Transcript of a BriefingsDirect podcast on enterprise architecture and its role and value in the face of the current economic downturn.
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Announcer: Hello, and welcome to a special BriefingsDirect production, a sponsored podcast discussion coming to you from The Open Group's 22nd annual Enterprise Architecture Practitioner's Conference in London, England on April 22, 2009. Please welcome The Open Group's President and CEO Allen Brown, as he introduces the moderator and panelists for our discussion.
Allen Brown: This panel is about "Resisting Short-term Thinking: Rationalizing Investments in Enterprise Architecture During a Recession."
I'm glad there's not a recession in enterprise architecture (EA). We've got quite a full room, haven't we? The panel is going to be moderated by Kevin White, contributing editor to Computer Business Review in the UK. In that role, he closely monitors the infrastructure and enterprise management markets, consulting and writing about both the technology details and the business strategies of the major vendors and user corporations in these domains.
He also regularly writes about IT economics and business case analysis for Technology Investment. He was formerly editor-director for the CIO Connect Network of FTSE-level chief CIOs. Kevin also works as research director for Datamonitor Technology, and before that, headed the Computerwire IT news service.
I'm going to introduce Kevin. He's going to introduce his panel. Please give a big, warm welcome to Kevin White.
Kevin White: Thank you, and good afternoon everyone. So resisting short-term thinking, how does EA thrive and survive in recession? It's a tough subject, and I can't do it without some expert witnesses.
I would like to invite Henry Peyret from Forrester Research. He has focused for 25 years on the concepts, techniques, and tools used in EA.
We also have Phil Pavitt, the group chief information officer (CIO) for Transport for London. Phil is the man who is responsible for all the technology behind London buses, Underground, the Light, Docklands Railway. Phil admits to being responsible in part for the Central London Congestion Charging Scheme. So, a very warm welcome to Phil.
Next, we have Thomas Obitz, a principal architect at Infosys. Thomas's key areas of interest are the potential versus the perceived benefits of EA. It's very relevant.
Mike Turner, enterprise architect at Capgemini is a very familiar figure in this room. He's one of the core team that developed the SAP Enterprise Architecture Framework, which was a joint initiative between Capgemini and SAP. [More from Mike Turner on BriefingsDirect.]
Finally, we have Terry Blevins, a senior principal information systems engineer at MITRE and Customer Council Board member of The Open Group. Terry has been involved with architecture discipline since the late 1980s, and he currently heads a team of 40 enterprise architects. As his accent will show, he is based in the US. So welcome, panelists.
Talk about business
We've talked today about frameworks. We've talked about certification. We've talked about software tools. I just want to raise our heads somewhat and talk about business, because that's what we're all in. You don't need to look very far to realize that we live in very interesting times. The challenge for EA is to be able to balance the long-term goals against the pressing short-term needs of the business.
There are intense commercial pressures right now to reduce costs at a time when capital expenditure is severely constrained. Operational efficiency has become an imperative, but agility and speed to market are equally as important.
In a downturn, there is a natural tendency to accentuate the tactical, short-term initiatives, and EA arguably is inherently long-term. This is a crucial issue of how you balance that long-term architectural goal against the short-term needs of the business.
So let's explore that. To kick off, it would be interesting to understand what business is like at the top. Phil, perhaps you could share with us some of the challenges, some of the pressures, some of the dynamics currently in the CIO's office as it relates to this flex between short-term and long-term goals.
Phil Pavitt: Thank you. It's an interesting issue, because although this talk is entitled around recession, I'm not sure that pressures of the CIO's office have ever changed. Certainly the role I have, looking after an enormous organization that spends almost $2 billion a year through my team on technology, I don't remember having any other conversation around cost cutting, efficiency, or speed to market, that's particularly changed this week from this time last year.
What has changed though is that suddenly those business units that had two choices -- do we use the internal teams or do we do our own thing? Perhaps two or three years ago, in most business units, they felt strong enough to do their own thing and then once they've got it, or a third party has given it to them, come to the center and say, "Is there any chance you can run it?"
Now, perhaps that money is not so readily available to them. Suddenly, I can see where EA actually become a critical part. Taking our standards and designs, because they're common across the business, becomes a very efficient way to operate and to run.
Having sat here for the last hour, I'm worried about some of the "business speak" interface between the architects and the business, but I'm sure once you move away from your internal conversations to the external ones, it's much more business-focused.
Most businesses, and certainly the businesses I operate and am responsible for, want to talk about standards and designs that produce speed-to-market, save money, help with maintenance, do actually give longevity to application development, application maintenance. They wouldn't necessarily recognize the tools to do that, but they recognize the people and the business partner to supply those tools.
Demonstrate added value
So my role as CIO, it is to demonstrate to the business that we can add value, and that value is primarily helping them with their business needs, as it ever was, but now helping them in a way that's cost-effective and frees up cash on other things.
In this last year, the project meetings I've been to, where the respective project director says, "And that will be $X million over 12 years, etc.," all those conversations have gone. It's much shorter values over much shorter times. The day of the big program is dead. The day of the big outsource is dead.
The understanding of our architectural process that's going to apply to that is a critical interpretation that CIO and his office will do for the business. Otherwise, they will go for "short-termism," because they'd go for what they see in front of them. So, that's some of the pressures we face.
White: Thanks, Phil. I think you're suggesting, perhaps, that time-to-value is probably more important now than a big return on investment (ROI). Is that the case?
Pavitt: I work in the government sector, which has an interesting history of major programs, some of which is true and some of which is hype. At the end of the day, IT is judged by what a business can take and use tomorrow. It's no good to have some of my strategy team and my business relationship team sitting with customers and saying, "Look, we can do stuff that will change your world tomorrow," and they say, "But, my printer doesn't work."
I know as architecture, you don't want to talk about that. You want to talk about the big world-changing, world-challenging processes. Sometimes, our most simple architectures do not serve the customer and help them do their stuff today. The more we can learn to do that today, then the more we get long-term support.
Therefore, if you find in my organization a program or a project -- even things like the Congestion Charging, for which I'm responsible -- has programs that go over 12 months, we have to sit. If the ROI is acceptable, we have to seriously consider whether it's actually the right thing to do. Can we do these small parcels? Can we architect something that does now and is then put on the shelf to re-brought down or reused again and again and again or built on again and again?
Each one of those small components must be successful in terms of their hurdles, whatever their hurdles may be. That's the biggest challenge we currently face. It doesn't change the overall theme or the overall process. It's a repositioning of that relationship with the business.
White: Thanks, Phil. Thomas, EA needs to prove value. Infosys did some interesting research late last year and early this year. Perhaps you could pick up on some of those key themes and explore some of those issues.
Thomas Obitz: There are a couple of things that we found that closely relate to what you've been saying.
First of all, EA clearly becomes a tool for strategic business transformation. That is visible from a couple of indicators. One of them is that 42 percent of the organizations have their enterprise architects actively involved in the strategic planning process.
Another indicator is that 16 percent of all organizations have the EA report outside IT. That means to the head of strategic planning, to the CFO, to the COO, and to the CEO. So, enterprise architects are changing their positioning, and that means that the value that the organizations are expecting out of them is changing, and also, the way they are talking about value and how they are proving value.
I don't fully agree with this view that EA is strategic, and strategic is short-term. What is strategy? Strategy is, "I am here. I have a vision of being here. I need to take this and this steps, when I do a starting step. I start tomorrow, not in two years." The best way of making large transformation programs fail is actually to have something that does the tactical thing and another program that does the long-term strategic thing, because the tactical thing solves the problem.
What is EA good for? It's an approach for solving the problems of an organization. As we say, the problems are here and now. You need to make out the places where you have current issues. You need to identify architectural approaches to solve them. And, you need to start gradual change right now. So, yes, you are capable of demonstrating a long-term path, but you are creating value in the short-term.
Basically, as enterprise architects what we need to change in our overall approach is that we need to go away completely from this architectural approach, which is about, "We build a big picture of how we could imagine things work and then implement that over a long time," to "What's an approach that's issue-driven." We need to identify where the issues of the organizations are today, identify what needs to change, and then consolidate that into the big picture.
Architects are uniquely positioned for that, because our key capability, which basically constitutes what we call architecture, is that we work out solutions from the standpoint of a multitude of stakeholders, but then we consolidate against a common set of models. Instead of having marketing do something, finance do something, and human resources (HR) do something, which then don't go together, we can come up with holistic solutions. This is the unique strength of architects.
That also means that we need to change the way we are talking about our solutions, as you rightly said. I often hear that architects need to talk business, but it takes it a bit short. The problem is not business in the sense of what the organization is doing. It's not sufficient that an enterprise architect understands banking.
The point is that an enterprise architect needs to understand the mechanics of management. He needs to understand how decisions are made at the top level, and he needs to have an approach of presenting what he's doing and what he suggests in a way that is understandable and traceable for the most senior decision makers in the organization. We're basically moving towards management consulting.
White: Terry, you had a large group. You just heard about the requirements of the group to have an understanding of management skills and the mechanics of management. Do you think the typical EA group now has the right sort of skills to be able to face off to clients within the business in that sort of fashion?
Terry Blevins: EA, architecting, and the architects themselves are much different than maybe domain-specific, technology-specific architectures, architects, and architecting. This is where the soft skills really come into play.
I've seen more than one CIO get pretty angry to the point of you're not invited back if you come in and just start talking about technology and architecture speed. In the DoD, if you start throwing out OV1 and SV1 and stuff like that, that doesn't make it.
You certainly do need to approach the decision makers with a mind toward the business. I don't think it hurts to speak "business speak" to them. But, the point is to show a true appreciation that you're there to help them, help them make decisions, help them implement what they need implemented, help them be responsive, and think about the day to day. It's not 5 or 10 years out anymore. It's the day to day.
White: Let's change tack slightly, Mike. EA has to make an impact, a business impact. What other ways can we accelerate fast impact programs, where there is a necessary focus on operational efficiency, productivity, and cost reduction?
Mike Turner: If organizations have been doing EA in the past, then now is a really good time to demonstrate the value of that in the world that's happening. A lot of the talk has been about using EA as a tool to increase the agility of your organization. Organizations that have understood their EA and understood their operating model and how their organization functions should be well placed to make significant strategic, cross-silo decisions to respond to new market situations.
One of the real opportunity areas that EA is uniquely placed to deal with is working across silos. IT could be one of those silos, but there's any number of other silos within the business, across HR, finance, and different parts of operations.
EA is a fantastic tool to be able to consult a wide variety of stakeholders about a particular market change, get a consensus viewpoint about that, and really have to define the responses across the whole organization. Also, to look for ways that traditional silos can work together more effectively. Most silos, when considered in isolation, in the majority of organizations, are quite efficiently run. There isn't a huge amount of extra value that can be driven from those silos or extra costs that can be taken out. The opportunities really span across those multiple silos.
In order to react quickly, you really need those essentials in place, and you need to understand your operating model and your stakeholders. You have a mechanism in which you can articulate how you're going to respond to a need to change, and then you really have the tools in place to be able to quickly make changes and have a coordinated response.
The worst thing you could do in any crisis situation is to allow fragmentation and different parts of the business to go and try different strategies. You may be cutting cost in one area and trying to increase value in a different area. You end up conflicting with each other and ultimately creating more tension and having a destructive impact on the business.
White: There are some strong communication and influencing skills that are required.
White: You mentioned three keywords for me there: speed, response, and agility. Henry, I know you've got a real interest in agility and you consider it almost a benchmark that needs to be melded somehow into the EA group. Can you talk us through how that might develop?
Henry Peyret: At Forrester, we think that there is probably a breakthrough for the EA job currently. We are launching something we call EA 2.0, a renewal of the EA world. Take agility, for example. We think that we should now move the agility at the business level and say what type of agility we can provide for the business to deliver new products, to deliver new capabilities, and to transform the enterprise.
A new metric for EA is coming -- key agility indicators at the business level, but also key agility indicators for architects.
We talked a lot today about the strategy angle that enterprise architects are taking currently. We've seen lot of changes with service-oriented architecture (SOA), which brings a new iterative manner to more principles about driving different changes.
You talked about the fact that we need to adapt to different geographical zones, different constraints and compliance, different type of architectures. The big picture is not valuable enough for the enterprise architect. We think that brings a new way of doing EA, and we call that EA 2.0.
White: I want to introduce a question from the audience. This is from Colin Wheeler. Phil, you might want to take this one. How can big EA providers and consultancies demonstrate the cost benefit of EA to board-level management in today's climate?
Pavitt: Stay away really. That's just a small joke. You've got to remember that at the board level there's massive frustration with most IT departments. A CEO, or a principal in charge of an organization, has poured millions and even billions over the years into its IT department. Someone said, "Just a few million more, and I would have architected the right agile, fast-to-market, cheapest benchmark thing in the world. Just a few million more."
They've heard this so many times. I can tell you from the organizations I have led as an IT person, that is the single biggest source of frustration. Yet, and I think the conversation is totally valid, we to go back to the question of how you actually demonstrate value?
We see here an assumption that most organizations work with each other for the common good. Perhaps you work in a more perfect world than I do, and you're lucky in your company. With all respect, most business units in most companies are looking after their own horizontal profit and loss statement (P&L), their own horizontal income, or dealing with their own horizontal challenges. IT among two or three other project functions is the only one that goes horizontally.
The idea that the whole business can say, "Shall I chuck in my bit of my application, my bit of infrastructure, my bit of data center, and my bit of technology, so the common good can happen" -- those conversations don't happen very often, or perhaps they happen when I'm never in the room.
Some people I know in the businesses are so wedded to their application and their architecture, they think the threat of losing it is the threat of their job.
Common good vs. individual good
So to answer the question, fundamentally we have to demonstrate not just the common good, but the individual unit good, because although everybody says at the boardroom, "Yes, of course, we're here for the common good," how they all bonus and objectivize isn't the reality.
An enterprise architect who says, "I've decided that the good thing to do is to bid on this architecture, on this infrastructure, on this, or whatever, because we over the next few years would get a overall pound in the pocket for the business," will not get listened to, although they may well be right.
We have to understand that, whether it comes from a third party, an organization, a consultancy or whatever -- internally or externally -- is irrelevant. It's someone who can scratch where the business itches, not necessarily for the overall common good, but within the unique good that feeds the overall common good. Otherwise businesses are going to say it's more money in what is, in their view, almost a failing department.
Peyret: It is becoming very important to contractualize better, including internally. The more we become a shared service as an IT department, servicing different business unit with their own profit and loss, with their own requirements, the more we would be required to contractualize.
That's what we call the contractualization trend that's internal for the IT relationship with the business unit and also for the business unit relationship between themselves and between business units and also partners.
As you say, if we do not reflect those contract aspects, including the key agility indicators I talked about previously, within our personal incentives within each group, we will not obtain that contractualization in a wide manner.
At the same time, when we talk about contractualization, very often we talk about something that is more constrained, a way to get more money, and other things like that. There is something that is changing dramatically about that too, which is flexible contract.
That's a different type of relationship, but that's where EA should play a big, big role to obtain a wide level of contractualization. You cannot contractualize everything, particularly internally. At the same time, you should define an effective way to negotiate or at least discuss with the CEO and the business unit. That's a key requirement to make that happen as a shared serviced is different business units with different requirements.
White: Another question from the audience here, How can EA be positioned in this scenario? One of the key focuses of EA is business transformation.
Well, in the current climate, I'm not interested in transformation. I'm not interested in making major changes, because major changes are disruptive at any cost. They just want to run the business [well]. Terry, where does EA live in that scenario?
Blevins: Decisions are made every day. Some of those decisions are about transformation, and some of those decisions are about operational day-to-day things. The key for enterprise architecture, in either a business transformation scenario or maintaining operations, is really to understand the decisions that do get made. It's key to understand who is making those decisions, understand the information they need to make those decisions, and build your enterprise architecting or do your enterprise architecting and build your EA to support that decision making. ... To me, that's absolutely critical.
We're not here to go to the boardroom and say, "Here is an EA or here is our architecture anything. We're here to support decision makers. We're the back. We help them and empower them. We give generals more stars and give CIOs the CEO positions.
Turner: Being realistic, though, there is a fairly clear relationship between the amount of change that's happening within an organization and the demand for EA. If an organization is completely static, then there is little value to be had from having an EA.
I guess the question is two-dimensional. One is about the amount of change that's happening, and the other dimension is the horizon on which that change comes into effect.
If you're seeing an organization that is taking its change budget and employing the same amount of money into very short-term change activity, then, absolutely, there is a need for EA there. You would probably expect that doing that would actually completely disrupt the business. If an organization is really just pulling back on the amount of change that it is doing, that, by consequence, has to have an affect on the requirement for EA.
White: In terms of understanding what your comment is, you really need to understand the business criteria that the business is trying to address. Is it the cash cycle that's an issue? Do you think that the EA group thinks out of the box departmentally? Does it think like a CFO? Does it understand the financial flows that are impacting the business? And, how important are they considered in the boardroom? How do you accelerate that or enhance that process?
Turner: If it wants to be relevant, it absolutely should do it. What you would aspire to and what you observe in organizations is not necessarily the case. Certainly, there's been a tendency in the past to focus on technology, elegance, and large theoretical exercises that look beyond the horizon of where the rest of the organization is thinking. That type of activity is really irrelevant to most people within an organization.
To really attain relevance is to focus on the problems that the business has, and grouping them in terms of agility. You could characterize that as agility on two different levels, because there is an agility that you can gain from having very flexible systems that can change based on unknown requirements. There's a lot of thinking around things like SOA, Agile Development, and those types of techniques, which are really looking to build open-ended systems that can address many different types of requirements.
I think another area of agility that is often slightly overlooked is the end-to-end business agility, which can often be derived from having static fixed systems that go end-to-end. Re-looking at the ERP platform that you have and how that can help increase time to market, supply chain visibility, or the usage of capital within the organization is something that shouldn't be overlooked, because it's not considered to be interesting from a technical standpoint.
White: Henry, earlier you mentioned earlier development in application portfolio management of EA. Does that pick up on Mike's point?
Peyret: Currently, there is a trend to rationalize everywhere, to try to decrease the cost. Obviously, it's the right time to score applications and be able to say, "Okay, I would like to cancel and kill some of those systems that are expensive, that cost a lot, are not maintainable, are not sustainable for the long-term, and many other things like that."
At the same time, I also see some industries in which IT is becoming more important, and where some of the business will be done with IT involvement.
I worked in some pharmaceuticals, for example. To decrease the risks of taking drugs, they're bringing now a bundle of IT testing machines. That's completely changing the business. That's becoming part of the pharmaceutical business. It's not something that's a sideline that's there to support a process.
I see some innovation, and one of the roles obviously of EA is to help businesses bring that innovation in at a right time. We have seen some of those mistakes in the past. We had client-server, which was adopted. Finally, it was not scalable or deployable, or whatever you want. That's the sort of thing where EA is playing different types of roles, which are more on the strategic side.
I agree with you on the rationalization and standardization. That really is the right place to come back with some recommendation you made in the past and say, "Okay, we can kill that application because the business is ready to save."
The issue of value
White: One of our participants has rightly brought us back to the issue of value, and it's actually addressed to you, Phil. Do you have an EA group? How did you form the group, and how do you demonstrate value to the individual business units of that group? Perhaps you can lead into the discussion of value generally?
Pavitt: Do I have an EA group? It's very small compared to the overall organizational size. Each of the groups in my team lives or dies by their contribution and the value the business perceives. The EA team now is a fifth of what it was when I first started. It will get smaller, if it doesn't continue to show value.
Despite all the conversation, we carry 12 million people a day in our transport systems. If we don't know where the buses or where the tube train is, if we cannot produce the countdown data which helps you to tell when the next underground train or bus comes along, you can have as much TOGAF design as you like, but at the end of the day, "Where is the damn bus" would be the obvious question from the business.
So value is not value necessarily, but not exclusively in monetary terms. I do agree with the sentiment that's been expressed here: get to know your customers. I've been frustrated with my own EA team time and time again. They are politically naive. As a CIO, I meant to be one of the sharpest political operators in my business, not because my business is particularly more political than anybody else's, but I'm the one who operates horizontally.
I'm the one who can be used as an excuse for every other department's failure, whether I've caused it or not. I'm the one in my company who is measured 1.7 million times every hour when someone presses the Enter button. We're the only department that's measured that often in real time of any other team in the company.
Our EA team turns up with the best thing since sliced bread that they have been working on in a hothouse environment for the last three months, which will feed all known starving people across the world.
It doesn't help me select the business in terms of value. Recognizing value in terms of what the customer, in our case the actual user, wants is critical. EA should be much more physical, politically savvy, and much closer to their customers. This is not a visit once a month.
Most of my EAs -- I think they have just stepped out, so I can say it now -- most of my EAs will end up in the business in the next six months, not in IT. I'll force them to be in the business, because I've asked them to do it nicely. Then they'll judge even more the value they can contribute. Of course, if the business then doesn't value them, they would do something about it.
So, value is a very important thing, but you have to get close physically to your customer to turn what value really means to them in terms of what they're trying to deliver.
White: So the way that EA group can create meaningful propositions with stakeholders is by working alongside them, by being fused in the business?
Thomas, surely everyone appreciates the value of EA. The business can see it. It's just that we're using the wrong measures, isn't it?
The need for rigor
Obitz: Well, that's an interesting thing. What enterprise architects think is a good explanation of the value of EA, may not be something that is even worth looking at for a CEO. Enterprise architects need to put rigor into how they justify and explain the value of what they are doing.
As part of our annual EA survey, we're asking enterprise architects if they feel capable of justifying the expenditure for the EA department. In our first survey, in 2005-2006, 76 percent felt capable of doing that. Then, 18 months later, only 68 percent felt capable of doing it, and in our last survey, in August last year, it went down to 61 percent.
Organizations are putting much more rigor into the metrics that people are reporting, and they want to get real numbers. We found that there are massive differences between architecture teams. If organizations are not collecting any metrics, only 42 percent of them feel capable of justifying the work of the EA group.
If they are very rigorous and are collecting data about what they're doing, collecting data about the business value they're influencing and enabling for the whole organization, and if they are collecting data on how they're accepted and involved with the work of the remaining organization, then 85 percent are capable of justifying the work of the EA team.
You need to put in this work. It's extra work, admin work, and it's boring. Enterprise architects don't want to do that. They need to talk about it. If an EA team doesn't report metrics on a regular basis, they're not recognized as a value source in the organization. Only 35 percent of those organizations that do not report metrics feel capable of explaining their value, versus 77 percent, where you have a periodic reporting of EA KPIs into the IT and business function.
Enterprise architects need to do something. They can do it. It's just that you need to take a different approach. The typical IT architect approach, "I do this because I think this is best practice," is something that nobody outside a team has ever accepted as a measure that is presentable.
White: Terry, another notion of perceived value of EA is that it delivers a value at the end of a very long process. How can we kill that notion off completely?
Blevins: Yeah, that's a bad thing. Is it true that 99 percent of the statistics are made up on the fly?
White: 87 percent.
Getting on the same timeline
Blevins: We have to get enterprise architecting -- I'm going to focus on the verb -- on the same timeline as the decision-making process in an organization. Decisions are being made every day in the organization. I couldn't agree more with Phil's comment about getting architects where the stakeholders are, getting them out of the back room, getting, at least part of them, very close to whatever process is being made.
One of the things we haven't talked a lot about today is the importance of connecting the architects to the governance process within the organization. Architecture is not there to build a solution. Architecture is not the solution. Architecture represents a resource base, where people can analyze to help others make decisions, and those decisions need to be made on a daily basis.
The key thing is for the enterprise architecting projects to be very closely aligned with whatever governance process happens to be there and then create deliverables to meet the timelines of those processes. It's essential to connect with those decision-making stakeholders, understand what their information needs are, and make sure that you package your enterprise architecting with no more than has to be there to support a given decision. That could be a decision about a process improvement. That could be a decision about an ERP buy. That could be a decision about the deployment of a business rule or an information standard. It doesn't matter.
White: There's a very relevant question from the floor. A key frustration for our CEO is that implementing the new solutions is constantly delayed by the business lines demanding new development, which can only be done by developing the very things you're trying to replace. So you're building an even bigger legacy. How would you deal with this within the EA?
Turner: One of the things that really helps in that context is simply the act of defining where you're trying to get to. If that target is not really defined in any detail and there aren't aspirational statements that say, "We'd like to do this," it doesn't really hit home with something that's real and in the here and now.
If you can say, "We want to be here. This is what it looks like in a bit more detail, and this is roughly how we're going to get there," and then put that in place within the governance processes that applies to those tactical decisions that are being made, you can then start to build the negative side of the equation for those changes. You can impact and assess those changes against, "This is taking me away from where I want to be rather than toward it."
There's a cross-implication to put this change in, but there is also a cross-implication to take this change out, and then start to look at alternatives of where you can maybe do it in a slightly different way that would take you closer to where you want to be.
A lot of organizations are simply making the commitment through a target state. Describing what it looks like in a way that people can understand means that they will almost instinctively make those decisions in a way that takes them towards where they want to go rather than away. They can start to factor that into their own decision making process.
Good to great
White: Thank you. One of the key drivers to any EA group right now is focusing on getting things done and getting done very well. Phil, you mentioned a book Jim Collins wrote, Good to Great. I think one essence of that is that in the soul of every great company, there is a sense of discipline. Do you see an EA group having any influence on enterprise discipline to keep the business going in the right direction?
Pavitt: The book Good to Great describes how companies can be pretty good, but there are quite big steps in making them great. There are lots of business principles in there that applies to IT in particular.
IT can really help any organization become great in a number of ways, particularly around architecture. As you sell to the business what architecture can do for them, I think they begin to get it. I guess they understand what the actual personal implications are, both positive and negative, but they also begin to build this sense of, "Well, if we do this, then we have a platform to launch on to something else."
What I find quite challenging, as any IT support organization would, is anticipating what the business needs. I enjoy the business planning around any organization, because the IT department says, "We'll set our strategy and our plan once the business has set their strategy and their plan."
I don't know if really good businesses always have those things. I've clearly made mistakes in my 25 years. I have not met one really. Most business plans are around survival or around getting to the next stage of a market. IT can't wait for that, but we can lead and guide business in a positive way to make those right choices.
In my organization, when I took responsibility, we had 63 data centers. We also had an architectural team of around 40 people. I could have put those two things together and made a very obvious conclusion. They both tried to separate themselves from the other, the physical reality. Someone had to persuade the business that to have 60 plus data centers was the wrong answer.
Now, we're down to three. Is that because of personality? Is that because of business case? Is that because of any of those? All of them have played a part, but the biggest thing was an architectural-type role. I'll use it as loosely as that.
Let's pick something the business is very bad at -- resilience. That might not be true for many companies, but in our company it was an issue. Disaster recovery is an issue, resilience, because politically we were savvy with the business.
We said 63 to 3 gives resilience, and suddenly everybody was on board. It wasn't because they saw having less was better, because nothing improved in their daily lives. It didn't get faster. It didn't get quicker. In fact, they didn't particularly save a lot of money individually, because those things are charged centrally.
But, the idea of resilience and disaster recovery, which has been a critical part of an operation of running a transport system, became very important to them. Suddenly, the architects could guide the business to make what in the background is an obviously right decision. A critical part that enterprise architects can play is the political part of helping the business make the right choices.
I'm not saying it should be self-diffusion or manipulation, although I think both things are perfectly legitimate tools in the IT world, but nevertheless, ultimately, you're doing the right thing for the business.
Survival without EA?
White: Thank you. Two questions from the floor, and I want to direct this to Henry. This is probably the most straightforward question, Henry. How can enterprises survive without EA? Another question, if the EA group can't produce a positive contribution to the business, is there any reason to keep it? That's addressing the current status of EA. I want to ask you what you think the future of the EA group is.
Peyret: I think that there is more EA. First, more enterprise are adapting EA. To answer some of your remarks, at the moment, EA is sharing some measurements, which are not addressing the complete enterprise, typically in travel and transportation. That's one industry that has four typical key performance indicators that they should share.
One is productivity. I fully agree with that approach. Second is quality, and third is risk. There are lots of risks transporting people without a level of security, which will bring them to the right place. The fourth one is about agility.
When we try to assess those metrics on each of the industries, some in finance should have cared a little bit more on the risk aspects. Also, subprime was a bad risk assessment. That was not sharing the key risk indicators with not only their buyers, but also their customers and many others.
So, to come back to your point, first, there are more enterprise architect groups within the enterprise. EA groups may not mean more people on the EA team. That means that we are seeing more federated, more virtual EA, and more EA involving business unit architects and business analyst architects -- the EA team. That's where the soft skills I talked about previously are becoming more and more important -- to involve the right person, to talk to the right person, to politically find the right way to bring the right message to the right person.
That's also why the enterprise architect role is changing currently. Now, we see different people jumping in as an enterprise architect, and not only people with a huge background in IT. Yes, they should have, but more and more, we see additional people coming to the business. It's a good way of muddling the business, muddling the architecture as a process, and many other things like that. What does that mean to the business?
White: Perhaps we could go to Thomas?
Obitz: Regarding your question what to do with an EA team that doesn't add value to the business, that's a difficult question. You can interpret business in two ways, and its commonly interpreted in two ways in the world of EA. One is, everything which is outside IT, and the second is the organization as a whole.
The last one is easy, if the EA team doesn't add any value to the organization in any shape or form, well, then it probably should be gone. If it doesn't add value to the organization outside IT, that's a different animal.
Basically, you have three value levers that you can use in an organization as an EA team. One is IT cost and risk, cost internal to IT. The second is cost and risk of the organization as a whole, and the third one is the top line -- revenue and opportunities.
An EA team may not be at a level of maturity to influence the organization's top and bottom line directly, but it may help running the business of IT more effectively. If you're looking at the research of Ross, Weill, and Robertson, just standardizing technology reduces the cost of running the IT by 15 percent. So, there are certain value levers inside IT that EA can address without going outside the IT department.
White: Thank you. So, "Resisting short-term thinking: Rationalizing investments in Enterprise Architecture during recession." We haven't begun to start discussing this, but thank you very much indeed.
I thank the panelists again. Henry Peyret from Forrester. Phil Pavitt from Transport for London. Thomas Obitz from Infosys. Mike Turner from Capgemini. Terry Blevins from MITRE. Thank you all.
Brown: And our thanks to Kevin White for moderating so beautifully.
Announcer: Thanks to you Allen Brown, president and CEO of The Open Group. You've been enjoying a special BriefingsDirect podcast discussion coming to you from the Open Group's 22nd annual EA practitioner's conference in London. This production was underwritten and supported by The Open Group. Thanks for listening and come back next time.
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Transcript of a BriefingsDirect podcast on enterprise architecture and its role and value in the face of the current economic downturn. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2009. All rights reserved.