The other day, I had one of those eureka-like moments. As I lay in the bath, my thoughts shifted back and forth between the past and the present, recognizing how advances (or the lack of advances) in technology have affected our lives. When thinking about the past, I remember the days of my communication engineering apprenticeship; this was in the days of electro-mechanical exchanges. Some of you may remember or may have seen, in an old film, a telephone operator connecting two phone lines by placing a connecting cord between two phone line jacks. This was the world of telecommunication exchanges in the 1970s — no fancy computing technology existed in telecommunications at the time. In was certainly not a trivial exercise in upgrading capacity, maintaining the exchange, or connecting to another exchange. When thinking about the present, I marvel at the continuing improvements in plug-and-play hardware and software technology. As an example, I buy a new camera and, hey presto! I now have the ability to edit and post pictures on forums or cloud applications, to send them by email, or to store them on third-party storage from my camera.
So back to my eureka-like moment. I’m thinking that, surely, all these present-day technology advances have been enabled because of standards, design patterns, and common interfaces. My mind keeps focusing on design patterns, and the question arises: "Is there such a thing as business design patterns?" I have done some initial research, and I am yet to find evidence of the term or concept of business design patterns. However, I do have my suspicions they exist because:
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.
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.