Interesting stuff from August 8 to May 13

After too long a break, we return with the periodic roundup:

  • Bringing order to complexity – Paradoxically, “simple” is hard, and “complicated” is easy. We often end up with complicated business processes not because they are dealing with a complex problem, but because we haven’t taken enough time to design them properly. Design thinking, particularly human-centred design, is offered as an approach that applies multiple perspectives to the problem to understand the implications (upstream and down) of any changes made. One key suggestion: separation of process steps from the business rules being applied, which increases the re-useability of both. This is the stuff of business architecture …
  • Why Meetings Are Often Ineffective – Meetings have (quite rightly) garnered a bad reputation over time, mainly because they are used for the wrong reasons most of the time. Have you ever wondered why we often only schedule interruptions to our work, not the work itself? In this post, Johnnie Moore describes meetings as “action theatre” and “commitment ceremonies” where “we sit for too long, arguing with what we think is great cleverness when in fact our rational brain is already worn out and running on empty”. Fortunately he also has a couple of ideas about how we can make them better and more effective.
  • Business Models in Business Architecture – A very useful attempt from Nick Malik to describe the distinctions between business DNA (values, mission, etc.), business strategy, business models and business capabilities … as well as the relationships between them. Of particular value is the recognition that enterprises that are non-trivial in scale will often have multiple business models, each with its own strategy; and that these strategies may not co-exist happily. This is a problem when senior people don’t understand the interactions between business models and their related strategies, because it leads to turf wars, confused prioritisation and no idea what capabilities could be shared. This also is the stuff of business architecture …
  • Party politics is slowly dying. So what will take its place? – While the locale for this piece is the UK, Australia’s major political parties should take note, as the symptoms are similar here. We can recognise thoughts like “ … describes a draining away of authority from the main western parties, which, since the end of the cold war, have become increasingly bland: dangerously similar when it comes to ideology, and incorrigibly controlling” and “The mainstream politicians have forgotten that they are here to represent, not govern … We’re sick of being lied to”. The article describes the rise of single-issue movements, something increasingly echoed here in Australia. If the major parties seek a return to relevance, perhaps they should pay more attention to what issues people engage with, and “represent” rather than “govern”.
  • A Corporate Coup in Disguise | Alternet – Despite some raucous objections in the small, the TPP hasn’t hit the public’s consciousness to any great extent. This is partly due the excessive secrecy that cloaks its discussions, but also to the seeming lack of interest from the general public. This article, although slanted to the US, suggests there’s a number of reasons we should be paying attention, and why we shouldn’t let it happen …


Interesting stuff from July 12 to August 7

The periodic roundup:

  • Do Things that Don’t Scale – Technologist and venture capitalist Paul Graham with advice for start-ups (it IS his game, after all) … it’s the stuff that can’t be automated that makes a difference, so do that.
  • How Drucker Thought About Complexity – You could be forgiven for thinking that since Peter Drucker worked in a simpler time, his thinking might not apply in our more complex environments these days. You’d be wrong … check out what John Hagel III has to say (read it quickly – it’s a limited access HBR article)
  • Overcoming the Barriers to Enterprise Collaboration – All the time I’ve been involved with technology, people and organisations have been pre-occupied with technology as a “silver bullet”, the magical answer to their problem(s) – enterprise social/social business has been no different. This is a reasonably balanced view of enterprise social media, and where/how it might help with your collaboration efforts
  • Robert McNamara and the Dangers of Big Data at Ford and in the Vietnam War – “McNamara felt he could comprehend what was happening on the ground only by staring at a spreadsheet—at all those orderly rows and columns, calculations and charts, whose mastery seemed to bring him one standard deviation closer to God.” Big data can be a powerful tool, but sometimes what you really need is eyeballs on the ground, where people do real things … either that, or we all just become part of the body count


Interesting stuff from April 3rd through July 11

The periodic round up:

  • Henry Farrell – On post-democracy – “Post-democracy is strangling the old parties of the left. They have run out of options. Perhaps all that traditional social democracy can do, to adapt a grim joke made by Crouch in a different context, is to serve as a pall-bearer at its own funeral.” The dilemma facing centre-left parties the world over is one of irrelevance. This poses a problem for democracy in general, as meaningful social democracy withers. While the Australian Labor Party is not mentioned here, it is recognisable in the description …
  • The Calm Before the Solar Storm – For some time we have been given the impression that domestic solar power generation has been A Good Thing. But in a system designed for power flowing in only one direction, in an industry populated by business models that don’t fit with widespread independent power generation, there is a collision pending.
  • The Great Disconnect – As Warren Buffet commented: “there IS a class war going on, and the rich are winning”. Buoyancy in financial markets is increasingly disconnected with real well-being, a situation that is politically unsustainable. The widening gap between the very rich and everyone else is the stuff of revolution …
  • Steve Mann: My “Augmediated” Life - “Until recently, most people tended to regard me and my work with mild curiosity and bemusement.” Steve Mann’s wearable computing gear has come a long way in 20 years. Google Glass now has people taking his work a lot more seriously (although Google hasn’t caught up to him yet). Life, augmented and mediated …
  • What the NSA Sees in Our Gmail - MIT runs a little exercise in metadata gathering from your GMail traffic … a sobering reflection on our loss of privacy which by now should even be worrying those of us with “nothing to hide” from the NSA

Progress Middleware Products land at Aurea

A brief follow-up to my previous posts about Progress Software’s divestment of its middleware products … The Sonic (SOA), Savvion (BPM), Actional and DataXtend products have been packaged up as Aurea; and were accompanied by Progress alumni Hub Vandervoort and MA Ketabchi.

Australian representation is via Adaptris, who operate out of Sydney (you can check the Adaptris Contact page for details). 

The products are a good fit together; it’s encouraging to see them in the same place – there will hopefully be some product development now ownership is settled. 


Interesting stuff from February 24th through April 2nd

The periodic round up:

  • Every Employee Should Work From Home – David Heinemeier Hansson: “[Face time is] far less important as a tool of getting things done. Managers vastly overestimate it’s efficiency because it’s their job to interrupt people. But everyone else knows that being pulled into endless meetings is toxic and makes progress harder.” Remote working is topic du jour, it seems … but it’s true that the office isn’t always where you get work done. 
  • How Google Is Using People Analytics to Completely Reinvent HR – Not entirely surprising that Google takes a data-heavy approach to its HR – it IS after all its raison d’être. Will be interesting to see how it holds up over time, but I suspect that results are better than most subjective hiring decisions.
  • “The Art Of Not Sucking” – Hugh McLeod’s recipe for a meaningful life? Learning how NOT to suck … this is the place to go for real advice on success – defining it as well as achieving it. You might recognise Hugh as the source of my favourite cartoons too 
  • The Dangerous Logic of the Bradley Manning Case – The potentially far-reaching effects of the charges laid against Manning for his Wikileaks whistle-blowing represent a threat to some of the USA’s constitutional freedoms, and arguably an Al Quaeda victory more substantially damaging than 9/11
  • Death To Core Competency: Lessons From Nike, Apple, Netflix | Fast Company – “Sticking to the knitting” was the mantra; finding your key competency was essential to competing well … but is that too limiting? The Nike experience suggests that disrupting yourself is preferable to having disruption done to you: “You can’t have a barrier or restriction to that core competency. If we constrain ourselves by a circle of competency, we’ll do ourselves a disservice.”


Interesting stuff from January 7th through February 18th

The periodic round up:

  • IT as Manufacturing - Commoditisation, modularisation and small bets … this is a long way from “IT as we know it”, but right where it should be (even if it DOES upset a few large vendors :) )
  • How is social business like urban traffic? - Stowe Boyd again exploring the benefits of subordinating personal productivity to network productivity, drawing parallels with research into traffic management that indicates that forcing drivers to think more selflessly (and not seek the most personally efficient outcomes) actually improves traffic flow. So too, at work we may be collectively better-performed if we think less of our personal productivity and more of our network’s.
  • Alain de Botton’s 10 Commandments – for Atheists - Is religion required for morality? Atheists would contend not, and de Botton’s list is a good start for developing /nurturing our morality independent of a belief in gods … “We are holding on to an unhelpfully sophisticated view of ourselves if we think we are above hearing well-placed, blunt and simply structured reminders about goodness. There is greater wisdom in accepting that we are in most situations clunking and rather simple machines, with only a few moving parts and in want of much the same firm, basic guidance as is naturally offered to children and domestic animals. ”
  • America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead – An interesting, and somewhat disturbing look at what lead has done to society, and still is. It’s probably not the whole story, but the statistics suggest it’s a large part of it … and there’s still plenty of petrol-related lead in our soil, and still plenty of old places with lead paint.
  • Why IT Should Be on the CEO’s Agenda - Is enterprise architecture’s time about to arrive? Now economic observers are beginning to notice that just thinking seriously about IT isn’t enough – there has to be a bridge between the CEO and IT’s strategic potential. Enter the enterprise architect. As this article says: “Enterprise architecture can be understood as a change and transformation framework to provide open and flexible business architecture for change management under conditions of high uncertainty.”


EA Metamodel Update (Number three and counting!)

Well, I think it has improved – I prefer the treatment of governance now, and packaging a multiplicity of business capabilities into a business system (more in the “systems thinking” meaning than in the “IT system” sense) gives a clearer picture of how they string together with both end-to-end business processes (think Order to Cash or similar) as well as lower-level sub-processes contained within capabilities.

EA Metamodel v0.3

EA Metamodel – click to enlarge

As much as I’d like to, I’m not sure there’s “space” left in the diagram to display the idea of business services, which can be useful for describing boundaries for top-down vs. bottom-up process change, technical services (as in Service-Oriented Architecture), and data/process stewardship decisions. That service boundary definition exercise is much clearer on the Business Capability Model; trying to do it here may be mixing abstract and concrete concepts.

A note about the placement of governance: it’s more than just the policing of rules. Governance is about making sure that the business design delivers on the business intent, and that starts with the design constraints and framework derived from the business intent. So it’s part of the original business design exercise, as well as the ongoing monitoring and development of the design’s execution. That’s why I’ve placed it as a central plank of the model – it’s hard to deliver a business design without the ground rules embodied in a governance framework.

As a reminder: this is “standing on the shoulders of giants” – my earlier posts credit the more theoretically robust models this is derived from – this metamodel is designed to lead conversations with C-suite executives about what enterprise architecture is, and where it fits with their work at a strategic level. When it comes to actually doing this stuff, more detailed tools are more useful.

As always – comments and criticisms welcome (did I really say that?) :)