Recently, I interviewed a half dozen top service design agencies to better understand how they work with enterprise architects and business architects inside the client firms they serve. All of the agencies I interviewed focus on helping their clients transform customer experience and introduce new products and services. I wanted to interview these agencies because they represent the tip of the spear when it comes to introducing new innovation inside of companies looking to take advantage of disruptive drivers - both competitive and digital – and rethink their business models.
I asked each agency for examples of how they worked with their clients’ enterprise architects and business architects when introducing new innovation. When I posed this question to each agency, I could hear crickets chirping in the background. In short, they all indicated – in as nice terms as possible – that they try to avoid the IT organization in general, and had no contact with specific enterprise architects or business architects.
For me these interviews painted a picture of a school yard where team captains are picking players for kickball, and a small group of kids were being left on the sidelines, not picked for the team. Using this analogy, the business – in many cases the CMO and CXO leaders – are the team captains. And enterprise architecture, including business architects and process architects, are the kids being left on the sidelines.
I heard a great analogy from a client recently; buying new technology is like buying a new car - there are a lot of different strategies. Some people want a new car every couple of years and pay a premium to have it, some choose to lease so they get a new car every few years at a lower payment but they don’t own. Others buy new but plan to drive the wheels off their purchase. The problem is that IT wants to buy a nice reliable sedan and drive it for 200K miles, while some business units want to lease a SUV and others want a Ferrari. It’s an issue of misalignment, but in so many cases IT is not synching up with the business desire to innovate and differentiate with new technology.
Many architects and technology executives relate a cautious approach to introducing new, “bleeding edge” technology because they are in a very conservative business that doesn’t change that much. Ask them about the level of business investment in technology outside of IT, however, and they whistle. “Yup, that’s happening allot.”
When I posted a blog on Don’t Establish Data Management Standards (it was also on Information Management's website as Data Management Standards are a Barrier) I expected some resistance. I mean, why post a blog and not have the courage to be provocative, right? However, I have to say I was surprised at the level of resistance. Although, I also have to point out that this blog was also one of the most syndicated and recommended I have had. I will assume that there is a bit of an agreement with it as well as I didn't see any qualifiers in tweets that I was completely crazy. Anyway, here are just a few dissenter comments:
“This article would be funny if it wasn't so sad...you can't do *anything* in IT (especially innovate) without standing on the shoulders of some standard.” – John O
“Show me data management without standards and good process to review and update them and I'll show you the mortgage crisis which developed during 2007.” – Jim F
“This article is alarmingly naive, detrimental, and counterproductive. Let me count the ways…” – Cynthia H
"No control leads to caos... I would be amused to watch the reaction of the ISO engineer while reading this article :)." - Eduardo G (I would too!)
After wiping the rotten tomatoes from my face from that, here are some points made that get to the nuance I was hoping to create a discussion on:
It's becoming pretty clear that the ability to analyze data is becoming one of the most important technology-based capabilities an enterprise can have. There's a lot of hype around about big data, and it's actually well-founded hype --- if that's not a contradiction (perhaps I should call it well-founded fanfare). In any event, our world is changing as organizations gain the ability to process formerly unheard-of amounts of data with formerly unheard-of speed. New, improved information processing capabilities are significantly changing science, where scientists in labs look for patterns in data rather than dream up hypothoses and run tests to prove them right or wrong. And, in similar ways, it's changing how businesses make decisions. I've been looking for evidence that enterprises are moving on improving their information management capabilities since we started doing our "State of EA" surveys in 2009, and the 2012 data finally shows that developing or expanding information architecture is finally EA's #1 priority (well, OK, it's tied for first place with developing or expanding business architecture).
Information Architecture Is Finally A #1 EA Priority
SAP launched its HANA in-memory computing platform in 2010. HANA is a converged analytics appliance. Three years later, SAP has officially launched Business Suite on HANA: globally in January and in China on March 19. SAP clients can now run mission-critical applications on the converged infrastructure for optimized performance. Personally, I would suggest calling this an example of converged applications, which in short refers to the business applications that are architected around the converged infrastructure for performance and simplicity.
I had several conversations with architects from the retail, logistics, and manufacturing industries, as well as Tom Kindermans, SAP’s senior vice president of applications for APJ, about these converged applications. I tend to believe that this is the next wave of application architecture, after mainframe, client/server, and browser/server. With the deployment of these converged infrastructure offerings and the evolution of the applications that run on top of them, it might change technical architectures across infrastructure, information, and applications, as well as the organizational structure of IT, the architecture, and the partner ecosystems. My assessment:
The definition of converged applications is blurry. The meaning of incorporating converged applications can vary quite a bit. Sometimes it means migrating an application from one server to the other; sometimes it means refactoring your networking and storage design for load balancing and disaster recovery; and sometimes eliminating an original performance bottleneck means that business challenges that had been lurking under the surface might emerge for you to resolve. It totally depends on your business goals.
I find that enterprises continue to struggle under increasing volumes of varying types of content. Historically, you will see the enterprise architecture professionals take a product-specific approach to their enterprise content management (ECM) strategies: document management for office docs, web content management for online content, records management for corporate records, and so on. However, enterprises increasingly need to support multiple content types in different ways. The most successful content management implementations have focused on controlling and optimizing information assets using content and records management technologies, policies, and best practices.
We are finding that sourcing content management technologies are becoming increasing more difficult due to the wide array of business use cases and content technologies to support them. Merely buying a content management solution can still result in functionality gaps, or it may result in shelfware if you don’t need the total breadth of functionality. Instead, as the number of content types grows, you will find it easier to match requirements with content usage, rather than just content types. A successful content management program must:
■ Provide a consistent, predictable ECM experience.
■ Surface the content easily.
■ Increase the value and reliability of the information.
Data management history has shown, it is not what you buy; it is how you are able to use it that makes a difference. According to survey results from the Q4 2012 Forrsights BI/Big Data Survey, this is a story that is again ringing true as big data changes the data management landscape.
Overall . . .
Big technology adoption across various capabilities ranges from 8% to just over 25%.
Plans to implement big data technology across various capabilities is as high as 31%.
Pilot projects are the preferred method to get started.
However . . .
High-performing organizations (15%-plus annual growth) are expanding big data investments by one to two times in many big data areas compared with other organizations.
The key takeaway . . .
For most organizations, big data projects aren't leaving the pilot stage and aren't failing to attain strong return on investment (ROI).
As architects, we all know the importance of context. The right architecture for one context – say, an organically growing company – doesn’t work for a company growing by acquisition. The right technology strategy for a medium-size American company doesn’t work for a China-based one.
Well, the context for enterprise architecture itself is changing. We’ve got The Age Of The Customer forcing companies to transform outside-in. We have what is called technology consumerization – our business users have access to ever more powerful technology solutions independent of IT. We have digital-fueled business disruption, as described in James McQuivey’s book, Digital Disruption. And all this is driving the demand for greater business agility – the ability to quickly sense and adeptly respond to new opportunities and threats in their context.
What a great opportunity for enterprise architecture programs! But this is only possible if they shift from a focus on cost to a focus on opportunity, change from controlling to enabling technology, and adapt their practices to the need for quickness with “just enough insight.”
The term “one-trick pony” allegedly originated back in the 19th-century days of the traveling circus, where low-end ones were sarcastically called “dog and pony shows.” The really bad ones got the reputation of having a pony that only knew one trick. Today many IT shops are in danger of becoming like those sad circuses, having one or at least a very limited set of technology tricks to help their firms seize opportunities quickly. For example, I routinely talk to business people who say they avoid IT at all costs when they have new analytic needs; at these firms, IT has only one response to all new requests for data – update the data warehouse or a data mart in a slow and expensive waterfall development process.
One term keeps occurring, as I talk to businesses about this issue — they want to be real-time. We’ve been using the term for years to talk about a wide range of things, from embedded C to extreme, low-latency analytics. I think all of these miss what the business is really after — the ability to use more information more quickly to take rapid action in response to unanticipated changes in their environment. Five-year technology strategies are out; but many can’t get their head around this new world, which is why a recent Forrester study showed that IT is increasingly losing control of technology spend. How do we get back in the game?
Companies like Barclays Wealth Management, Sears, and USAA are redefining their architecture with new tricks to be responsive in real-time by:
As some of you know, I’m a bit of a political junkie. I believe I picked up the political bug from years of riding shotgun with my dad as he listened to Rush Limbaugh blaring on the car radio. As a kid, I loved listening to Rush and trying to understand where he was coming from, trying to understand his perspective, trying to understand his ideology. The term “culture wars” in U.S. politics is used to define a clash between two different political ideologies – conservatism and liberalism.
Over the past few years, I’ve also started using the term “culture wars” to describe the clash and fragmentation we’ve seen in the BPM market. In the BPM space, the clash has primarily been around dynamic case management (DCM), human-centric workflow, and straight-through processing ideologies.
I’m the first to admit that fragmentation and categorization is not always a bad thing, since it can help software buyers and decision-makers better understand which solutions best match their business requirements and desired business outcomes. However, the fragmentation in BPM sometimes overlooks the primary purpose and value proposition of BPM – to help support creating a sustainable business change program.