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.

Notes:

  • 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? 

 

 

How do we get management conversations “on the same page”?

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

When we’re busy with our own little part of the world, it is sometimes difficult to notice how our colleagues in other parts of the business are getting on (or not), and easy to immerse ourselves in our own tasks and issues. It’s understandable, but makes it difficult to collaborate when we DO meet together because no-one truly comprehends what other parts of the business are doing, and communication is often lost in translation between the different “dialects” we speak in our own specialisations. Where do we get the business equivalent of the Rosetta Stone, or a Babel fish?

Since the business capability model describes in reasonable detail what every part of the business does it is a useful tool for directing conversations to views of the business which are unambiguous, understandable and consistent with the business intent, or DNA. When supplemented by various heatmap analyses (e.g. competitive differentiators, where investments are made, skill requirements etc.) the capability model can focus people’s attention on the important things, and give them a vocabulary that underpins shared understanding. The model itself usually fits on a single page, so it literally becomes the “same page” for all to be reading from. 

 

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, how we compete, how we manage.

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

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

 

 

How can we improve our business design?

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

How can we improve our business design: how we structure, how we compete, how we manage?

One of the initial tasks an enterprise architect can undertake is the discovery and documentation of the business’ DNA – any existing mission statements, strategy documents and long-term plans. The purpose of the exercise is to determine the business INTENT – broad, high-level statements about the markets, products and services that will (and won’t) be targeted; and what will make this business different.

Depending on the management maturity in the organisation, this set of information may or may not exist in an easily-accessible form. Some of it may not exist in some formal sense at all, and on inspection the stated intent may not be what is being actioned in reality. This exercise alone may prompt some projects to (re-) establish the business intent in a form that all participants can subscribe to, and that creates a useful launching pad for enterprise architecture.

When the compiled DNA is combined with a capability model, any mismatch or misalignment between the intent and the reality can be highlighted – again prompting improvements to the business design. 

  

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?

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?

 

 

 

If enterprise architecture is the answer, what was the question?

You’ve heard the term “enterprise architecture”, and maybe you’ve been told it’s something your business should be looking at. But you’re not sure what it is, or worse – you’ve heard several different (and probably conflicting) explanations for it.

That’s possibly because when we are asked about enterprise architecture, we launch into a description of what it is and what it produces … in other words we talk about features. This is despite all the indications and exhortations that customers aren’t looking for features, they want to know the benefits; or “what’s in it for me?”.

That can be hard at times, because the benefits are dependent to a large extent on the problem, i.e. I don’t know what the answer is until I know the question. So what are some of the questions that businesses often ask that enterprise architecture can help provide an answer for? Here’s a few I came up with; you might recognise some of them:

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.

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?

 

 

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