Sunday, 18 December 2011

Capabilities and Process Architectures "Old Chestnut"

There have been many posts in recent forum discussions within the business architecture community which describe the commonality,within some organisations, between higher level process blocks and capabilities.
Some have suggested that this makes capabilities less useful. This is due to a combination of factors either because the organisation is very process dominant with low levels of physical things like, manufacturing or logistical activities or perhaps even due to poor analysis.
Process folks think process and when searching for capabilities use their reference point, process in current organisational structures, to search for capabilities. In many cases it is not surprising that they "low and behold" discover capabilities fairly identical to their high level process and say " well that was a pointless task wasn't it ".Quite often they have missed a lot of capabilities that the organisation has that could be instrumental to a step change in business model. 
Thus the introspective continual reference to to current physical state of the business constrains the thinking of the logical. Peter Checkland recognised this feature in his Soft Systems Methodology in Action (P.Checkland, Jim Scholes, 1999, Wiley, Chichester).
To model capabilities properly it is necessary to detach from what you know and the current context that you work within i.e. process and look in at the business from the outside through a fresh set of eyes lifting up to root definitions and conceptual models. This is not easy when your analysis team are steeped in operational thinking.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Business Architecture Training early 2012

Just started to get some initial  interest for public business architecture courses in 2012. It looks like the February offering near Southampton will go ahead now on the 15th to 17th of February. We could do with a few more delegates to add to the initial provisional bookings to crystallise the event.

In all though, in house courses for groups seem to attract more interest, although this doesn't help individuals either those privately funded or from smaller organisations who don't have larger groups of staff they wish to train in business architecture.

The thinking with in house courses, as opposed to public events, is that companies like to keep their own issues private and also it is more cost effective for a trainer to visit them with one set of hotel and travel costs rather than sending four or five people away on a public course with all the subsistence expenses that that incurs.

The downsides are that off site venues allow focus on learning away form the day to day distractions of being still in the "office" and we do get a lot of interruptions from BAU in these - in house - circumstances as people go away from the training event to attend brief meetings or arrive late or leave early to attend to their issues. This can on occasions be quite disruptive for  the event for all concerned and limits delegates full appreciation of what is on offer as they miss critical points, techniques or concepts.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Language gives poor impression in recruiting for Business/Enterprise Architects.

I had a role description shown to me this week which contained phrases like "heterogeneous legacy environment" and "consistent global platform". The text was full of words like this and was effectively sophisticated gibberish. Spattered with TOGAF, Modaf and DODAF and Zachman -this and that - made it look like a pick list of "in" words where the key role of communication was clearly missed, If this is the job advert for a Enterprise/Business Architects role no wonder many business people in large organisations can't get their heads round Enterprise Architecture and Business Architecture when the successful candidate arrives.

What even more disturbing was it was for a role where effective communication is absolutely key. The recruiting manager who wrote this is obviously in dire need of a business architect even if to teach the organisation that  to use simple meaningful language has enormous benefit ;  this may even mean that all the employees are pulling in the right direction because they know where they are going because they actually understand the words used. A key objective of Business Architecture  perhaps?

Using language like that described above cannot in anyway lead to sensible communication and surely attracts the wrong type of candidate.
Did make me chuckle though!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

IGrafx develop the SAP Market

We were interested this week to see how IGrafx have launched their new SAP process reference model. It seeks to map the foot print of SAP processes on manual processes and the holistic view of the organisation and save considerable time in configuration design. This check list approach makes cross organisational design considerably easier than starting from scratch. IGrafx claim that this fast start tool will save thousands in expensive SAP consultancy hours.

The IGrafx tool set is advancing its market impact by adapting its popular simplistic process mapping origins to the more sophisticated world of ERP implementation. In addition they have launched a number of high end software utilities in recent months moving towards operational analysis and dash-boarding rather than their traditional offline design approach of earlier times.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Employers Employ People in their Own Image.

In running an HND unit in employability skills and team building recently we discussed the anomaly of  homogeneous teams being the norm as opposed to balanced teams or heterogeneous teams.

In Meredith Belbin's model a performing team is said to be best composed of different personalities and skill sets - diversity is the aim for a performing team. Why do we see so many teams that have the opposite. Corporate organisations often recruit on "team fit" which means people recruit in their own image or to fit in with what we have already.

There are all sorts of issues around this including some typical recruitment nightmares for job seekers. One trend seems to be if you haven't been doing the similar role in very recent times recruiting managers don't want to know.  Another is the "recruiting in your own image" where line managers view people like themselves and   consciously or subconsciously reject people on initial CV search that don't fit the norm or mould - i.e. they recruit existing industry players who work for big corporate organisations  like themselves, rejecting people from outside their industry or ex freelancers and contractors because they don't understand their backgrounds, lifestyles and CVs. What a missed opportunity this is for getting in some fresh ideas and approaches!

The result here is all sorts of anti diversity behaviours and in some cases quite discriminatory certainly from an ageism perspective let alone anything worse. This narrow approach isn't complementary to the Belbin approach is it?

So many ex-colleagues and associate consultants  tell us anecdotes of corporate short sightedness resulting in rejection at a very early stage of the exhausting recruitment process.

Most are older employees who said to us that they where told that they don't fit in with the team profile by recruiting managers in their thirties, or that their skills are not recent, even though most of these people held senior roles in these skill sets earlier in their careers with seriously success records behind them.

So is this naivety or is it  protectionism by younger managers worried about employing older workers or challenging individuals from outside the industry  who might perhaps know more or be in fact more competent than them?

The resulting insular and non performing teams in many of Britain's larger corporate organisations is a significant concern in any organisational design.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Taking Time To Think

What is the main barrier to business design?

At a recent delivery of  an in house Business Architecture course in Northampton in the UK delegates said " Not having time to think and be creative due to the pressures of delivery".

Thinking time and a culture that accepts it as a worthwhile pursuit is a really important factor in designing and doing the right business change programmes . Thinking time is work - trust me!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Design or Evolution

Most large corporate organisations are what they are. They evolve through: change acquisition merger and the purchase of customer portfolios. Business architecture seeks to change this by putting in place intelligent design; defining an end state based on an assessment of strategy and gaps from the "As Is".

If we step back a moment this is a bit like Darwinism versus Intelligent design; evolution seems to have worked well for biology in creating organisms that are highly adapted to the environment; most highly efficient and effective until a change brings extinction of a species.

So if evolution is good enough for life on earth why doesn't this work in business or does it?

The issue is that the larger corporate bodies are sheltered some what from environmental change due to their size and brand dominance and it only when a major change event that the "water level" is lowered and the "rocks" start to appear to "hole the hull".

The issue is also that over many years change was a bit steady and the survival pressures and survival of the fittest didn't hit too many larger companies. Until of course when major events like the banking crisis meant to extend the analogy here "an asteroid hit the planet" in late 2008 and caused a mass extinction.

SMEs seem to work better or more easily in a evolutionary environment but when you get bigger a future must be crafted and planned not just allocated to survival of the fittest and  business evolution based on Darwinism.

In business, intelligent design seems a much more sensible approach than sitting back and allowing fate to govern your future. So why do so many big companies just morph and evolve and effectively unknowingly "hope for the best"? -Answer- Do some business Architecture!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Balancing Compliance and the Media

In a world of financial difficulties the media looks to pillory and find those responsible. Regulation and compliance become the popular solution for all our ills. "If things had been regulated better" then this or that would n't have happened. Nearly every day the media is probing and acting like a pack of hunting hounds around one issue or another.

The trouble is that regulation cost money, lots of money. It is evident from contractor job boards that the majority of contracts on offer for change professionals in the UK this autumn are regulatory based compliance projects. Large corporate organisations are doing stuff because they have to, not because they really want or need to. Solvency 2, RDR (Retail Distribution Review) are two of the many regulatory based initiatives rippling through financial services. How much real customer service improvement has been put on hold as a result?

Who pays for all of this- the customer - in higher prices  and also perhaps more significantly in many cases, irritating processes and worsened customer experiences - yet another pointless pre recorded compliance based announcement delaying the call!

I am not advocating that compliance is bad news I am just saying that we need to be careful we "don't throw the baby out with the bath water". It isn't the panacea that the announcers and anchor men/ladies on the Today Programme would seem to suggest.

Compliance has an enormous cost in both hard cash and in how we interact with organisations we buy services from. What we really  need is a bit of balance and a bit of common sense.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Time to go Fishing!

We seem to arrived at that time of year where running a small business whose customers are mostly corporates becomes frustrating!

Loads of people are off taking their annual paid leave, managers aren't around to make decisions to release budget and generally it's " I will call you in September".

So, like Christmas, half terms and Easter it is yet another time that isn't particularly productive.

Annual leave is a serious productivity issue its not just the time off but it is the week before to wind down to finish off and the week after the holiday to read the 1000 or so e mails and to ramp back up again.

An ordinary two week holiday can wreck a month for some. When everyone is taking it and it's usually staggered to "provide cover", the whole place grinds to a halt for the best part of July and August. Funny really cause when I was a salary-man I took it all for granted too!

Oh, and take too long a holiday and its an opportunity for some politics at your detriment whilst you are away!

You can understand in the days before globalisation, well even before doing business outside your local area, meant that whole towns in the North of England closed for a recognised week as the whole workforce went on mass by "charrabang" to "Skeggy" or some where. Bit before my time though hasten to add! - I'm sure Orwell can give us some snippets!!

So perhaps it's best to join the "permies" and go and do some fishing!!

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Technology breeds stupidity.

Here's a nice line from an article by Jack Wallen on ZDNet trying to dispel myths about open-source software. This section points out that you don't have to be an expert to use it, and it's as easy to install as proprietary software, if not easier...

"Like all things to do with computers, as the intelligence of the average computer user has dropped, the ease of use of open-source software has increased."

But I suppose it applies to most technologies. The more complex things become under the skin, the more user-friendly and idiot-proof the developers try to make them. The same applies to cars. Thirty years ago you might have had a go at replacing the cylinder head gasket. On modern cars you can't even find the cylinder head. Is technology actually making us less capable?

Cloud is going to do for operations what the web did for marketing.

The growing capability of cloud software as a service.(SAAS) functionality is looking to change the business models of many small medium enterprises and particularly micro businesses. The web enabled anyone to market to the world where previously only large companies could market with substantial budgets. It has revolutionised marketing and sales over the last 10 years making small businesses able to compete in markets where years ago it would have been impossible.

Cloud is going to do for operations what the web did for marketing.

When you have an idea and uptake could be slow it takes a brave entrepreneur to fork out for expensive software and supporting infrastructure; raising fixed costs and automatically creating as a result high take up to hit the break even point. Many have shrunk back from this and how many good ideas have not developed due to high initial investment costs?

With many SAAS offerings a "freemium" approach is used for low volumes so it is low on up front cost to start trading in a certain way and really good to "just see how it goes".

I think this is going to be a serious stimulant for innovation and the development of smaller businesses.

Cloud is going to revolutionise many business models and create those that historically would never have got of the "fag packet".

It will particularly assist part time business and lifestyle ventures as these low volume options previously could not be sustainable and reduce the risk of start up operations.

Costs bases will be more aligned to variable costs and the costs therefore flexible with the ability to expand or contract due to changes in volume. Scalability both up and down is the benefit.

So cloud is more than just another I.T.fad its going to make some serious waves in business design land.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Tom Graves speaks sense yet again.

I always like to read what Tom Graves has to say on business/enterprise architecture, recently he posted the following which was spot on as usual.

" If you come from an IT-centric architecture background, the first need is to realise that the standard EA view of business-architecture is a mess - it's essentially a random grab-bag of 'everything not-IT'. Tom Graves 2011.

I.T. centric EA is a core problem to us in the Business architecture space because often 80% of represented architecture is I.T and 20% is business which is the wrong way round.

Whilst EA continues to be used incorrectly as a term and job role title then the problems and culture persist in an unhelpful way.

Tom is a business centric business architect so when you see his name in discussions stop and read because, most of the time, its worth reading and take note.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Off site Courses Reap Benefits

I just finished yesterday afternoon a public delivery of Dever Solution's three day business architecture course which we held at New Place near Southampton.

Delegates enjoyed getting away from it to discuss and exchange views as well as learning a new set of techniques in a relaxing environment.

They commented that it is difficult these days to get thinking time as corporate cultures drives a "let's be busy" way of operating where stopping and reflecting is often seen as laziness.

The excellent facilities and calm environment provided by Devere Venues( no connection) were certainly conducive to a quality learning experience with both UK and overseas delegates meeting to up-skill in Business Architecture. The food was pretty good too! Many thanks to Zulfiya Huntley and her colleagues for looking after us so well.

So, we better schedule another course soon as even today, the day after the course finished, we have had further enquiries. It looks like a repeat in September is on the cards.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Business Architecture Recruitment

Most agents don't seem to appreciate what business architecture is. They call associates of ours on regular occasions talking about data migration projects, technology integrations or new platforms; hardly business architecture is it?

When end user clients express a need for an EA with good business skills they organise interviews "yes we want business people" and then later in the second interview it becomes clear that really when the chips are down they want someone technical. Time wasting seems to be on the increase my ex colleagues tell me.

There is obviously a lack of skill in agents really understanding what clients what and agents just repeating what they are told rather than really understanding the role they are recruiting for.

A colleague of mine earlier this week spent some time, whilst speculatively applying for a permanent role, to explain to an agent what a trading consulting business was; the agent, bless her socks, couldn't see that when you run a business you spend large amounts of time marketing and selling and wanted every assignment and piece of delivery outlined with dates so to present a clear pattern to her client. You have too many gaps!!" she said. The conversation soon ended after that and he went elsewhere.

We all don't operate as serial contractors or employees. Commercial naivety like that is probably why they can't get their heads around business architecture - well its commercial is it not!

Perhaps there is a role for people who do business architecture to do some recruiting least we know what we are taking about!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Is the word Organic Positive or Negative?

In general the word organic is associated with a positive spin.

Organic meat and vegetables are perceived by most as better than non organic. However in business design is organic design a good thing? the phrase "organic design" is really a bit nonsensical because when businesses just become what they are they are hardly designed are they! oxymoron perhaps?

It is becoming clear to many that organic development of a business without design results in complexity confusion, duplication and avoidable cost.

So, in business architecture "Organic" development isn't particularly desirable or a positive. In fact a lot of business architectural work is all about sorting out the mess of organically developed structures and it keeps us all busy and employed.

One thing though organic produce is more than often more expensive than non organic and in business design this is definitely true!!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

All or nothing in Process Management

It seems that so often that people expect a right or wrong answer to business problems. Process mapping and process management is sold often on the basis that this is the only way forward for everyone. In reality of course answers are in the shades of grey rather than black and white.

Does every business need or benefit from fully documented measured and dash-boarded set of processes?

Vendors of process tools will tell you you do, but that's because they deal with this day in day out and find their thinking gets clouded. The answer is no not always, often yes but also sometimes a partial or appropriate solution is required.

Obviously if you are into volumes of highly repeatable services (transactional) or manufacturing processes then a lot of what these process vendors and solutionists say makes a lot of sense; however if you do similar things but your variability is fairly high then over engineering of process may not be worth the effort and be counter-productive.

Executive or professionals often conduct activity in a regular or consistent way but apply their experience case by case so attempting to codify all they do and measure it as such will create enormous amounts of corporate angst and cultural barriers. So map, measure and manage to a level that is sensible for the activity in hand don't attempt to impose a full blown approach as this will ultimately result in rejection and no consideration of process at all!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Public Business Architecture Course July 2011

There has been a lot of requests for delivery of the "Business Architecture An Approach for Effective Business Design" over the last few weeks.

In recent times this unique business focused course has only be held in house within client organisations but many individuals from a variety of companies have requested places; so as a consequence Dever Solutions Limited is scheduling a Public Course Delivery for the 11th- 13th of July at New Place, Shirrel Heath near Southampton.

We can take up to 10 delegates on this course.

Please note that Devere venues is a trading name of DeVere Group and is a completely different legal entity to Dever Solutions Limited the business architect training company. It is a pure coincidence that the venue chosen and training company delivering the event have similar names.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Unspoken Business Model - Phantom Forces

I have been working with developing some business models for clients recently and I came to the conclusion that often there is a deep seated business model that is actually not voiced or declared and in some cases not even understood within the organisation.

Behind the scenes is an unknown or phantom business model that is simply there by default through competitive pressures, external environment and by business Darwinism.

Take insurance as an example most insurers tell us and believe that customer service is a prime driver to their business and particularly in claims. In reality though the market driver is that they make their money from those that do not claim and claims actually are rare in terms of customer contact, well that is how insurance works - is it not.

So bad claims service is not seen by many of the customer base by default and in reality if you loose customers who claim by giving poor service does it matter because does the business really want these people who claimed anyway - people who claim don't make money for insurers do they?

People buy on price and the promise of a good claims service is difficult to justify and sell when people are comparing insurance premiums so the driver is reduced costs not the higher costs of a quality claims service.

Insurance is a commodity based business where you make money by driving down cost and reducing claims so naturally "doing claims" well as an offering doesn't really get supported by the unspoken business model even though corporate mantra say "We pride ourselves on claims".

So, does the unspoken or natural selection based business model actually overwrite the explicit business model in the longer term? It is almost like defying gravity - an unresisting force.

Is there an unspoken business model behind every declared business model and how many organisations are actually planning strategically against those natural pressures with all the consequences of "rowing against the tide" ?

Monday, 28 February 2011

Customer Service Mass Production

In the early part of the 20th century Henry Ford said "You can have a model T in any colour as long as it is black!"

The days of building large volumes of mass produced items in batch have almost disappeared with the introduction of lean thinking. Manufacturing might have reached this state of mass individualisation but has customer service?

Not a week goes by without encountering yet another example of crass service design that end up making this grumpy business architect even more grumpy.

We have to realise that we can't codify everything and sometimes humans have to apply common sense and yet this seems to rarely happen, particularly when activity gets outsourced and off-shored.

Lift and ship to a place that is "cheap"; standardise activity to minimise the need for high levels of 1st language communication skills and pay staff a fraction of what you did before - "Kerching" all in the name of reduced costs and competition.

The result is often a fed up customer, threatened loyalty and renewals but in a culture of management delusion where no-one knows that the service they offer end to end from an individual customers perspective was dreadful; as introspective KPIs continue to "fog" the management that all is well.

Does all this facilitate growth, customer retention or even customer advocacy? ehh... No!

Simple problem really - think and apply common sense and build exception routines into your processes and staff accordingly to flex the requirement for a bit of sensible response.

Mass produced customer service done on the cheap in mass call centres using foreign cheap labour to drive down costs; does this sound a bit like a car assembly plant sixty years or seventy ago!

Maybe in years to come we will see a similar revolution in customer service that can deliver service excellence pulled as customers demand it, individualised and intelligent, rather than the frequently bland, frustrating and cost reduced excuses that we regularly put up with today.

Then we will look back on the noughties and say: "well you could have customer service then as much as you liked, as long as you obeyed the BPM work-flows!"

Will the early 21st century be quoted in future business studies texts as the dark days of customer service before the enlightenment of lean mass individualised service; well we shall see if things improve - there is certainly lots of scope for that in my view.

I will resist the wish to share yet another fiasco I experienced with an insurance company that sparked this post but you really will think I am being grumpy if I did that, so I will spare you!

Well maybe for now- I reserve the right to come back and reveal all!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Applying Business Architecture to Micro Businesses

This week we delivered a morning unit of business design in support of a local FE college offering training for potential entrepreneurs referred from Job-centre plus .

An eclectic mix of nine delegates assembled to receive training on a variety of topics on starting a small business.

I delivered a session on business models using the Osterwalder Business Model Canvas and the group saw the relevance of this type of holistic analysis - not that it was presented as such!

I often wonder about applying business architecture methods and techniques to smaller businesses than we normally get involved with and this event shows that if you carefully choose the material and make it relevant a lot of value can be transfered.

The key benefit seemed to be the recognition by delegates that customer segmentation and client need analysis needed to be linked to specifically aligned propositions with a supporting framework behind them to make it all work.

The approach to all this was a deliberate attempt to remove corporate jargon and not to present method for method sake - the feedback gained from the session was encouraging.

So, business architecture, even though the subject title was deliberately not mentioned at all during the session, is valuable for for big and small businesses a like. You just have to position it in an appropriate manner.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Measures determine behaviours and not always as intended!

Continuing on the theme of measurement several people have mentioned how they do things differently according to the way things are measured.

The "game playing" i.e. the behaviours developing to meet the measures can result in the measurement being totally pointless.

An example is an organisation that needs to collate attendance data and berates its staff for not doing this by close of play that day when in reality the following morning isn't really an issue; so what happens the staff fill the attendance in advance just in case they forget to fill it in especially when they get tired towards the end of the day, so they don't get "told off" thus challenging the actual quality of the data.

The measurement goal seems to be achieved but - oh dear - the data is probably no good now as attendance is always positively flagged by default and if someone forgets to overwrite the present mark with the correct data then it is artificially presented.

A bit of patience, communication and empathy for working practices would have resulted in better data quality and timeliness to boot. A bit of process evaluation might have helped to actually design more appropriate measures; but that requires a bit of structural thinking!

Changing the measure to allow 48 hours for the data to be entered would have been a compromise and resulted in less game playing and then timely data of a good quality would have been the result.

The person receiving the stats probably things his/her management has been excellent - tick- " am I not wonderful" - but in reality statistics blind the truth - the behaviours have now bucked the system because the consequence of the measures haven't been thought through correctly!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

"You cannot manage anything you cannot measure" True or False

There was an interesting interview on the Today programme on Radio 4 yesterday morning with reference to NHS care for the elderly. The interviewee made the point that society doesn't value anything that we cannot count and concluded that this was the reason we seem to be moving backwards in progress in many fields.

Many managers say "you cannot manage anything you cannot measure" it became a cliche particularly around six sigma.

I think that this is not as true as many people think; because instinct for doing the right thing is not based on randomness but application of experience and patterns, the latter being quite difficult and complex to model mathematically

Saturday, 12 February 2011

What order? Vision Imperatives or Business Model?

Recent Business Architecture Course in Glasgow debates what comes first: Vision , business model or imperatives in a process for developing a Target Operating Model.
The Teacher Building Glasgow Excellent Training Venue. Having used this venue twice now in recent years I found the staff and levels of service second to none.

In a recent business architecture course delivered to a leading bank in Glasgow the debate was about what comes first in constructing a target operating model: the business model, the vision or the imperative statements ( goal statements). Normally I show the business model choice first, followed by imperatives, design principles and then the vision.

I suppose it depends what you mean by vision but essentially, semantics put to one side, it's what you see as being the future probably in a variety of levels of detail.

The conclusion from the group was that rather than a sequential approach the process was probably iterative i.e. that each one informed the other and it was necessary to examine each stage several times in a rotation until the conclusion was satisfactory.

The business analysts on the course thought that the vision should come first, followed by imperatives and then the model, the model being the solution, as this fits in with their normal way of working; however the group as a whole concluded that actually all the items fed into each other and the iterative conclusion seemed to become the consensus.

So, the message was work them through several times until the whole connected sequence makes sense- interesting conclusion; another nail in the coffin for waterfall type thinking!

If this makes sense great, but if not make contact and book a course for your business analysis/design team in business architecture and we will help you get to grips with building an operational model based on your strategy for your business to work towards - A Target Operating Model.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Business Capabilities and Business Services

Carole Chilton who works for Wells Fargo in the States started a good discussion on the "Business Architects" group in Linkedin recently; after many posts and extended discussions here are her conclusions which I think are quite helpful.

A business capability is an abstract but essential building block, designating a particular ability or capacity that a business posseses (or exchanges) to achieve a specific purpose or outcome, and describes what the business has the ability to do to create value for customers; for example, pay employee, ship product, or provide consultant.

Services are abstract yet inherently manageable entities requiring one or more capabilities that a business draws upon to create, provide, &/or support an instance of value to a customer or another service (i.e. a product, widget, or consulting).

Business capabilities are what a business can do to provide something of value to its customer - a service.

This reflects the views in an article that I myself wrote a couple of years ago.