Step back and think: How would you answer the question, “What does your IT group deliver to your business?” Your answer will indicate how you think about the relationship between business and technology, and, in turn, it will affect your business agility and your business-IT alignment.
If you answer anything close to “IT delivers and integrates solutions to meet business requirements,” your mental model boils down to thinking that your solutions support the business: Business is one thing; solutions are a separate thing. If the business has a problem, let it come ask IT for some application to address the problem — maybe IT will even help the business figure out what it needs. Each application supports (typically overlapping) parts of the business, and IT performs whatever behind-the-scenes integration is necessary to gain some degree of coherency across the whole. The result is the sort of siloed spaghetti application mess that most organizations are dealing with — even if SOA and BPM and the rest make it easier to deal with.
Can you remember a year when your business both (1) grew in a healthy way and (2) changed more slowly than the year before? Besides a company’s early startup years, such would be the exception, not the rule. So, in 2011, your business is likely to continue accelerating its pace of change. A recent Forrester report, The Top 15 Technology Trends EA Should Watch: 2011 To 2013, named both business rules and SOA policy as items for your watch list — because both of them help accelerate business change.
Back in the mainframe days — and even into minicomputer, client/server, and Web applications — nearly all of the business logic for every application was tightly wrapped up in the application code. A few forward-thinking programmers might have built separate parameter files with a small bit of business-oriented application configuration, but that was about it. But, business changes too quickly to have all of the rules locked up in the code.
Some have tried the route that businesspeople ought to do their own programming — and many vendor tools through the years have tried creatively (though unsuccessfully) to make development simple enough for that. But, business is too complex for businesspeople to do all of their own programming.
Enter business rules, SOA policy, and other ways to pull certain bits of business logic out of being buried in the code. What makes these types of approaches valuable is that they are targeted, contained, and can have appropriate life cycles built around them to allow businesspeople to change what they are qualified to change, authorized to change, and have been approved to change.
Forrester’s recent book, Empowered, describes the type of technology-based innovation by frontline employees that can cause nightmares for enterprise architects. New tools for business innovation are readily available to anyone, ranging from cloud computing and mobile apps to social networks, scripting languages, and mashups. Faced with long IT backlogs and high IT costs, frontline employees are building their own solutions to push business forward.
What worries architects is that (1) solutions built with these new tools — with little or no vetting — are being hooked to enterprise systems and data, opening potentially big risks to reliability and security, and (2) the siloed, quick-hit nature of these solutions will drive up ongoing costs of maintenance and support. Traditionally, architects use enterprise standards as their primary tool to ensure the quality, efficiency, and security of their organization’s technology base. However, when applied in the typical “lockdown” fashion, standards can stifle innovation — often because vetting a new technology takes longer than the perceived window of business opportunity.
To deal with these conflicting pressures, architects must forge a new equation between responsiveness and technology control. The business value of responsiveness, combined with the typically limited size of enterprise architecture teams, means that most organizations cannot wait for architects to vet every possible new technology. Thus, you must find ways to use architecture to navigate the tension between the business value of responsiveness and the business value of a high-quality technology base. The key is to build innovation zones into your architecture; Forrester defines these as:
At Forrester’s recent Business Process And Application Delivery Forum, there was a very interactive session on “Using The Next-Generation PMO To Promote Innovation,” led by Margo Visitacion. The premise of the session was that leading-edge PMOs (project management offices) are evolving to a more strategic role, focused on portfolio management of business investment rather than just IT projects or programs.
Many clients have suggested their PMO mission is already elevated to this level. They now focus their efforts on everything from guiding business leaders through building a business case for the investments they want to make, to guiding decision-makers through selection from the portfolio of investment proposals, to tracking benefits realization and ROI after the fact. PMOs with this kind of business-focused, strategic mission have greater business impact and are often close partners with executives leading their firm.
Ask people what makes May a noteworthy month, and many folks in the northern hemisphere will wax rhapsodic about its being the peak of springtime. Others might mention Mothers' day. Ask Forrester's IT analysts and they're pretty sure to immediately blurt out "IT Forum!" IT Forum -- the conference formerly known as GigaWorld -- is our biggest IT conference as it brings together all our IT analysts and about a zillion of our customers in all the IT-based roles for whom we do research. Each major IT role gets a separate track of research -- that's 10 tracks this year. It's essentially a week of non-stop analyst-attendee interaction in various forms. It's intense for both analysts and attendees and easily the most stimulating week on my calendar. At least, on my business calendar (wouldn't want you to think I don't have a life!).
This is not really a new blog post. It's a relatively recent post that didn't manage to make it over from my independent blog. I wanted to be sure it made it to my Forrester blog because I will have lots of publications and posts on information architecture coming up and this was a post on my first piece in this series. So here's the original post:
In January, the lead-off piece that introduces my research thread on information architecture hit our web site. It’s called Topic Overview: Information Architecture. Information architecture (IA) is a huge topic and a hugely important one, but IA is really the worst-performing domain of enterprise architecture. Sure, even fewer EA teams have a mature — or even active — business architecture practice, but somehow I’m inclined to give that domain a break. Many, if not most, organizations have just started with business architecture, and I have a feeling business architecture efforts will hit practical paydirt fairly quickly. I’m expecting to soon hear more and more stories of architects relating business strategy, goals, capabilities, and processes to application and technology strategies, tightly focusing their planning and implementation on areas of critical business value, and ultimately finding their EA programs being recognized for having new relevance, all as a result of smart initial forays into business architecture in some form.
I recently published a sample business capability map for insurance firms as a way to illustrate many aspects about the description and use of this business architecture methodology. One of the readers of this report commented “It seems the business capability maps provide value as a complement to existing methodologies” and referenced Strategy Maps and Business Process Modeling. This made me realize that I should explain more how Forrester sees capability maps as more than a complement – and why we, along with many of our clients are so ‘jazzed up’ about this methodology.
A bit of background: Forrester views capabilities as stable elements of a business model, where the dynamics of a firm are reflected in the business goals for the capability, and the processes, functions, information and other assets which are how a capability is delivered. A capability map describes all the capabilities, and the relationships between them, which an organization needs to have as part of their business model to achieve outcomes. Think of Sales as a simple example, where there are business goals and associated metrics for Sales, and processes, functions, information and people assets necessary for this capability to be delivered. And Sales has a relationship to Fulfillment, to Customer Service and to Marketing.
Forrester analysts have long been active bloggers about the roles and subject areas they cover. If you've been a prior visitor to the Forrester Blog For Enterprise Architecture, you've seen posts from Randy Heffner, Gene Leganza, Jeff Scott and myself. From these beginnings, we've learned a lot - and we've put these learnings into our new blog platform and network.
Here's an overview from Cliff Condon, the champion and project manager for this new platform:
Hey everyone. Here it is – Forrester’s new blog network. We made some change to improve the experience for readers and to encourage more analysts to blog. Feel free to poke around and let me know what you think.
There are a few things I’d like to point out to you:
* Everyone’s welcome here. Forrester analysts use blogs as an input into the research they produce, so having an open, ongoing dialogue with the marketplace is critical. Clients and non-clients can participate – so I encourage you to be part of the conversations on Forrester blogs.
* We still have team blogs focused on role professionals. Our role blogs, such as the CIO blog and the Interactive Marketing blog, are a rollup of all the posts from the analysts serving that specific role professional. By following a role team blog, you can participate in all the conversational threads affecting a role.
* And now we’ve added analyst blogs as well. If you prefer to engage directly with your favorite analyst, you can. Look on the right-hand rail of the team blog and you’ll see a list of the analyst blogs. Just click on their name to go to their blog. Or type their name into “Search”. An analyst blog is a place for the analyst to get reaction to their ideas and connect with others shaping the marketplace. You’ll find the blogs to be personal in tone and approach.