Saturday, September 25, 2010

A new context for EA: The Enterprise: An eco-system of Values and Value

Reflecting on recent discussions, Tweets and other online threads, there seem to be two reoccurring and related topics:

  1. Making Enterprise Architecture valuable
  2. Selling the need for Enterprise Architecture practice to CxOs.
Recent discussions with the OMG EAC2010 Working Group, Brenda Michelson, Sally Bean, Verna Allee, Chris Bird and Chris Potts are shaping a ‘Next Practice’ point-of-view for Enterprise Architecture. All seem centred around values and value:

Values = ‘The things cared about”

Value = “The worth of an interaction between Systems”.

How do the V’s apply across an Enterprise? My definition of Enterprise includes the subject organization’s relationship with customers, markets, and trading-partner communities.

Value Network Analysis seems to provide one of the simplest ways to represent these relationships, in this System-of-systems, we call the Enterprise. Value Network Maps are a representation of the Roles (sub-systems) and the interactions between them. Each Role has a set of dominant Values (things-they-care-about) and a number of ‘transactions’ that produce and consume tangible and intangible value with other Roles.

Click here for examples of Value Network Maps.

I believe understanding “The Enterprise” as a complex system of interacting Values and Value-Transactions is fundamental to selling the need for Enterprise Architecture as a practice (note: whether or not someone carries the title ‘Enterprise Architect’). A recent LinkedIn discussion with Verna Allee helped clarify this perspective:

“… value network mapping indeed provides an overlay for business processes. … This gives you a "process" view, but it is one with all of the key intangible interactions built into the process and not mysteriously hanging outside. At Boeing VNA is their Lean + tool and they use it extensively prior to doing the deep dive into process modeling. It serves as that reality check to be sure that a) all of the critical interactions are addressed and b) the processes do not become over structured in contrast to what is most essential.

The discovery, and the concise abstraction of ‘The System-of-Values’ across the enterprise, seem critical to understanding the style of EA required and its “Worth” to the subject organisation.

The ‘Systems-Of-Values’, will vary, sometimes dramatically, from company to company and will change over time depending on all sorts of factors from market demand to changes in leadership.

Brenda Michelson recently commented that she always does anthropology before architecture; I believe this exploration of the ‘V’s’ aligns with that thought. I also believe, that it is possible to create a usefully abstracted, values-based reference model of the enterprise that acts as a grounding-point subsequent views of EA (e.g. process, information and technology).

This worldview of EA seems all the more important as governments and businesses need to become more connected to external organisations to stay relevant and aligned with the values of their citizens, customers and trading-partners.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Chris Bird: applying P-E-C @ Sabre

Chris Bird explains how he has used the core of the vPEC-t framework as a set of principles from which to derive patterns for large-scale Event Distribution.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Balancing Reliability-X and Validity-Y

Earlier this week a Tweet from@rotkapchen (Paula Thornton) introduced me to this video of the Canadian academic Roger Martin. He talks about 'designing in hostile territory' and the tension between 'Reliability' and 'Validity' in the context of the challenge designers face in working with business and vice-versa. He hints at the dangers of measuring the things that are easy to measure and challenges McKinsey's notion the that 'Gut feel' management is dead and that “management will go from art to science” because we can now use 'algorithmic decision-making techniques' to run businesses. He contrasts that with the a designer's recent article that quotes William Blake: “I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create”. (I thoroughly recommend watching his video when you have a spare 50 minutes or so).

His presentation, however, is not banging-the-designer's-drum, it is all about reducing the Business-Exec/Designer communication gap – the same subject of that Carl Bate and I tackle (between Business and IT) in 'Lost In Translation'. It reminded me of a various conversations with Carl about the challenges of being a right-brained, theory Y, innovator in a predominantly left-brained, theory X, reliability-focused corporate world. Roger Martin also reinforced for me a the importance of patterns, analogy and story-telling 'to generate quasi past data' for the X-ers around me. He also reminded me that the X-ers are 'guardians of reliability' which probably explains why the creative 'Y-ers' are best left in their labs to innovate rather than run-the-business.

All this got me thinking back to the thread of Tweets that had led up to Paula sending this link. Over recent weeks my fellow Twits and I (in particular, @Cybersal, @Chrisdpotts and @richardveryard) have been sharing views about Enterprise Architecture and the need for a broader set of lenses to fully understand the behaviour of organisations. And so this week when I saw a Tweet from complaining about the technical focus of many Enterprise Architects from Paula, it prompted me to reply “EA should be focused on business behaviour before tech drafting - good EAs provide organizational 'therapy'”. This in turn led to Paula sending me the link to Richard Martin's presentation.

So now I'm pondering the following:

  • A good Enterprise Architecture must be a balance of X(Reliability - Doing-things-Right) and Y (Validity – Doing-the-right-thing) or to put another way, Industrialization and Innovation.

  • We've spent to much time of methods that attempt to industrialise EA (to the point that I'm told TOGAF 9.0 runs to 800 pages)

  • We need to spend more time on developing pattern-based storytelling skills in Enterprise Architects for EA bring break-through changes and allow for innovation in TO-BE models.

  • Being X or Y minded is equally valid but both sides need to see the value of the other – I'm not always appreciative of my X colleagues as they 'herd' me towards on-time delivery and finished products, and I suspect they don't always see the value of my storytelling and idea-nurturing approaches.

  • Recession needs to bring forth more Y-minded thinking ( with some sensible X-controls) - because doing the wrong-thing-well (repeatedly) got us into this mess!

  • The world can't be fully explained or governed algorithmically (thank god!)– not while values and trust dominate the way organisations function.

Uploaded to Flickr by vaXzine (under Creative Commons license)

Thanks for thoughts about 'doing-the-right-thing' to @catuslee

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Revamped Services Fabric Blog

I decided I'd spend thisn weekend tarting-up this blog and making use of the new blogger template gadets etc.I've also added more meaningful labels to make filtering on a specific topic easier (e.g. click VPEC-T below to see all VPEC-T related posts)

Other news: Richard Veryard created a Lenscraft wiki that promises to be a interesting place for developing a number of themes my Twitterati pals and I've been discussing for a while.

Photo Credit ShoZu on Flickr

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Tao of Project Management

I thought I'd do something different for Easter so I've dusted-off this short piece I wrote about 10 years ago after being asked to deliver internal project management training around the DHL Asia Pacific region (those were fun times!).Here it is...

We're all Project Managers. True, some of the projects we've managed might be nearer the gluing-autumn-leaves-in-a-scrap-book type than the launching-a-space-shuttle type, nevertheless, most of us would claim we have project management skills - after all it's just common sense, isn't it?

Taoists, of course, would agree - projects should be run simply, honestly, holistically and with a sense of fun.

A few thoughts that you are unlikely to come across on a Project Management training course:

Creating and managing projects is as much an art as a science. That is not to say that we should abandon tried and tested methodologies and techniques - just that balance is required - a 'Whole-Brain' approach to project management.

Taoist teachings emphasize the need for balance and unity - yin and yang.

Engineering and organisation alone do not guarantee success. I've witnessed well engineered and administered projects fail - the most significant of which ran to more than US$500 million before it was stopped - with very little to show!

The key to success is in the softer issues of business vision, people and flow. Much has been written about left and right brain and more recently 'whole brain' thinking. I suppose that's what I'm talking about. The most common representation of this thinking is the yin and yang symbol. Two opposites live together in a circle: one feminine/ right brain and the other masculine/left brain.

Projects are about people. People respond best to a balance of left and right brain - so projects are best run with a 'Whole Brain' approach.

Here are some key words that might help to stimulate a 'Whole Brain' approach …















Given that you believe like I that people are the primary concern of the Project Manager, Communicate must be at the top of his list next to Deliver. I leave the reader to judge the relative importance of the rest of the list.

Tao teaches us that neither side is more important. Balance and harmony matter most.

Thanks to for the image

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Serious About Play and Comics

This morning I watched Dr. Stuart Brown talking about the importance of play. He makes a number of compelling points about the role of play in the development of trust, innovation and social interaction. More specifically, Dr. Brown reminds us that stories and storytelling provide "the unit of intelligibility in our brains" (how we make-sense of stuff).

Dr. Stuart Brown: "The basis of human trust is through play-signals"

This reminded me of an article I wrote for IASA where I talk about my experience of importance of storytelling skills to Enterprise Architects. Here's a couple of things I said:

"Enterprise Architects should be convincing and credible storytellers....We architects must learn to become comfortable with the journalists’ technique of ‘Simplifying and Exaggerating’. It’s much more important to convey a highly simplified message about a complex problem to the business stakeholders than it is to demonstrate our grasp of the complex and the obscure. We must become proud of our ability to distill and communicate the important opportunities – and the barriers to change.


Cartoons and other visual media are a powerful way of communicating often quite complex, and sometimes contentious issues, simply".

Building on the value of play and storytelling in communicating sophisticated ideas, another TED video from Scott McCloud got me thinking more about the value of comics & cartoons.

Architects are comfortable with the idea of creating visual maps and blueprints. They seem less inclined, however, to see the value in 'less scientific' visual expressions. Scott McCloud does a great job of resolving this science v. arts  discomfort. He uses a number of phrases that rung-a-IS-architecture-bell for me – he talks about “watching for patterns” and explains the journey from "visual iconography to language" and creating “temporal maps” - this is the stuff of IS architecture.

Finally, he talks about creating “durable mutations” of the comic medium that create window's back into our world. And as these mutations develop they will “provide people with multiple ways of re-entering the world through different windows and when they do that it allows them to triangulate the world that the live in and see its shape".

Could one of these “durable mutations” be a new way to express Enterprise Architecture to 'the business'? And is this idea more generally applicable to how we communicate our values and build trust - independent of practice or discipline?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Great Granularity Debate

Events of the past week have led me back to the "Great Granularity Debate" that goes hand-in-glove with Service Orientation. I was discussing this with some colleagues last night - I described the problem I was dealing with as a 'nano-Lego' problem. This problem seems to come about when technically-focused architects define a 'SOA' without binding it to business drivers and objectives - this results in a plethora of  fine-grained 'architecture-for-architecture-sake-services-for-god's-sake technical services that look suspiciously like re-usable 'OO' objects (they didn't get reused either did they?).
In this particular case, the business would like to move away from their old monoliths to more granular architecture that would allow for more efficient change. They don't seem to be bothered about reuse and put performance much higher on the list. They also recognise that they're not experienced in doing things a 'Service Oriented' way and can see some of the problems in funding cross-project service development. 
All this tells me that the most appropriate SOA for these guys would be a coarse-grained and business focused. Finer grained services might be developed later as their maturity in things service oriented develops.
So my message to the techies - put the tweezers away and find some heavy lifting-gear to put those chunky business services in place first.