In this Age of the Customer (AoC), many traditional businesses are under threat and need to change. Organizations often have the need to rethink their business strategy and operating model – but they often don't know how to approach the problem. Today, they tend to ask others to do it for them, when in reality; they need to do this for, and to, themselves.
We’ve been helping our clients rethink how they deliver value to their customers – thinking about how to industrialize their approach by working “Outside-in” – bypassing the political challenges of individual silos. The central part of an engagement is normally focused around a “big-tent” workshop format (with 20-80 people in a room); where cross-functional teams are facilitated and guided to elucidate a set of “service propositions” that together form the core of a future-state – a new way of working, or a new way of engaging each other to solve their own problems, even a new operating model. Along the way, they will use a number of core Forrester techniques– from persona design, through customer journey mapping … before getting down to processes and metrics design.
What's the value of being able to operate at the peak of fitness and health? Is it less stress? Is it longer life? In an organizational sense, is it being able to change and adapt more easily? Is it being able to outperform your competitors in a race? Is it being able to set appropriate expectations for projects? Does organizational health lead to better longevity?
A recent crop of customer conversations prompted this line of thought. One customer asked how to prove the case for cultural change. Another wanted to quantify the value of successfully introducing a new set of IT systems. Another wanted to develop a solid business rationale for getting organizational functions to work together - to stop playing silo-oriented games where the chiefs fiercely protected their fiefdoms at the expense of the overall enterprise. Others have asked about project failure rates.
This prompted me to draw the analogy of trying to prove a negative. In one of those conversations, I found myself challenging the client to answer the question of quantifying not having functions work together; of not implementing change in a robust fashion. To be honest, this could have easily been any number of conversations over the last 6 months.
Really, these questions were about proving the ROI disciplined change. We have become so besotted by cost reduction, that we fail to see the value side of the equation (if productivity=value/resources). And while we might all agree it’s blatantly obvious that having organizational functions that work well together, and having successful projects … it’s quite hard to put figures around that.
I read this somewhere recently – I think it was the CIO of Intel, Kim Stevenson (quoting IT folklore). But it stuck in my mind, long after the link that I harvested it from had evaporated. I like it since it gets to the heart of the discussion . . . what’s the business problem you are trying to solve. So often I find myself fielding queries where the people on the other end of the phone have decided on a technological solution (a hammer), and are now looking for a problem (the right nail).
The business doesn’t want a hammer or a nail; they want something of value – the house. It’s not important that your solution has this product or that techno buzzword. They don’t care for how cute your big data credentials are, or whether your mobile mojo has trumped your social ace in the hole. These sorts of trends – big data, mobile, social – are just like, well, like the context within which the house sits.
Of course, we need that application delivered to our customers on a digital device nearby to them. Of course, we want that engagement to leverage the history of what we’ve done with that customer in the past – their wants and preferences taken into account. Of course, we want to leverage what we know others in the same context considered the right choice. But we also expect the customer to channel-hop to the Web, and then perhaps wander into a branch or store, and ring up about it to see where things are at (WISMO – what is the status of my order).
Watching a recent episode of The Apprentice, I was struck by how completely disorganized they all were. I realized that it didn’t matter who the PM was on the “team”; they all suffered the same problem – there was never enough discussion of goals and objectives, never any discussion of needed responsibilities and the roles that would carry them out, no clarity on ownership of those responsibilities (trust and empowerment). Instead of a consideration of what is needed, there is a rush to action . . . as though just starting will get them to the goal sooner.
As a result, there were always people standing on the sidelines wondering what to do – always people trying to lord it over others, always errors of judgment, missed opportunities, lack of transparency, and a complete failure to meet the goals and objectives (set by Lord Sugar).
Doesn’t that sound familiar?
So many businesses are similarly disorganized. Most organizations struggle to balance a wide range of issues – the differing demands of customers, the need to cut costs, ensure compliance, respond to the actions of competitors, etc. Point is that without an integrating architecture; these conflicting challenges spawn weak execution and organizational thrashing (just like the teams in The Apprentice). The culture in these organizations focuses on appeasing the leaders of the silos, with little thought put into what is needed to achieve the ultimate goals and objectives. And for most commercial businesses it’s the outcomes delivered to customers or external stakeholders that suffer.
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.
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.
It is that dreaded time of year again where we have to report via the performance management system (PMS) on our individual performance and the value we bring to the organization. I say dreaded, because we all know that in reality the goals and objectives were set some time ago in the past, maybe a year ago, and a lot has happened since that time. The person you report to may have changed, you were redirected to other tasks, and so on. Everything seemed possible at the time of the objective setting, but now the reality hits that you were or may have been far too optimistic about your own capability. The self-assessment is difficult as you are not sure whether your manager has the same view as you. You believe you met the objective, but does their expectation meet your actual delivery? If a good performance relates to more money, the pressure and stress builds.
So whilst I was preparing for my Orlando Business Architecture Forum presentation I started to think about how business architecture teams measure and manage their performance. One of my next reports for Forrester’s business architecture playbook addresses BA performance. It was also a hot topic for the EA Council members in Orlando. I had a number of 1-on-1’s with clients who particularly asked about BA metrics and performance — in particular, “What do other business architecture teams do?”
I started listing the questions that, when answered by clients, would lead to a very valuable report for all BA leaders:
Do you measure your BA’s performance? Clients often advise me that they have fairly mature BA practices. However, very few can articulate how they measure their performance, and often comment that the business asks them to demonstrate how BA adds value. So, it would be useful to understand whether BA leaders measure their team’s performance and why they do or don’t.
In Forrester’s EA Practice Playbook, we describe high-performance enterprise architecture programs as “business-focused, strategic, and pragmatic.” They are business-focused so that the direction and guidance EA provides has clear business relevance and value. They are strategic because the greatest value EA brings is to help its business to achieve its business strategies. They are pragmatic because, well, the path to strategy is never straight, and EA teams who aren’t agile in their approach get pushed aside.
National Grid, facing the enormous changes to the utility industry, developed an enterprisewide business capability model and made that the center of their joint business-IS planning. The result? All the way up to the C-level, EA is being recognized as a strategic change agent.
Scottish Widows Investment Partnership “reinvented” their EA program, centered on a business capability model developed over four weeks, and used to organize and link all the EA portfolios. They now have business managers as well as EA using their architecture planning tool.
Outside of BPM, one of my other passions is mentoring college students through the process of launching new startups. I enjoy helping students tighten up their business ideas and seeing them build business plans that can attract the funding they need to stand up and implement their ventures.
Recently, after reviewing and providing feedback on a student’s business plan, the student responded, “I can launch my business without a business plan; all this planning seems like a waste of time.” At first, I thought he was joking. However, I could read by the look on his face that he was serious. I am sure you can imagine the conversation that followed.
The next day when I reflected on the conversation, I had a moment of satori. I could see that startups share the same risk/reward profile as business process management initiatives. Just like startups, BPM initiatives promise huge returns to investors and stakeholders. Additionally, just like startups, BPM initiatives are fraught with risks such as inadequate funding, low adoption, and difficulty attracting skilled resources.
My conversation with the student about the importance of business planning seemed to parallel conversations I often have with enterprise architects and business architects launching or retooling their BPM initiatives. Most tend to overestimate the BPM’s potential rewards and downplay — or do not fully understand — the risks involved with launching a BPM initiative. However, for the most successful BPM initiatives, I have found that their leaders tend to have a “lean startup” mentality.
What does it mean to have a “lean startup” mentality?
Enterprise architects I talk with are struggling with the pace of change in their business.
We all know the pace of change in business, and in the technology which shapes and supports our business, is accelerating. Customers are expecting more ethics from companies and also more personalized services but do not want to share private information. Technology is leveling the playing field between established firms and new competitors. The economic, social, and regulatory environment is becoming more complex.
What this means for enterprise architects is that the founding assumptions of EA — a stable, unified business strategy, a structured process for planning through execution, and a compelling rationale for EA’s target states and standards — don’t apply anymore. Some of the comments I hear:
“We’re struggling with getting new business initiatives to follow the road maps we’ve developed.”
“By the time we go through our architecture development method, things have changed and our deliverables aren’t relevant anymore.”
“We are dealing with so many changes which are not synchronized that we are forced to delay some of the most strategic initiatives and associated opportunities.”
The bottom line is that the EA methods available today don’t handle the continuous, pervasive, disruption-driven business change that is increasingly the norm in the digital business era. Our businesses need agility — our methods aren’t agile enough to keep up.