A number of weeks ago, I was at a CTO Event in DC and got to hear from colleagues about their thoughts on various technologies and IT trends. Overall the exchange was great, and as always, I was deeply impressed with the wisdom and experience of these IT leaders.
However, one particular set of comments set me back in my chair a little. And that was on the topic of Enterprise Architecture. Apparently, a number of CTOs (from a relatively small number of agencies) had not had great success in their organizations with EA and were practically questioning it’s very existence in our IT universe. Yikes!
I believe some of the comments were to the effect (and this is not verbatim—I will put it euphemistically) that these individuals had never seen anything valuable from enterprise architecture—EVER—and that as far as they were concerned, it should be discontinued in their organizations, altogether.
In thinking about the stinging comments from some of the IT leaders, I actually felt bad for them that they had had negative experiences with a discipline like EA, which is such a powerful and transformative planning and governance framework when implemented correctly—with the value proposition of improving IT decision making and the end-user as the focal point for delivering valuable and actionable EA information and governance services—generally what I call User-centric Enterprise Architecture.
Right away after the negative comments, there were a number of CTOs that jumped up to defend EA, including me. My response was partially that just because some EA programs had not been successful (i.e. they were poorly implemented), did not mean that EA was not valuable when it was done right—and that there was indeed a way to build an organizations enterprise architecture as a true beacon for the organization to modernize, transform, and show continuous improvement. So please hold off from dismembering EA from our organizations.
Recently, I was further reassured that some organizations were getting EA, and getting it right, when I read a blog by Linda Cureton, the new CIO of NASA who wrote: NASA CIO: How to Rule the World of IT through Enterprise Architecture.
In the blog, Ms. Cureton first offers up a very nice, straightforward definition of EA:
“Let me step back a bit and offer a simple definition for Enterprise Architecture that is not spoken in the dribble of IT jargon. In simplest terms, it is a planning framework that describes how the technology assets of an organization connect and operate. It also describes what the organization needs from the technology. And finally, it describes the set of activities required to meet the organizational needs. Oh, and I should also say it operates in a context of a process for setting priorities, making decisions, informing those decisions, and delivering results called – IT Governance.”
Further, Ms. Cureton draws some parallels from a book titled How to Rule the World: Handbook for an Aspiring Dictator, by Andre de Gaillaume, as follows:
“· It is possible to manage IT as an Enterprise.
· You can use the Enterprise Architecture to plan and manage the kinder, safer, more cost effective IT world.
· Transformational projects will successful and deliver desired results.
· IT can be a key strategic enabler of NASA’s [and other organizations] goals.”
Wow, this was great–an IT leader who really understands EA and sees it as the tool that it genuinely is for–to more effectively plan and govern IT and to move from day-to-day organizational firefighting to instead more strategic formulation and execution for tangible mission and end-user results.
While, I haven’t read the dictators handbook and do not aspire to draw any conclusions from it in terms of ruling the world, I do earnestly believe that no organization will be successful with their IT without EA. You cannot have an effective IT organization without a clear vision and plan as well as the mechanism to drive informed decision making from the plan and then being able to execute on it.
Success doesn’t just happen, it is the result of brilliant planning and nurtured execution from dedicated and hardworking people.
Reading about NASA’s direction now, they may indeed be looking to the stars, but now, they also have their eyes focused on their EA.
As a nation are we overworked? Are we just showing up, doing what we’re told, and making the same mistakes again and again?
Robert Reich, the former Labor Secretary and Professor at University of California at Berkeley, says that we are more than ever a nation of workaholics.
Reich’s book, Supercapitalism, talks about how we have to work harder to make ends meet for the following reasons:
- Globalization—“our real incomes are under assault from technology and low-wage workers in other countries.”
- Greater competition—“all barriers to entry have fallen, competition is more intense than ever, and if we don’t work hard, we may be in danger of losing clients, customers, or investors.”
- Rapid pace of change—“today most people have no ability to predict what they’re going to be doing from year to year, and job descriptions are not worth the paper they’re written on because jobs are changing so fast.”
Reich says to temper our workaholic lifestyles, we need to “understand that the quality of work is much more important than the quantity.” Honestly, that doesn’t seem to answer the question, since quality (not just quantity) takes hard work and a lot of time too.
In terms of supercharged programs, I have seen enterprise architecture programs working “fast and furious,” others that were steady, and still some that were just slow and sometimes to the point of “all stop” in terms of any productivity or forward momentum.
Unlike IT operations that have to keep the lights on, the servers humming, and phones working, EA tends to be considered all too often as pure “overhead” that can be cut at the slightest whim of budget hawks. This can be a huge strategic mistake for CIOs and organizational leaders who thus behave in a penny-wise and dollar foolish manner. Sure, operations keep the lights on, but EA ensures that IT investments are planned, strategically aligned, compliant, technically sound, and cost-effective.
A solid EA program takes us out of the day-to-day firefighting mode and operational morass, and puts the CIO and business leaders back in the strategic “driver’s seat” for transforming and modernizating the organization.
In fact, enterprise architecture addresses the very concerns that Reich points to in our Supercapitalistic times: To address the big issues of globalization, competition, and the rapid pace of change, we need genuine planning and governance, not just knee jerk reactions and firefighting. Big, important, high impact problems generally don’t get solved by themselves, but rather they need high-level attention, innovative thinking, and group problem solving, and general committment and resources to make headway. This means we can’t just focus on the daily grind. We need to extricate ourselves and think beyond today. And that’s exactly what real enterprise architecture is all about.
Recently, I heard some colleagues at a IT conference say that EA was all bluster and wasn’t worth the work and investment. I strongly disagree. Perhaps, a poorly implemented architecture program may not be worth the paper it’s plans are printed on. And unfortunately, there are too many of these faux enterprise architecture programs around and these give the rest a bad rap. However, a genuine user-centric enterprise architecture and IT governance program is invaluable in keeping the IT organization from running on a diet of daily chaos: not a good thing for the mission and business that IT supports.
Organizations can and will work smarter, rather than just harder, with strong enterprise architecture, sound IT governance, and sound business and IT processes. It the nature of planning ahead rather than just hoping for the best.
Decision-making is something we have to do every day as individuals and as organizations, yet often we end up making some very bad decisions and thus some costly mistakes.
Improving the decision-making process is critical to keeping us safe, sound, and stably advancing toward the achievement of our goals.
All too often decisions are made based on gut, intuition, politics, and subjective management whim. This is almost as good as flipping a coin or rolling a pair of dice.
Disciplines such as enterprise architecture planning and governance attempt to improve on the decision-making process by establishing a strategic roadmap and then guiding the organization toward the target architecture through governance boards that vet and validate decisions based on return on investment, risk mitigation, alignment to strategic business goals, and compliance to technical standards and architecture.
In essence, decisions are taken out of the realm of the “I think” or “I feel” phenomenon and into the order of larger group analysis and toward true information-based decision-making.
While no decision process is perfect, the mere presence of an orderly process with “quality gates” and gatekeepers helps to mitigate reckless decisions.
“Make Better Decisions,” an article in Harvard Business Review (HBR), November 2009, states, “In recent years, decision makers in both the public and private sectors have made an astounding number of poor calls.”
This is attributed to two major drivers:
Individuals going it alone: “Decisions have generally been viewed as the prerogative of individuals-usually senior executives. The process employed, the information used, the logic relied on, have been left up to them, in something of a black box. Information goes in [quantity and quality vary], decisions come out—and who knows what happens in between.”
A non-structured decision-making processes: “Decision-making has rarely been the focus of systematic analysis inside the firm. Very few organizations have ‘reengineered’ the decision. Yet there are just as many opportunities to improve decision making as to improve other processes.”
The article’s author, Thomas Davenport, who has a forthcoming book on decision-making, proposes four steps (four I’s) organizations can take to improve this process:
Identification—What decision needs to be made and which are most important?
Inventory—What are the factors or attributes for making each decision?
Intervention—What is the process, roles, and systems for decision-making?
Institutionalization—How do we establish sound decision-making ongoingly through training, measurement, and process improvement?
He acknowledges that “better processes won’t guarantee better decisions, of course, but they can make them more likely.”
It is interesting that Davenport’s business management approach is so closely aligned with IT management best practices such as enterprise architecture and capital planning and investment control (CPIC). Is shows that the two disciplines are in sync and moving together toward optimized decision-making.
One other point I’d like to make is that even with the best processes and intentions, organizations may stumble when it comes to decision making because they fail into various decision traps based on things like: groupthink, silo-thinking and turf battles, analysis paralysis, autocratic leadership, cultures where employees fear making mistakes or where innovation is discouraged or even frowned upon, and various other dysfunctional impediments to sound decision-making.
Each of these areas could easily be a discourse in and of themselves. The point however is that getting to better decision-making is not a simple thing that can be achieved through articulating a new processes or standing up a new governance board alone.
We cannot delegate good decision-making or write a cursory business case and voila the decision is a good one. Rather optimizing decision-making processes is an ongoing endeavor and not a one-time event. It requires genuine commitment, participation, transparency, and plenty of information sharing and collaboration across the enterprise.
Recently, I was reminded of an interesting article that appeared in The Wall Street Journal (20 Dec 2007) that what really matters in life is not happiness, but rather peace of mind.
Generally speaking, people “are consumed by the pursuit of happiness,” and this fact is codified in our very Declaration of Independence that states: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights, that are among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
However, absolute happiness is often in conflict with the “reality on the ground”.
There are some of the inherent conflicts we deal with in enterprise architecture (sort of like the Murphy’s Law of EA):
Here are some typical user wants (often associated with problematic architectures):
- A baseline, target, and transition plan without their having to provide virtually any input or to collaborate whatsoever.
- An architecture roadmap that they do not have to actually follow or execute on.
- A platform for information sharing and access to information 24/7, but they also want to hoard “their information”, and keep it secure and private, on a need-to-know only basis, which they subjectively decide.
- A structured IT governance process to ensure sound IT investments for the organization, but also they want leeway to conduct their own affairs, their way, in which they buy want they want, when they want, how they want, from whomever they want, with whatever founds they can scrounge up.
- A requirements generation and management process that captures and aligns specific functional requirements all the way up to the organization’s strategic plan, mandates and legislation, but that they don’t have to be bothered with identifying, articulating, or aligning.
The world of EA is filled with conflicting user demands and polarizing directions from user that want and expect to have it all. While certainly, EA wants and strives to meet all reasonable user requirements and to satisfy the user community and “make them happy,” at a point there comes the realization that you can’t (no matter how hard you try) make everyone happy all of the time.
People want it all, want it now, and often when you give them what they want, they realize that it wasn’t “really” what they had wanted anyway.
So the way ahead is to understand and take into account your user requirements, but more importantly to do the “right” thing for the organization based on best practices, common sense, and initiatives that will truly drive improved performance and mission results.
The WSJ states, “Dad told me: “life isn’t built around ‘fun.’ It’s built around peace of mind. Maybe Dad sensed the paradox of happiness: those most desperate for it run a high risk of being the last to find it. That’s because they make foolish decisions. They live disorderly lives, always chasing the high of the moment.”
In User-centric EA, we don’t “chase the high of the moment,” or look to satisfy each and every user whim, but rather we keep the course to developing sound IT planning and governance and to enhancing organizational decision-making capabilities for our end users. EA is a discipline that ultimately strives to ensure peace of mind for the enterprise through the provision of vital “insight” and “oversight” functions.
>What is conflict?
In the book Images of Organization by Gareth Morgan, the author states “Conflict arises whenever interests collide…whatever the reason, and whatever form it takes, its source rests in some perceived or real divergence of interests.”
Why does conflict occur?
Morgan continues: “People must collaborate in pursuit of a common task, yet are often pitted against each other in competition for limited resources, status, and career advancement.”
How does conflict manifest?
“The conflicting dimensions of organization are most clearly symbolized in the hierarchical organization chart, which is both a system of cooperation, in that it reflects a rational subdivision of tasks, and a career ladder up which people are motivated to climb. The fact is there are more jobs at the bottom than at the top means that competition for the top places is likely to be keen, and that in any career race there are likely to be far fewer winners than losers.”
How does User-centric EA help Manage Conflict?
Enterprise architecture is a tool for resolving organizational conflict. EA does this in a couple of major ways:
- Information Transparency: EA makes business and technical information transparent in the organization. And as they say, “information is power”, so by providing information to everyone, EA becomes a ‘great equalizer’—making information equally available to those throughout the organization. Additionally, by people having information, they can better resolve conflict through informed decision-making.
- Governance: EA provides for governance. According to Wikipedia, “governance develops and manages consistent, cohesive policies, processes and decision-rights for a given area of responsibility.” As such, governance provides a mechanism to resolve conflicts, in an orderly fashion. For example, an IT Investment Review Board and supporting EA Review Board enables a decision process for authorizing, allocating, and prioritizing new IT investments, an otherwise highly contentious area for many sponsors and stakeholders in the organization.
Conflict is inevitable; however, EA can provide both information and governance to help manage and resolve conflict.
Traditional management espouses that executives are supposed to develop a vision, chart a course for the organization, and guide it to that future destination. Moreover, everyone in the enterprise is supposed to pull together and sing off the same sheet of music, to make the vision succeed and become reality. However, new approaches to organizational management acknowledge that in today’s environment of rapid change and the many unknowns that abound, executives need to be far more flexible and adaptable, open to learning and feedback, and allow for greater individualism and creativity to succeed.
In the book Managing the Unknowable by Ralph Stacey, the author states that “by definition, innovative strategic directions take an organization into uncharted waters. It follows that no one can know the future destination of an innovative organization. Rather, that organization’s managers must create, invent, and discover their destination as they go.”
In an environment of rapid change, the leader’s role is not to rigidly control where the organization is going, but rather to create conditions that foster creativity and learning. In other words, leaders do not firmly set the direction and demand a “cohesive team” to support it, but rather they create conditions that encourage and promote people to “question everything and generate new perspectives through contention and conflict.” The organization is moved from “building on their strengths and merely adapting to existing market conditions, [to insted] they develop new strengths and at least partly create their own environments.”
An organization just sticking to what they do best and incrementally improving on that was long considered a strategy for organizational success; however, it is now understood as a recipe for disaster. “It is becoming clearer why so many organizations die young…they ‘stick to their knitting’ and do better and better what they already do well. When some more imaginative competitors come along and change the rules of the game, such over-adapted companies…cannot respond fast enough. The former source of competitive success becomes the reason for failure and the companies, like animals, become extinct.”
Organizations must be innovative and creative to succeed. “The ‘new science’ for business people is this: Organizations are feedback systems generating such complex behavior that cause-and-effect links are broken. Therefore, no individual can intend the future of that system or control its journey to that future. Instead what happens to an organization is created by and emerges from the self-organizing interactions between its people. Top managers cannot control this, but through their interventions, they powerfully influence this.
With the rapidly changing economic, political, social, and technological conditions in the world, “the future is inherently unpredictable.” To manage effectively then is not to set rigid plans and targets, but rather to more flexibly read, analyze, and adapt to the changes as they occur or as they can be forecast with reasonable certainly. “A ‘shared vision’ of a future state must be impossible to formulate, unless we believe in mystic insight.” “No person, no book, can prescribe systems, rules, policies, or methods that dependably will lead to success in innovative organizations. All managers can do it establish the conditions that enable groups of people to learn in each new situation what approaches are effective in handling it.”
For enterprise architecture, there are interesting implications from this management approach. Enterprise architects are responsible for developing the current and target architecture and transition plan. However, with the rapid pace of change and innovation and the unpredictability of things, we learn that “hard and fast” plans will not succeed, but rather EA plans and targets must remain guidelines only that are modified by learning and feedback and is response to the end-user (i.e User-centric). Secondly, EA should not become a hindrance to organizational innovation, creativity, and new paradigms for organizational success. EA needs to set standards and targets and develop plans and administer governance, but this must be done simultaneously with maintaining flexibility and harnessing innovation into a realtime EA as we go along. It’s not a rigid EA we need, but as one of my EA colleagues calls it, it’s an “agile EA”.
In the national bestseller, Getting to Yes, by Fisher and Ury, the authors call out the importance of everyday negotiation and proposes a new type of negotiation called “principled negotiation”.
“Everyone negotiates something every day…negotiation is a basic means of getting what you want from others. It is a back-and-forth communciation designed to reach an agreement when you and the other side have some interests that are shared and others that are opposed. More and more occasions require negotiation. Conflict is a growth industry…whether in business, government, or the family, people reach most decisions through negotiation.”
There are two standard ways to negotiate that involve trading off between getting what you want and getting along with people:
Soft—“the soft negotiator wants to avoid personal conflict and so makes concessions readily in order to reach agreement. He wants an amicable resolution yet he often ends up exploited and feeling bitter.”
Hard—“the hard negotiator sees any situation as a contest of wills in which the side that takes more extreme positions and holds out londer fares better. He want to win yet he often ends up producing an equally hard response which exhausts him and his resources and harms his relationship with the other side.”
The third way to negotiate, developed by the Harvard Negotiation Project, is Principled Negotiation.
Principled Negotiation—“neither hard nor soft, but rather both hard and soft…decide issues on their merits rather than through a haggling process…you look for mutual gains wherever possible, and that where your interests conflict, you should insist that the results be based on some fair standards independent of the will of either side.”
In principled negotiation, the method is based on the following:
- People—participants are not friends and not adversaries, but rather problem solvers
- Goal—the goal is not agreement or victory, but rather a “wise outcome reached efficiently and amicably”
- Stance—your stance is “soft on the people, hard on the problem”
- Pressure—you don’t yield or apply pressure, but rather “reason and be open to reasons”
- Position—you don’t change your position easily or dig in, but rather you “focus on interests, not positions”
- Solution—the optimal solution is win-win; you develop “options for mutual gain”
In User-centric EA, there are many situations that involve negotiation, and using principled negotiation to develop win-win solutions for the participants is critical for developing wise solutions and sustaining important personal relationships.
- Building and maintaining the EA—first of all, just getting people to participate in the process of sharing information to build and maintain an EA involves negotiation. In fact, the most frequent question from those asked to participate is “what’s in it for me?” So enterprise architects must negotiate with stakeholders to share information and participate and take ownership in the EA initiative.
- Sound IT governance—second, IT governance, involves negotiating with program sponsors on business and technical alignment and compliance issues. Program sponsors and project managers may perceive enterprise architects as gatekeepers and your review board and submission forms or checklists as a hindrance or obstacle rather than as a true value-add, so negotiation is critical with these program/project managers to enlist their support and participation in the review, recommendation, and decision process and follow-up on relevant findings and recommendations from the governance board.
- Robust IT planning—third, developing an IT plan involves negotiation with business and technical partners to develop vision, mission, goals, objectives, initiatives, milestones, and measures. Everyone has a stake in the plan and negotiating the plan elements and building consensus is a delicate process.
In negotiating for these important EA deliverables, it’s critical to keep in mind and balance the people and the problem. Winning the points and alienating the people is not a successful long-term strategy. Similarly, keeping your associates as friends and conceding on the issues, will not get the job done. You must develop win-win solutions that solve the issues and which participants feel are objective, fair, and equitable. Therefore, using principled negotiation, being soft on people and hard on the problem is the way to go.
>Just learned of new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) Report documenting the significant progress of Enterprise Architecture and IT Governance program at the U.S. Coast Guard, which I led up to and during the majority of the audit.
I am pleased at the recognized progress and at the terrific work that my team accomplished there–I am very proud of all of them!
Of course, there is more work to be done, but the right EA infrastructure has been put in place to accomplish the goals and objectives set out.
Here is the link to the report: http://sites.google.com/site/thetotalcio/Home/links/EAOIGReport-July2009.pdf?attredirects=0
“The Coast Guard has made progress in developing its enterprise architecture by defining its enterprise architecture framework [User-centric EA] in alignment with both federal and DHS architectures. In addition, its enterprise architecture is aligned with the Coast Guard’s IT strategy. These achievements have been possible because of executive support for the enterprise architecture effort.”
>Check out this SlideShare Presentation: