Road Maps Are Powerful When Linked To Business Outcomes

The use of road maps to illustrate technology plans is fairly widespread. Whether it's a vendor explaining its product plans or a technology architect showing the evolution of a particular area of the infrastructure, road maps are great for communicating what happens when. And when plans as illustrated by the road map get sign-off, they can become a useful tool in change management as well. Someone wants your key resources for a special project? Fine, but all the dates on that road map they just approved just shifted six months to the right. Road maps tell the story of what to expect an organization to accomplish for the foreseeable future, and that's what makes them powerful. 

That's why road maps that link traditionally difficult-to-explain areas of technology, such as those related to information management, to specific and highly desirable business outcomes can be a major win for architects looking to communicate what they're doing and why. There's always been a Catch-22 about explaining the value of complex technologies to audiences with no appetite for technical complexity -- but with needed sign-off authority for key resources (like funding). If the EA team has credibility (OK, that can be a big "if"), just showing the interrelationships between business outcomes, business capabilities, IT projects, and required activities in the various EA domains can satisfy the need for "explaining" that complex technology. Or for explaining the need for that not-well-understood architecture process that requires business involvement, such as information architecture development or governance. 

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Take A Broader View Of Agile To Survive In The Digital Age

I just finished analyzing our Q3 2012 Global State Of Enterprise Architecture Online Survey, where we asked a number of questions at the end of the survey on how firms identify and introduce new technology – new technology that your firm is counting on for innovation and competitive advantage. The results underscore a conviction that is growing in me: IT’s “one-size-fits-all” approach to standardizing everything and general aversion to risk isn't cutting the mustard. Simply put, opportunities for competitive advantage through technology-fueled disruption get missed, and this means digital extinction. Some data from our survey of 207 enterprise architects:

  • 58% reported that sales and marketing is among the top five most likely organizations to deliver technology innovations, and they are chasing windows of opportunity that close in months. IT typically takes at least a year to do anything.
  • 52% say there is at least some business dissatisfaction with the level of new technology introduction. The top reason, given by 78% of respondents, is that IT is too slow.
  • 70% of respondents admit their firms have trouble reacting to disruptions caused by emerging technology, and 60% admit to difficulty reacting to change in general.
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Elite Business Architecture Leaders Focus On Stakeholder Needs; Do You?

Over the last few months I have met or spoken to a significant number of Forrester clients who are undertaking a business architecture initiative. As you can imagine, these initiatives have various sponsors and are at various levels of maturity. Some business architecture (BA) initiatives are being driven by chief information officers (CIOs) and chief technology officers (CTOs) wanting to get a seat, and become an influencer, at the strategic decision-making table. Whilst others are being driven by business executives, who either believe business design and transformation is a business responsibility or that IT has insufficient business competency to understand and deliver what is required.

The different levels of maturity struck me, as just like the English Premier League (that’s where real football is played, for those not in the know) there are the elite (the big boys – top five or six teams) and there are the also-rans/others. There are also the elite BA teams and the non-elite BA teams. The gap between these two groups is growing, which will be a nightmare for a non-elite BA leader benchmarking his initiative against other organizations. Where one could argue in the football reference it is money that divides the two groups, as this attracts better players and creates better teams, with BA teams it appears to be more based on focus. Less mature and non-elite BA teams focus their efforts primarily on the building of BA, reacting to siloed demand and then selling or pushing BA artifacts to stakeholders in the hope that they find these artifacts useful. Whereas, the elite BA teams focus on addressing stakeholder needs and the use of BA, delivering relevant BA services and allowing stakeholders to pull the BA artifacts that address the challenges they face.

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Which Mountain Are You Trying To Climb?

When I look at the sorts of advisory work we engage in, I am often struck by the fact that our client organizations are at very different start points on their business architecture journeys. The start point is complicated by the team’s perception of the stakeholders they serve (to whom they deliver value) and the ultimate objectives for their initiative. Not only are the start points and journeys themselves different, but the challenges met on the road also differ. So in a very real sense, working out which mountain you are scaling is just as important as the deciding the route to get there and the team required for success.

We see many different types of business architecture efforts — usually they are attempting to support one or more of the following initiatives:

  • Provide the basis for transformational change.This is especially difficult when transformation implies changing just about everything you do and, most importantly, the way you think. When the organization is going for a “wellness program,” rather than continuing to apply project fixes like Band-Aids, the challenge is to engage colleagues on that longer-term objective rather than becoming fixated with short-term efficiency goals.
  • Remove redundancy post-merger in an M&A scenario. Often, the challenge here is to take two or more distinct cultures and legacies, and develop one compelling future, complete with new organizational structure and road map to get there. Sometimes dressed up with other titles such as process harmonization, this usually involves surfacing views of the business and its purpose such that leaders and managers see past their own silo-oriented agendas.
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