On the road to Sydney: The Open Group gets to bottom of the latest in business architecture

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: The Open Group.

 

Later this month, The Open Group’s first conference in Australia will focus on "How Does Enterprise Architecture Transform an Enterprise?"

 

With special attention devoted to enterprise transformation, speakers and a variety of sessions will place the transformation in the context of such vertical industries as finance, defense, exploration, mining, and minerals.

 

As a prelude to the event, BriefingsDirect recently interviewed two of the main speakers at the conference -- Hugh Evans, the Chief Executive Officer of Enterprise Architects, a specialist enterprise architecture (EA) firm based in Melbourne, Australia, and Craig Martin, Chief Operations Officer and Chief Architect at Enterprise Architects.

 

As some background, Hugh is both the founder and CEO at Enterprise Architects. His professional experience blends design and business, having started out in traditional architecture, computer games design, and digital media, before moving into enterprise IT and business transformation.

 

In 1999, Hugh founded the IT Strategy Architecture Forum, which included chief architects from most of the top 20 companies in Australia. He has also helped found the Australian Architecture Body of Knowledge and the London Architecture Leadership Forum in the UK.

 

Since starting Enterprise Architects in 2002, Hugh has grown the team to more than 100 people, with offices in Australia, the UK, and the U.S.

 

With a career spanning more than 20 years, Craig has held executive positions in the communications, high tech, media, entertainment, and government markets and has operated as an Enterprise Architect and Chief Consulting Architect for a while.

 

In 2012, Craig became COO of Enterprise Architects to improve the global scalability of the organization, but he is also a key thought leader for strategy and architecture practices for all their clients and also across the EA field.

 

Craig has been a strong advocate of finding differentiation in businesses through identifying new mixes of business capabilities in those organizations. He advises that companies that do not optimize how they reassemble their capabilities will struggle, and he also believes that business decision making should be driven by economic lifecycles.

 

The interview was conducted by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. [Disclosure: The Open Group is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: What are some of the big problems that businesses are facing that architecture-level solutions can benefit?

Evans: I'll start with the trend in the industry around fast-paced change and disruptive innovation. You'll find that many organizations, many industries, at the moment in the U.S., Australia, and around the world are struggling with the challenges of how to reinvent themselves with an increasing number of interesting and innovative business models coming through.

Evans

For many organizations, this means that they need to wrap their arms around an understanding of their current business activities and what options they've got to leverage their strategic advantages.

We're seeing business architecture as a tool for business model innovation, and on the other side, we're also seeing business architecture as a tool that's being used to better manage risk, compliance, security, and new technology trends around things like cloud, big data, and so on.

Martin: Yes, there is a strong drive within the industry to try and reduce complexity. As organizations are growing, the business stakeholders are confronted with a large amount of information, especially within the architecture space. We're seeing that they're struggling with this complexity and have to make accurate and efficient business decisions on all this information.

Martin

What we are seeing, and based upon what Hugh has already discussed, is that some of those industry drivers are around disruptive business models. For example, we're seeing it with the likes of higher education, the utility space, and financial services space, which are the dominant three.

There is a lot of change occurring in those spaces, and businesses are looking for ways to make them more agile to adapt to that change, and looking towards disciplined architecture and the business-architecture discipline to try and help them in that process.

Gardner: Is there anything about the past 10 or 15 years in business practices that have led now to this need for a greater emphasis on that strategic architectural level of thinking?

Martin: A lot has to do with basically building blocks. We've seen a journey that’s traveled within the architecture disciplines specifically. We call it the commodification of the business, and we've seen that maturity in the IT space. A lot of processes that used to be innovative in our business are now becoming fairly utility and core to the business.

In any Tier 1 organization, a lot of the processes that used to differentiate them are now freely available in a number of vendor platforms, and any of their competitors can acquire those.

Looking for differentiation

So they are looking for that differentiation, the ability to be able to differentiate themselves from their competitors, and away from that sort of utility space. That’s a shift that’s beginning to occur. Because a lot of those IT aspects have become industrialized, that’s also moving up into the business space.

In other words, how can we now take complex mysteries in the business space and codify them? In other words, how can we create building blocks for them, so that organizations now can actually effectively work with those building blocks and string them together in different ways to solve more complex business problems.

Evans: EA is now around 30 years old, but the rise in EA has really come from the need for IT systems to interoperate and to create common standards and common understanding within an organization for how an IT estate is going to come together and deliver the right type of business value.

Through the '90s we saw the proliferation of technologies as a result of the extension of distributed computing models and the emergence of the Internet. We've seen now the ubiquity of the Internet and technology across business. The same sort of concepts that ring true in technology architecture extend out into the business, around how the business interoperates with its components.

The need to change very fast for business, which is occurring now in the current economy, with the entrepreneurship and the innovation going on, is seeing this type of thinking come to the fore. This type of thinking enables organizations to change more rapidly. The architecture itself won't make the organization change rapidly, but it will provide the appropriate references and enable people to have the right conversations to make that happen.

Business architecture, as well as strategic architecture, is still quite a nascent capability for organizations, and many organizations are really still trying to get a grip on this. The general rule is that organizations don’t manage this so well at the moment, but organizations are looking to improving in this area, because of the obvious, even heuristic, payoffs that you get from being better organized.

You end up spending less money, because you're a more efficient organization, and you end up delivering better value to customers, because you're a more effective organization. This efficiency and effectiveness need within organizations is worth the price of investment in this area.

The actual tangible benefits that we're seeing across our customers includes reduced cost of their IT estate.

Meeting profiles

You have improved security and improved compliance, because organizations can see where their capabilities are meeting the various risk and compliance profiles, and you are also seeing organizations bring products to market quicker.

The ability to move through the product management process, bring products to market more rapidly, and respond to customer need more rapidly puts organizations in front and makes them more competitive.

The sorts of industries we're seeing acting in this area would include the postal industry, where they are moving from a traditional mail- to parcels, which is a result of a move towards online retailing. You're also seeing it in the telco sector and you're seeing it in the banking and finance sector.

In the banking and finance sector, we've also seen a lot of this investment driven by the merger and acquisition (M&A) activity that’s come out of the financial crisis in various countries where we operate. These organizations are getting real value from understanding where the enterprise boundaries are, how they bring the business together, how they better integrate the organizations and acquisitions, and how they better divest.

Martin: We're seeing, especially at the strategic level, that the architecture discipline is able to give business decision makers a view into different strategic scenarios.

For example, where a number of environmental factors and market pressures would have been inputs into a discussion around how to change a business, we're also seeing business decision makers getting a lot of value from running those scenarios through an actual hypothesis of the business model.

For example, they could be considering four or five different strategic scenarios, and what we are seeing is that, using the architecture discipline, it's showing them effectively what those scenarios look like as they cascade through the business. It's showing the impact on capabilities, on people and the approaches and technologies, and the impact on capital expenditures (CAPEX) and operational expenditures (OPEX).

Those views of each of those strategic scenarios allows them to basically pull the trigger on the better strategic scenario to pursue, before they've invested all of their efforts and all that analysis to possibly get to the point where it wasn’t the right decision in the first place. So that might be referred to as sort of the strategic enablement piece.

We're also seeing a lot of value for organizations within the portfolio space. We traditionally get questions like, "I have 180 projects out there. Am I doing the right things? Are those the right 180 projects, and are they going to help me achieve the types of CAPEX and OPEX reductions that I am looking for?"

With the architecture discipline, you don’t take a portfolio lens into what’s occurring within the business. You take an architectural lens, and you're able to give executives an overview of exactly where the spend is occurring. You give them an overview of where the duplication is occurring, and where the loss of cohesion is occurring.

Common problems

A common problem we find, when we go into do these types of gigs, is the amount of duplication occurring across a number of projects. In a worst-case scenario, 75 percent of the projects are all trying to do the same thing, on the same capability, with the same processes.

So there’s a reduction of complexity and the production of efforts that’s occurring across the organizations to try and bring it and get it into more synergistic sessions.

We're also seeing a lot of value occurring up at the customer experience space. That is really taking a strong look at this customer experience view, which is less around all of the underlying building blocks and capabilities of an organization and looking more at what sort of experiences we want to give our customer? What type of product offerings must we assemble, and what underlying building blocks of the organization must be assembled to enable those offerings and those value propositions?

That sort of traceability through the cycle gives you a view of what levers you must pull to optimize your customer experience. Organizations are seeing a lot of value there and that’s basically increasing their effectiveness in the market and having a direct impact on their market share.

And that’s something that we see time and time again, regardless of what the driver was behind the investment in the architecture project, seeing the team interact and build a coalition for action and for change. That’s the most impressive thing that we get to see.

Gardner: Let’s drill down a little bit into some of what you'll be discussing at the conference in Sydney in April. One of the things that’s puzzling to me, when I go to these Open Group Conferences, is to better understand the relationship between business architecture and IT architecture and where they converge and where they differ. Perhaps you could offer some insights and maybe tease out what some discussion points for that would be at the conference.

Martin: That’s actually quite a hot topic. In general, the architecture discipline has grown from the IT space, and that’s a good progression for it to take, because we're seeing the fruits of that discipline in how they industrialize IT components.

We're seeing the fruits of that in complex enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, the modularization of those ERP systems, their ability to be customized, and adapt to businesses. It’s a fairly mature space, and the natural progression of that is to apply those same thinking patterns back up into the business space.

In order for this to work effectively well, when somebody asks a question like that, we normally respond with a "depends" statement. We have in this organization a thing called the mandate curve, and it relates to what the mandate is within the business. What is the organization looking to solve?

Are they looking to build an HR management system? Are they looking to gain efficiencies from an enterprise-wide ERP solution? Are they looking to reduce the value chain losses that they're having on a monthly basis? Are they looking to improve customer experience across a group of companies? Or are they looking to improve shareholder value across the organization for an M&A, or maybe reduce cost-to-income.

Problem spaces

Those are some of the problem spaces, and we often get into that mind space to ask, "Those are the problems that you are solving, but what mandate is given to architecture to solve them?" We often find that the mandate for the IT architecture space is sitting beneath the CIO, and the CIO tends to use business architecture as a communication tool with business. In other words, to understand business better, to begin to apply architecture rigor to the business process.

Evans: It’s interesting, Dana. I spent a lot of time last year in the UK, working with the team across a number of business-architecture requirements. We were building business-architecture teams. We were also delivering some projects, where the initial investigation was a business-architecture piece, and we also ran some executive roundtables in the UK.

One thing that struck me in that investigation was the separation that existed in the business-architecture community from the traditional enterprise and technology architecture or IT architecture communities in those organizations that we were dealing with.

One insurance company, in particular, that was building a business-architecture team was looking for people that didn’t necessarily have an architecture background, but possibly could apply that insight. They were looking for deep business domain knowledge inside the various aspects of the insurance organization that they were looking to cover.

So to your question about the relationship between business architecture and IT architecture, where they converge and how they differ, it’s our view that business architecture is a subset of the broader EA picture and that these are actually integrated and unified disciplines.

However, in practice you'll find that there is often quite a separation between these two groups. I think that the major reason for that is that the drivers that are actually creating the investment for business architecture are actually now from coming outside of IT, and to some extent, IT is replicating that investment to build the engagement capability to engage with business so that they can have a more strategic discussion, rather than just take orders from the business.

I think that over this year, we're going to see more convergence between these two groups, and that’s certainly something that we are looking to foster in EA.

Gardner: I just came back from The Open Group Conference in California a few weeks ago, where the topic was focused largely on big data, but analysis was certainly a big part of that. Now, business analysis and business analysts, I suppose, are also part of this ecosystem. Are they subsets of the business architect? How do you see the role of business analysts now fitting into this, given the importance of data and the ability for organizations to manage data with new efficiency and scale?

Martin: Once again, that's also a hot topic. There is a convergence occurring, and we see that across the landscape, when it comes to the number of frameworks and standards that people certify on. Ultimately, it comes to this knife-edge point, in which we need to interact with the business stakeholder and we need to elicit requirements from that stakeholder and be able to model them successfully.

The business-analysis community is slightly more mature in this particular space. They have, for example, the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK). Within that space, they leverage a competency model, which in effect goes through a cycle, from an entry level BA, right up to what they refer to as the generalist BA, which is where they see the start of the business-architecture role.

Career path

There's a career path from a traditional business analyst role, which is around requirements solicitation and requirements management, which seems to be quite project focused. In other words, dropping down onto project environments, understanding stakeholder needs and requirements, and modeling those and documenting them, helping the IT teams model the data flows, the data structures but with a specific link into the business space.

As you move up that curve, you get into the business-architecture space, which is a broader structural view around how all the building blocks fit together. In other words, it’s a far broader view than what the business analyst traditional part would take, and looks at a number of different domains. The business architect tends to focus a lot on, as you mentioned, the information space, and we see a difference between the information and the data space.

So the business architect is looking at performance, market-related aspects, and  customer, information, as well as the business processes and functional aspects of an organization.

You can see that the business analysts could almost be seen as the soldiers of these types of functions. In other words, they're the guys that are in the trenches seeing what's working on a day-to-day basis. They've got a number of tools that they're equipped with, which for example the BABOK has given them.

And there are all different ways and techniques that they are using to elicit those requirements from various business stakeholders, until they move out that curve up into the business architecture and strategic architecture space.

Gardner: Craig, in your presentation at The Open Group Conference in Sydney, what do you hope to accomplish?

Martin: How do I build cohesion in an organization? How do I look at different types of scenarios that I can execute against? What are the better ways to assemble all the efforts in my organization to achieve those outcomes? That’s taking us through a variety of examples that will be quite visual. 

We'll also be addressing the specific role of where we see the career path and the complementary nature of the business analyst and business architect, as they travel through the cycle of trying to operate at a strategic level and as a strategic enabler within the organization.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: The Open Group.

 

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About the Author
Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, an enterprise IT analysis, market research, and consulting firm. Ga...


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