Creating governance programs that separately address structured (data) or unstructured (content) can be a daunting task for any organization. Most organizations are just now addressing the governance issues that help ensure that their information, both data and content, is trustworthy and reliable. If creating separate governance programs is such a challenge, then why I am advocating the creation of a combined program for information governance? The challenges of governing structured data differ from the problems governing unstructured content, due to different goals, stakeholders, roles, and processes. The result is that governance of these areas involves completely separate endeavors.
But must they be wholly separate? Isn't there enough common ground? Creating an information governance framework that will address both their structured and unstructured information requires that the appropriate IT and business roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and that stakeholders from both IT and business are in agreement with the design and implementation efforts for an effective information governance strategy. Is this task too daunting for an organization to overcome? As more decisions are made using both data and content, it becomes increasingly important that all information used in the decision process is trustworthy and reliable. Agility in decision-making is dependent upon the right information at the right time. So my contention is that we should not wait for our data and content governance program to mature before implementing an overall information governance program. We should look at the similarities in the two governance programs to create a common framework that can be leveraged to create commonality and consistency in the information architecture.
The US government will start tracking hospital readmission rates. Why? Because we spend some $15B each year treating returning patients. Many of these would not need to return if they followed instructions — which involve meds, follow up out patient visits, diet, and you get the picture. To be fair, it's sometimes not the patient's fault. They often do not get a proper discharge summary and in some cases they are just not together enough to comply. They may lack transportation, communication skills, or the ability to follow instructions. Doesn't it make sense to figure out those at-risk patients and do something a little extra? It does. No question. And translates to real money and better care, and this is where big data comes in — and it's nice to see some real use cases that do not involve monitoring our behavior to sell something. Turns out — no surprise here — the structured EMR patient record, if one exists, is full of holes and gaps — including missing treatments from other providers, billing history, or indicators of personal behavior — that may provide a clue to readmission potential. The larger picture of information —mostly unstructured —can now be accessed and analyzed, and high-risk patients can have mini workflows or case management apps to be sure they are following instructions. IBM is doing some great work in this area with the analytics engine Watson and partners such as Seton. Take a few minutes to read this article.
If you’re trying to build an effective EA program, you’re in trouble from the get-go. I’d like to paint a rosier picture for anyone involved in this strategic, potentially very high-impact practice, but consider the fact that one of our more frequent client inquiries is about how to communicate EA’s value to non-EAers. How can I not say you’re in trouble if so many people doing EA look for outside help to explain to their own stakeholders that what they’re doing on a daily basis is worthwhile? There’s clearly something wrong with this picture.
So, OK, let’s say you want to build an EA practice anyway, despite the poorly understood value proposition — who should you staff it with? Misguided people with a desire to labor away in obscurity? Actually, no, you want your best and brightest. Those few very smart people who know your business very well, have both deep and broad knowledge and great analytical skills, and who display the potential for strategic-, system-, and design-thinking. That's a little challenging.
And then, when you find these people and attract them to your program, how best to organize them for effectiveness? Centralizing EA resources gives you the most control and makes it more likely that EA can deliver on its strategic value proposition. Decentralizing or federating EA resources puts the architects where the action is, making it more likely business and BT stakeholders will perceive value from the effort. But then those federated resources sometimes get so involved with their local — and usually tactical — issues that they go native and they’re not really working on the “E” in EA anymore.
Many business people still struggle to see the role of business processes in building better performance (i.e., business results). So I thought I would share this little hook that I developed within one of my consulting engagements. It is based around preparing bread: Mixing the components of the bread — the flour, yeast, and water — and then baking it all together for an effective result.
In your business, it is the dough rising that equates to achieving its performance objectives — however those performance objectives are defined.
Whether they’re aware of it or not, in most businesses the different ingredients are not well aligned or working together as well as they could be. Mixing the metaphors for a moment, the roles and actors are not rowing together in a coordinated fashion. Business process management (BPM) brings together a range of techniques and approaches — the BPM tool box. The components of this tool box help change agents in the business (the bakers) create their own special sort of dough. At the heart of that is an ongoing inquiry into business processes — if you like, the water that binds the flour (your people) with the yeast (the technology).
There may be other ingredients involved that add their own subtle contribution to flavor and texture. But cooking is not only about mixing the right quantity of ingredients; it is also how you mix them and how long you bake the mixture. You might think it is just a question of getting the right measure of ingredients. But first, it is necessary to decide on the sort of bread you want to make, how it is going to be delivered, and to whom. Alongside the choice of people (flour), the most critical element is the water (processes) — the ingredient that binds it all together.
Speed and agility are at the heart of business today — and, unfortunately, those are two areas in which IT is falling short. Two trends — neither of which is going away anytime soon — are impacting this increased need. Consumerization is rapidly changing the expectations of today’s information workers. In too many instances that we care to acknowledge, your employees are using faster, more agile solutions at home than they are at the office. On top of that, businesses are under an increased demand to change.
Enterprise architects are in a unique position to be change agents for their businesses — if they aggressively change the way they work with the business. Join us at our Enterprise Architecture forums — May 3 to 4 in Las Vegas and June 19 to 20 in Paris — for practical guidance on how to connect EA with your business’ bottom line.
You already know it. Technology is completely pervasive in our lives, and in how businesses operate. It’s pervasive in how business execs think — they know that every change they make has a technology aspect to it. As my colleague Randy Heffner says, “It’s no longer enough to say that technology supports business. Today, your business is embodied in its technology.”
You already know it. The pace of change in our highly interconnected and interdependent world is increasing — and along with this are the opportunities and risks which change brings. From emerging markets to new social platforms such as Pinterest, business leaders are finding they can’t assume stable business models and environments anymore. Gone are the days of three-year strategic plans — the mantra now is: “How quickly can we sense and respond to new opportunities and threats? How quickly can we shift our business for these changes?”
In today’s business environment, the pressure to change, and change quickly and often, is growing, thanks to the proliferation of empowered customers, emerging global markets, regulation (and deregulation), and growing social responsibilities. For the past several years, I’ve worked with CIOs from all types of industries as they’ve worked to transform the culture, the tactics, and the technology of their organization to become more agile. The successful ones, like Michael Mathias at Aetna or Glenn Schneider at Discover Financial Services, now sit in organizations where the business leaders look to IT as a key enabler of business agility.
And interestingly, when you speak with these successful CIOs, they often point to their enterprise architecture (and business architecture) as the secret weapon for how they achieve that agility -- the ability to tap new technologies and processes to help their businesses shift and innovate quickly. That’s great news, and shows the potential for high-performance EA practices.