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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