>Gamers and Enterprise Architecture

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More and more people are turning to gaming for entertainment, social interaction, some thrills and fun and even some challenge.

Many in society think that gamers, because they like to “play”, are childish, slovenly or irresponsible. However, there are many characteristics that gamers demonstrate that demonstrate that they are perhaps some of the best employment “catches” around.

Harvard Business Review, February 2008, states that “the gamer disposition has five key attributes. More than attitudes or beliefs, these attributes are character traits that players bring into game worlds and that those worlds reinforce. We believe that gamers who embody this disposition are better able than their non-gamer counterparts to thrive in the twenty-first century workplace.”

What are the gamer characteristics that can enable them to succeed in the modern workplace?

  1. Performance-oriented—“gamers like to be evaluated, even compared with one another, through systems of points, rankings, titles, and external measures. Their goal is not to be rewarded, but to improve.”
  2. Value diversity—“diversity is essential in the world of the online game. One person can’t do it all; each player is by definition incomplete. The key to achievement is teamwork, and the strongest teams are a rich mix of diverse talents and abilities.”
  3. Desire change—Nothing is constant in a game; it changes in myriad ways, mainly through the actions of the participants themselves…gamers do not simply manage change,; they create it, thrive on it, seek it out.”
  4. Learning is fun—“for most players, the fun of the game lies in learning how to overcome obstacles.”
  5. Innovative—“gamers often explore radical alternatives and innovative strategies for completing tasks, quests, and challenges. Even when common solutions are known, the gamer disposition demands a better way, a more original response to the problem.”

How do gamers, or for that matter people in general, relate to enterprise architecture?

Gamers are a growing segment of the population and their characteristics and skill sets need to be integrated in support of our business processes and technologies. The way to do this is through an enterprise architecture that speaks to a human capital perspective.

Many times, I have written about the need for a human capital perspective (reference model) to be added to the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA). This would address the “people/who” perspective of the Zachman Framework and address the critical issues of the most important asset of the organization, its people.

Unfortunately, the FEA is still anchored in the industrial revolution, with factories served by “indentured” workers on the assembly line; people no more important than the mind-numbing, repetitive tasks that they performed 12 or more hours a day for little pay and certainly little respect.

The Federal Enterprise Architecture needs to enter the information age, where knowledge workers are the catalyst of innovation, engineering, modernization and transformation. The addition and focus on a human capital perspective to the architecture would be a good start to recognizing the centrality of people and brain-power to the competitiveness and future of our industries and nation.

One of the issues that the human capital perspective should address are the types of skills and attributes (such as those that gamers demonstrate) that are best aligned to support the requirements of the enterprise and its mission.

>Where’s the Satisfaction in Enterprise Architecture?

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Throughout history, people have labored and seen the fruits of their labor. Whether as hunter/gathers, farmers, or working on the assembly lines, with hard work, people have been able to see tangible progress and in a sense, savor the results of their work.

Today however, in an information society, we are too a great extent divorced from truly delivering products or services to the end-user.

The Wall Street Journal, 20 February 2008, reports “A Modern Conundrum: When Work’s Invisible, so are its Satisfactions.”

“In the information age, so much is worked on in a day at the office, but so little gets done. In the past people could see the fruits of their labor immediately: a chair made or a ball bearing produced. But it is hard to find gratification from work that is largely invisible…not only is work harder to measure, but it’s also harder to define success…The work is intangible, and a lot of work gets done in teams, so it’s difficult to pinpoint individual productivity.”

Homa Bahrami, a senior lecturer in Organizational Behavior and Industrial Relations at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business states: “Information-age employees measure their accomplishments in net worth, company reputation, networks of relationships, and the products and services they’re associated with—elements that are more perceived and subjective than that field of corn, which either is or isn’t plowed.”

As enterprise architects, we are in the business of providing information to enable better organizational decision-making. And unlike producing widgets or harvesting the season’s crops, architectural performance may seem hard to measure and their activities unsatisfying.

However, developing enterprise architecture based on a user-centric approach is actually very meaningful and satisfying. In User-centric EA, we develop only information products and governance services that have clear users and uses, and which benefits the organization in terms of enabling sound IT investments, reengineering business processes, and addressing gaps, redundancies, inefficiencies, and opportunities.

EA is a strategic, big picture view of the organization. It is a planning function and with the commitment of leadership can have an enormous influence on the future direction of the organization. This is a big responsibility for enterprise architects and is very satisfying work especially when cost savings are realized, processes improved, information needs met, business outcomes enabled with technology, security assured, and strategic objectives met.

So just because we’re working in information, it doesn’t mean that EA is invisible. It touches the lives of stakeholders across the business and technical domains of the enterprise.

>Information Management and Enterprise Architecture

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What is the Information Age?

“Alvin Toffler, a famous American writer and futurist, in his book The Third Wave, describes three types of societies, based on the concept of ‘waves’ – each wave pushes the older societies and cultures aside.

  • First Wave—the society after agrarian revolution that replaced the first hunter-gatherer cultures.
  • Second Wave—the society during the Industrial Revolution (ca. late 1600s through the mid-1900s), based on mass production, mass distribution, mass consumption, mass education, mass media, mass recreation, mass entertainment, and weapons of mass destruction. You combine those things with standardization, centralization, concentration, and synchronization, and you wind up with a style of organization we call bureaucracy.”
  • Third Wave—the post-industrial society, also called the Information Age, Space Age, Electronic Era, Global Village, scientific-technological revolution, which to various degrees predicted demassification, diversity, and knowledge-based production.”

What is a knowledge worker?

“Peter Drucker, in 1959, coined the term Knowledge worker, as one who works primarily with information or one who develops and uses knowledge in the workplace. Knowledge Workers are now estimated to outnumber all other workers in North America by at least a four to one margin (Haag et al, 2006, pg. 4). A Knowledge Worker’s benefit to a company could be in the form of developing business intelligence, increasing the value of intellectual capital , gaining insight into customer preferences, or a variety of other important gains in knowledge that aid the business.” (Toffler and Drucker sections are adapted from Wikipedia)

How does EA fit in the Information Age and support the knowledge worker?

EA is a process for capturing, analyzing, and serving up information to achieve improved IT planning, governance, and decision making. So, EA works with data and information and supports the knowledge worker in the following way:

  • Acquisition—captures business and technical information
  • Analysis—analyzes information problem areas and identifies gaps, redundancies, and opportunities for standardization, consolidation, integration, interoperability, and so on
  • Description—describes data and information using metadata and various information products, such as profiles, models, and inventories
  • Classification—catalogues data using taxonomies (i.e. schemas) and ontologies (that relate the data)
  • Warehousing—stores the data in a repository
  • Dissemination—makes the information available for discovery, exchange, reporting, and queries
  • Management—establishes data standards, institutes policies and practices for describing, registering, discovering and exchanging information; administers configuration management of the data; ensures data backup and recovery.

In User-centric EA, all aspects of information management (in terms of development, maintenance, and use of information products) are done with the enterprise and end-user in mind. User-centric EA seeks to make all aspects of EA information useful (i.e. relevant—current, accurate, complete) and usable (i.e. easy to understand and readily accessible) for the information age enterprise and knowledge workers that we support!