Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Working in Corporate Syrup!

I deal with a lot of people in major corporates who have roles to develop and promote cross functional business design - business architecture.  Often they have been promoted into the role or have worked elsewhere and arrive with enthusiasm and drive to do the right thing.

I usually meet them because they know I work in this space or from the various websites and blogs I maintain and usually it is from a training point of view. Some are at a sufficient level or have influence to access budget and discussions move forward to a satisfactory piece of training or supportive consultancy work. On the other hand I find individuals whose organisations have given them a role, reasonably paid at that, but then fail to support them in their personal development or provide funding for tools and software.

The latter part around the subject of tools is also interesting in that recently I did some training for an organisation and was a little surprised to find process mapping being done using PowerPoint. Visio was not even available because there was no budget or the organisation was just making it too difficult to obtain anything. The employee said

“Doing anything here is like walking in six inches of syrup!”

In some cases this situation creates the scenario where one gets an email or phone call asking for materials to assist – free of charge of course - and this is difficult because one doesn’t want to come across as unhelpful but on the other hand the  freelancer has to make a living. This is particularly emphasised by the fact that many organisations that these people work for are some of the largest and wealthiest corporations in the economy. In reality the employee has no power or authority and getting approval to do anything is just too hard. The waste of this Syrup must be extensive if we extrapolate it across the knowledge worker population.

What underlies this is the fact that employees tasked to deliver do not have the empowerment to engage the resources that they need to be effective – they are as the client above said – working in corporate syrup. Surely if we employ expensive people we need to fund the whole package: training personal development, tools and culturally make the organisation able to innovate and change else these appointments are potentially futile.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Business Architecture Maturity Models

The subject of business architecture capability maturity models has come up in discussion with clients recently. Organisations are seeing them as a means to bench mark their own capability and plan the implementation towards a higher degree of maturity. Whilst I do see some benefit in this, in that it gives you something to think about and ask yourself questions, I am a little concerned to some respect.

The issue is how you can use a maturity model to test yourself against when the discipline itself is unclear and fragmented. Business architecture is different things to different people and is still under innovation and debate in many of its aspects.

What is happening here is that certain well-meaning and well intentioned groups are claiming the space as their own and proclaiming “bodies of knowledge” and publishing models of “their” best practice. Many of these groups are highly I.T. centric and to be honest I am not sure that the provenance of this material is too helpful. Even the Wikipedia entry for business architecture currently promotes and tries to create legitimacy for certain bodies who have perhaps taken it upon themselves to proclaim their ownership of this topic.

Quite often it how an I.T. person thinks business architecture should be from his or her systems based view of the world.  To be fair to them though a lot of the content has value but it isn’t gospel. We are not at a point where these models are of an equivalent status to CMMI or similar.

The forums are full of debate on business architecture and there are multiple threads of thought and opinion, so no firm view in any form is possible at this point in time. I do accept that they probably are worthy endeavours and are based on positive and well-meant intention but one could argue that it is very pretentious and somewhat a potentially arrogant approach.

If organisations are using these models thinking that this is the only way, or seeing them as something to aspire too, when in reality the approach put forward is perhaps not right for their organisation then big mistakes are going to be made. This will not add to the good name of the discipline as a whole.

Business architecture needs to be applied appropriately, not in a one way fits approach; each and every organisation will benefit from an approach that suite: its business, its market and its culture. Business architecture is not painting by numbers!

So we need to use these emerging models carefully and use then to ask questions and promote thought, not as a blue print for what we should do.

The models should be used to develop an appropriate model for the organisation under discussion and then the model becomes a bespoke implementation plan for that organisation not a business architecture maturity model.