architecture?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 |

We put our marker on what the focus of Enterprise Architecture should be a a year ago this week with the release of our vanilla EA Capability Map.  Skip a year forward, and the conversation still rages as hotly as it did then.  Perhaps it's not surprising that the vanilla EA Capability Map post, even though it's a year old, is still the most read post on our blog.  So as we celebrate its first birthday, here is an interesting illustration that still makes that post relevant today:

RSessions Thinking in terms of a new paradigm for EA: Simple As Possible Architectures (SAPA).
aleksb6 @RSessions the common perception of #entarch is that it's too heavy; so with Simple As Possible Architectures, would EA even exist?
RSessions @aleksb6 EA would have a more tightly focused vision.
aleksb6 @RSessions can you elaborate what "more tightly focused vision" for #entarch would look like?
RSessions @aleksb6 One completely focused on the issue of SAPA (Simple as Possible Architectures.)
aleksb6 @RSessions how would that be implemented? how do major responsibilities of #entarch change from where they are now?
RSessions @aleksb6 EA would no longer focus on improving business or improving IT, but on ensuring solutions are SAPA.
I was with Roger right up until that last tweet.  In my experience, Enterprise Architecture groups that don't focus on improving business or IT capabilities cannot justify their existence in medium to long term.  Tackling complexity of our environments is something that we should do, but certainly not to the exclusion of stakeholder driven concerns.  This is where a Capability Map is useful, if nothing else, as a sanity check.  Tying EA processes and services to the Capability Target Diagram ensures the correctness of EA itself, so it doesn't focus on one concern to the detriment of others.


You Want Me To Run What?!

Friday, August 27, 2010 |

Thanks to the folks at OMG Business Ecology and especially Brenda Michelson, attendees at the inaugural "Optimization for Innovation" Conference in December will be treated to a very handy guide on how to manage organizations (and their buried messes) that executives inherit on a regular basis.  

Title:  "You Want Me To Run What?!" 


Change in the New Normal is different from the change we used to expect. Once upon a time change came from the outside. Now, quickly changing leadership has introduced a new stress on management and companies as they try to cope. Rarely will a director spend more than 2 years on a rotation with the same unit.  While this allows for a more rapid leadership development, it exposes day-to-day operations and in-flight improvement projects to elevated levels of risk, especially during transition periods.  It is no surprise that loss of stakeholder support has consistently been a top 5 reason for project failure.

Hence, the key question facing today's business leaders is how to efficiently evaluate and understand the capabilities of their new organization to minimize these risks.  This session will provide a foundation for constructing and evaluating capability portfolios to both optimize ongoing business operations and minimize the exposure during transition periods.  This management approach will equip the audience with a method to produce an actionable and measurable 30/60/90 day plan they can implement within their organizations.

What the attendees will learn:

1.  Why capabilities?
2.  Quantifying capability risk
3.  Using capability-based approach to quickly assess a new unit
4.  Scaling capability-based assessment from single team to entire organizations

Target Audience:

C-Level Executives, their directors, and Profit and Loss owners.

We will see you in Santa Clara!

Of EAs and MBAs

Sunday, August 22, 2010 |

While we've been busy with our Entrepreneurial program over the past couple of weeks, it doesn't mean that we haven't been monitoring the topics du jour.  One of the more interesting threads being bounced around on Twitter is whether Enterprise Architects should have MBA training.  This thread started rather innocuously by the noted EA twitteratti Todd Biske:

"Should Enterprise Architects have/get an MBA?"
As is the case with such a philosophical point, it will have its adherents and detractors (here's a good primer from Mike Kavis).  Full disclosure - I'm a strong proponent of EA and MBA, for both communities, and not just because I've been armed with an MBA during my entire stint in Enterprise Architecture.

THE responsibility of, and often the biggest hurdle to, successful enterprise architect is to be a trusted advisor to both business divisions and IT divisions.  That means being able to speak many languages - that of the business strategy, business operations, metrics (including financials), technology strategy, and technology operations - in multiple areas of both business and technology, which often have their own dialects.  Without either formal education in business administration or a significant amount of time on the ground managing business strategy and operations, I have a hard time seeing an an enterprise architect appearing credible when discussing these topics.

This doesn't mean that people without MBA can't work in Enterprise Architecture, in fact actuarial background is just as good, if not better, than an MBA when it comes to understanding financials.  Nor does it imply that an MBA automatically allows someone unqualified with technology to be successful as enterprise architect.  At the end of the day, an EA must be credible as master of many trades, so I don't really see how an MBA would hurt that credibility.


Microsoft's Take on Enterprise Architecture

Saturday, August 21, 2010 |

Normally, we don't pay much attention to Microsoft when it comes to the areas of strategy and planning, but this is just too interesting to pass up.  Gabriel Morgan of Microsoft posted his lessons learned from a year of leading Enterprise Architecture team entitled "A Breakthrough:  Maturing EA to be a Catalyst to transform the Company" That's generated quite a bit of buzz - quite a bit of it ambivalent (see Tom Graves' take here for more thoughts on this topic.)  So I'll go a different direction, and analyze the impact of what Gabriel's team has been at Microsoft on their target client base.

A bit of history.  Everyone knows that Microsoft has been trying to carve out a significant share of Enterprise IT spending.  With major competitors, such as IBM and Oracle (among others), already well entrenched in this space, it's not been smooth sailing for the folks from Redmond.  So while many a smaller company run on Microsoft foundation, penetration at higher end of organizational scale has been largely limited to departmental success stories.  The further Microsoft products become entrenched in smaller scale organizations, the better the Microsoft's enterprise division targets these clients, the more difficult it becomes to sell Enterprise Architecture.  Why?  Because at the lower end of organizational scale, Enterprise Architecture happens informally.  Most organizations in that position simply don't have the necessary capital to invest on internally-focused process improvements while delivering on their operational commitments.

I have worked in the EA doing vertical for a long time, so while I might wonder at titling what Gabriel's team has done at Microsoft a "Breakthrough," from viewpoint of his team, it's nothing short of an evolutionary jump.  If successful, Microsoft will be moving away from the developer-first culture that has been at its core for as long as I can remember to a discipline based culture.  What will be interesting to see is whether the kind of discipline EA brings to an organization will translate into better products and more discipline among its small to medium customer base.