SPICE for Business Transformation

Imagine an organization where people, business processes, products, services and technologies are in sync. Where an organization performs at its most optimal levels and miraculously everyone is happy and contributing for the wellbeing of the organization. No, I am not talking about a fictional scenario in a far off land. I am talking about an organization harnessing all the power of its capabilities to achieve Business Transformation. And I believe that there is a lot organizations can achieve if they view Business Transformation as a holistic and all-encompassing endeavor. So, today I am going to talk to you about how SPICE can make your organizations better.

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I help organizations pursue a better version of themselves. In this pursuit, I collaborate with front-line employees, middle management and the C-suite to understand issues beyond the obvious so that individuals and organizations can achieve their objectives. Over the years, I have held many titles but the underlying theme is to always do and look for Business Transformation opportunities.

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Business is “the activity of making, buying, or selling goods or providing services in exchange for money” for corporations. For non-profits, business is the pursuit of social causes. For educational institutes, business is the pursuit of knowledge. For governments, business is the pursuit of citizen services and for military business is national security.

Transformation is “a process”.

Now, that you have a baseline understanding of what Business Transformation is and how it helps, the next time when you hear this term you would be aware that it is not just another buzzword and not just another business initiative that would disappear with time.

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Now, imagine a person named John who is walking through an unknown and dark tunnel with just a flashlight in his hands and he is carrying some baggage behind him. John does not know what is in the baggage. He continues to use the flashlight to look ahead to find his way out. His resources are limited. Thus, his objective is to reach the correct end of this unknown and dark tunnel as efficiently as possible.

Would John make it?

According to some experts, if this person were an organization pursuing Business Transformation then he would have failed 70% of the time. Think about this for a second, this means that only 30% of Business Transformation endeavors are able to achieve their full potential. Why is this?

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While there could be a variety of reasons for this high failure rate, I have observed that the number one reason for this is related to a typical conversation within organizations.

How many times have you said or heard someone say, “the business” wants this and “the business” wants that and that “the business” doesn’t understand that systems cannot be developed overnight. Ingrained in this sort of thinking is the idea that somehow IT is different from “the business”.

Somehow there is this “Us” vs. “Them” mentality.

If we think about it, all organizations take advantage of technological advancements. Paper, which was once considered a technology itself, is now used in every organization today in one way or another. Today, all organizations are digital in one way or another even if they don’t realize it yet and to think that they are not stems from this “Us” vs. “Them” mentality.

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Perhaps it is time to change the conversation! Perhaps it is time to think about IT as not something that is outside of “the business” but it is part of “the business”. To have this conversation, there has to be mutual understanding that neither “side” should downplay the importance of the other. This requires an understanding that all technical and non-technical aspects of the organization are there to support the end objectives of business transformation and that collaboration works much better than just mere animosity.

When I started assessing and improving organizations in 2003, I didn’t know what it was called. All I wanted to do was help organizations apply the full potential of their capabilities beyond what they perceived them to be which included but not limited to IT capabilities. Over the years, this took on new meaning for me as the conversation quickly changed from just doing my duties to fundamentally reshaping organizations inside out.

A couple of years ago Business Transformation, IT Transformation and Digital Transformation started to pick up steam and it took off. A lot more individuals and organizations started to pay attention when they saw their bread and butter business models being shattered in light of the new economy. Startups like Uber took on the Taxi Services around the world and now are expanding into other means of transportation as well. In response, Taxi Service companies pushed back hard by either through legislation and government policy or creating their own taxi mobile apps. If the taxi service companies think that they can compete with Uber with just their own taxicab apps then they are hugely mistaken. This is just one example that illustrates how one industry became complacent and within a short period of time a competitor emerged with a new business model that directly tied its operations to technology and the rest, as we know it, is history.

So, if you think about it, Business Transformation is not a standalone activity but a holistic one. Thus, if the people, business processes, products, services and technologies are ignored or not paid enough attention then Business Transformation becomes just another pipe dream.

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As I see it, organizations that are committed to figuring out the Business Transformation journey have to ask 5 fundamental questions from an internal perspective and an external perspective. These questions are:

  1. Who is helped by Business Transformation efforts? Is it management? Is it employees? Or maybe its customers and shareholders? Perhaps answering this entails understanding customer experiences issues and long-term value propositions to shareholders.
  2. What does Business Transformation teach us? Is it better internal communications? Is it Governance and Standardization? Or is it Branding? An organization that showcases and does actual Business Transformation has better stories to tell about improvements and thus can attract customers who see value in an organization that is trying to do better.
  3. Where does Business Transformation start? Does it start in IT? Does it start in Marketing or Operations? Or does it start with customers, vendors and partners? When a customer comes to you and requests a system to be developed, do you ignore this request since your organization does not develop these types of systems or do you explore this further and figure out how you or a partner could help your customer?
  4. When should Business Transformation be considered? How about when an employee has a conversation with a customer? How about when established competitors are eating your lunch? Or should it be considered when new innovations and methods arise?
  5. Most importantly, why do Business Transformation in the first place? Is the organization looking to become optimized and have better cohesiveness? Or is it better long-term value and creating positive societal ripples such as the creation of Corporate Social Responsibility groups that look into Green Technologies to save electricity and in turn save the plant as a consequence.

These are all important questions to ask before, during and after the Business Transformation journeys. But if there are no effective feedback loops then most Business Transformation journeys would be just a one-time initiative and not something that makes organizations become self-improvement entities.

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By this time, most of you might be thinking “well ok I get it that Business Transformation is more than what meets the eye but so what?!!”

What does Business Transformation really have to do with Business Architecture?

A valid question. I want you to think about this…

Do you see Business Architecture as just a plan, as just a design or a model, maybe perhaps a guide, or a way to create documentation, or for the purposes of alignment? Or do you see Business Architecture as a way to accomplish a vision and even to improve an organization’s mentality.

The fundamental reason we do Business Architecture in the first place is to fully leverage the technical and non-technical capabilities of the organization to transform itself. You don’t create a plan or a model or a guide to just document it but you do create it so that these insights can be used to make the organization better otherwise why do it in the first place anyways!

Thus, Business Architecture and Business Transformation are highly intertwined. An effective Business Architecture would open up avenues for Business Transformation so that when it comes to responding to market demands, strategy does not get lost in translation when it comes time for execution.

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I have spent many years recognizing patterns in my own engagements, academic literature and case studies and have determined that there are fundamentally 5 factors that affect the journeys towards Business Transformation.

These 5 factors are Strategies, Politics, Innovation, Culture and Execution or simply called the SPICE Factors.

I represent these factors in a pentagon shape. On its edges are the 5 factors which start from Strategies on the left hand corner and going clockwise until Execution. In the middle of the pentagon shape, there is a loop in yellow indicating that Business Transformation is a continuous process and not just a single project or initiative. Besides each SPICE factors there is a performance indicator to represent that each of the factors have to be measured. This measurement can entail Key Performance Indicators and even Service Level Agreement checks.

The red pentagon indicates where the organization is today (aka the current state) while the green pentagon indicates where the organization wants to be tomorrow (aka the future state). In the middle, the yellow arrow from the red pentagon to the green pentagon indicates transition and indicates what the areas that need to be taken into consideration namely people, business processes and technologies. By extension, these areas influence the products and services provided by the organization.

I am going to go through each of these 5 factors and make you think about how each of these factors can affect Business Transformation within your organizations.

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The first SPICE factor is Strategies. Strategy is a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time. Depending upon how far out your organization can think, a long period of time can be 1 year, 3 years or even 10 years. Of course as you go further out in time, your strategy gets complex as you might not be able to anticipate what is going to happen.

There are many levels of strategies within the organization such as Financial Strategy, Marketing Strategy, Operations Strategy and IT Strategy to name a few. Additionally, strategies can be top down, bottom up, cross-functional and hybrids. But fundamentally, I put strategies in three big buckets namely Organizational Strategy which affects Executives (e.g., performance compensation, M&A etc.), Team Strategy which affects Middle Management (e.g., Operational Improvement, Tool Selection etc.) & Individual Strategy which affects front-line employees (e.g., career trajectory, hiring etc.).

In addition to these strategies and the types of people that they affect, it gets more complex and the real relationships actually look more complicated. Upon further depth, we realize that all of these types of strategies have an internal perspective and an external perspective.

For example, from an internal perspective, organizational strategy looks at things like the type of organizational structures such as functional, matrixed, product-based or hybrids. Depending upon what structure your organization has or wants to evolve into, there would be repercussions. In a functional organizational structure, focus on areas of expertise is increased but what is lost is the cross collaboration which leads to silos. On the other hand, in a matrixed project-based structure, the individuals are only needed for the duration of that project and then they go back into a pool to be picked up or not. What incentive do people have in this type of structure to get the job done efficiently? Something to think about.

Depending upon what the end goal is, these strategies can

  1. Affect performance compensation for executives
  2. Create or destroy middle management fiefdoms
  3. Affect Hiring, Training and Layoff of frontline employees
  4. Create and destroy bloated expectations

The last point is interesting since a strategy with bloated expectations or no expectations at all can lead to misalignment namely between IT Strategy and other Organizational Strategies. Lets think about this…

  1. Was this misalignment always there or somehow it evolved over time?
  2. Why did this misalignment happen in the first place?

A root cause understanding from technical and non-technical views can reveal something that might have been taken for granted. For example, IT teams creating and acquiring tools that have no relationship to the Organizational Strategy or perhaps revealing the purchase of technology by non-IT teams which again has no relationship to the Organizational Strategy.

In short, there are 3 key points to consider for Business Transformation in terms of strategies:

  1. The real an unreal organizational structures matter more that you might like to believe
  2. Plan to plan and measure performance both at an organizational level as well as at individual levels
  3. Alignment is a two-way conversation that is not a top-down demand but should be a collaborative approach

Having said that, as corporate citizens of the organization, we have to realize that Strategies are not shelf-ware.

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Merriam Webster defines politics to be the complex of relations between people living in a society. For our purposes, here society would refer to your organization. No one wants to talk about politics in the organization and yet there are decisions made everyday that are political in nature. 

Politics in organizations is about power; the power to frame a problem; the power to influence decision and the power to make decisions. While we are all aware of the official power that is the power of your superior within the organization but most have also encountered unofficial power where regardless of the title an individual is able to persuade others. Some people call this leadership while other call it manipulation.

In organizations, while it may seem that all similar titles should hold the same power but that is certainly not the case. Even with VP titles, not all VPs are the same. Some have more power based on the number of people they manage, based on the revenue generated by their teams and even based on the relationships they have with others within the organization. So, the next time you look at an org chart and see all VPs at the same level you will know that an organizational chart is just a fairytale representation and not reality. Why this matters? This matter because the next time you are looking for champions to support your projects keep a vigilant eye on who has power and how much of their power is used to make decisions.

The display of power is more relevant today in the age of big data than ever before. As you know, most Big Data initiatives revolve around gathering massive amounts of data and then finding patterns. The thought behind is that once we can figure out patterns then we can make better decisions. This however is not the complete picture. Beyond the usual Vs of Big Data, I believe there are 4 Vs that are critical but missing in most conversations.

These Vs are Vitality meaning how important the data is, Versatility meaning how data could be applied to various scenarios, Vocality meaning the supporters of data-driven approaches and lastly Veto meaning the ultimate authority to accept or reject big data conclusions. As you might have noticed, Vocality and Veto are about Power.

The idea of power also applies when you are creating an ERP System. The executives who have official and unofficial powers can become champions or become obstacles. One way to remedy this is to get them involved early on; have a discussion, find out pain points and get feedback. So, when it is time to standup an ERP system, the people have been engaged from the begining and it is not a surprise. Also be prepared that business process optmization should be done first prior to any large scale systems because otherwise all you are doing is automating broken business processes and thus when it is time to optmize them it would become much harder to do so. Other examples of displaying of power would be in Cloud Computing and Shadow IT.

In short, there are 2 key points to consider for Business Transformation in terms of politics:

  1. The official and unofficial power considerations matter and can make or break a project
  2. Create a Power Map to know where a power resides, assign quantitative values to them to set a baseline and then verify with projects that those baselines are correct

Remember, politics needs to be understood especially in the case of organizations.

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Innovation is defined to be the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices or methods. Innovation can be a new product, a new way of hiring people, a new way of doing business processes, a new service and it can also be a new technology. If there are so many ways of being innovative, why organizations and individuals struggle in this area?

For most, innovation is something that is considered difficult since people don’t know where to start or how to continue. Innovation comes from inspiration and I believe that organizations and individuals can be inspired by things around them. The left picture represents the possible sources of organizational inspiration for innovation. These sources include:

  1. First, the organization’s internal customers. By internal customer, yes I do mean anyone who is within the boundaries of your organizations and yes that includes your employees. Employees who can see beyond the immediate needs and are able to connect the dots should have an avenue to express it. Thus, there should be some sort of innovation process that captures the wisdom of these employees.
  2. Second, the organization’s external customers. We are all aware of the external customers who are outside the boundaries of your organization but they too can provide feedback to improve your products and services.
  3. Third, within your own industry, which includes looking at what competitors, partners and/or startups are doing something that could be applied internally.
  4. Fourth, outside your industry. Think about the field of Project Management that emerged from the construction industry but now it is used in Software Development.
  5. Lastly, the integration, customization and combination of inspirations from the above four ways. Think about the evolution of writing from cave walls to stone tablets to paper and then eventually to computers.

The picture on the right represents the possible sources of individual inspiration for innovation. These sources include:

  1. First, your direct circle of influences namely your friends and family. Have you considered talking with them about problems that you might be facing and what they would recommend?
  2. Second, your indirect circle on influence namely your co-workers, educational and professional associations. Perhaps what you are having trouble with they have already solved or at least they can give you a nudge in the right direction.
  3. Third, increasing your understanding of areas that interest you which includes reading books, blogs, news articles and talking to people who have experience in that area.
  4. Fourth, increasing your awareness of areas that you are not that knowledgeable in which includes different types of readings, experiencing cultures beyond your own, conversation with diverse people, observing the plant kingdom and observing the animal kingdom.
  5. Lastly, the stitching, applicability and combination of inspiration from the above four ways. Think about the invention of Velcro by observing cockleburs in the plant kingdom.

Thus, it would be naïve for organizations to think that they cannot fully take advantage of innovation at the organizational and individual levels.

They have to remember that innovation is the lifeline.

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Culture is a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization. Often times when there is a discussion of culture within organizations we immediately think this is something fuzzy and it is only equated with people. While people definitely create a culture but there is more to this than meets the eye.

You see culture is not just one thing but a combination of things. Most organizations don’t have one culture but they have a mix of sub-cultures. The way people are treated creates a sub-culture. For example, how are people within the organizations at all levels incentivized and rewarded? The way people dress creates a sub-culture. For example, if executives dress differently vs. non-executives this visibly creates the culture of in-crowd vs. outsiders. The posters in public locations, the discussion between Mac. Vs. Windows, IT behind closed doors and even an individual can create sub-cultures within an organizations.

All of this matters because culture is not just having a foosball table or other “perk”, it is creating an environment where employees are appreciated not just by talk by the executive but by tangible actions through incentives, rewards and performance goals.

Culture is at the base of the SPICE factors for a reason.

Culture can make a strategy just another paper-exercise, culture can drastically affect politics, culture can resist organizational innovation, and culture can prevent effective execution of operations and all of this means that culture can diminish any hopes for Business Transformation.

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Execution is the act of doing or performing something. If you notice in the above-mentioned factors, all of them need to be executed; measured and performed otherwise all we are doing is just wasting our breath and paper. As I see it, execution also has an organizational level and an individual level. Both of them are highly intertwined. If there are no structures and processes to determine and quantify execution issues then how would you know where your baseline is and if you don’t know where your baseline is then how would you know if your Business Transformation efforts have been successful or not.

Note that execution is highly based on biases and perceptions of organizations and individuals as discussed earlier. They have to be considered and if needed be persuaded to be changed.

Rewards and incentives can not only change behavior but it can enhance cohesion and collaboration across the organization.

Lesson learned are useless when all they are is a paper exercise of capturing what happened wrong or right but not an input for other projects so that they can avoid similar mistakes or repeat successes.

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All the factors that have been discussed are not something that are done in isolation but they all come together to create an organization that is able to transform it self based and stay ahead of the game.

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As we can see from the live survey, the most important area for Business Transformation is People and the most important factor for Business Transformation is execution.

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Now, let’s go back to our dear friend John (aka your organization). With his understanding of the SPICE Factors and his awareness of how the SPICE Factors can affect people, business processes, products, services and technologies, don’t you think he would have used his flash light to find out what was in the baggage. Perhaps some of the baggage was dead weight that he needed to get rid of and perhaps in the baggage there were additional resources he could use such as food, liquids and even a map. But the only way John would find out would be to look behind and just check his baggage!

All I am saying is…help John find his way and help him succeed!

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5 Questions to Ask About Your Business Transformation

Business transformation is the process of transforming (1) how things are made, (2) how things are bought, (3) how things are sold and/or (4) how services are provided. It has been pursued by organizations ever since the first organization came into being and would continue to be pursued in the foreseeable future. It is the way for organizations to know their current state (i.e., know where they are), their future state (i.e., know where they want to be) and their transition (i.e., what steps to take) by considering the people, business processes, services, products and technologies that can help them achieve their objectives. To be clear, business transformation is not merely a “business” only pursuit but rather it is an organizational pursuit that encompasses Information Technology (IT) and digital transformation journeys as well.

While the promise of business transformation is great, it is still something that organizations consistently struggle with. There are multiple factors that can lead to failed business transformation efforts but the number one reason seems to go back to a typical conversation within organizations. In the 21st century, technology for organizations is not just an enabler but paramount to their success. But how many times have you said or heard someone say, “business” wants this and “business” wants that and that “business” does not understand that systems cannot be developed overnight. Ingrained in this sort of thinking is the idea that somehow IT is different from “business”. Somehow there is this “us” vs. “them” mentality.

It is time to change this “us” vs. “them” culture. It is time to think about IT as not something that is outside of “business” but is part of “business”. To have this conversation there has to be mutual understanding that neither should downplay the importance of the other. This requires an understanding that all technical and non-technical aspects of the organization are there to support the end objectives of business transformation and that collaboration works much better than just mere animosity.

When organizations’ bread and butter business models are shattered in light of the new digital and sharing economy, “business” and technical folks have no one else to blame but themselves. As such it becomes imperative that organizations don’t get lost in complacency and infighting. These organizations should view business transformation as a holistic endeavor by paying enough attention to people, business processes, products, services and technologies that directly and indirectly affect them otherwise business transformation is just a pipe dream. In order for organizations to figure out their own business transformation journey, they need to ask the following questions from internal and external perspectives:

 

Currently

In the Future

1. Who is helped by business transformation? Who should be helped with business transformation? (E.g., management, employees, customers, shareholder etc.)
2. What does business transformation teach us? What should business transformation teach us? (E.g., better internal communications, governance, standardization, discipline, branding etc.)
3. Where does business transformation start? Where should business transformation start? (E.g., IT, marketing, operations, customers, vendors, partners etc.)
4. When is business transformation considered? When should business transformation be considered? (E.g., customer-employee conversations, competitors’ disruption/re-imagination of business models, new innovations, new methods etc.)
5. Why is business transformation is being done? Why should business transformation be done? (E.g., optimization, cohesiveness, long-term value, positive societal ripples etc.)

When you ask the above questions, keep in mind that without effective and unbiased feedback loops most business transformation journeys would be just nearsighted one-time initiatives and not something that would make organizations self-improving entities. Smart organizations have realized this and are taking advantage of not only technological changes but also setting themselves up for the future before they themselves get disrupted.

Business Transformation 5Ws

5 Questions to Ask About Your Culture

Peter Drucker, one of the most influential management consultants in the world, is often attributed to coining the phrase “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Organizations that can harness the power of culture can create environments where everyone can contribute towards the attainment of strategic objectives. However, most organizations are unable to create such environments and hence their pursuit of strategic objectives never fully comes to fruition. The three main reasons for this failure are:

  1. The fallacy that culture is considered something fuzzy thus unquantifiable
  2. The lack of a holistic approach to forming/enhancing positive attributes of the inherent cultures
  3. The half-baked idea that culture equates to only people

An organization’s culture is a way of thinking, behaving and working within the physical, virtual, legal and mental organizational boundaries. What an organization thinks about its place in the world is shown by its vision, mission statement and (un)displayed values which directly influence internal and external stakeholders. How an organization behaves is shown by leadership examples, levels of (un)trustworthiness, encouragement and discouragement of cross-collaboration and camaraderie. How an organization works is shown by its (un)biased business processes, (non)adoption of technological advancements, (un)approved frameworks/methodologies/approaches, employee (non)recognitions, (un)real career ladders, risk averseness, salaries, (non)physical locations, clothing and subcultures.

Culture is not just one thing but it is a collection/combination of different things/subcultures that can be observed and also measured. Thus, how organizations measure, incentivize and reward from the selection of the right people to optimized processes and efficient use of technology becomes crucial towards achieving organizational objectives. In order to understand and effectively bring cultural change, the following questions need to be asked:

Strategic Perspectives on Culture:

 

Currently

In the Future

1.

Who is incentivized at the executive level to transform culture?

Who should be incentivized at the executive level to transform culture?
2. What governance structures are in place for strategic cultural transformation? What governance structures should be in place for strategic cultural transformation?
3. Where is technology integrated into transforming culture? Where should technology be integrated into transforming culture?
4. When and how often cultural transformation objectives are communicated? When and how often cultural transformation objectives should be communicated?
5. Why cultural transformation is critical to achieving strategic objectives?

Why transformation should be critical to achieving strategic objectives?

Tactical Perspectives on Culture:

 

Currently

In the Future

1.

Who is incentivized at the middle management level to be champions of transforming culture?

Who should be incentivized at the middle management level to be champions of transforming culture?
2. What business units, functional areas and teams are included to bring about transformation? What business units, functional areas and teams should be included to bring about transformation
3. Where technology hinders in cultural transformation? Where technology might hinder in cultural transformation?
4. When is the start and end of cultural transformation communicated? When should the start and end of cultural transformation communicated?
5. Why cultural transformation is critical to achieving tactical objectives?

Why cultural transformation should be critical to achieving tactical objectives?

Operational Perspectives on Culture:

 

Currently

In the Future

1.

Who sees cultural transformation as an obstacle?

Who might see cultural transformation as an obstacle?
2. What business processes provide views on the organization’s culture? What business processes should provide views on the organization’s culture?
3. Where is technology part of your understanding the organization’s culture? Where should technology be a part of understanding of the organization’s culture?
4. When were you informed about the cultural transformation objectives? When should you have been informed about the cultural transformation objectives?
5. Why cultural transformation is critical to achieving your daily tasks?

Why transformation should be critical to achieving your daily tasks?

Culture transcends most of our thoughts and how we function within organizations and outside of it. This overarching affect of culture can create biases in terms of what people we hire, what processes we put in place, what technologies we choose to use, who we talk to and what we care to observe. By asking the right questions and putting the right measurements in place, we can have a quantifiable understanding of the baseline cultures and enhance it for the better. In doing so we have to be cognizant of our own biases, biases of others and any prevailing biases that result in cultural stagnation.

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Standing Up an Enterprise Architecture Center of Excellence and a Certification Program at Your University

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This article proposes the establishment of a Center for Operations, Research and Education (CORE) at your university. CORE would be a team of people that proactively and holistically help achieve university’s business outcomes. Its mission would be to provide comprehensive educational programs in Enterprise Architecture, conduct research and use this research to help transform the university.

For this article, the strategic direction and cultural factors in relationship to operations, research and education in Enterprise Architecture are considered. We assume status quo in regards to your university’s culture for this assessment, specifically the perception of Information Technology. The following table shows what we considered:

  Operations Research Education
Current State (Observations)
  • No one is responsible for Enterprise Architecture
  • No research is being conducted in this field
  • No comprehensive program in Enterprise Architecture
Future State (Recommendations)
  • CORE would be independent of your university’s President
  • Rotating leadership where every school, department and division has the opportunity to lead CORE
  • Conduct research by partnering with other elite institutions
  • Begin by providing a graduate certification program
  • Aim for providing Bachelor’s, Master’s and executive programs in the future

This assessment reveals that currently where Enterprise Architecture is placed in the organization, it will not be able to provide the organizational transformational value that is aspires to provide. Additionally, your university should start providing comprehensive programs in this field otherwise they would be left behind other educational institutions that are already moving in this direction.

1. ANALYSIS

This section provides an analysis of standing up CORE from an operational, research and educational prospective.

Assumptions

  1. Your university’s executive management would support this effort
  2. All university communities would help transform it to achieve operational excellence
  3. Perception of IT would not change instantly

1.1 What is Center of Excellence?

According to Tarek M. Khalil et al. (2001), within an organization, a Center of Excellence may refer to a group of people, a department or a shared facility. It may also be known as a Competency Center or a Capability Center. The term may also refer to a network of institutions collaborating with each other to pursue excellence in a particular area.

1.2 What is Enterprise Architecture?

Due to the evolving nature of this field, there are many academic and practitioner definitions of what is Enterprise Architecture. For our purposes we will use the one definition from the glossary on Gartner’s website that states Enterprise Architecture as a discipline for proactively and holistically leading enterprise responses to disrupt forces by identifying and analyzing the execution of change toward desired business vision and outcomes. Enterprise Architecture delivers value by presenting business and Information Technology (IT) leaders with signature-ready recommendations for adjusting policies and projects to achieve target business outcomes that capitalize on relevant business disruptions. Enterprise Architecture is used to steer decision-making toward the evolution of the future state architecture.

In a nutshell, “Enterprise Architecture bridges the Business and Information Technology via enterprise integration/standardization resulting in people becoming more efficient and effective in achieving their objectives.” Kevin Smith (2010)

It should be noted that Enterprise Architecture is not an Information Technology endeavor but in fact it sits in between Business and IT and works across organizational silos.

1.3 What is CORE?

If we combine the two definitions above then a definition for center of excellence in enterprise architecture emerges which is a team of people that proactively and holistically helps achieve business outcomes. For your university and breadth of this center’s agenda, it would be called Center for Operations, Research and Education (CORE).

1.4 What is the Operational Perspectives?

1.4.1 Why should Your University Pay Attention to Enterprise Architecture?

One of the biggest proponents and users of Enterprise Architecture is the most powerful office in the world – The White House. The United States Federal Government has been using Enterprise Architecture for more than a decade and continues to see it as a way to look across organizational silos.

What this means for your university is that, huge organizations are trying to improve their operations and they are turning towards Enterprise Architecture to help them do that. Your university can tap into this, apply Enterprise Architecture effectively and perhaps get involved in Enterprise Architecture discussions for organizational improvements. This involvement could also translate into future research grants and job opportunities for students.

1.4.2 Why putting Enterprise Architecture under Information Technology is Not a Good Idea?

All organizations are a composition of many cultures and subcultures. Some of these cultures develop over time and then become part of the routine mentality of an organization. Your university is not immune from this. In order to understand the perception of Information Technology at your university, look at how the university’s strategic plans were developed. Was Information Technology involved/invited to help in the development of your university’s strategic plan?

If not, then this is a cultural issue and often the cause of misalignments within organizations. Whenever Information Technology is not involved in strategic planning, it gives the perception that Information Technology is not important, it is just a commodity and it is just back office activities. This lack of involvement is the reason that according to the 2013 Chief Information Officer ‘State of the CIO’ survey, “63% [of the respondents] say the majority of their time and focus is spent on aligning Information Technology initiatives with business goals.” This shows there are gaps in aligning Business and Information Technology. This alignment can be achieved through Enterprise Architecture. According to a Gartner study (G00146809), Business-Information Technology alignment is the primary driver for Enterprise Architecture as shown below:

Primary Driver for Enterprise Architecture

Taking into consideration the current culture at your university, placing Enterprise Architecture under Information Technology would not make sense. If Enterprise Architecture continues to be placed under Information Technology then at your university Enterprise Architecture would be perceived as an “Information Technology thing”. This perception would defeat the overarching purpose of Enterprise Architecture. Enterprise Architecture needs to have a holistic understanding of your university going beyond Information Technology. A Gartner study (G00245986) supports this thought of Enterprise Architecture going beyond Information Technology as shown below:

Enterprise Architecture beyond IT

From the above figure, we can learn that while technology is a consideration in Enterprise Architecture but it is certainly not the only aspect that needs to be considered. A well-run CORE at your university would consistently produce qualitative and quantitative for both Business and IT. Some of examples of these are:

  • Qualitative Benefits
    • Improved Communications Across Organizational Silos
    • Increased Productivity
    • Efficient Portfolio Management
    • Effective Business Intelligence
  • Quantitative Benefits
    • Reduced Costs
    • Revenue Generation

1.4.3 What are the Maturity Levels for Enterprise Architecture?

According to a Gartner study (G00252206), it outlines the five levels of Enterprise Architecture maturity shown below:

Enterprise Architecture Levels of Maturity.png

What this means is that a lot of work needs to be done in this area and your entire university has to be involved in it so that it can be used effectively across organizational boundaries.

1.4.4 How will CORE Measure its Success?

From an operational prospective, a Gartner study (G00247593) indicates the following ways to align Enterprise Architecture to strategic business initiatives:

Align Enterprise Architecture to Strategic Business Objectives

At your university, success of Enterprise Architecture would depend upon how it can help your university transform itself to achieve its strategic visions.

1.5 What are the Educational and Research Perspectives?

1.5.1 Is Enterprise Architecture Taught at Your University?

Are Enterprise Architecture courses taught at your university in various schools (e.g., business school, engineering school, professional studies school etc.)? If yes, do you know if these schools at your university are talking to each other about Enterprise Architecture? If not, then there is no comprehensive Enterprise Architecture program at your university. From this observation, we can decipher that although Enterprise Architecture might be part of certain programs but overall it is fragmented at your university.

1.5.2 Why Should Your University Teach or Do Research in Enterprise Architecture?

In order to be an elite institution, your university needs to look at what other elite institutions are doing, assess what programs they offer and what kinds of research they are pursuing. Your university should then look at how these programs can be stood up.

For the purpose of this article, we will only focus on the institutions that teach, conduct research and/or have comprehensive programs in Enterprise Architecture. These include:

  Institutions Name Country
1 Harvard University USA
2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology USA
3 Dartmouth College USA
4 Carnegie Mellon USA
5 Pennsylvania State University USA

2. Recommendations

Due to the importance of Enterprise Architecture as a catalyst in organizational transformation, in the current culture at your university, CORE should not be under IT. CORE’s mission is to help your university continuously evolve, conduct/use research and provide comprehensive educational programs. It should be an interdisciplinary entity whose members include all schools, divisions and departments of your university. Thus, it should be placed where it has the most influence as shown below:

CORE at your university.png

CORE should start as a chartered center initially led by School of Business and in collaboration with Engineering School, Professional Studies School and IT. Within the first year this would develop relationships across all the university.

CORE’s leadership should be on a rotating basis where each school, department and division of your university has the opportunity to lead CORE for at least 1 year. This will create an atmosphere of collaboration and help break down organizational silos. This governance structure would also encourage participants to be actively involved in CORE’s advancement and they can use it to also enhance their own schools, divisions and departments.

In regards to education and research, CORE should develop a graduate certificate program with the goal of creating Bachelor’s, Master’s and executive programs in the future.

References:

  1. Tarek M. Khalil; L.A. Lefebvre; Robert McSpadden Mason (2001). Management of Technology: The Key to Prosperity in the Third millennium: Selected Papers from Ninth International Conference on Management of Technology, Emerald Group Publishing, pp.164
  2. IT Glossary, Enterprise Architecture, http://www.gartner.com/it-glossary/enterprise-architecture-ea/
  3. Kevin Smith (2010), Pragmatic EA: The 160 Character Challenge, Version 1.3, pp.12
  4. White House (2012), http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/assets/egov_docs/common_approach_to_federal_ea.pdf
  5. CIO Magazine (2013), ‘State of the CIO’ Survey, pp.4
  6. Robert A. Handler (2007). Key Issues for Enterprise Architecture. Retrieved from Gartner database.
  7. Julie Short (2013). Agenda Overview for Enterprise Architecture. Retrieved from Gartner database.
  8. Chris Wilson (2013). ITScore Overview for Enterprise Architecture. Retrieved from Gartner database.
  9. Betsy Burton (2013). EA Business Value Metrics You Must Have Today . Retrieved from Gartner database.
  10. Harvard University, IT for Management, http://hbsp.harvard.edu/list/it-for-management-toc
  11. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Information Systems Research, http://cisr.mit.edu/research/research-overview/classic-topics/enterprise-architecture/
  12. Dartmouth College, Auburn Cyber Research Center, http://www.ists.dartmouth.edu/events/abstract-hamilton.html
  13. Carnegie Mellon, Institute for Software Research, http://execed.isri.cmu.edu/elearning/enterprise-architecture/index.html
  14. Pennsylvania State University, Center for Enterprise Architecture, http://ea.ist.psu.edu

How to select an Enterprise Architecture Framework?

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

This article provides in detail the elements of an Enterprise Architecture (EA) framework that would be selected and deployed at a fictional United States (US) Federal Government contractor called FedCon. FedCon is divided into 3 Business Units (BUs) that are focused on providing Management Consulting, Information Technology (IT) Consulting and Systems Integration (SI) Services in Healthcare, Environment and Finance.

This article analyzes FedCon in terms of Strategies, Politics, Innovation, Culture and Execution (SPICE) as shown below:

  Stakeholders Domains
Strategies CEO, COO and CIO Business-IT alignment
Politics BU SVPs, PMO and program/project managers Technology products and services
Innovation Employees directly interfacing with customers Technology products and services
Culture PMO, HR and Accounting/Finance Leverage the massive intellectual property
Execution All employees Organizational performance

Based on the above, it is determined that The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) would be the appropriate EA framework at FedCon since (1) it is supported by multiple vendor tools (2) it is constantly being improved upon and (3) it has an Architecture Development Methodology (ADM) which can be used as a guide.

ABOUT FEDCON:

FedCon is a fictional 30 year old large publically traded US Federal Government contractor that provides Management Consulting, IT Consulting and SI services to civilian agencies. It has over 5,000 employees nationwide and it is structured into three Business Units (BUs). Each BU has domain expertise in Healthcare, Finance or Environmental information systems. This structure allows the BUs to work directly with the civilian agencies based on their missions. Each BU has its own account/business development (BD) team that reports to the BU Senior Vice President (SVP). The Program/Project Managers report to the BU SVP and provide status updates on programs/projects to the corporate Program Management Office (PMO). The PMO conducts weekly meetings to provide guidance on corporate standards, compliance and general project templates.

Organizational Structure

Organizational Structure

PROBLEM STATEMENT:

Over the past couple of years FedCon has lost 20% of its business. The CEO has been under pressure by the shareholders to turn the company around. Thus, the CEO hired a management consulting firm to determine what were the pain points within FedCon that were preventing it from staying competitive in the marketplace. The management consulting firm’s report revealed that due to inefficient business processes and outdated technologies FedCon’s BUs were not able to collaborate efficiently to manage business and technology changes. Based on these findings in the report, the CEO mandated the Chief Operation Officer (COO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO) to work together to find areas that they can improve in the next 12 months.

ANALYSIS:

In order to address the CEO’s concerns, the COO and CIO came to the conclusion that in order to help FedCon create a disciplined approach to managing strategic intent and its execution they had to look into the field of Enterprise Architecture. Thus, the COO and CIO decided to standup an Enterprise Architecture Program Management Office (EAPMO) that would report directly to the CIO. Initially, the EAPMO is tasked with determining the high level criterions to select a framework. This task includes providing elements of the framework to be used and how the framework would be applied within FedCon..

In this article, we assess the feasibility of an EA framework that can be used in FedCon by making observations about Strategies, Politics, Innovation, Culture and Execution (SPICE) factors. These factors would focus on understanding the people, processes and technologies at FedCon to create an effective EAPMO.

 

SPICE Factors

SPICE Factors

Strategies at FedCon:

At FedCon, there are multiple levels of strategies that are developed. These strategies include: (1) the corporate strategy determined by the CEO, (2) the operational strategy determined by the CFO, COO and CIO, (3) the BU strategy determined by the BU SVPs and (4) the PMO strategy determined by the PMO office. This is shown below.

Multiple Corporate Strategies

Multiple Corporate Strategies

As we can see from the above figure, each strategy layer addresses different domains for the various stakeholders. Even though these strategies are developed to increase the bottom line and decrease costs, they are created in isolation. Additionally, since each BU is somewhat autonomous it can create technology products and solutions for the civilian agencies that overlap with corporate products and solutions. This is a problem since not leveraging the corporate assets where applicable for client delivery can result in program/project delays and duplicative systems.

The primary strategic concerns in choosing an EA framework are:

  1. Stakeholders – CEO, COO and CIO are the strategic stakeholders and the executive sponsors of the EAPMO.
  2. Domain – Strategically, FedCon is interested in alignment of business and IT operations and efficient processes.

FedCon has never stood up an EA practice and thus it would be wise to select an EA framework that could guide them in what to do and that it has been proven in the industry to be useful for organizations that are just starting out their EA journey. These high level strategic criterions are fulfilled by The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) that provides an Architecture Development Methodology (ADM) as a step-by-step guide and includes how to do stakeholder management.

Politics at FedCon:

Generally, when we talk about the politics in an organization we are referring to the negative connotations attached with it. But for our purposes we will define politics to mean the formal power or informal power of an individual or group within an organization. The power exhibited by these individual and groups can turn into obstacle or support to bring about organization-wide changes. In this sense, here we refer to formal power as the reporting structures while informal power refers to the influence yielded based upon size of the BU, revenue generated by BU, headcount of BU and close relationships of BU leadership with the executives.

At FedCon, even though the BU SVPs have the same title, they don’t have the same power. Taking this into account and the emphasis by the US Federal Government Executive Branch to focus on healthcare issues, the largest and most profitable among the FedCon’s BUs is the healthcare BU. Due to this reason the healthcare BU SVP has more informal power among its peers. This means that if the healthcare BU can be convinced of the merits of the EA practice then we can come one step closer to a FedCon-wide EA practice.

The primary political concerns in choosing an EA framework are:

  1. Stakeholders – BU SVPs, PMO and program/project managers are the political stakeholders. The BU SVPs have formal power to bring change within their respective BUs. The PMO is a well-established office and it has visibility into the various kinds of projects and has informal power by pushing down changes to the project level within different BUs. Lastly, the program/project managers within BUs are stakeholders as well since they have to indoctrinate their teams on how EA can be used as leverage when developing client technology products and services.
  2. Domain – Politically, agreement, collaboration and coordination across BUs and the corporate team seems to be the area of focus to rapidly bring technology products and services.

Due to the “friendly” competition among BUs to become bigger and yield more influence in FedCon, politics has to be carefully considered. Sometimes BUs are not willing to share if there are possible overlaps with what they are developing and what is already available in a different BU or at the corporate level. Convincing BUs to work together could be hard and caution has to be taken in which players to involve in development of the EA practice. Additionally, there has to be some sort of collaboration between the EAPMO and PMO for lessons learned and organizational improvements. These high level political criterions are also fulfilled by TOGAF where it recommends how Architecture Governance and Architecture Boards should be setup.

Innovation at FedCon:

Broadly speaking, innovation in organizations is disruptive, incremental or a combination of both. Disruptive innovation as described by the world-renowned management theorist Clay M. Christensen’s institute is such that it “transforms an existing market or sector by introducing simplicity, convenience, accessibility, and affordability where complication and high costs are the status quo.” This disruption can come in the form of unique business models, products and/or services that can give rise to new industries and improve existing industries. On the other end of the innovation spectrum, incremental innovation is where small changes are made to existing business models, products and services to improve existing industries.

Being a US Federal Government contractor, innovation at FedCon is mostly incremental since it tries to improve upon its existing products and services that are provided to the civilian agencies. FedCon accomplishes incremental innovation by obtaining customer feedback and assessing the competitive landscape. However, since BUs only focus on their own expertise, there are less opportunities for collaboration across BUs, which means technology products and services, are being developed without leveraging what already exists in the organization.

The primary innovation concerns in choosing an EA framework are:

  1. Stakeholders – FedCon employees that work directly with customers are the stakeholders that need to be considered since improvement of existing technology products and services are highly dependent upon customer feedback and conveying of the feedback to FedCon.
  2. Domain – In terms of innovation, FedCon is interested in creating technology products and services that meet customer expectations and exceed what the competition can offer.

EA is a disciplined approach to accomplishing enterprise objectives through alignment between business and IT. This disciplined approach can also be leveraged to make FedCon more competitive, which can result in bringing technology products and services quicker to the marketplace. This high-level innovation criterion also point towards using TOGAF since it is constantly being improved upon based on the feedback from technology vendors and solution providers.

Culture at FedCon:

The “father of modern management” Dr. Peter Drucker once said that, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Culture can affect the ability of any organization to adopt or resist changes to the organization. While culture is typically considered a fuzzy attribute of an organization but there are tangible things that we can observe to decipher corporate culture which include (1) corporate values, (2) employee recognition and risk taking, (3) salaries, commission and hourly rates, (4) location, (5) clothes and (6) domain expertise and product/service subcultures.

At FedCon, the culture is such that change is welcomed as long everyone who is affected by it understands its purpose and there is no disruption to normal business processes. This is a two-pronged issue for the selection of an EA framework since even if the value of EA is understood by senior leadership but it is not understood at the BU, program/project and individual levels then it becomes just another information collection exercise.

The primary cultural concerns in choosing an EA framework are:

  1. Stakeholders – FedCon has a process-driven and metrics-monitoring culture. This is one of the reasons that Program Management Office (PMO) is an important part of FedCon since it provides a consistent process by which program/projects can be evaluated. In order to incentivize employees to change their behavior for the organizational transformation, human resources and accounting/finance offices are also stakeholders in EA success.
  2. Domain – Culturally, FedCon is interested in creating an atmosphere that encourages employees to take risks and leverage the massive intellectual property it has developed over the years to stay competitive.

One of the reasons for the success of the PMO within FedCon is its process-driven culture. So for the selection of an EA framework we have to consider what plays into strengths of FedCon. This high level cultural criterion leads us to TOGAF that provides a methodological approach for EA within an organization. The EAPMO would make use of lessons learned from the PMO to create a successful EA practice.

Execution at FedCon:

Intention without execution is simply thoughts without results. An organization can have great intentions but if it does not operationalize those intentions then all the strategy discussions and documentation it did just an exercise in futility.

At FedCon, execution has two views. One view is the execution based on winning a government contract to deliver technology products and services. The second view is execution of the corporate strategy that looks into entering new markets, mergers and acquisitions and creating superior technology products and services.

The primary execution concerns in choosing an EA framework are:

  1. Stakeholders – All employees of FedCon at every level are stakeholders in the successful execution of EA.
  2. Domain – In terms of execution, best practices have to be applied/created for all of FedCon and metrics developed that assess organizational performance.

STANDING UP AN EAPMO:

After assessing the business environment of FedCon to determine an appropriate EA framework, next we have to determine people, processes and technologies needed to standup the EAPMO. These needs are discussed below:

People:

In order to assess the skillsets needed to run the EAPMO, we have to look at the current skillsets available, skillsets that people need to be trained on and hiring of people with the necessary skillsets at FedCon. The hard skills needed to join the EAPMO require the knowledge of the chosen EA framework (i.e., TOGAF) and the ability to find common themes to enhance collaboration. The soft skills needed to join the EAPMO require (1) being politically aware, (2) ability to create bridges/connections and (3) high emotional intelligence. Additionally, metrics will be created to evaluate EAPMO team members based on their hard and soft skills.

Processes:

The business processes followed by EAPMO would be determined by TOGAF best practices and what has worked within FedCon. At a high level this would be the architecture governance process and at the lower lever this would the cross-functional teams processes for being advocates and collectors of information across FedCon. The various processes would be tested in the first 6 months to work out any wrinkles and get a baseline understanding of what needs to be done.

Technologies: 

Now that we have selected the FedCon’s EA framework to be TOGAF, we have to select a tool that supports this framework. This tool can be selected by looking at Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Architecture tools.

 

CONCLUSION:

Due to FedCon’s expertise as a technology company and for all the reasons stated in the analysis section, TOGAF is the right EA framework since it provides a roadmap of what needs to be done. One thing to keep in mind is that a framework needs to be flexible enough so it can adapt with changing organizational needs rather than the organization becoming a slave to the framework.

References:

  1. Khan, Arsalan. “5 Factors for Business Transformation.” Arsalan Khan. WordPress.com, n.d. Web. https://arsalanakhan.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/5-factors-for-business-transformation/
  2. “Stakeholder Management.” ADM Guidelines and Techniques – Stakeholder Management. TOGAF, n.d. Web. http://pubs.opengroup.org/architecture/togaf9-doc/arch/chap24.html
  3. Schekkerman, Jaap. Enterprise Architecture Good Practices Guide: How to Manage the Enterprise Architecture Practice. Victoria, BC: Trafford Pub., 2008. Print.
  4. “Architecture Governance.” Architecture Governance. TOGAF, n.d. Web. http://pubs.opengroup.org/architecture/togaf8-doc/arch/chap26.html
  5. Christensen, Clay M. “Christensen Institute.” Christensen Institute Disruptive Innovation Comments. Christensen Institute, n.d. Web. http://www.christenseninstitute.org/key-concepts/disruptive-innovation-2/
  6. “The Business Executive’s Guide to IT Architecture.” The Open Group Architectural Framework (TOGAF) Executive Overview. TOGAF, n.d. Web. http://www.opengroup.org/public/arch/p1/oview/
  7. Caldbeck, Ryan. “Why Execution Is Everything In Business.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 16 Sept. 2014. Web. http://www.forbes.com/sites/ryancaldbeck/2014/09/16/why-execution-is-everything/
  8. “Organisational Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast and Dinner.” ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE EATS STRATEGY FOR BREAKFAST, LUNCH AND DINNER. Meliorate, n.d. Web. http://www.torbenrick.eu/blog/culture/organisational-culture-eats-strategy-for-breakfast-lunch-and-dinner/
  9. Lapkin and Weiss. “Ten Criteria for Selecting an Enterprise Architecture Framework”. Gartner report G00163673. Gartner http://my.gartner.com/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=260&mode=2&PageID=3460702&resId=838915&ref=QuickSearch&sthkw=G00163673
  10. Brand, Saul. “Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Architecture Tools.” Gartner report G00263193 http://my.gartner.com/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=260&mode=2&PageID=3460702&resId=2859721&ref=QuickSearch&sthkw=ea+tools+magic+quadrant