Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Standards in Business Archecture - "A Land Grab" ?

The other day I came across a list of myths about business architecture  that were being dispatched into the "shredder" with vigour.

One myth that was being torn down was.

“There is no commonly defined approach to business architecture”.

I was really unhappy about the language being used and the message being promoted:

The myth was dismissed by saying: Yes there is! It is well defined and used across the world, it goes on to say that: those that claim otherwise -saying “business architecture is an art not a science - are self-serving and prolonging the journey to achieving business architectural value” Wow….

A pretty radical claim– perhaps a bit arrogant - don’t you think?

In other words we know what business architecture is; we created the standards and everyone else outside of our club can just go away.

This would be a more accurate and genuine statement:

“There are organisations who publish proprietary methodologies for the application of business architecture.”  

There is nothing wrong with the standards that this group is promoting, in fact most of what they say is pretty sensible. What is objectionable is the idea that this then becomes the so called de-facto standard.  It is a standard - yes - but to claim it as a common standard - the only way- is "pushing the envelope".

Are we saying that  - "if you don’t use these standards or methods then you not doing business architecture?" Are we constraining business architecture by trying to get everyone to produce the same stuff? I would argue yes - many other agree too.

On another occasion I saw a post saying 
“we had a consultancy in here that produced a slide deck that didn’t conform to standards” -

as if this was a heinous crime. In reality why would I pay high day rates to get standard materials? I want consultants to be innovative and present new ways of thinking and ways of communicating messages.

On reading the myths and the proposed approach business architecture must therefore mean a much tighter environment that I and many I associate with think. For example I know one individual that dislikes capability maps intensely and he thinks value chains are they way to go; is he less of a business architect than others? In fact this  individual is a substantial strategy author with many books to his name and years of experience; but if he doesn't use capability mapping then this isn't business architecture say the standards body!

Many colleagues find that their business stakeholders don’t like the artefacts that these so called standards produce and therefore produce different materials which are artistically crafted to communicate skilfully their messages. They use their skills to craft models and diagrams to satisfy messages and client needs. 

Please note the use of the phrase “artistically crafted” so from their perspective is business architecture and art or a science? Actually the answer is probably a mix of the two.

There are two forces at work here: standardisation and innovation and your view will probably be different depending which camp you sit in:

  • If you are an I.T. person looking outwards to get clarity from the business and then communicating those findings back to your software developers then standards are great. Observe, record and populate the standards.Same format, same look; consistency is great for coders and analysts all of whom know the language and taxonomy – super. 

  • However if you are shaping a change and need to select techniques and innovate or motivate others to identify requirements, messages and present pictures of the future then standards get in the way.
Let us postulate which group the standards body originate from?

If I have an operating model that shows how the organisation works to create value for customers and it is done using Domains of Change: POLISM or CCPPOLDAT or some other construct; is that now not business architecture. Perhaps my definition is too broad?

Some say The I.T and project management world has been ruined by methodology based standards, accreditation and certification. Only last month articles were on LinkedIn saying PMP and Prince2 were the worst thing that has happened to PM, devaluing the profession and turning project managers into administrators.    Why has this happened?

“Surprise - Surprise” Money. Professional Associations, Clubs, Guilds and the like have membership fees, they run accreditation and certification programmes - more fees. 

They appoint and certify training organisations - more fees. They work with software vendors to produce tools that work to the standards - licensing fees and so it goes on.

Fine create a methodology to sell and promote – carry on please - but have the courtesy to promote it as it is a proprietary approach not as a panacea or universal standard.     

Saturday, 21 January 2017

EA reclaims itself?

Linkedin is full of posts with EA's trying to reclaim the title this is all sponsored by one particular well meaning individual.

The posts are asking to claim back the fact that EA is all about I.T. TOGAF style not anything else.

We find it a bit amusing as they are right in their own way; in at least they recognise what their EA actually is based on what most people with this, rather odd, title actually do on a day to day basis; but it is really amusing when the label doesn't just doesn't fit.

These guys just don't like the fact that Enterprise Architecture is viewed by some as architecting the enterprise.

Other protagonists argue that EA is more than just architecting the I.T. across the enterprise: systems thinking, strategic planning/thinking, consulting  and design. They say "EA doesn't do what it says on the tin" in most organisations. True.

 All these parties  have an opinion, which is fair enough, but it causes so many problems in positioning this type of activity in the business for both EITA , EA and architecting in general.

Highly confusing all round, no wonder business people raise and eyebrow and shuffle off down the corridor.

EA is really EITA or is it?
Is business architecture a subset of EA or has EA become so abused as a term that business architecture has to take the lead as the overarching discipline?

This has been going on for years and in truth it is getting boring.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

John Lewis and Marks & Spencer Executives working up from the ranks - "Lifers Benefit or Hindrance" ?

Linked had one of those congratulating posts last week in reference to the promotion of Nicholds Paula Nicholds to the position of first female MD in John Lewis. 

The theme of the post was "look a women has worked to the top isn't that great" and to be fair I suppose to some that's good. Mind you in some ways it degrades her achievement because if the appointment was to a male than the post wouldn't have been made. So "she got their despite being a women",  which really I'm sure isn't the message and is probably if you think about it a little insulting to her undoubtedly excellent achievement. Good on her or him whoever they are and whatever their gender. John Lewis is a great organisation and persists in a rapidly changing retail environment a bastion of historic retail business models some argue the only  remaining multi site department store in the UK "Are you being served" mold - " Bless you Young Mr. Grace".

One point I saw which I didn't comment on, because I didn't want to be seen to be diminishing the achievement, or to be negative, was the fact that she has worked in John Lewis 22 years working her way up from a lowly start in the haberdashery department, which incidentally is reported she has decided to close. I did start to consider whether having an MD, a strategic role no less, who had worked her way up women and girl to this latest role was such a good idea?

Today, I noticed the announcement of the closure of many Marks and Spencer stores and again saw a senior manager CEO I believe, a Steve Rowe who had worked in the business since he was 15 having spent a year break form M&S elsewhere (Top Shop) at the tender age of 18 before settling into a man and boy career at M&S ; if the maths are correct that means a service of 30-31 years. Some would argue that is great- it shows loyalty, inspires others that anything is possible. It demonstrates an organisation with a career path  and a future.

If you study business change and cultural aspects in particular, then some concerns start to come into play. Corporate change requires an understanding of culture and whether that culture is right for the strategy. The longer you work for an organisation the less culturally aware you become; you see little else and can assume that everywhere else is the same. Seeing what is wrong and challenging the status-quo is pretty difficult when you know little else than that your own organisation. 

I find in workshops in general, long service people have great difficulty in understanding their own corporate culture and whether it is positive or not positive. If an organisation  is set in its ways and cannot change in response to external drivers then there is a big issue. Topics such as strategic drift, death spirals and cultural gravity come to mind in this discussion.

If senior people have not worked anywhere else and have not experienced anything different - are they perhaps part of the problem? Are they going to come up with strategically exciting ideas or is it going to be more of the same. In retail which is in its biggest shake up in its history presently surely walking in the same old footsteps is not going to provide the innovation needed. 

Change leadership is going to be a real challenge for individuals with such introspective background unless they are really talented and have capacity for self-analysis and high levels of reflection.  Not commenting on these two names specifically, most senior people with egos and hubris that goes with the rank are not well known for those qualities!

The reverse we often see too, Executives jumping from one organisation to another, re-engineering slashing and burning, restructuring and leading change. Whatever their lowly status in their early careers the experience is not in the business using the operational processes of the business that they now lead. 

Many see these individuals as not knowing their business, inexperienced in the detail and the mechanics of the operating model. So, too much service or too little what is the answer. 

Probably a mix is the answer; neither too much service nor too little, or a mix at the senior level with some long service people and some newbies balanced in the organisational power structure. 

Some suggest you appoint a solid BAU (business as usual)  character in times of stability and a mover and shaker in times of transformation and hand back to a "Steady Eddie" career long timer after the change. Today though, are we now in continual change; the old Lewin theory of unfreeze - change - refreeze seems a bit "out of touch".

Is retail currently in BAU territory or transformational change? It has to be the latter.

I still think appointing someone to the most senior strategical role having worked virtually nowhere else, with no experience of any other industry too to give you different perspectives is a risky appointment in such a turbulent time in retail. 

Of course these two may well be the exception and I do sincerely wish them both luck and my respect; time will tell.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Operating Model Canvas New Book: Andrew Campbell

I have just a few hours reviewing a book on Operating Models for Andrew Campbell of Ashridge Business School, he runs courses on operating model development too; so we have a common interest in sharing ideas. I have been working with Andrew off and on over the last six months and we have had some interesting discussions which have had some influence on this new book.

We don't agree on everything, as I am sure you can imagine, but in essense there is a common thread there which makes sense.  He likes value chains. I prefer capability maps; he loves organisational charts, I am less keen! But if these methods work and get the results then that is all that is important.

The new book is going to be in the style of Business Model Generation. it is more a pick up and browse a few pages when you need them. rather than a cover to cover read. It is diagram heavy, text light and really colourful.

Looking forward to a publishing date,

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Business Architecture " Don't boil the Ocean"

Appropriate modelling to serve stakeholders and communicate particular things is becoming much more the preferred approach than modelling the whole enterprise at all levels of detail.

The business case for a central architecture team is a difficult one to write and to get approved in a changing world. Tool vendors in the majority provide a: holistic model, modle everything approach in their provided databases (meta modals)  and this doesn't help AGILE architecture.

Selling the top down centralised way for doing business architecture is becoming less and less successful as many of these centralised teams are being disbanded in cost cutting programmes. Architecture teams employ expensive people and they need to demonstrate real visible value in pound and dollar terms.

Embedding architecting skills within individuals, who then operate in different roles across the organisation, rather than training specialists and placing them in vunerable teams is growing as the alternative way forward.

Business architecture is evolving and training needs to adapt in response. Through teaching AGILE architecting to support faster and more dynamic responses we can assist. No longer can we justify the cost and time in large centralised modelling teams except in certain strategic situations; such as cost leadership in high volume repeatable activity where controlled repitition is the strategy.

We need to diversify the people across the organisation to maintain and protect the ability to shape and design.

So bin the holistic metamodels! Ask the stakeholder what they what to see and now and model that and stop.