>Doomsday and Enterprise Architecture

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Enterprise architecture is about planning and transitioning from the baseline to the target state.

However, as architects, there are times when we need to plan for the worst and hope for the best, as the saying goes.

As the price of oil has reached and exceeded $100 a barrel and significant new findings of oil are becoming a rarity, some people are starting to get nervous and are planning for a day when oil will be scarce, pricey, and society as we have come to know will cease to exist. Yikes, doomsday!

Are these people simply uninformed, pessimists, or non-believers that technological progress will outpace the demands we are placing on this planet’s resources?

The Wall Street Journal, 26 January 2008, reports about everyday people, like the Aaron Wissner in Middleville, Michigan, a school computer teacher with a wife and infant son, who became “peak-oil aware.” This term refers to his “embracing the theory that world’s oil production is about to peak.

These people fear the worst; “Oil supplies are dwindling just as world demand soars. The result: oil prices ‘will skyrocket, oil dependent economies will crumble, and resource wars will explode.’” Mr. Wissner’s forebodings include, “banks faltering” and “food running out.”

And they believe that we cannot stop this from happening. “no techno-fix was going to save us. Electric cars, biodiesel, nuclear power, wind and solar—none of it will cushion the blow.”

So Mr. Wissner and his family are preparing and transitioning themselves for the worst, they “tripled the size of his garden…stacked bags of rice in his new pantry, stashed gold…and doubled the size of his propane tank.”

According to the article there are thousands of people that adhere to the peak-oil theory.

Of course, there are many doomsday scenarios out there that end in war, famine, disease, and so on. During the cold war, people built bomb shelters in their back yards, and school children had drills hiding under their desks. These days, many fear that globalization will drive this country to economic ruin. Al Gore and other environmentalists espouse the global warming theory. And since 9/11, fears are heightened about terrorists hitting us with nuclear, biological, chemical, or radiological agents. Even Hollywood has entered the fray with movies such as Armageddon about meteors hitting the Earth or The Day After Tomorrow with the greenhouse effect sending us back to the ice-age.

Whether you adhere with any of these various doomsday scenarios or visions of the future (their believed target architecture, not necessarily their desired one) and how they are preparing (transitioning) to it or you think they are just a bunch of nut-balls, it seems important as an enterprise architect to recognize that targets are not always rosy pictures of growth and prosperity for an organization, and the transition plans are not always a welcome and forward movement. Sometimes as architects, we must plan for the worst–hoping, of course that it never comes–but never-the-less preparing, the best we can. As architects, we don’t have to put all the enterprise’s eggs in one basket. We can weigh the odds and invest accordingly in different scenarios. Our organization’s resources are limited, so we must allocate resources carefully and with forethought. Of course, no architecture can save us from every catastrophe.

>Branding and Enterprise Architecture

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User-centric EA is concerned with establishing a baseline and target architecture and transition plan for the organization. This endeavor includes everything from performance results, business function and processes, information requirements, systems and technologies, and how we secure it all. But how about including the organization’s brand and reputation in defining the architecture, especially in targeting and planning for a stronger reputation with customers and stakeholders?

The Wall Street Journal, 9 January 2008, has an article titled, “As Economy Slows, Reputation Takes on Added Meaning.”

Organization’s brands can be an asset or liability, based on how well it has been planned and managed and “cared for and fed.”

‘‘Mending reputations can’t be done overnight’ says Kasper Nielson, the Reputation Institute’s managing partner.” As we do in EA, comparing the current to the target architecture and developing a transition plan, Mr. Nielson “takes companies through a seven-step analysis of what’s causing their reputations to suffer, followed by a close look at which constituencies—employees, customers or investors—are affected and what they are seeking. Then it’s time for the hard work of figuring out what aspects of company conduct are helpful and what needs to be fixed.”

Many organizations only care about their technology and business alignment after they run into problems with poor IT investment decisions or programs that are failing or falling behind because of inadequate automation and technological sophistication. Then the organization wants a quick fix for an enterprise architecture and IT governance, yesterday! Similarly Mr. Neilson states about reputation, “A lot of companies care about reputation only after a crisis hits. Then they want to know, can you fix things? They don’t integrate reputation into their everyday processes. That’s dangerous. You have to do a lot of things right to build up a reputation platform.”

“‘Reputation is invisible, but it’s an enormously powerful force,” says Alan Towers, a New York advisor to companies concerned about reputation issues. He encourages CEO’s themselves to assume the role of chief reputation officer.” If brand and reputation is important enough for the CEO to take the lead role, it is certainly important enough to be considered a factor in building an viable enterprise architecture that will consider not only a company’s technology, but also how it is perceived to customers and stakeholders.

Some examples come to mind in terms of applying EA to organizational branding:

  1. Do we want to organization to be perceived as a technological leader or laggard?
  2. Is the organization viewed as having strong governance, including IT governance?
  3. Do stakeholders perceive that the organizations is spending its resources prudently and controlling its investment in new IT?
  4. Do stakeholders see the company as customer-centric, providing the latest in customer service systems, sales ordering and tracking, payment processing, website information and transaction processing, online help and other IT enabled user tools?
  5. Is technology seen as integral to the future of the organization or a sidebar or worse yet a distraction?

I once heard someone say that “perception is reality”. So, even if the organization is managing their technology and business alignment, if its stakeholders don’t perceive that to be the case, then the enterprise is not being effective with its constituents. The organization must factor stakeholder perceptions and its organizational reputation into the development of its target architecture and transition plan. Brand and reputation does not just materialize, but rather needs to be planned and managed to. EA can help to perform this role.

>Zen and Enterprise Architecture

>Zen believes in the transience of everything in this world and seeks enlightenment or an understanding of the way of the world for its followers.

The Book of Zen, by Eric Chaline, states that “nothing we can see, hear, or touch in the world has any permanent existence. It will of necessity, pass away.” This is the concept of “emptiness.”

Emptiness means that “all forms or appearances in the universe” are constantly changing and transient. For example, a simple chair was once “a piece of wood from a tree.” And over time, the “wear and tear on the chair will change its appearance and structure: losing some of its wood and gaining deposits of dirt. In time, the chair will break, and the wood will decay, rot, and finally fall to dust.”

This is similar to how the Torah/Bible describes the lifecycle of mankind, “for dust thou art and unto dust shall thou return.” We are simply passing through this world.

Similarly, in the Jewish high holy day prayers of Yom Kippur, we recognize and contrast G-d’s kingship and everlasting permanence with the earthly transient world of mankind which is likened to “a broken shard, withering grass, a fading flower, a passing shade, a dissipating cloud, a blowing wind, flying dust, and a fleeting dream.” The point here is not to bemoan our mortality, but to rejoice in G-d’s eternalness.

Like in Judaism, Zen and other religions and belief systems, User-centric EA seeks to understand the “as-is” nature of things, in this case, the organization, and it seeks to reconcile the “emptiness” and transiency of the current state with the necessity for adaptation and metamorphosis to its future state. EA recognizes that the way things are today and not the way they will be tomorrow; all factors inside an organization as well as the external factors affecting the organization are constantly in a state of flux. Therefore, the state of the organization is temporary and the organization must adapt or die. EA seeks organizational change and transformation through the development of a new “to-be” state along with a transition plan to get there.

In that sense, EA is a form of enlightenment for the organization and its transformation to a new state of being.

>Strategy and Enterprise Architecture

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In the book Translating Strategy into Action, by Duke Corporate Education, the authors provide numerous insights into strategy development that are applicable to User-centric EA.

  • Strategy is hard—“As managers, the combination of more information, a faster pace, greater geographic reach, greater interdependence, and elevated scrutiny means the environment we manage and the problem we face are increasingly complex.” The EA strategy is hard to develop, but even harder for today’s overtaxed managers to quickly and simply execute.
  • Strategy is a differentiator—“Strategy is about being different and making choices…it outlines where and how a company will compete [or operate]…it provides direction, guidance, and focus when you are faced with choices.” The EA is a differentiator for where and how the organization will operate.
  • Strategy is purpose—“Creating strategic context for your team creates a greater sense of purpose by connecting what they are doing to the bigger picture.” The EA sets up an alignment between IT and business and establishes context and purpose.
  • Strategy must be adaptable—“Strategy will always be in a state of flux and should be adaptable to today’s fast-paced environment.” The EA must be flexible and adapt to a changing environment.
  • Information is king—“Implementing a strategy requires managers to move from data acquisition to insight. How managers make sense of information is what will set them and their companies apart.” In EA, information is captured, analyzed, and catalogued for developing strategy and enabling decision-making.
  • Always start with a baseline—“Strategy translation and execution always entails moving from where you are to where you want to be. Without an honest and incisive analysis of where you are, this journey begins on faulty ground.” In EA, you’ve got to have a baseline in order to get to your target.
  • Think capabilities—“The more important step is to focus on building the capabilities necessary to achieve these [strategic action] steps, and ultimately the intended vision.” EA should help you define and develop your operational and technical capabilities and competancies
  • Embrace change—“Get comfortable with change. Continue to learn how to adapt because the degree and pace of change is increasing. Your firm’s strategy will change, maybe not in major ways, but always in subtle and important ways.” EA requires that the enterprise is open to change, not for change’s sake, but for adapting to changes in our environment.
Enterprise architecture is a strategic, big picture endeavor. It involves developing the baseline, target, and transition plan. The EA is the enterprise strategy and blueprint for bridging information requirements with IT solutions. EA is the CIO’s strategy for meeting mission requirements.

>Indoor Positioning System and Enterprise Architecture

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Many of us are users or are familiar with Global Positioning Systems (GPS) Navigation, such as the Garmin, which many people use in their cars for navigating their streets and highways. If you ever have tried to use it indoors, you know it doesn’t work typically because the signal inside buildings is too weak and frequently bounces off surfaces.

However, CNET provides a report by Reuters on 12 December 2007 that there is a new satellite navigation system (developed by French company, Thales) that actually works indoors. It is called an Indoor Positioning System (IPS).

What could this new satellite navigation capability be used for?

IPS “was aimed initially at helping fire services, although it could also be used by the police and armed forces. Eventually, it could also be applied in the consumer market and offered as an additional service with GPS-enabled cell phones, allowing users to navigate around shopping malls or airports.”

How does it work?

“The new system was based on a new kind of radio signal, called Ultra Wide Band, designed for very short range and high data-rate links. It uses radio pulses that can, for example, establish the positions of firefighters inside a building with respect to each other and to fire trucks outside.”

From a User-centric EA perspective, this new technology is very exciting. I don’t know about you all, but I very much appreciate my GPS when traveling or stuck in traffic and looking for an alternate route─it is truly invaluable. The extension of this technology for indoor use, potentially linked with our cell phones, makes for a terrific capability for professionals, like emergency first responders, or everyday consumers, like you and I, who can benefit from knowing where we’re going and how to get there. Like EA itself, IPS will help us locate the where we’re going (similar to the target architecture) and will tell us how to get there (like the EA transition plan). IPS is a great new technology for architects to be on the lookout for and a simile for enterprise architecture, itself.