Category Archives: Work

How the world of work and how we do it change

Enterprise Architecture vs Social Business

[A long-overdue post on the New Enterprise]

I’m deeply interested in the potentially disruptive effects of “social media” on the enterprise as we know it.
I’m also an enterprise architect – into governance, imposing some discipline, big-picture strategy, technology roadmaps, and the like.

How do I reconcile those two interests?

Some context:
Harold Jarche speaks about some of the changes in work in the 21st century, and notes that knowledge and learning in enterprise are now group pursuits, because …

Individual learning in organizations is basically irrelevant because work is almost never done by one person. All organizational value is created by teams and networks. Furthermore, learning may be generated in teams but even this type of knowledge comes and goes. Learning really spreads through social networks. Social networks are the primary conduit for effective organizational performance. Blocking, or circumventing, social networks slows learning, reduces effectiveness and may in the end kill the organization.

Sounds disruptive, and it can be, especially for businesses still mired in Taylorist thinking, seeing one right way of performing jobs, and the incumbents as fungible and replaceable resources. But some proponents of Enterprise2.0/Social Business forget the alligators/draining the lake problem – before you can get Enterprise2.0 working, you need to have sorted out Enterprise0.0 and 1.0, or you will be too immersed in those problems to make the cultural changes required.
 
Enterprise 2.0 needs the “earlier” layers to be sorted, as Alan Patrick suggests:

  • Enterprise 0 – the non IT stuff – the processes, skills and culture of a company – the bedrock layer – will scupper any attempt to add higher layers if it isn’t a strong enough foundation. In all our work we have found you have to strip back to the processes and skills as a minimum.
  • Enterprise 1 – the ERP, CRM, EDI, SOP and all the other TLAs that manipulate, manufacture and move base information around the enterprise. If the underlying data is crap, and the ability to see it correctly is non existent, then the Social Business layer will fail.
  • Enterprise 2 – as in the supporting Web 2.0 systems that support the Social Media modules – crap webpages, poor real time performance, inflexible CMS – these are only as good as the systems they sit on top of.

Which seemed to mesh with a presentation from Dave Allen (the Getting Things Done ® guy) about the whole GTD thing: it’s not actually about “getting things done”, it’s about freeing up cognitive space so we can do more interesting things. Now GTD is at the individual level, but the same principles hold true at the enterprise level: enterprise architecture (EA) is about making sure that the background stuff stays there, and allows an organisation to concentrate its collective cognition on the functions and capabilities that make it different and better and agile and a whole lot of other goodness (fill that in with whatever your organisation sees as important). One way of finding and focusing that cognition is to use social networking tools to surface and amplify it.

But if you’re too busy trying to balance the general ledger, you won’t have time to figure out what new changes are on their way, and how you might adapt to them … so EA is like GTD for companies.

 

 

 

So what is it exactly that I do for a living?

m4s0n501
It used to be easier to describe when I was programming code – while lots of people couldn’t understand what I wrote, the concept was easy enough to grasp.
 
Over the years, though, I’ve moved up the abstraction chain, and while in some ways the tools themselves are easier for people to understand (think words, and boxes and lines) the concepts are harder to explain. 
At the highest level of abstraction, what I do is called enterprise architecture, which has become something of a loaded expression with some bad reputation to overcome – but it’s still the correct term for much of my work. If you Google the term, you’ll probably find a lot of different definitions, most of which are at least partly accurate, some of which are just plain wrong. There is also some scope for definitional differences between those practicing it, which doesn’t help.
If I want to avoid the religious wars, all I can do is describe what I see as enterprise architecture, and hopefully in a way that helps you as well.
 
First – while enterprise architecture (and now I’ll start using the popular abbreviation EA) is about how, where and why technology is used in an organisation, it’s a business discipline, not an IT thing. If you like it’s the business “dog” that wags the IT “tail”, rather than vice versa. While it IS possible for benefit to be found with an IT-focused EA project, it is narrower and less transformative than if it is business-driven. EA deals with all three legs of the business stool: people, processes and systems, and can help with job/role design, organisational structure, process improvement, and technology design.
 
EA when done well, equips an organisation to handle change, whether self-initiated or coming from its operating environment. The aim is agility, or adaptability. In something of a paradox, my favoured EA approach seeks to describe a stable basis for building on … 
 
  • a definition of the functions that the organisation performs, or is responsible for
  • its preference for standardisation of business processes and their integration between business units
  • its desired business outcomes.
From that base, it is possible to analyse what the business does now and how well that fits their purpose, describe a desired target state of play, and draw up the technology roadmap to traverse the gap. This provides a yardstick against which any proposed project (not just technological) can be measured for its support of stated outcomes and/or key business functions. It can provide an ongoing framework for prioritising projects, and ensuring that what gets done has a clear reason, and meets a defined set of technology principles … what the business books call governance.
 
There’s often a considerable effort in putting together those base documents and models (and subsequently building on them); and that’s what I do … it’s sometimes referred to as “town planning for technology” because it looks at the whole technology landscape for an organisation, rather than at specific systems (the technology principles mentioned above are an interesting parallel to “building codes”). It describes a technology landscape without specifying specific technologies, but provides principles and guidelines, based on the outcomes you want, to guide technology decisions.
 
I also still play further down the abstraction chain sometimes: defining data models and designing solutions to meet specific technology requirements  – to stretch the building analogy, it’s designing the individual constructions that fit into the town plan. That’s an exercise that is always easier to do well if the enterprise architecture is already in place, but it’s not impossible to apply some of the principles in the absence of a formal EA … 
 

I mentioned my favoured architectural framework earlier: it’s called Fragile to Agile, and I’m currently working with its owners to become more familiar with it, in preparation for licencing it for independent use. You can find some more details about it on their site.

There’s more information about my qualifications and experience on my Linkedin profile
 
 
 
 

Why connect.me?

It’s been a little while now since I joined connect.me, and over that time a number of people in my network have noticed it (probably because somebody had vouched for them, and they were notified of that). A significant number of them have mistaken it for Yet Another Social Network, mainly because they heard of it via a social network. Others have assumed it to be a recommendation engine, like Digg for people, or Linkedin.

Connect.me is NOT a social network, although it uses social networking sites for initial login, connection and spreading the word.

Connect.me is NOT a recommendation service, although one of the first services based on it is a directory of people who are “vouched” for in particular skills or attributes.

Connect.me is NOT a social game, although it uses some gaming mechanisms to achieve different status levels.

So what is it, and why would you connect.me?

For a number of years I have expressed the opinion that we are barely scratching the surface of the promise and potential of the internet, and there are a couple of key hurdles we need to get over before we see the best of it.

The first is identity, including anonymity, pseudonymity and “real” names: I need to be confident that your representation of identity online is authentic, even if I don’t know your name, and even if what you show is only one of a possible range of your personæ. You need to know the same about me. Over time, you can get that level of authenticity with regular interactions and consistency of expression of ideas, values, opinions across a range of media. While that can be effective, it doesn’t scale very well, nor does it necessarily cater for commercial relationships which may be one-off occurrences. The best attempt so far has been Kim Cameron’s Infocard idea (and his Seven Laws of Identity), but that has proven a little complex to be widely adopted, so Microsoft has shelved its efforts. There are a number of opensource projects still working on it, but it’s not there yet.

The second is privacy, or more specifically, individual control over where the private/public line gets drawn. There is quite a bit of work happening in this are, and I’m hopeful that useful tools will become readily available. Projects to watch include the Vendor Relationship Management (VRM, as the corollary to CRM) project initiated by Doc Searls and others at Harvard’s Berkman Center; various projects around Personal Data Stores; recent announcements like Jonathon Schwartz’s (ex-CEO of Sun Microsystems) Carezone; and commentators like Jeff Jarvis and his thoughts on “publicness”. Jeff makes the point that there are considerable benefits from being more public, using his own experience with prostate cancer to illustrate his points that sharing what may be considered very private health issues, he was able to find valuable support and medical help. Facebook, GooglePlus and a swag of other players, of course, encourage us to share our information so they have more product to sell to advertisers – the issue there is not so much that they share it (because we can get value out of better-tailored information back to us) but that the locus of control is with them, not us. As we become inevitably more public, privacy is more critical than ever, because what we don’t reveal becomes more precious to us …

The third, closely related to identity, is trust; and this is where Connect.me plays. They explain the background themselves (and better than I could) on the site, and in the white paper they’ve published, so I recommend reading those sources. Old timers may recognise traces of the GPG Web of Trust idea in this, but online rather than in carbonspace.

Essentially, it amounts to people vouching for others in different spheres of interest, expertise and experience. These categories can be selected by the person whose profile it is, or those vouching can create others. The idea is that you vouch for people you know, on subjects that you know of them. There has been some evidence of trying to game the system, but there is a system in place to try and deal with that sort of behaviour. Vouches are NOT “like”, “follows” or “friends” – they carry reputational value, and are limited – you only have so many vouches to give, so you need to think carefully where and with whom you spend them.

You only get access to connect.me if and when somebody vouches for you – note that if you haven’t yet joined, any vouches will create a profile for you based on whatever social network the voucher is connected to you on. To illustrate: if you and I are connected on Linkedin, and I vouch for you, a profile is created for you based on your public Linkedin profile, and you will be notified of my vouching via a Linkedin message. This becomes your invitation to join connect.me and if you do, then you can add interests, skills and experience to your profile as categories for others to vouch for you in. As you add other social networks to your profile, all your connections on those networks are available for you to vouch for.

As you garner vouches from others, you achieve different trust levels – you get more vouches to give, you can be listed in a “services” directory, and you get more trust. As the service evolves, and more functionality gets built on it, that trust will increase in value – certainly social value and influence, and probably commercial. If the system works, and is moderated well (some early adopters are invited to be “trust anchors” who act as moderators and mentors) that value is based on something less ephemeral than followers, friends and relatively thoughtless likes – it is based on broad and deep trust.

Now comes the pitch: if you know me, and trust me on some subject(s) please take a look at my connect.me profile and vouch for me – some of you will find I’ve already vouched for you :)

Data Scientists/Griots Please Apply

if you can tell stories that resonate, can riff with authority, and you know how to get the most out of logs and available data sources to build and stand up thesis about Developer Experience and how to improve it we’d love to hear from you.

via RedMonk is Hiring: Data Scientists/Griots Please Apply – James Governor’s Monkchips.

 

Redmonk aren’t the only ones interested in hiring people with a fascination with data – data, and the way you use it, is becoming a significant competitive differentiator; and so is having the people who can find the important stories contained therein. Check out the definition for “griot”, and it appears that what is required are “data rappers” … finding reason and rhyme in data.

A Twitter conversation about social business

As is often my wont, this morning started with a quick glance through some Tweets of interest, especially those of some of my favourite tweeters. Among other things, I noticed Dennis Howlett flogging one of his cherished themes: the BS that is talked about “social business”

There is NO rigorous understanding of 'social business' that resonates with business buyers. Ergo it's a marketing fantasy.
@dahowlett
Dennis Howlett

That prompted a terse response from Stowe Boyd:

Dennis smacked that through the covers (that’s a cricket reference, for those unfamiliar with it – like hitting a home run in baseball):

@stoweboyd really? Try selling that bill of goods to businesses that do serious stuff and not the airy fairy crap you talk about
@dahowlett
Dennis Howlett

At this point, Martijn Linssen and myself hijacked the conversation:

@dahowlett @stoweboyd seeking truth by taking extreme positions? Den is prob right about socbiz not yet resonating with buyers … (1/2)
@achurchassoc
Ric Hayman

@dahowlett @stoweboyd (2/2) … but I don't believe that automatically makes it a fantasy. Need to find the value point(s) for each business
@achurchassoc
Ric Hayman

@dahowlett @stoweboyd and not all businesses will find a value for socbiz. what that means for their future is still unclear…
@achurchassoc
Ric Hayman

@achurchassoc @dahowlett @stoweboyd as most ent shareholders lost their stakeholder position to mgt kingdomry, I fear Dennis is right here
@MartijnLinssen
Martijn Linssen

@MartijnLinssen @dahowlett @stoweboyd Type of business, size of business, and ownership model impact greatly on potential socbiz uptake
@achurchassoc
Ric Hayman

These are some of the themes I’m trying to work through in the New Enterprise discussion – what changes can and will “social business”, “Enterprise 2.0″ or whatever you want to give it really make within our enterprises? Dennis and Stowe appear to be diametrically opposed, but paradoxically Dennis himself is a prime example of a social business, having successfully applied social media tools in his own work, as has Stowe.

Social media benefits in enterprises will be situational (a flash way of saying “it depends”) – smaller, newer, knowledge- or creativity-based companies will probably see benefits much more quickly. Likewise, even within enterprises, social business principles may find departmental niches that work well. But there IS a lot of hot air being vented around the extremes of both viewpoints, and while it makes for an interesting and entertaining discussion, I believe the truth lies somewhere between those extremes.

Resilient organisations in a complex world

Came across a Dave Snowden keynote to the KMWorld 2010 conferences in which he spoke about resilient organisations, how to build them, and what impact that has on knowledge management and IT systems. You can find the podcast and matching slides here.

A couple of the hightlights – early corporate hierarchies were modeled on the military, as one of the few pursuits at the time which organised large numbers of people and coordinated their activities. This is often derided as a model for the 21st century business, but Snowden points out that the error (if there was one at the time) was to model it on peace-time military, rather than war-time … where resilience of the military effort is conditional on ceding control to the people in the field.

Snowden talks of three management paradigms, two past, one emergent. He sees management as moving from scientific management through systems dynamics to (now) cognitive complexity as part of a complex adaptive system, where the participants and the system continually change in interaction with one another. Perhaps coincidentally, the shift from one paradigm to the next has coincided with periods of economic recession, and with reasonably significant improvements in IT capabilities – and points out the possibilities that are available with basing our management on natural science and taking advantage of pervasive computing.

I liked the counterpoint to “best practice” – that we learn better from “worst practice” – in an evolutionary sense learning from failure has been more effective, so we should move away from risk-averse “fail-safe” systems, and towards “safe-fail” experimentation.

And (music to an enterprise architect’s ears) at about 1:05:30 into the podcast, he points out that moving from software applications to an architectural approach improves resilience. Being less dependent on monolithic, slow-changing do-it-all applications in favour of using loosely-coupled “objects” (including people) was more adaptive, flexible and therefore more resilient in times of change and uncertainty.

Do yourself a favour and listen to the whole thing …

E2.0 and Social Business aren’t all-or-nothing

After checking out the conversation around my previous post and all the others I highlighted there, it seemed to me that proponents of different arguments take very polarised positions, as if adoption of social media/social business/enterprise 2.0 is an all-or-nothing decision.

As Peter Evans-Greenwood (another antipodean!) points out, social organisations aren’t inevitable – some businesses do very well with command and control hierarchies. That doesn’t mean, though, that these businesses can’t find value in a targeted adoption of social business principles: perhaps better collaboration amongst engineers and designers, perhaps a closer relationship with suppliers and customers. The point is that we don’t need to condemn that business to a wholesale culture upheaval or wipe out their current organisation structure before they see value from “social business”.

My personal belief is that future economic growth and prosperity will come from the proliferation of smaller, more agile businesses that specialise, and which are loosely-coupled with similar-sized and complementary businesses via “enterprise2.0″ as an organising principle. But there will always be some economic activity out of the reach of these less-formal structures – undertakings of sufficient size and complexity that a large aggregation of assets is required … big business, in other words, where a Weber-style bureaucracy and its implied hierarchical rigidity is quite possibly the most effective way to govern.

“Social” and “un-social” businesses aren’t opposing sides of the one coin, they are points on a continuum of something you might call “sociality” – and any measure of that is relative, not absolute. Each business can find a point on that continuum that works for them, a point where they derive value from some of the tools available. Again, as a personal opinion I think that those businesses that don’t look for a point on that continuum will not prosper … but that’s not a given either. Some businesses are like distant stars – they may already be dead, but their light could last a long time yet.

Perhaps all of us proponents of social business/E2.0 should be looking for the points of value, rather than preaching revolution – when there is sufficient demonstrated value, we may find that “social business” isn’t a bone of contention, but part of the management lexicon, like other good ideas before it. As Peter Evans-Greenwood suggests in a comment on his post, most new ideas first take hold in smaller businesses, and filter up the food chain over time. A lot of this is because new ideas can be adopted more easily where there is less inertia, and less formality in structures (it often only requires one person to decide on AND act on to succeed). Likewise, just because there is resistance to an idea in a larger company doesn’t mean it won’t be implemented – it just has a more arduous journey to make.