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Forrester’s EA Forum – The Panel Discussions

January 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Wow, I really dropped the ball on this blogging thing. I haven’t written an entry since the end of October ! I guess our annual Q4 frenzy got to me and I reverted to old habits — drop everything except what’s due next. And to think that despite my lack of social media activity, I managed to nab the coveted 233rd slot in Technobabble’s list of top analyst blogs! Imagine what might have been possible if I had kept up. Blew my big chance for fame; or, at least, a shot at a 22x ranking. Oh, well. I have resolved to do a more consistent job of fitting social media into my workflow. I’ll make up for some lost ground over the next couple weeks once Forrester’s EA Forum in San Diego (February 11 & 12) and London (March 2 & 3) convene — I plan on tweeting and blogging frantically to keep up with the flow of ideas that those events produce.

The flood of ideas comes from the constant interaction with practitioners, from the pre-conference program for the EA community members (Forrester Leadership Board/EA, aka the EA Council), the one-on-ones that are scheduled for any time slot an analyst has a free 20 minutes, the questions and discussions during and after formal sessions, and just all the random encounters that happen when a lot of people are in the same place at the same time.

An added plus this year will be the presence of Brenda Michelson in the role of official external blogger. She’ll be wandering around, attending sessions, commenting through her blog and Twitter, and, I hope, acting as a stimulus for discussions at the conference as well as in the blogo- and twittersphere. This should prove much different from just inviting the press.

This year, besides a vanilla stand-and-deliver session, I’m also doing three panel discussions. Now, panel discussions can be fun, stimulating, and illuminating, but they can also be extremely ho-hum. It’s challenging enough to say something meaningful in a 45-60 minute session without breaking the time up into smaller chunks to rotate through panel members’ comments — you can easily wind up with a series of truisms being trotted out to the nods of the audience with no real value added beyond general encouragement to keep on doing what we all know to do.

But I’m psyched about these panels because I’ve lined up questions I think will dig out the nuggets of advanced knowledge that my esteemed panelists have in their heads. I’m not going to go so far as to take on the persona of an obnoxious talk show host, but I will use the panelists’ answers to questions as the jumping-off point to really dig into what made them successful, or exactly how to go about implementing a new approach to architecture.

I’m doing a panels on: 1) Best Practices Of Successful EA Teams (a keynote session), 2) Next-gen EA, and 3) Business Design As The Key To Information Architecture. What would you want to ask successful EA leaders about the obstacles you are facing? What about a bunch of supposed experts on EA 2.0, or whatever we’re calling this phase of the evolution of EA? How about that most difficult of places — the intersection of application development, business architecture, and information management? What would you ask of experts who say they know how to best juggle the demand for tactical results with strategic needs? Here is a sampling of the questions I have lined up. Feel free to comment and suggest approaches. If I use your question, I’ll be sure to blog about the answers here.

Panel: Architecture Guides IT ’s Delivery To Business—Key Practices From Three Firms

Questions:

How do you deal with the tradeoff between the value of keeping to standards and being “responsive to the business” by allowing for non-standard technology implementations?

How do you deal with prioritizing your resources around the right issues? If your answer is to go where the heat is, how to you ensure that you don’t get too tactical?

How do you ensure that EA influences business and/or IT decision-making? How do you know that the architecture is being considered when people are making decisions? What is your governance model and how do you know it’s working?

Would you characterize EA as an IT function whose charter is to help IT plan better and to guide technology strategy, or as a business function whose overall goal is to help the business meet its goals? If the former, is all this “EA 2.0” talk about being closer to the business just a lot of hot air? And if the latter, should EA report into the business instead of IT?

Panel: Next-Generation Enterprise Architecture

Questions:

We’ve heard a lot about “EA 2.0,” “next-gen EA.” Why do we need a new approach? Is it because the old approach isn’t working? Will the new approach “work” better? Is next-gen EA a change in what EA is trying to do or how it’s going to go about doing it?

If, in the new scenario we keep hearing about, EA is closer to the business, is it farther from technology? Does EA leave its responsibilities for technology strategy and technology governance behind? If not, then this is additive, isn’t it? So this means EA teams will get bigger? Or do EA teams teach IT technology subject matter experts to add architecture-related tasks to their day jobs, thereby making the technology-related responsibilities of EA more virtualized?

Will EAs be involved in forming business strategy? Or will EA be, at most, “shaping demand,” whatever that means? Or, will EA be doing all these new things just to do a better job of setting the technology strategy?

How can an organization tell if they’re ready to make the move to next-gen EA? What are the indicators that an organization is ready? Or, conversely, what are the indicators that an organization is not ready to attempt a change? Are there some types of organizations that will be better positioned for this move? Is it sector-related? Size-related? Related to any kind of maturity model?

What comes after this? Two years from now, what will we be describing as the next next-gen EA program? Is EA 3.0 completely virtualized with architects absorbed into the business?

Panel: Briding the Silos: Business Design As A Guide To Information Architecture

Questions:

Are there good reasons to be pursuing a service-oriented architecture or creating data services and not establishing a canonical information model? When is it OK and when is it not OK? How can it be a good idea to pursue IaaS without establishing a canonical information model? What is the downside to not engaging in formal IA activities?

About half the people I’ve surveyed who say there have a formal IA practice say they have a predominately bottom-up approach. This means that the primary trigger for internal IA research will be an application project. Now, it’s good that there is a driver for pursuing IA but it’s problematic to impose a project’s timeline on that sort of strategic  activity. What approach to IA can best accommodate the need to do some IA “archeological digs” in the context of projects?

IaaS, MDM, ETL, BI, data federation, data virtualization, semantic technologies, etc. etc.: Are these all different approaches to different problems that just happen to be about information, or are they connected? Would it be crazy to expect to be able to build a strategy that uses each of these information-related technologies in a complimentary way? And what about BPM? Where does that fit in? Are there any shops out there with information strategies that present a coherent view of the use of these technologies to achieve business goals?

How do you connect “business design” and business architecture to a coherent set of strategies for all the related information architecture and information management areas?

People have had enough trouble doing IA because it’s highly political and the technology requires an architect-and-high-priest-level of understanding of some pretty esoteric areas. Now we’re telling everyone to add in a major business architecture component to drive and focus the whole set of initiatives. Is there a pragmatic approach to this?

Your turn!
What questions would you ask the experts on these panels?

Bridging The Silos: Business Design As A Guide To Information Architecture
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Q & A From Next-Gen EA Teleconference Oct 09

October 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Jeff Scott and I presented a teleconference entitled “Next-Generation Enterprise Architecture” last week (available here). It was a lively session with a lot of material on our side and a lot of questions from attendees. We focused on the questions over the phone in the live session and decided it was best to handle the written questions that came in via the Webex chat in a blog post.

Two closely related questions kicked things off:

“How are enterprise IT organizations rationalizing EA’s role in Demand Management with ‘traditional’ Customer Relationship Management?”

“Traditionally, aligning IT strategy to business strategy is typically the job of Head of Application or Application Client Relationship Manager.  EA was more a technical advisor.  Are you advocating the marriage of these positions?”

Response

Traditional IT customer relationship management has been handled by application managers or dedicated client relationship managers. Unfortunately, this arrangement has perpetuated a business unit silo approach down into the IT organization. Demand mangers have done just that: managed the demand their business clients present them with adding little if any enterprise perspective to leverage existing resources or collaborate on new solutions. Relationship managers have done a good job collecting all of the requests, prioritizing them, and sequencing them into the solutions delivery workflow. What is needed is more demand “shaping” and less demand “management.” And this is where EA s can help. Using business architecture tools and techniques, EAs can help ensure investments are being optimized across the business unit silos.

Forrester is seeing leading edge EAs working with business leaders at a conceptual/strategic level to determine what needs to be done with an enterprise perspective, rationalize the needs at the enterprise level, and then help translate the needs into business unit aligned initiatives that can be managed by the traditional demand managers. This shift does require that EA move from being technical advisors to strategy advisors.

EA's Value To The Top CIO Priorities

EA's Value To The Top CIO Priorities

Next question:

“Given a mixed environment of legacy, COTS, and custom solutions, supporting a changing business environment and delivering precision IT says EA has to not only cover business/process architecture, but also the information architecture. Where / how do you see information architecture coming together?”

Response

Now that’s a big question and its generally the main subject of my (Gene’s) research agenda for the next year or so. In the distant past, organizations attempted to pursue information architecture and wound up mired in a boil-the-ocean initiative that never ended and always seemed far from producing value. The failure of these initiatives made people very cautious about starting them up again. But all the attention on business processes brought about by the popularity of BPM suites as well as decomposing processes into services to pursue SOA has brought information architecture front and center. All processes act on data and focusing on process without getting the data right just doesn’t work (and there are other forces at work also raising the priority of information architecture). The only way for information architecture to come together is through ownership and conscious effort. We’re strong advocates for the EA team to lead the charge, but what matters most is that someone own the overall effort and then engages the appropriate IT and business subject matter experts  to develop the information architecture and then govern it. The real trick is to scope the program in increments to be able to deliver near-term benefits in the context of projects that deliver business value while working on the strategic goal. But by no means should an organization treat the whole issue of rationalizing data sources casually in an ad hoc manner. Look for upcoming research from us to provide more details on this issue.

EA's Value To The Core IT Processes

EA's Value To The Core IT Processes

We’ll take the last three questions together as they’re all about tools to support EA:

“EA teams struggle to justify the cost of tools to support them. There is rarely any quantified ROI of investing in EA solutions.  How are they to overcome this?”

“Can you address the role of collaboration tools in EA teams?”

“Is it idealistic or too far out to consider that automating many related aspects of EA through tool integration is possible. For example, from the information architecture viewpoint you structure your data classifications and categories; from a technology viewpoint you capture the maturity of your products (i.e., those strategic ones to re-use, those to contain/retire, etc.); and for solutions architecture you capture business requirements. Is there a way to use the tools associated with one space in the other?”

Response

Most EA teams just use diagramming tools such as Visio either because, up to now, that’s all they really needed or because they could justify neither the cost of the more elaborate EA tool offerings nor the time investment needed to master them and train everyone they’d want to use them. That picture is starting to change as EA teams become more federated and find themselves needing to tie a growing multitude of SMEs into a cohesive EA effort. The trend towards business architecture will also help move this along as a key focus area for this discipline is relating medium-detail-level business architecture components, such as capabilities, to their corresponding IT components, such as services or applications. Analyzing dependencies in complex environments and building detailed strategies will increasingly require a repository, modeling standards, and a variety of models. The gold will be in analyzing the interrelationships between business capabilities and technology’s capabilities, and the ability to look at the layers separately and together will become increasingly important. And even if this kind of analysis can be achieved manually with great effort as a one-off project using simple Office tools, it will be impossible to maintain manual models in complex environments, and the value in the effort will be quickly lost as the info gets out of date. On top of that, as the second question hints at, the growing network of architects will make some sort of collaboration tools a requirement.

However, while I feel confident the need for EA tools is growing dramatically, that doesn’t mean that it will be much easier to justify the investment in one. It’s still difficult to communicate the value of EA efforts to folks who focus intensely on near-term solutions within organizational silos (that is, most people in most organizations). But if the EA function exists, then somebody in a management role in your organization must believe in its value. Start there to explain what you would do with a tool. Be specific. Generalizations about how a tool would be a great asset clearly won’t fly. But the ideal of pinning tool value to a specific ROI may be elusive. You could use the tool to analyze, for example, your application and infrastructure software portfolio and identify all the redundancies, claiming all the cost savings that would result from consolidation as tool ROI. But you could probably do that, albeit with more labor, without a tool, and many consolidation projects don’t get past the drawing board.

So I don’t think that linking to a specific project’s ROI is the way to justify investment in an EA tool. I think the value in an EA tool is strongly related to the value of the EA program, which is both fuzzy and powerful. Fuzzy is bad when you’re trying to get someone to write a check, but EA can provide significant value and an EA tool can enable analysis and visualization in important ways.

Back to starting with your local EA advocate in management – for many your CIO – and being specific about what you’d do with an EA tool. To do that, you have to understand the available tools’ capabilities and think through how you might use them in your EA program. You will have to show specifics about how the tool will either save a significant amount of time and labor, or, better, enable analysis that would otherwise be impossible manually. That means you’ll have to research the tools, find case studies of how they’ve provided value, and determine which features and functions you would make best use of. Then write the story of what great things you would do if you had the right tool, and start pitching. No shortcuts here, I’m afraid.

And about that question about tools to promote architect collaboration – once you’ve created a short list of tools, see if there is a related feature available. If you can get some of that functionality in a package that you can roll out to your network of architects and SMEs, great. But there are probably collaboration tools already in your shop (that you may have helped to standardize) that you can look to  to foster collaboration. Internal blogs, Wikis and Sharepoint sites can be relatively simple things but provide the functionality you need to get architects talking to one another, even across a widely distributed organization. It doesn’t have to be fancy – all you really need is a place to post discussions (with appropriate tagging/search/archiving functionality) and a way to message your architect community in real time.