By Al Kiessel on Feb 29, 2012
Does Cloud require the IT organization structure to change? Or, is an appropriate IT Service Management framework all we need?[Read More]
Does Cloud require the IT organization structure to change? Or, is an appropriate IT Service Management framework all we need?[Read More]
Why do we care? Understanding the role IT plays in the business will be important in establishing proper scope, obtaining support for initiatives and delivering the greatest value to the organization.
Recently I was working on strategies for Data Center Transformation. The challenge was a scope focused on the technology domain during the Architecture Vision Phase. How do we create alignment to the broader business architecture, when the drivers and KPIs tend to be tied almost exclusively to IT operating and capital expenses, or an idea of supporting business agility?
I was concerned that the technology architecture strategy that I was defining was too vague and treated IT as if it was applied monolithically - Standardize, Consolidate, Optimize. I looked to Strategic Significance as a way that I could potentially provide a more nuanced technology strategy, that took into consideration that IT has more strategic significance to different parts of the organization.
Taking a broad brush approach – we could imply that IT is strategic to almost every modern business. That being without IT capabilities much of the organizations functions would come to a halt. However, what we really are looking at is most likely a wide-ranging application of tactical capabilities applied across the different business functions. So, in this light, IT is as Strategic as a reliable Electric provider.
I think it is fair to say, that the Business Leaders assume that competent facilities people will keep the lights on, just as IT will keep their processes rolling along. So, how strategic is IT?
What is Strategic Value
Strategic Value is about Competitive, Pricing, Cost, Product or Market Differentiation. Wal-Mart’s strategy touches on three of these – Pricing and Cost are talked about widely. Being the low-cost leader establishes a unique place in the market. The can achieve this through their cost strategy, influence upon suppliers and the generation of Wal-Mart specific low-cost products based upon their buying power. Finally, geographic spread – Wal-Mart is everywhere, is a part of a Market dominance strategy.
Strategic Relevance – When IT "Is the Value Chain"
So, when does IT take on the role of a Strategic Differentiator? Ever here of Google or Amazon? There product is IT. This is a bit of an extreme example, but the point is that the closer IT is to the Product or Service the more strategic it's value is to the organization. In the absence of Information Technology what would their product be? Even within the Amazon example, you can not diminish the capabilities that they have developed around order fulfillment. This includes a lot of manual picking and packing, and they are very efficient in how they have implemented this capability. However, if it was not for their ability to reach customers and match customers to products via the Web, they become a catalog retailer of the 1950’s.
Strategic Relevance – When IT is a "Part of the Value Chain"
When else do we see IT as providing Strategic Value? A Recent story about Target and their customer targeted marketing has been in the news. This is how Target uses Predictive Analytics to selectively market to individual customers based upon their buying habits and trends, in conjunction with some very sophisticated algorithms. This allows Target to maintain mindshare and attract new customers, which they claim provides them with about a three-year attachment run. Here we see this Predicative Analytics playing a significant role in Targets Marketing Strategy. The capability is core to their Marketing approach for customer capture and retention.
So Strategic Value can be identified on broad terms where IT is the Business or as specific functional segments within the business. The importance is how close the IT capability is to the actual fulfillment of the business strategy. Both Amazon and Target see IT as strategic; it is just a matter of scope. I am sure they both have General Ledger and HR Systems, but do those IT capabilities provide strategic differentiation?
Technology Archtiecture Strategy - Data Center Transformation
So, if I am in an EA Engagement establishing the Architecture Vision and my scope is the Technology Domain, what are some of the tools I can apply to assess the strategic significance?
A reasonable place to start might be at the Business Architecture. We need to establish our understanding of the Capabilities and Processes that drive the business. Paul Silverstein has developed some useful models for evaluating business value vs. business scope – how much value the organization receives versus how broadly a capability or process impacts the organization. Funding Models might be a useful piece of the puzzel as well.
By individually, assessing each capability we can define them in terms of tactical impact and strategic impact. Next, we can evaluate each from the perspective of IT support required to deliver the capability. We can start with the organizational alignment of IT and the business function to see to what extent the IT function is integrated within the business capability. Where there is tight alignment, we might want to highlight that capability for further analysis within the Architecture Vision Phase. Funding models may provide us with insight concerning the functions dependencies on IT, and how much control the business function maintains over their IT capabilities.
Often we use Strategy Maps, and they provide value. But what if I want to refine the assessment in order to establish tighter line of sight between functional stategies and IT. I have seen some examples of balanced scrore cards used in assessing IT's relative value, but it tended to be applied very broadly. I am suggesting that by assssing IT significance to the individual business function strategies in scope, we may be able to define a technology architecture strategy that focuses where the different standardization, consolidation, and optimization strategies will be most impactful, and return the greatest value.
Models and Tools for refining Strategic Alignment and Significance?
Are there tools you use for IT Strategic Assessment?
I would be interested in hearing how you define the role of IT within your customer’s organizations, and how they determine strategic significance? “Leveraging the New Infrastructure”, a book from Peter Weill and Marianne Broadbent, has some very interesting models depicting IT Investment to IT Impact.
Do you have models or re-purpose models such as Balanced Score Cards to focus on IT value and strategic significance?
Are there specific metrics that you or your customers find useful in defining strategic signifcance?
Just recently, I was asked to provide some advice to a customer on how to adopt SOA Governance, specifically the Oracle Enterprise Repository (OER), in a step-wise and rational way. It seemed like sage enough advice to publish here
Here is what they were trying to do which is similar to what other customers are doing:
So it can be successful - but you don't want to boil the Governance Ocean - at least not all at once. In a word, I’d advise getting a firm understanding on which services you want to govern (probably not all of them) and the types of things you want Governance to do for you. Once you have that, you can move forwards in a stepwise approach that reduces the effort AND complication. Realize that installing OER is only a small part of the puzzle. You need to have the right Org structure (official or unofficial) in place and the right incentives and rewards to help motivate people to “do the right thing” such as to reuse services instead of writing their own. Then you need the right processes to for people to follow. It’s the notion that:
Governance = PEOPLE + TECHNOLOGY + PROCESSES
Let’s say there are 50 key services to manage - for discussion purposes. Here is what I’d do at a super high level:
Things that add complexity that you can add later IF they add value to what you are trying to do:
And so on. But add these later after the basics are down.
So - I hope this helps anyone else who wants to begin a SOA Governance effort using OER (with OSR, OSB and OEM as secondary stages after initial success).
I wanted to make you aware of several white papers recently authored by my colleagues here at Oracle. I hope you find them helpful in your own EA related activities.
It's nice (and humbling) to know that people read one's blog. I got a note from a reader that said:
"I understand that SOA is more concerned with business services integration and EA is concerned with dealing with enterprise-level infrastructure and business components.
If you could, would you be able to provide a brief definition of them both in your own words that clearly distinguish the differences? (that's different from my one?)"
Good question. SOA, I'll give it a try (forgive the pun). This is strictly off the cuff, my cuff, recognizing that there are plenty of places to dig up various definitions of the two.
Enterprise Architecture - The documenting and mapping of corporate strategic initiatives and strategies to the technological underpinnings that need to be in place to optimally deliver on those strategies. What makes EA more than an intellectual or academic exercise is that it provides the governance scaffolding to ensure that the required work gets done to plan and deliver on required/key IT products/services/capabilities. Importantly, EA is not focused on any one technology or technology bucket in isolation, but how they work in consort to ultimately provide business capabilities.
Service Oriented Architecture – An architectural approach to creating software applications and system integrations which focuses on the notion of Services; reusable software components that leverage open standards. This provides a vehicle for companies to create applications more rapidly than ever before through composite service assembly/orchestration. Because they are Service-based, they are, at the same time, more flexible. Though SOA itself has nothing to do with any specific technology (it is architecture and an approach), Service creation/assembly/orchestration is often enabled through technologies such as Java, XML, and Web services.
Is that useful?
Enterprise Architecture is more important than ever with the increased adoption of Cloud Computing. Most companies that I work with have a range of systems and initiatives that span the continuum of “must stay in house” to “this is best run in the public cloud.” There are 3 types of Cloud Models:
In all cases, Cloud is an IT operational model (what systems run where) that is driven by business needs and imperatives. Even if you go 100% Public Cloud, you still need to make sure that the Applications and Information provided by those systems are meeting the ever changing business needs. The Hybrid Cloud model provides even more complexity because applications, communication, integration, data flow, and security need to be coordinated across the Cloud boundaries.
Enterprise Architecture is the glue that can help keep all of these things together and is why Cloud Computing does not get rid of the need for EA, in fact, it is this humble author’s opinion that it dramatically increases the need of EA stewardship over Cloud.
* (Latin for Seize the Cloud)
Eric Stephens, my friend, and fellow Oracle Enterprise Architect, recently blogged on the subject of “Tools of the Trade” of Enterprise Architecture. I was invited to the same podcast as he was, but could not attend. So, in absentia, I thought I’d add my two cents to his sage post:
There are several very good EA tools on the market, but each come with their own learning curve and, as Eric mentioned, there can be variance in usage across companies - ranging from no standardized EA-specific tools to adoption of one such as Troux.
Having said that, here are the tools that I think are basic / fundamental in an Enterprise Architect’s tool box and how they can be used (or at least how I use them). Idea is to embrace, but extend what Eric said.
Spreadsheet (such as, but not limited to Excel)
Capturing everything about the project such as organization structure, divisions, current costs, etc…). Once it is in the spreadsheet, it can be sliced and diced and, importantly, imported into the presentation software to make clear the facts that went into the current/future state positioning. Also key to making a business case for any initiatives to be undertaken.
Presentation Software (such as, but not limited to Power Point)
Communication, communication, communication! Getting everyone on the same page through information roll-ups, diagrams and architectures is really at the heart of what we do. Yes?
Oracle JDeveloper / BPM
This is great for sketching out a business process in BPMN notation which (unless you NEED a L0 – L2 model) is a pragmatic way to flesh out current and future state business flows. The added benefit is that, with Oracle BPM 11g, Business Analysts and Developers can begin to collaborate on fleshing out your model once a business process automation project gets the go-ahead.
Sure, you have to download a development environment but, hey, it’s free and relatively easy to use tool.
Whiteboard Markers (such as, but not limited to Expo markers)
Nothing works better than getting people in a room and working through a particular topic in a collaborative fashion.
Hint from personal experience: make sure they are dry erase and not permanent.
Well organized file system (such as, well…you get the idea)
The more you do this stuff, the more you have a library of tried and true materials that are battle tested. Try to organize them well on your disk (or do what I do and catalog things in a spreadsheet with hyperlinks to the files – one of my secret tricks)
So, that is my story. But, I may likely not stick to it....
So recently my buddy over at OTN Bob Rhubart asked, “What tool or tools are indispensable in your role as an architect? When faced with a new project what's the first thing you reach for? Why?”. I instantly protested regarding the brevity of the answers. He suggested I blog about it. So here goes.
So the Miss America answer is I “reach” for my eyes and ears. Listening to the customer’s needs and pain points is vital to ensuring a resultant architecture is in alignment with their business objectives and is attainable within their cultural milieu. I need to approach each engagement or initiative with a fresh, clean slate and record everything I hear or see. I can’t help but liken the job to that of an archeologist or crime scene investigator - especially when focusing on current state architecture.
For practical tools I look to a metamodel to determine what type of information am I trying to collect. It depends on the corporation or framework I might be working with, but the metamodel provides me a sense of completeness in what I’m looking for. Its a great way to catalog current state observations and look for trends, redundancies, and sub-optimizations. When creating a set of future state renderings, it allows me to parse out future capabilities and map them to goals, drivers, and other objectives.
So how do I track this information? I use Excel to track catalogs and matrices of the information in the metamodel. Optimally I would pump this information into a repository-based EA modeling tool like Troux, or MEGA. But not all EA programs have made the leap to these tools - many are still relying on PowerPoint/Visio (or OmniGraffle for us Mac folk). If I really need to do some extensive analysis - and its happened at least once - I’m able to export to CSV files and put them in a database and use my SQL-fu to come to an answer.
As digital as I have become with an iPhone, iPad, and MacBook, I still rely on a bound notebook for taking notes - especially during customer conversations. The linearity of (spectacular) programs like Evernote, OmniOutliner, or even MindMap Pro just doesn’t work for me during discovery sessions. The information is not in a linear outline. I need to draw arrows all over the place. I need to instantaneously switch back-and-forth between writing text notes and drawing pictures. And batteries will eventually die or the flight attendant will bust me during takeoffs and landings…
So there you go. A metamodel, Excel, and a good notebook. That’s my answer, Bob, and I’m sticking to it.
Whether we design paintings, buildings, or the functions of an enterprise, the element of design comes into play. The drivers for any design effort boil down to realizing business outcomes. Nothing more, nothing less. Two recent articles I found resonated with me on this topic and I thought I would share.
Of course, your thoughts are most welcome!
This is such a poignant post that I felt compelled to repost it here. In a Linked in blog post by: Pallab Saha, he clearly positions why EA is a superset of IT architecture and why the two need to be kept separate. I am reminded of my study of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style – the classic treatise on clarity and brevity of written expression. Pallab nailed it in these collection of key points:
Six Reasons Why EA Should NOT be Assigned to the IT Department
6. EA ≠ IT Architecture
5. True EA leads to redistribution of authority, which is beyond CIO jurisdiction.
4. EA value proposition (i.e. standardization vs. innovation) is solely business realizable.
3. The primary goal of EA is to build coherent enterprises, not better IT systems.
2. Synthesis takes precedence over analysis.
1. EA failure is an organization failure, not an IT failure.
Packaged Applications (such as PSFT, eBiz, etc…) are the very operational heart and soul of most companies. Whether it is human capital management, logistics, sales, or any number of other fundamental applications - they are most valuable when they are customized to fit YOUR business and integrate with YOUR systems. The problem is that these customizations and integrations are most often done with built in (proprietary) tools or using things like PL SQL, batch files or other less-than-optimal (often proprietary) solutions.
Enterprise Architecture steps in at this point because the move from one major version to the next is a major undertaking for most companies; one that takes month (sometime as much as a year) to plan and implement. When the applications have been customized to meet the business’s requirement, these very customizations make upgrading more complex. One of the tasks of EA is to establish guiding principles which help shape decisions at every level of the architecture. One key principle here is “Keep COTS Packages as Vanilla as Posible” – meaning do as little customization as possibly directly in the application itself. The more vanilla the application is kept, the easier it is to upgrade.
It is a best architecture practice to place these customizations in the middleware layer where standards such as Java, Web services, XML, and the like mitigate the risks of using proprietary technology. They also provide a more comprehensive and faster-development-lifecycle framework for integrating with the entire corporate IT ecosystem while greatly enhancing the possibilities for service/integration reuse.
So, with all that being said, a common question I get is “OK, where do we draw the line between using the built-in tools vs. using a middleware layer?” This chart helps answer and provides delineation between the reasons to use one approach over the other. Though not exhaustive, it should provide a framework for figuring out which customizations/integrations should go where.
I have been getting a lot of questions about how to get ready for TOGAF. The 2 previous entries have some good advice about training classes and how to study. I will add (and reiterate) that the single best thing you can do after taking the training class is to
1) get the book and read it over and over so that you go from familiarity to really knowing the material (I found the physical book better for studying than the electronic book). The smaller study guide was not of as much use other than the fact that it summarizes things well.
2) get the sample tests and quiz a “study buddy” back and forth. My buddy and I blasted questions over instant messaging while we were on the phone talking over our answers
Hope that helps (more)
Well, I passed the TOGAF Certification Exam. Super happy. Here is some advice that I passed on to someone who saw my previous post:
I recommend the class led by Architecting the Enterprise. That will get you familiar with the materials but not ready to actually take the test. At the end of the class they hand out a practice exam which is great for preparing. The links I put on the blog are another set...
I recommend getting a study buddy who is preparing as well so you can quiz each other. Read the book 8 times through, cover to cover. Memorizing is only part of the battle, you have to really KNOW the materials.
Well, I am one week away from going for my TOGAF certification. For those who are also going for your certification and want some additional prep, I found two sets of additional questions for Part I and Part II (scenarios) of the test. Check them out - good questions.
Yes, ITs still about the business. Period.
Art, Artifacts, and Best Practices for Enterprise Architects