In our Forrsights Business Decision-Makers Survey, Q4 2011, 79% of business executive respondents said that technology will be a key source of innovation for their company, while 71% said that it will be a competitive differentiator. So how well positioned is IT to help firms meet these expectations? Forty-six percent thought that their current IT organization was not well positioned to meet these needs, and 41% thought IT was overly bureaucratic.
I could go on with more data, but the message is clear — business is starving for technology to help it be more innovative, create market differentiation, and lower costs. In the midst of this, IT is mired in a technology mess created by years of underinvestment and business growth by acquisition. What’s going to happen?
The thing I want you to remember is something a client said to me not too long ago that stuck with me, “Starving people will find food.” So the question is: do we feed our starving business or tell them to stay on a diet? And if the latter, what will be the impact if they go scavenging the countryside? We think the answer involves flexibly and rapidly introducing new technology to take advantage of strategic opportunities, while still protecting data, mission-critical applications, and our most precious TCO reduction goals.
Remember The Jetsons? The flying cars and the automated kitchen and the food pills? Sometimes modern life can feel like that futuristic utopia. We've got robots in the home and a speech-recognition personal assistant named Siri built in the iPhone in our bag. IBM Watson, a supercomputer, beat its human competition in the TV game show Jeopardy! last year. How? By translating corny, nuanced questions into a format it could understand and compute.
But for most of us, our digital experiences at work feel like we're stuck in The Flintstones.
We wonder: "How can Amazon.com monitor my customer data so closely that it knows what book I want next, but after five years of daily use, my enterprise search engine doesn't get that I work in HR in the Chicago office?" We need to dig into our enterprise information so it is more rich and useful. Hal Varian, Google's Chief Economist, explained in the McKinsey Quarterly that "We have free and ubiquitous data, so the complementary scarce factor is the ability to understand that data and extract value from it." (He even goes so far as to say that statisticians will be the sexy job in the next 10 years!)
It's understandable to be cynical about semantic processing, especially if you've been told it relies on manually entered metadata.
We sure do talk a lot about enterprise architecture (EA) maturity. When I think about it, every piece of research we create is in some way intended to help EA leaders mature their practice. But alas, reading alone isn’t what matures an EA practice. Somebody, somewhere (likely, you) has the difficult task of implementing these EA concepts as processes, artifacts, methodologies, etc. And there arises the challenge: Simply building a “new thing” such as a business capability map or a set of reference architectures isn’t where maturity comes from. Rather, it’s about getting these “new things” out there, seeing them used, making sure they’re relevant, and realizing an impact.
For the many EA practices that want to evolve their practices toward a strategy- and business-driven role, actually getting that done means going outside of EA’s current scope. In order to execute on this vision, EA must consider three competencies to see them through their maturity journey, all of which are fraught with boundaries:
Insight. EA professionals need to be able to show that they have an understanding of their firm’s direction and their stakeholder’s strategies for navigating toward it. EA practices therefore need some procedure for gaining this insight — especially since most firms don’t articulate it well. But how can EA — which may historically be tactical and technology driven — get involved?
Influence. EA must now reach out to new stakeholders and use this newfound insight to influence their decisions. The challenge for many EA practices is to avoid blindsiding or overwhelming their stakeholders, as opposed to making their decisions easier. So what is the right way to approach new stakeholders and position your insight?
Nowadays, there are two topics that I’m very passionate about. The first is the fact that spring is finally here and it’s time to dust off my clubs to take in my few first few rounds of golf. The second topic that I’m currently passionate about is the research I’ve been doing around the connection between big data and big process.
While most enterprise architects are familiar with the promise — and, unfortunately, the hype — of big data, very few are familiar with the newer concept of “big process.” Forrester first coined this term back in August of 2011 to describe the shift we see in organizations moving from siloed approaches to BPM and process improvement to more holistic approaches that stitch all the pieces together to drive business transformation.
Our working definition for big process is:
“Methods and techniques that provide a more holistic approach to process improvement and process transformation initiatives.”
In our Forrsights Business Decision-Makers Survey, Q4 2011, we asked business technology leaders to rate IT’s ability to establish an architecture that can accommodate changes to business strategy. While 45% of IT rated its ability positively, only 30% of business respondents did. Clearly, both think there is room for improvement, but business is more concerned about it.
So are we agile? Only 21% of enterprise architects in our September 2011 Global State Of Enterprise Architecture Online Survey reported being even modestly agile, so I think we all know the answer.
What do we do about it? Continue to focus on technology standardization and cost reduction? Give up on that and focus on tactical business needs? Gridlock in the middle because we can’t make the business case to invest in agility? This is the struggle EA organizations face today.
To act with agility, firms must create a foundation for it, and three barriers can get in the way:
Brittle processes and legacy systems. We all know it this one; the current state mess of processes that cannot adapt to change and legacy systems where everything is connected to everything else, so even the smallest changes have broad impacts. Techniques to overcome this barrier include partitioning the problem into digestible pieces to show incremental progress and short-term payoff.
I just recently had a conversation with Peter Hinssen, one of our keynote speakers at Forrester’s colocated CIO Forum and EA Forum in Las Vegas (May 3-4) and our EMEA CIO Forum and EA Forum in Paris (June 19-20).
Peter is both a dynamic speaker and a provocative thought-leader on the rapidly changing relationship of technology, business, and “the business function called IT.” Here’s a short summary of this conversation — and a preview of what he will be talking about at our forums.
On “The New Normal”:
Technology has stopped being “technology,” and digital has just become “normal”: We’ve entered the world of the “New Normal.” The rate of change of the technology world has become the beat to which markets transform. But the rate of change “outside” companies is now faster than the internal velocity of organizations. But how will companies evolve to cope with the changes as a result of the New Normal? How will organizations evolve to respond quickly enough when markets turn into networks of intelligence?
The answer is a simply no. I’m finding that enterprise architectures are not well-grounded in this emerging area. Many enterprise architects, and particularly those who focus on business architecture, think that dynamic case management (DCM) is a newfangled marketing term to describe an old, worn-out idea — a glorified electronic file folder with workflow. Yes, enterprise architects can be a cynical bunch. But DCM goes far beyond a simplistic technology marketing term — it’s a new way of thinking about how complex work gets done, and often enterprise architects are so consumed with technology planning that they may not see new patterns of work emerging in the business that require new ways of thinking.
“Dynamic” describes the reality of how organizations serve customers and build products in a world that is changing constantly. If you doubt that assertion, think about volcanoes disrupting airlines, oil rigs exploding, product recalls, executives being investigated for fraud, new healthcare legislation, or more common events such as mergers and acquisitions. Most knowledge work requires unique processing, and processes need to adapt to situations — not the other way around. For enterprises, DCM provides a transformational opportunity to take the drudgery out of work and enable high-value, ad hoc knowledge work — much as enterprise resource planning (ERP) did for transactional processes. And, in fact, our research points to a growing use of DCM to add agility to systems of record including packaged apps and legacy transaction systems.