EAs: Eat Your Own Dog Food

I was introduced to the term “eat your own dog food” many years ago by a Microsoft project manager who pointed out that if you don't use your own products, maybe you should think about working for someone else (some of the best advice I ever got from Microsoft). Some years later I was teaching an EA leadership class in Sydney and used the “eat your own dog food” metaphor. A very indignant architect stood up and with great flair said: “Man, we are enterprise architects! We slurp our own caviar.” Well, whether it’s dog food or caviar, if you build it you should use it. The problem often isn’t that we don’t want to use our own products; it is that we are so busy trying to get everybody else to use them that we just don’t think about it.

I just published a report titled “Use Business Architecture Tools To Align EA With The CIO’s Agenda.” The genesis for this research was the realization that EA teams, along with many other organizations, don’t do a very good job figuring out what their bosses really need from them. And architects, unlike other organizations, have all the tools and skills they need at their disposal. So here are my four simple steps to better alignment with your CIO:

  1. In less than a day you can build and validate an IT capability map to describe all the unique functions it takes to deliver IT services to the business. You can then use this map to help your CIO focus on the capabilities that need enhancement.
  2. Next, take each of the in-need capabilities and execute a SWOT analysis to uncover opportunities for improvement. Take what you learn from the SWOT and select the high-value targets – those that fit EA’s mission and have a high return on engagement. This should take no more than half a day.
  3. Most EA initiatives only come to fruition through the actions of others, so create a value chain to better understand how you fit into the solution mix and to show your CIO precisely where and how you will add value. Another half day.
  4. Once things get rolling, lay out the work you are doing on a simple road map to keep your CIO informed of your progress. Most people are surprised to find that their boss likes less-detailed but more-frequent updates.

With about two days of effort, you can easily put business architecture tools to work for you. Capability map? Check. SWOT analysis? Check. Value chain? Check, Road map? Check. You’ve got everything you need. So, eat your own dog food, guys.


EA Capability Model, EA Processes, and EA Value Chain.

I was wondering about bringing the following concepts together and would like to get your thoughts:
>> EA Capability Model
>> Mapping Core and Advanced EA Processes to the EA capabilities
>> EA Value Chain and its relationship to the EA capability model

And I am also wondering the value of such an excercise. Thank you for your input.

Describing EA As A Business

Hi Bala -
I tend to see every organization as a business. They may not charge for their services or have a true P&L but they do add value in some way, have a set of customers, a set of investors, and a set of activities. I definitely think looking at these three elements will produce insight into your EA practice. And it shouldn't take more than a few days so the investment is well worth it. One of the things I like about looking at capabilities and value chains is that they help you see new ways to add value. I would love to see what you come up with.

Understanding Business Capability.

How is Forrester's definition of business capability (Example:Customer Service Capability) and its specific attributes such as processes (Examples: Call center support, Field Support, after-sales training) and functions (Examples: Customer profiles, customer contacts, product incidents) map/compare/differ to James Martin's categorization in the book :Information Engineering Planning and Analysis Part II as follows:

Business Function (What?) >> Business Process (What?) >> Business Procedure (How?)

Business Function: A group of activities that together support one aspect of furthering the mission of the enterprise. It categorizes "what" is done, not "how"

Business Process: A specified activity that is executed repeatedly. It identifies what is done, not how.

Business Procedure (Swim Lane Diagrams) is how a process is carried out.

Thank you.

Capabilities versus Functions

Hi Bala -
Full disclosure - I haven't read the James Martin book you reference.
Here is how I see capabilities and functions (and it is a fine difference). Functions just as Martin says, represent a group of activities. Capabilities are slightly broader and represent the potential to act. So a function is the instantiation of a capability in a specific instance. For example: I have a capability I call "Writing". At Forrester I apply that capability to the function of writing research reports and blogs. I could also apply the "writing" capability to the function of writing a novel which is a different activity. I don't think many people make the distinction Martin does between business process and business procedure but I agree with the idea that there are higher level business processes used to describe the "what" and lower level processes that describe the "how".

Capabilities versus Functions

Hi Jeff,
Thank you for the clarification. Can you please explain what a function is in the following example from one of your papers and how do they all relate?:
Capability: Customer Service
Processes: Call center support, Field Support, after-sales training
Functions: Customer profiles, customer contacts, product incidents

Are functions in your example are actually conceptual entities or information subject areas?

Thank you in advance.

Best Regards,

Capabilities versus Functions

Hi Bala -
I hate to admit it but I believe my examples you listed are bad examples of a function. :-) At this point I am trying to avoid the term all together as it has so many different connotations. But if you pushed me for an answer today I would say a function is a business activity. Generally I think of a function as a lower level activity (but many people don't) so HR to me would be a business unit not a function and manage performance reviews would be a function.

Great post - I read a similar

Great post - I read a similar one from WORKetc founder Dan Barnett, on how he is using WORKetc to manage WORKetc: http://admin.worketc.com/Blogs/Development/69

You guys bring up similar points about the value of 'eating your own dog food', and Barnett also reinforces how doing so can help lead to better product development and testing. It's good to see the both of you also mention how 'eating your own dog food' can help speed processes up and can be done fairly easily, as once properly implemented this can mean lots of saved money too.