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?) :)


helicopters and metamodels take 2

As I threatened, I’ve had another attempt at the enterprise architecture metamodel (model of models) that I started earlier. I think it’s an improvement, but I’m still not satisfied – I’m not completely happy with the way I’ve placed the governance … but it’ll come to me! 

EA Metamodel v0.2

Hopefully I’ve made it clear that the business intent drives business design, and specifically that the business model predominantly sets the capability and people requirement and that the operating model sets the scene for business processes by determining the level of process standardisation and integration across business units.

The business intention sets the governance framework, which is then in place to monitor the execution of the business design.

As I mentioned earlier, this represents my synthesis of work done by others, specifically the Enterprise Business Motivation Model from Nick Malik, the Business Model Generation material from Osterwalder and Pigneur, and Enterprise Architecture as Strategy from Jeanne Ross, Peter Weill and David Robertson (see the foundations of the operating model idea in this PDF document, registration required). 

This is a “helicopter” level view – meant as a consulting and conversation guide for senior managers to help them place enterprise architecture appropriately in their strategic thinking. When it comes to actually doing the design work involved in getting value from enterprise architecture, a framework such as Fragile to Agile’s Integrated Architecture Framework is a natural progression from this diagram, usually teamed with some consultation to help you (re-) design your business (end shameless plug!).


If you’d like to talk some more, contact us.


Interesting stuff from September 25th through October 16th

The periodic round up:

  • The Paradox of Preparing for Change – Given that we will live through many changes in the course of our life, Hagel posits that the best preparation for those changes is to determine what WON’T change – what are our core values, our purpose or direction, and who are the people most important to us. If those things are solid, we can more readily adapt to other changes.
  • Annealing the Tactical Pattern Stack – Interesting look at how we make decisions, and the templates we use to move from ad-hoc decisions to integrated rituals as we deepen our familiarity with a domain of expertise.
  • Why You Need To Be Daring Greatly – Not your average “business” post – in fact it might seem a little mushy and “soft” … just check it out anyway, particularly the embedded video. Then think about your own life, and you tell me how “soft” it is to face our fears, and allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
  • Welcome to the new reputation economy – A good look at how digital (online) reputation is built, what value there might be in it, and how we might derive that value without giving the crown jewels of trust to ad farms. The issue is twofold: how our reputation is captured and stored, and who controls its use.
  • The internet and web are not killing retail, poor service is – Bricks and mortar retailers are making the same mistake as the book and music industries before them – assuming that the competition with online revolves around price. The battlefront is convenience – if you want me to get dressed, travel to your store and walk in, the experience had better be worth it; and the underpaid, inexperienced staff that you treat as an unwelcome cost aren’t going to cut it. When you figure out that they are your competitive advantage over online, maybe they’ll be better valued and trained. And maybe then you’ll be able to compete with online …


a helicopter view of enterprise architecture

Over the last couple of years, I’ve read a number of posts by Nick Malik around his Enterprise Business Motivation Model. I’ve also had a look at the Osterwalder and Pigneur Business Model Generation effort. Nick tried to reconcile Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas with the EBMM with this post, and raised some interesting architectural points.

This, and a twitter conversation with Brenda Michelson and others gave me the impetus to form an overall view of how I see enterprise architecture and what I’ve written up previously as business DNA. Part of this is to again explain what I see enterprise architecture is (specifically where it sits vis-a-vis the business), part to form the basis of an approach to businesses that demonstrates how enterprise architecture can be of value to them (i.e. my pitch).

Yes, there’s a diagram. It’s based on Malik’s EBMM, and his reconciliation of Osterwalder’s BMG Canvas. It’s obviously “bigger” than the business model canvas, and unlike Malik I’m not trying to describe the architectural information model.

I do however attempt to describe the major elements of a business architecture and where they fit with each other. I have to say up front that this diagram has neither the rigour nor the depth of the EBMM – partly because I’m just at the beginning of the process, partly because I’m not re-inventing anything; where other models have what I think is a good fit at lower levels I’ll use them in more detailed explanations.

Note too that “enterprise” doesn’t imply a minimum size (whether measured as revenue, employees, geographic spread etc.) – I like Nick’s idea that an enterprise is a collection of one or more business models, and our analysis of the enterprise is independent of the legal entity or entities established around it.

An example from my own experience: a diversified manufacturer that had grown via acquisition from a strong core business. By the time we were called in, the “enterprise” consisted of 17 legal entities: a holding company and fully- or partly-owned subsidiaries. Our engagement identified one business capability model and four business models (some of which covered multiple legal entities). Each business model had its own operating model; in practice all four business models had picked the same operating quadrant; in different circumstances there may have been differences there as well. Why a single capability model? So the enterprise knew what capabilities it could call on in total; we overlaid the different business models over the capability model to show which capabilities were used by which business. Having a single capability model also allowed this enterprise to recognise that their organisation structure was no longer best suited for the business models and capabilities that they had developed or acquired over time. It also highlighted overlaps and gaps across the business models for some capabilities, and made discussions about which capabilities were differentiators or not much easier.

Why only four business models, and not seventeen? To a large extent, the legal entities involved are not germane to the description of the architecture. Several of the legal entities shared a business model, which (in practice) would be applied/exercised in the same way in those entities – so these entities could share a technology roadmap (even if individual implementations followed a different timeline), or unearth merger opportunities. In the event of further acquisitions, it could identify the most appropriate vehicle – integrating a new investment is easier if there are similar business and operating models.

I’ve also delineated the parts of the model that I see as describing business intent and business design – terms taken from the architecture framework I’ve been using.


  • The diagram is not complete (I just needed to get that out for all those of you who also recognise its incompleteness) – it’s a work-in-progress.
  • In case it wasn’t obvious, I like the EBMM – I think (especially for practitioners) it’s a good theoretical base to work from. I believe it suffers from its technical bent; it’s not an easy thing to put in front of business executives and expect understanding and acceptance (and in fairness, I suspect that isn’t Nick’s intent with this form of the model). I also think that the business model canvas works for generating new business models; but from an enterprise architecture perpective, Nick’s translation of it picks up the missing pieces.

Comments are welcomed; be gentle :)

How do we handle change?

[One of a series of posts posing questions that enterprise architecture can answer]

How do we handle change, whether we’re making it ourselves or it’s being imposed on us by the business environment?

Change is a business constant. On any given day, a business can look around and say “We’re not in Kansas any more, Toto”. Whether it’s an internal change in direction, market or product mix; or whether it’s regulatory change; or disruptive changes in the market from existing or new players … we WILL have to deal with change. How can enterprise architecture help?

Start with creating a business capability model. Then define boundaries around functions, or groups of functions that form clear services that the business provides internally or externally. At this stage, by ignoring HOW these functions are performed (business processes) and by WHOM (organisational structure), it is possible to see potential for different combinations of those services to form new products, service offerings or complete businesses. It is easier to see where to invest or divest, what can be outsourced, multi-sourced or brought back in-house, as changing circumstances demand. The popular term for this currently is agility, and it comes from seeing what the business does as modular services. 


If you’d like to talk some more, contact us.


Other questions in the series:

Business design: how can we improve our business design – how we structure it, how we compete, how we manage it.

Investing: how can we ensure that we invest to our best business advantage?

Management conversations: how can we ensure that internal management discussions use a common language and understanding of the business?

How do we know we’re getting value from our IT investment?



How can we invest to business advantage?

[One of a series of posts posing questions that enterprise architecture can answer]

How can we ensure that we invest time, money and resources to our best business advantage?

In most businesses, it’s not a shortage of good ideas to pursue or problems to fix that is the issue – it’s deciding which are the most critical that causes difficulty. Discussions about which projects to fund are often hijacked by vested interests, rather than being driven by what is important to the organisation. How can you avoid that?

This is one of the most important results of defining and documenting the business intent, the organisation’s DNA. With a clear, shared strategic view of WHY the business exists, it is easier to direct investment effectively. Likewise a clear view of the current state of play with people, process and systems; a vision of the preferred future state of play; and a strategic roadmap to bridge the gap will all inform the prioritisation process. The future vision is driven by the business capability model, and the strategic analyses that it enables. All of these things are outputs of an enterprise architecture engagement – would they be useful to your organisation? 


If you’d like to talk some more, contact us.


Other questions in the series:

Change: how do we handle change, whether we’re making it ourselves or it’s being imposed on us by the business environment?

Business design: how can we improve our business design – how we structure it, how we compete, how we manage it.

Management conversations: how can we ensure that internal management discussions use a common language and understanding of the business?

How do we know we’re getting value from our IT investment?