>Embracing Instability and Enterprise Architecture

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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”.

>Creating Win-Win and Enterprise Architecture

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We are all familiar with conflict management and day-to-day negotiations in our everyday leadership role in our organizations, and the key to successful negotiation is creating win-win situations.

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:

  1. People—participants are not friends and not adversaries, but rather problem solvers
  2. Goal—the goal is not agreement or victory, but rather a “wise outcome reached efficiently and amicably”
  3. Stance—your stance is “soft on the people, hard on the problem”
  4. Pressure—you don’t yield or apply pressure, but rather “reason and be open to reasons”
  5. Position—you don’t change your position easily or dig in, but rather you “focus on interests, not positions”
  6. 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.

>Cybots to the Rescue

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In the Star Trek series Voyager, the (cyb)Borg wants to assimilate everyone (literally every species and they are given numbers to keep track of them) throughout the galaxies into their collective. They are an existential threat to humankind. And it makes for some great science fiction entertainment.

In real life though, the cybots are coming not to harm, but to help people.

Government Computer News, 23 February 2009, reports that Oak Ridge National Lab is working on developing cybots (software robots) to defend us in cyberspace.

Cybots are “intelligent enough to cooperate with one another to monitor and defend the largest networks.”

What makes cybots more effective than the software and hardware security we have today?

“Instead of independent devices doing a single task and reporting to a central console, the cybots would collaborate to accomplish their missions.”

The end state is a virtual cybot army deployed so those seeking to do us harm in cyber-warfare will themselves be the ones for whom “resistance is futile”.

Could cybots end up like the the Cylones in Battlestar Galactica or the machines in Terminator that turn on humans?

The Cybots have a programmed mission such as “network monitoring and discovery, intrusion detection, and data management.” So the hope is that they stay true to those things.

However, to me it seems completely plausible that just as cybots can be developed for defensive capabilities, they can also be programmed for offensive cyber warfare. And if they can be used offensively, then we can end up on the wrong side of the cybots someday.

Where does this leave us?

It seems like cyberspace is about to get a whole lot more complicated and dangerous—with not only human cyber-criminals and –warriors, but also cyber robots that can potentially wreak Internet havoc.

In terms of planning for future IT security, we need to stay technologically on the cutting edge so that we stay ahead of our adversaries as well as in constant control of the new defensive and offensive cyber-weapons that we are developing.

>IT Planning, Governance and The Total CIO

>See new article in Architecture and Governance Magazine on: IT Planning, Governance and the CIO: Why a Structured Approach Is Critical to Long-Term Success

(http://www.architectureandgovernance.com/content/it-planning-governance-and-cio-why-structured-approach-critical-long-term-success)

Here’s an exrcept:

“IT planning and governance undoubtedly runs counter to the intuitive response—to fight fire with a hose on the spot. Yet dealing with crises as they occur and avoiding larger structures and processes for managing IT issues is ultimately ineffective. The only way to really put out a fire is to find out where the fire is coming from and douse it from there, and further to establish a fire department to rapidly respond to future outbreaks.”

>IT Planning and Enterprise Architecture

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Perhaps many of you have wondered what the relationship is between the IT Strategic Plan and the Enterprise Architecture Transition Plan? Why do you need both? Isn’t one IT plan just like another?

There are many different plans starting with the organization’s strategic plan that drives the IT plan and so forth. Each sequential layer of the plan adds another crucial dimension for the plan to enable it to achieve it ultimate implementation.

The various plans establish line of sight from the highest level plan for the organization to individual performance plans and the implementation of new or changes to systems, IT products and standards, and ultimately to the capabilities provided the end-user.

Here is my approach to User-centric IT Planning:

1. Organizational Strategic Plan—the highest level overall plan enterprise; it identifies the goals and objectives of the organization, and drives the IT Strategic Plan.

2. IT Strategic Pan—the IT Plan for the enterprise; it identifies the IT goals and objectives, and drives the IT Performance Plan.

3. IT Performance Plan—a decomposition of the IT Plan; it identifies IT initiatives and milestones, and drives the IT Roadmap and Individual Performance Plans.

4. IT Roadmap and Individual Performance Plans

a) IT Roadmap—a visual timeline of the IT Performance Plan; it identifies programs and projects milestones, and drives the Target Architecture and Transition Plan.

b) Individual Performance Plans—the performance plans for your IT staff; it is derived from the IT Performance Plan, and provides line of sight from the Organizational and IT Strategic Plans all the way to the individual’s performance plan, so everyone knows what they are supposed to do and why (i.e. how it fits into the overall goals and objectives.

5. Target Architecture and Transition Plan

a) Target Architecture—a decomposition of the IT Roadmap into systems and IT products and standards; it identifies the baseline (As-Is) and the target (To-Be) for new and major changes to systems and IT products and standards.

[Note: Target Architecture can also be used in more general terms to refer to the future state of the organization and IT, and this is how I often use it.]

b) Transition Plan—a visual timeline of the changes for implementing the changes to go from the baseline (As-Is) to the target (To-Be) state for systems and IT products and standards.

6. Capabilities—the target state in terms of business capabilities provided to the end-user derived from the changes to systems, IT products and standards, and business processes; it is derived from the Target Architecture and Transition Plan.

This planning approach is called User-centric IT Planning because it is focused on the end-user. User-centric IT Planning develops a plan that is NOT esoteric or shelfware, but rather one that is focused on being actionable and valuable to the organization and its end-users. User-centric IT plans have line of sight from the organization’s strategic plan all the way to the individual performance plans and end-user capabilities.

Now that’s the way to plan IT!

>The Visionary and Enterprise Architecture

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In User-centric EA, we develop a vision or target state for the organization. However, there are a number of paradoxes in developing an EA vision/target, which makes this goals quite challenging indeed.

In the book, The Visionary’s Handbook by Wacker and Taylor, the authors identify the paradoxes of developing a vision for the enterprise; here are some interesting ones to ponder:

  1. Proving the vision—“The closer your vision gets to provable ‘truth,’ the more you are simply describing the present in the future tense.”
  2. Competing today, yet planning for tomorrow—“By its very nature, the future destablizes the present. By its very natures, the present resists the future. To survive you need duality [i.e. living in two tenses, the present and the future], but people and companies by their very nature tend to resisting living in two tenses.” “You have to compete in the future dimension without destabilizing the competition [i.e. your ability to compete] in the present and without subverting the core values that have sustained your business in the past.”
  3. Bigger needs to be smaller—“The bigger you are, the smaller you need to be….great size is great power, but great size is also stasis.”
  4. The future is unpredictable—“Nothing will turn out exactly as it is supposed to…yet if you fail to act, you will cease to exist in any meaningful professional or business sense.”

So how does one develop a viable target architecture?

The key would seem to be in deconflicting past, present, and future. The past cannot be a hindrance to future change and transformation—the past must remain the past; lessons learned are welcome and desirable, but the options for the future should be open to innovation and hard work. The resistance of the present (to the future) must be mitigated by continuous communications and marketing; we must bring people along and provide leadership. The future is unknown, but trends and probabilities are possible for setting a way ahead; of course, the target needs to remain adaptable to changing conditions.

Certainly, any target architecture we develop is open to becoming a “target” for those who wish to take pot shots. But in an ever changing world and fierce global competition, we cannot sit idle. The architecture must lead the way for incremental and transformative change for the organization, all the while course correcting based on the evolving baseline and market conditions. EA is as much an art as it is a science, and the paradoxes of vision and planning need to be managed carefully.

>Eisenhower and Enterprise Architecture

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Dwight David Eisenhower (October 14, 1890 – March 28, 1969), nicknamed “Ike“, was a five-star General in the United States Army and U.S. politician, who served as the thirty-fourth President of the United States (1953–1961). During the Second World War, he served as Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe, with responsibility for planning and supervising the successful invasion of France and Germany in 1944-45. In 1951, he became the first supreme commander of NATO. As a Republican, he was elected the 34th U.S. President, serving for two terms. As president, he oversaw the cease-fire of the Korean War, kept up the pressure on the Soviet Union during the Cold War…” (Wikipedia)

Dwight D. Eisenhower said that “in preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

What does this mean when it comes to User-centric EA and target architecture and transition plans?

  1. Plans are agile—you can plan, but you can’t control the situation on the ground. Therefore, EA plans are by definition undependable. A plan developed for one situation may be completely useless or actually counterproductive in another set of circumstances. Further, there are essentially infinite factors in every scenario and you can’t plan for every combination and permutation. Therefore, you can never really plan effectively, since in some aspects, the plan will always be off.
  2. Planning is a learning process—while a specific EA plan itself may ultimately be useless, the planning process itself is extremely valuable. Bringing subject matter experts and stakeholders together to brainstorm, evaluate various scenarios, analyze alternatives, and “hash it out” helps everyone involved to understand the objectives, the battleground, the force structure (assets), and unify everyone around a common way ahead. This is the true value of planning.

In the end, EA plans must be agile and adaptable to the specific situation on the ground, as it evolves. If the planning process has been taken seriously (and not just another annual offsite event), then everyone involved grows professionally, learns about the status of the organization today, and unites around a common way ahead. For this to happen, the planning process needs to be well-structured, yet open to innovative ideas, best-practices, and benchmarking, and should involve a diverse group of subject matter experts. If the planning process is sound, then even if the plan needs to change based on circumstances on the ground, the people involved are able and prepared to adapt.