>Complexity, plain and simple

>

There is the old saying that rings true to basic leadership: “Keep it Simple Stupid,” (or KISS) yet for various reasons people and organizations opt or are compelled toward complexity.

And when things are complex, the organization is more prone to mistakes, people to misunderstandings, and leadership to mismanagement–all are points of failure in the dynamics of running an organization.

Mistakes can be costly from both a strategic and operational standpoint; misunderstandings between people are a cause of doubts, confusion, and hostility; and mismanagement leads to the breakdown of solid business process and eventually everything goes to pot.

An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal, 26 October 2009, defines four types of complexity:

Dysfunctional—This is the de facto complexity. It “makes work harder and doesn’t create value…research suggests that functional complexity creeps into a company over years through the perpetuation of practices that are no longer relevant, the duplication of activities due to mergers or reorganizations, and ambiguous or conflicting roles.”

Designed—This is an odd one…why would you design in complexity? “Executives may deliberately increase the complexity of certain activities or they may broaden the scope of their product offering, because they expect the benefits of those changes to outweigh the costs.” Example cited: “Dell believes that configuring each product to individual specs, rather than creating them all the same, makes customers more likely to buy from the company.”

Inherent—I guess this is the nothing I can do about it category, it just is hard! “The difficulty of getting the work done.” Plain and simple, some jobs are highly complex Mr. Rocket Scientist.

Imposed—This is the why are they doing this to us category—external factors. This “is largely out of the control of the company. It is shaped by such entities as industry regulators, non-governmental organizations and trade unions.” I would assume competitors’ misdeeds would fall into this one as well.

Whatever the reason for the complexity, we know implicitly that simplification, within the realm of what’s possible, is the desired state. Even when the complexity is so to say “designed in” because of certain benefits like with the Dell example, we still desire to minimize that complexity, to the extent that we can still achieve the organization’s goals.

I remember years ago reading about the complexity of some companies’ financial reports (income statements, balance sheets, statements of cash flows…) and news commentators questioning the authenticity of their reporting. In other words, if you can’t understand it—how do we know if it is really truthful, accurate, or the full story? Well-publicized accounting scandals like Enron, HealthSouth, and many others since around the mid-1990’s come to mind.

Generally, we know that when something is veiled in a shroud of complexity, there is often mismanagement or misconduct at play.

That is not to say that everything in life is simple—it isn’t. Certainly advances in the sciences, technology, and so on are not simple. Knowledge is incremental and there is certainly lot’s of it out there to keep us all occupied in the pursuit of life-long learning. But regardless of how complex things get out there—whether dysfunctional, designed, inherent, or imposed—we should strive to make things easier, more straightforward, and as effortless and trouble-free, as possible.

Will simplification get more difficult as a goal as our society continues to advance beyond the common man’s ability to understand it?

Yes, this is going to be a challenge. It used to be that graduating from high school was the farthest most people went with their education. Then college became the goal and norm for many. And now graduate and post-graduate studies are highly desirable and expected for many professional careers. It is getting difficult for people to keep us with the pace of change, breadth and depth of knowledge, and the advancement in technical fields.

One of the antidotes to the inherent complexity seems to be greater specialization such as in medicine, technology, engineering and so forth. As knowledge advances, we need to break it up into smaller chunks that people can actually digest and handle. The risk is that the pieces become so small eventually that we can lose sight of the bigger picture.

Complexity is here to stay in various forms, but we can and must tackle at the very least the dysfunctional complexity in our organizations. Some ways we can do this include breaking down the silos that impede our collaboration and information sharing; architecting in simplification into our strategic, operational, and tactical plans; building once and reusing multiple times (i.e. through enterprise and common solutions); filling gaps, reducing redundancies, and eliminating inefficiencies; reengineering our business processes as a regular part of “what we do”, constantly innovating better, faster, and cheaper ways of doing things; thinking and acting user-centric, improving the way we treat our people; and of course, being honest, transparent, and upright in our dealings and communications.

>Business Process Reengineering and Enterprise Architecture

>

User-centric EA analyzes problem areas in the organization and uncovers gaps, redundancies, inefficiencies, and opportunities; EA uses this information to drive business process reengineering and improvement as well as to introduce new technologies to the enterprise.

According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-130, Management of Federal Information Resources, business process reengineering needs to take place to achieve the benefits of new information technology: “Moreover, business process reengineering should accompany all attempts to facilitate a transaction through information technology. Often the full benefits will be realized only by restructuring the process to take advantage of the technology. Merely moving an existing paper based process to an electronic one is unlikely to reap the maximum benefits from the electronic system.”

In the book The 21st Century Organization by Bennis and Mische the authors explain how organizations can reinvent themselves through reengineering.

What exactly is reengineering?

Reengineering is reinventing the enterprise by challenging its existing doctrines, practices, and activities and then innovatively redeploying its capital and human resources into cross-functional processes. This reinvention is intended to optimize the organization’s competitive position, it value to shareholders, and its contribution to society.”

What are the essential elements of reengineering?

There are five:

  1. A bold vision
  2. A systemic approach
  3. A clear intent and mandate
  4. A specific methodology
  5. Effective and visible leadership”

What activities are involved in reengineering?

  • “Innovating
  • Listening to customers
  • Learning
  • Generating ideas
  • Designing new paradigms
  • Anticipating and eclipsing competitors
  • Contributing to the quality of the workplace and the community
  • Constructively challenging established management doctrines”

“Reengineering the enterprise is difficult. It means permanently transforming the entire orientation and direction of the organization. It means challenging and discarding traditional values, historical precedents, tried-and-true processes, and conventional wisdom and replacing them with entirely different concepts and practices. It means redirecting and retraining workers with those new concepts and practices…The very cultural fiber of the enterprise must be interrogated and redefined. Traditional work flows must be examined and redesigned. Technology must be redirected from supporting individual users and departments to enabling cross-functional processes.”

What are the goals of reengineering?

  • “Increasing productivity
  • Optimizing value to shareholders
  • Achieving quantum results
  • Consolidating functions
  • Eliminating unnecessary levels of work”

Reengineering seeks to increase productivity by creating innovative and seamless processes…the paradigms of vertical ‘silo’ tasks and responsibilities is broken down and replaced with a cross-functional, flatter, networked structure. The classical, top-down approach to control is replaced with an approach that is organized around core processes, is characterized by empowerment, and is closer to the customer….Reengineering constructively challenges and analyzes the organization’s hierarchy and activities in terms of their value, purpose, and content. Organizational levels and activities that represent little value to shareholders or contribute little to competitiveness are either restructured or eliminated.”

What is the role of EA?

EA is the discipline that synthesizes key business and technology information across the organization to support better decision-making. EA develops and maintains the current and target architectures and transition plan for the organization. As OMB recommends, in setting enterprise targets, EA should focus first and foremost on business process reengineering and then on technology enablement. If the organization does not do process reengineering first, the organization risks not only failing to achieve the benefits of introducing new IT, but also causing actual harm to the organizations existing processes and results. For example, adding a new technology without reengineering process can add additional layers of staff and management to implement, maintain, and operate the technology instead of creating a net resource savings to the organization, from more efficient operations. Similarly, without doing reengineering before IT implementation, the enterprise may actually implement IT that conflicts with existing process and thus either require timely and costly system customization or end up adversely impacting process cycle time, delaying shipments, harming customer satisfaction, and creating bloated inventories, and so on.

Bennis and Mische predict that in the 21st century “to be competitive, an organization will have to be technology enabled…the specific types of technology and vendors will be unimportant, as most organizations will have access to or actually have similar technologies. However, how the organization deploys its technological assets and resources to achieve differentiation will make the difference in whether it is competitive.”

>Making Something Out of Nothing

>

At the Gartner Enterprise Architecture Summit this past week (October 7-9, 2009), I heard about this new math for value creation:

Nothing + Nothing = Something

At first, you sort of go, WHAT?

Then, it starts to make a lot of sense.

Seemingly nothings can be combined (for example, through mashups) to become something significant.

When you really think about it, doesn’t this really happen all the time.

INFORMATION: You can have tens or thousands of data points, but it’s not till you connect the dots that you have meaningful information or business intelligence.

PEOPLE: Similarly, you can have individuals, but it’s not until you put them together—professionally or personally—that you really get sparks flying.

Harvard Business Review, October 2009, put it this way:

Ants aren’t smart…ant colonies are…under the right conditions, groups—whether ant colonies, markets, or corporations—can be smarter than any of their members.” This is the “wisdom of crowds and swarm intelligence.”

PROCESS: We can have a workable process, but a single process alone may not produce diddly. However, when you string processes together—for example, in an assembly line—you can produce a complex product or service. Think of a car or a plane or a intricate surgical procedure.

TECHNOLOGY: I am sure you have all experienced the purchase of hardware or software technologies that in and of themselves are basically useless to the organization. It’s only when we combine them into a workable application system that we have something technologically valuable to the end-user.

Whatever, the combination, we don’t always know in advance what we are going to get when we make new connections—this is the process of ideation, innovation, and transformation.

Think of the chemist or engineer or artist that combines chemicals, building blocks elements, or colors, textures, and styles in new ways and gets something previously unimaginable or not anticipated.

In a sense, organization and personal value creation is very much about creating relationships and associations between things. And a good leader knows how to make these combinations work:

Getting people and organizations to work together productively.

Generating new ideas for innovative business products or better ways of serving the customer.

Linking people, process, and technology in ever expanding ways to execute more effectively and efficiently than ever before.

Enterprise architecture shares this principle of identifying and optimizing relationships and associations between architectural entities such as business processes, data elements, and application systems. Typically, we perform these associations in architectural models, such as business process, data, and system models. Moreover, when we combine these models, we really advance the cause by determining what our processes are/should be, what information is needed to perform these, and what are the systems that serve up this information. Models help architects to identify gaps, redundancies, inefficiencies, and opportunities between the nothings to improve the greater whole of the something.

The real enterprise architect will make the leap from just describing many of these elements to making the real connections and providing a future direction (aka a target architecture) or at least recommending some viable options for one.

Nothing + Nothing (can) = Something. This will happen when we have the following:

  • The right touch of leadership skills to encourage, motivate and facilitate value creation.
  • The allocation of talented people to the task of combining things in new ways.
  • And the special sauce—which is everyone’s commitment, creativity, and hard work to make something new and wonderful emerge.

>Measurement is Essential to Results

>

Mission execution and performance results are the highest goals of enterprise architecture.

In the book Leadership by Rudolph Giuliani, he describes how performance measurement in his administration as mayor of NYC resulted in tremendous improvements, such as drastic decreases in crime. He states: “Every time we’d add a performance indicator, we’d see a similar pattern of improvement.”

How did Giuliani use performance measures? The centerpiece of the effort to reduce crime was a process called Compstat in which crime statistics were collected and analyzed daily, and then at meetings these stats were used to “hold each borough command’s feet to the fire.”

What improvements did Giuliani get from instituting performance measurements? Major felonies fell 12.3%, murder fell 17.9%, and robbery 15.5% from just 1993-1994. “New York’s [crime] rate reduction was three to six times the national average…far surpassed that of any other American city. And we not only brought down the crime rate, we kept it down.”

How important was performance measurement to Giuliani? Giuliani states, “even after eight years, I remain electrified by how effective those Compstat meetings could be. It became the crown jewel of my administration’s push for accountability—yet it had been resisted by many who did not want their performance to be measured.”

From an architecture perspective, performance measurement is critical—you cannot manage what you don’t measure!

Performance measurement is really at the heart of enterprise architecture—identifying where you are today (i.e. your baseline), setting your goals where you want to be in the future (i.e. your targets), and establishing a plan to get your organization from here to there through business process improvement, reengineering, and technology enablement.

In the end, genuine leadership means we direct people, process, and technology towards achieving measureable results. Fear of measurement just won’t make the grade!

>Improving Project Management and The Total CIO

>IT projects are notorious for coming in late, over cost, and not meeting the customer’s needs.

CIO.com has an excellent article on ways to improve project management in an article entitled, “When Failure is Not an Option,” by Meredith Levinson (3 July 2008).

For organizations, good project management is a critical success factor!

“Project management is the number-one success factor for getting anything done in the organization. A firm’s ability to execute its strategy lies with its ability to manage projects,” according to Sam Lawler, the director of GlassHouse Technologies’ project management practice.

Yet, for years, organizations have faulted CIOs and IT departments with failed IT projects. As recently as 2004, a study by The Standish Group found that only 29% of IT projects “were completed on time, on budget, and with all features and functions originally specified.”

Project management methodologies work when business and IT work together as a team.

There are various methodologies being employed to try to improve project’s success, such as PMBOK and ITIL. However, IT projects’ success depends on IT and business people working together to achieve results; if this partnership and collaboration doesn’t happen, then no PM framework will bring us the project success we desire. Our organization’s business people are critical to ensuring project success—they develop the business case, identify requirements/functional specifications, realign and improve business processes, and test technical solutions to ensure they meet mission and business needs.

No longer is it about tossing the proverbial hot potato to IT and then pointing fingers and assigning blame when something doesn’t work right. Instead, the business and IT people are on the same team, sharing accountability, and working toward the success of the project and the enterprise.

Performance measurement is a must:

Improved project management needs to be accompanied by measurement of project success and reporting on these to executive management. We can’t manage what we don’t measure. And we need transparency to senior management to ensure that everyone—business and IT—have “skin in the game.”

Further, there are trade-offs in project management between cost, schedule, and scope/performance. Changing one affects the others, so we need to manage projects harmoniously in this triad. If for example, a project is delayed or costs more, but delivers on added functionality requested by the business, then the project can still be a success. At the end of the project, success is defined by the business!

>Why a New Blog Called the Total CIO?

>As you all know, I have been leading and promoting the concept of User-centric Enterprise Architecture for some time now.

After hundreds of blog posts and numerous articles, interviews, and speeches, I believe it is time to expand the core principles of User-centric EA to encompass all that a CIO can and should do to implement best practices that facilitate total mission success.

Thus, the concept of the “Total CIO”.

  • The Total CIO is mission-driven. He or she never compromises on delivering IT solutions that meet business requirements. In today’s world this means capturing and managing customer requirements, synthesizing business and IT for effective strategy as well as efficient tactical implementation.
  • The Total CIO is holistically minded. He/she employs best practices from various disciplines (IT, business process reengineering, human capital, etc.) to move the mission forward through infomation technology. This quality speaks to innovation, expansiveness, and thinking outside the box without ever losing sight of the goal.
  • The Total CIO is customer-centric. He/she focuses on making it easier for people to use technology. That means he/she is focused on helping people deliver on the mission. This means that rather than speaking in jargon and creating shelfware, he/she delivers useful and usable information and technology to benefit everyone from the CEO to front-line personnel.

I look forward to your comments and input.

>SOA Liberates Productivity

>

Harvard Business Review (HBR), June 2008, has a wonderful article (by Ric Merrifield, Jack Calhoun, and Dennis Stevens) on how SOA is “the next revolution in productivity.”

SOA defined:

“It is becoming possible to design many business activities as Lego-like software components that can be easily put together and taken apart…service-oriented architecture [is] a relatively new way of designing and deploying the software that supports a business activity.”

With SOA, business activities can be accessed via the Internet through web services. Rather than build proprietary, redundant business services, our organizations can re-use standardized services, developed internally or outsourced, as components that plug and play into our enterprise.

“Virtually all large companies suffer from an enormous duplication of activities; they continue to create and perform hundreds of non-core tasks that would ideally be outsourced; and they are spending exorbitant amounts on IT projects in order to support redundant and nonstrategic operations and to update core processes.”

How does this differ from other quality improvement initiatives?

Prior quality improvement efforts like Total Quality Management (TQM) and Six Sigma have focused on reducing waste and defects and eliminating unnecessary tasks and integrating disparate ones.

“For the most part, however, reengineering has involved recasting processes and the information systems that support them in a proprietary, rather than a standardized, form—that is, customized for individual organizations. Such designs make it difficult and expensive for business to share, consolidate, and change processes.”

Now with the Internet and web services, we can access standardized services that can be shared and re-used throughout disparate business units in the same enterprise and across organizations globally.

The result is business units and organizations that can simply plug and play to make use of needed services, eliminating proprietary processes and redundant systems and enabling outsourcing of noncore mission functions and activities and easier upgrades to new superior services as they come online.

What are some of the issues holding SOA back?

Firstly, many people do not truly understand SOA, what it is, what benefits are possible, and what the challenges are to doing it right.

Second, SOA is viewed by many executives as yet another hype or bubble that will cost the enterprise lots of money, but fail to provide the promised return. So, they are wading into SOA only enough to “deploy it in a limited fashion,” but without first rethinking the design of their business.” However, to really reap the benefits of SOA, organizations need to transform from “collections of proprietary operations into a collection of standard plug-and-play activities,” and this requires redesigning not only IT systems, but operations.

In designing SOA-based processes, the unit of analysis and reengineering is no longer the task (as in Frederick Taylor time and motion studies of the late nineteenth century) or the department, or even the division. “In the age of the Internet and SOA, the unit of analysis is not a company’s way of conducting its operations at all; it is the primary purpose or desired outcome of each activity no matter how that activity is accomplished.”

Where are we today with SOA implementation?

“Unfortunately, few companies are using SOA to create more productive and focused organizations or to slash costs by purging duplicative operations and technologies. They are not revisiting the fundamental design of their operations.”

To overcome the obstacles in reaching SOA enabled organizations, we need a strong dose of enterprise architecture to identify and decompose our performance outcomes we are driving toward, the business processes to achieve these, the information required to perform these, and the systems that can serve them up.

According to HBR, our business model activities can be categorized into the following for SOA implementation:

  • Primary (I would call this core mission)—those that should be kept in-house and are “top priority of programs to improve operations and technology” (i.e. through business process improvement, reengineering, and the introduction of new technology).
  • Shared—those that “can be shared with other divisions” (i.e. through common solutions).
  • Shifted—those that “can be transferred to customers, suppliers, or operational specialists” (i.e. outsourced).
  • Automated—those that can be “automated so they can be turned into web services.”

All but the primary activities are ripe for SOA-based enhancements. And according to HBR, only about 20% of activities are primary, so that leaves plenty of room for a SOA plug-and-play.

The idea is to cease defining our noncore mission processes and activities as proprietary, requiring elaborate and expensive customized solutions for these. Instead, we should use standardized “swapped, bought, or sold” services. Then, we can truly focus our business process reengineering and IT investments on our organization’s core mission activities—working to to differentiate ourselves and develop unsurpassed competitive advantage.

>Always Forward and Enterprise Architecture

>

ComputerWorld Magazine, 26 June 2008, has a terrific interview with Loraine Rodgers, formerly Xerox CIO, Citibank senior VP, city of Phoenix CIO, and American Express director.

Her early years…

Ms Rodgers found out at 16 that she was adopted and was “so angry at being lied to I threw away my merit scholarship and refused to go to college. But I took a programmer aptitude test and I aced it, so I started in IT as a programmer. I started in the weeds.”

Over the years, “I always volunteered for seemingly thankless jobs—challenging assignments that nobody wanted.”

Here’s the best part of what she said and I believe very inspirational…

“I am self-propelled, driven, excited about life, love to learn. I got my undergraduate degree at age 40, and my MBA at 42—all working full time. I move forward always—not necessarily in a straight line, but always forward. I have been fired once, laid off twice and promoted over 27 times. I repackage myself regularly and keep moving forward. I perceive the possibilities. I am not hindered by obstacles. There are no obstacles. Some things just take longer.”

WOW!

Ms. Rodgers is inspirational on an individual and organizational/enterprise architecture level.

Ms. Rodgers story is one of overcoming life’s challenges to succeed beyond probably her wildest dreams and most of ours. To succeed individually or as an organization, there are always challenges. Life is not a straight line upward, but is marked by up and downs, hopefully like Ms. Rodgers professional life, it has generally more ups then downs, and going always in an upward pattern.

Ms. Rodgers idea of always repackaging herself and constantly moving forward is terrific and in EA can be associated with an organization continually looking to reengineer and improve their processes and introduce new technologies to enable the mission and results of operation. The key is to always being grateful for what we have been granted, yet to always strive to improve things one step further: never to be satisfied with status quo or mediocrity.

Similarly, architecting the organization is not a one-time event; rather, it is an ongoing cycle of planning, governing, and transforming. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Whether on an individual or organizational level, we must learn to “move forward always—not necessarily in a straight line, but always forward!”

>Information Warriors and Enterprise Architecture

>

In the digital age, information is critical to decision making. This is the case in the board room as well as on the battle field.

Information superiority is critical to our warfighters ability to intelligently and efficiently defeat our enemies. Many of the Department of Defense‘s modernization initiatives are aimed at getting the right information to the right people at the right time. Unfortunately, there are still some information gaps.

National Defense Magazine, December 2007, reports “troops in digital age, disconnected.”

Apparently, not everyone in the military is getting all the information they need (at least, not yet).

The problem often is described as a ‘digital divide’ between the technology haves—the upper echelons of command—and the have-nots—the platoons and squads that are deployed in remote areas. These small units for the most part are disconnected from the Army’s main tactical networks and only are able to communicate with short-range voice radios…[however,] at the top echelons, commanders can tap into loads of data—maps, satellite images, video feeds, and reams of intelligence reports.”

Often though it is the small units on the front lines that need to send and receive critical information on combatants or other situational updates that can have life and death implications. This is why the net-centric strategy for virtually connecting all units is so important to achieving the vision of true information dominance.

Here are just a few important ways that information can help our warfighting capabilities:

  • Providing information to soldiers to locate enemy combatants (such as from “live video from unmanned aircraft)
  • Enabling location tracking of soldiers to save lives when they are endangered (such as from GPS locators)
  • Sending information updates back to command for coordination and enhancing decision capabilities (such as from streaming voice and video, instant messaging, etc.)

The good news is that there are a lot of new information technologies coming online to aid our military, including the Future Combat Systems (FCS) and Joint Tactical Radio Systems (JTRS).

To ensure the success of these technologies, we need to manage the solutions using enterprise architecture to validate requirements, reengineer the processes, and effectively plan and govern the change.

  1. Requirements management—“how to identify essential needs for information as opposed to providing information indiscriminately”
  2. Business process reengineering—according to Marine Corps. CAPT Christopher Tsirlis “it’s not just about the latest and greatest technology but also changing the organization to use new technology.”
  3. Planning/governance—we need link resources to results;“the technology exists, the question is how we resource it, and what is the right amount for each level.”

With a solid enterprise architecture and innovative technologies, we can and will enable the best information warriors in the world.

>The Paperless Society and Enterprise Architecture

>

For years, we’ve all heard the promise that technology will soon make us a paperless society—but it hasn’t!

In the book, Sacred Cows Make The Best Burgers, by Kriegel and Brandt, the authors state that “most people’s desks look like they’ve been hit by a paper avalanche.”

Have things gotten better or worse?

Kriegel and Brandt state that between 1983 and about 1996, “shipments of paper actually increased by 51%.

Further, they state that “a vice president of a major telecommunications company showed us a study that…on average, people got over 90 hours’ worth of “stuff” to read each week! And only 20 percent of that was electronic…the same study showed that despite all the advancements in information technology, the amount of paper received today had not been reduced from ten years ago.”

Do we need all this paper?

Absolutely not. “50 percent of a company’s paperwork could be eliminated without the slightest disruption to business.”

In fact, the authors recount a telling story about how a courageous manager and his/her employees slowly eliminated parts of a costly, time-consuming detailed 10 column monthly report they put together for the management committee, by first eliminating some columns and then more and more until finally they produced only 4 key columns quarterly. Instead of the management committee complaining, no one even noticed anything was missing (the columns or later the monthly report), until after a number of months, the CEO congratulated them on their good work with the new clear and simple quarterly report.

What has the government done to reduce paperwork?

What should we do in our organizations to reduce the paperwork?

According to Kriegel and Brandt, if paperwork doesn’t “add value to the customer, increase productivity, or improve morale,” then it should be eliminated.

From a User-centric EA perspective, we need to ask our users and stakeholders if they really need or want the paperwork we’re giving them, and if not we need to update our business processes and enable technology solutions to eliminate the legacy paper-based solutions. To some extent this is occurring already, in other cases, it is not. The more we become an information-based society, the more we need and crave information and some people don’t trust the technology or simply want a hard-copy to read or for their records. Paper is not a bad thing. It is a tried and true method of recordkeeping and communication, but when we have so much that we cannot even keep up with it, then it’s definitely time to reevaluate our true needs and go a little easier on our environment. Why chop down all those trees, for reports, proposals, print-outs, and projections that often just end up, unread in the round file (i.e. the garbage) anyway?