Monday, November 26, 2012

Three Types of “Low Hanging Fruits” from EA

EA, as an abstraction, is created to convey the business value of change.

We may all understand the fact that EA is a journey, but we also know stakeholders everywhere want to see results (Value) as soon as it is initiated/piloted. Can Business (Enterprise) Architecture delivers value within 90 days? What would that be?

1. Quick Win is in the mind of the expectant not the action of the executioner.

Can EA deliver value in 90 days? It may depend upon the expectations of the sponsor, the task in hand, and the culture of the organization. What architects see as valuable might not necessarily be any value to the CxO level or anyone else outside EA. However, EA deliverables SHOULD be valuable outside the EA team so - can it deliver value in 90 days? In the right circumstances with the right expectations –the answer is “yes”.

  • The art of the possible and desirable, the EA must establish the scope and scale of the task and that can only be done with the buy-in of senior staff.  For any experienced EA who can study existing business process, systems, organization, etc and map with futuristic business strategy, Enterprise Architecture, systems, etc and then, identify the gaps with roadmap and recommendations can deliver great value to all stakeholders. The intent is not to solve the problem / accomplish the objective in 90 days; it typically takes longer than that. The point is what products of value for the stakeholders could be produced in that duration to keep them committed and engaged. 
  • The purpose of Business (Enterprise) Architecture is to help connect the dot. Often times, there are a lot of projects/activities going on in an organization. There are a lot of objects/components/web services being created. However the context for those projects/activities/objects/components/services is not clear. Within 90 days, EA can create a decent business capability map and use that to frame these activities/artifacts. Then you can use the capability map to drive portfolio management, heat map analysis, capability overlap, etc. And you can demonstrate the value of having Business (Enterprise) Architecture with this quick win.
1) Start with a key division based on needs, exec acceptance and urgency.
2). Perform As-Is study at the same time understanding the business value and future business goal 
3). Gap analysis and find a solution 

For example, a CIO might be interested in a summary of the IT ROI and TCO - as a business case for change - Regardless of the analysis and design, architecture purity, and numerous spreadsheets of proven tangible and intangible benefits, an abstraction is created to convey to the business the value of change. Why should the business invest in what you are proposing?

In addition, it is not all about IT. There are some situations when a business solution does not require technology change and as an enterprise or solution architect, you should (in time) be able to recognize them. 

2. The EA artifacts created within 90 days may provide more value to the EA team

Though what has been described time and time again is the value of delivering EA artifacts within 90 days as 'business value'! This highlights a big EA problem at the moment in that architect's perception of value is the same as the business. The EA artifacts created in most cases within 90 days provide more value to the EA team than the business. What the business sees as value are the final results and not the beginnings of analysis with or without proposed recommendations. Not all EA projects take the same path and there are significant variables that alter its course - thinking otherwise highlights a lack of diverse experience within EA activities.

For a new established EA team, some first 90 days activities may include:
1)     Organize the EA team, create an EA site
2)     A clear statement of intent of the architecture (Architecture Vision - short version)
3)     Engaging Sponsors/key stakeholders and managing their expectations
4)     Developing a roadmap for realizing the expectations of the sponsors/key stakeholders
5)     Establish EA (In this case Business Architecture) framework if it does not exist (Governance, Tools, communication / formal publishing channels, standards, principles, etc...)
6)     Project management (Resources - potential pitfall, milestones, deliverables planning...)
7)     Establishing key measures for value and success (Measure a potential quick win). Link them to the architecture/artifacts (process/capability etc)
8)     Establishing a formal organizational dictionary, catalogs, taxonomies, priorities, core processes, and capabilities, etc.

3. Low Hanging Fruit Gives EA Management Validation

Within 90 days in pretty much any organization an experienced business (enterprise) architect could almost guarantee to identify and present one or more valuable improvements and innovations. Whether the organization itself can be encouraged to understand their value or is prepared to go through the pain or cost of the required change is another matter. Talking about value, from a management perspective, we may also think about metrics, are your EA metrics based on budget, on schedule or on value? Even value is a multi-dimensional concept, how do you measure such quick win via quality value, economical value, utility or different shareholder's perceptive value?

Therefore, EA value can be derived in multiple ways - it does not have to be realized by delivering value to the enterprise customer. Reduced cost of implementing change could be valued. Reduced cost of planning change could be valued. Avoided risk through better quality contracts could be value. There is a full spectrum the value is derived.

Focus on core value chain activities and search for the "low-hanging fruit" where EA can be used for assessing a serious business challenge or problem, then used for defining the solution. Business problems in the production chain get a lot of management attention. Thus, crafting a reasonable solution with EA will give EA a lot of management validation and provide you with credibility, which then can be carried forward into the next EA engagement that might need more than 90 days to complete.

More specifically, from a management perspective, EA can be used as:

(1). Communication Tool: so as long as executives & managers start using EA to communicate more concisely and effectively cross-enterprise level, then EA is valuable. Or put another way... unless there is a tight connection to daily operational details, architecture is little more than an intellectual hand-waving exercise. Within 90 days, an EA should come up with a one-page architecture, covering business and technology. 

(2). Knowledge Management Tool: information is now the precious asset in the enterprise, but the information is not knowledge yet, the breadth and depth of knowledge EA helps manage can also benefit business even on a daily basis;. This is an ongoing effort and will never be done. So defining the top 30 files and 30 reports with unique keys is a deliverable that will yield results within 90 days.

(3). PPM Management Tool: overall, project management success rate is low if EA can help prioritize, optimize project portfolio, then both quick win and long term value are tangible.

4). Risk/Governance Tool: Either at strategic, logic or tactical level, the business faces risk more frequently than ever, recognize pattern or loophole, to keep business resilient is another value point for EA to reach. 

EA also has the potential to contribute to three major business challenges, in conjunction with other tools and approaches: 

1). Set strategy: We are living in the turbulence of the external environment, EA can help an organization set strategy, keep appropriate control, develop sufficient resilience while remaining agile, identify and manage strategic risk. 

2). Managing the internal complexity of the organization. EA can help an organization to model and so understand itself, define and deliver decision-taking information support, reduce information overload & complexity, produce a pipeline of core capabilities, focus and manage innovation, plan and deliver technology deployment, plan and manage change

3). Manage the boundary between the organization and the external world. EA can help an organization understand and manage globalization, manage its supply chains, influence / comply with relevant regulation, manage its partnerships, assess and execute M&A

Very often the reason an organization hasn't already recognized and implemented such improvements is that its culture or methods act as a kind of glass ceiling preventing it from doing so. This applies even when the improvement is apparently a quick fix. Again that glass ceiling puts them tantalizingly out of reach. Moreover, 'architectural' improvements are by definition more than a lick of paint, so are going to require more fundamental, invasive changes, with larger, longer-term payback

In conclusion: quick win builds trust and trust builds advocacy. However, EA, as an abstraction, is created to convey the business value of change. Overemphasizing on short term result may stifle EA real value. And EA's main purpose is to bridge strategy and execution, it’s a journey, not a sprint.


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