From my first days as a baby architect, I was spoon-fed the idea that enterprise data management (EDM) was the solution to our data woes. Some call it enterprise information management or other names that mean a holistic approach to managing data that is business led and centered on stewardship and governance. The DMBOK provides a picture that describes this concept very well — check it out.
Here’s the problem: Most firms are not able to internalize this notion and act accordingly. There are myriad reasons why this is so, and we can all list off a bunch of them if we put our minds to it. Top of my list is that the lure of optimizing for next quarter often outweighs next year’s potential benefits.
Here’s another problem: Most EAs cannot do much about this. We are long-term, strategic people who can clearly see the benefits of EDM, which may lead us to spend a lot of time promoting the virtues of this approach. As a result, we get bloody bruises on our heads and waste time that could be spent doing more-productive things.
I do think that taking a long-term, holistic approach is the best thing to do; in my recently published report "Big Opportunities In Big Data," I encourage readers to maintain this attitude when considering data at extreme scale. We need to pursue short-term fixes as well. Let me go a step further and say that making short-term progress on nagging data management issues with solutions that take months not years is more important to our firms than being the EDM town crier. Hopefully my rationale is clear: We can be more effective this way as long as our recommendations keep the strategic in mind.
I am increasingly being asked the question: “What tools are business architects using?” My answer is short but not very helpful: “Microsoft Office.” In a recent Forrester survey of more than 250 organizations, 80% of the respondents said they used PowerPoint, Excel, or Visio. Thirty percent or less also use a variety of other tools, including the typical EA tool suites and process modeling tools.
My question to the business architecture community is: “What kind of business architecture tools do you want?”
Here are a few attributes to spur your thinking:
What business architecture elements do you want to manage: goals, strategy, capabilities, processes, services, organization, etc.?
How would you like to see the tool packaged: totally integrated (one tool does it all), separate components, integrable modules?
How important is it that your business architecture tool integrates with the more technically focused EA tools?
What kind of platform do you want your BA tools to run on: desktop, server, cloud?
How would you like the pricing structured: one-time purchase, lease, SaaS model?
When we get used to something, we often think it will never change, but it does eventually; who bought a house in 2006 and assumed the value would surely keep going up?
We are working at an architectural inflection point. The signals are all around us – cloud, big data, mobility, smart computing, etc. While each of these appears to be only modestly connected, I think together they signify a major shift in how business gets done and in the architecture that supports it. If true, this means the tried-and-true Business-Data-Applications-Technology model architected and delivered by central IT will not serve us much longer.
Consider the following:
Big and complex are here to stay. In the past we strove for simplicity because we did not have the techniques and technology to deal with the world as it is – infinitely complex. Read Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick. The cloud has brought the power of distributed, elastic computing to bear on enormous problems, and this trend will continue. Will central IT continue to grow in response to the increasing size and complexity of technology problems, or will a different model arise?
The cloud and the App Internet are two sides of the same coin. The cloud is about optimizing the power of centralized data processing, while the App Internet is about exploiting the enormous power of mobile devices on the periphery. What happens when we figure out how these work together? Can we create a smart grid across mobile devices that also leverages cloud resources? What can we accomplish when apps no longer live in central data centers that we own and control?