Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Path to a Digital-First Enterprise is Paved with an Emergence Model and Digital Transformation Playbook

Transcript of a discussion on how open standards help support a playbook approach for organizations to improve and accelerate their digital transformation.

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Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you’re listening to BriefingsDirect. Our next digital business optimization discussion explores how open standards help support a playbook approach for organizations to improve and accelerate their digital transformation.


As companies chart a critical journey to become digital-first enterprises, they need new forms of structure to make rapid adaptation a regular recurring core competency. Stay with us now as we explore how standards, resources, and playbooks around digital best practices can guide organizations through unprecedented challenges -- and allow them to emerge even stronger as a result.

Here to explain how to architect for ongoing disruptive innovation is our panel. Please join me in welcoming Jim Doss, Managing Director at IT Management and Governance, LLC, and Vice Chair of the Digital Practitioner Work Group (DPWG) at The Open Group. Welcome, Jim.

Jim Doss: Good morning.

Gardner: We’re also here with Mike Fulton, Associate Vice President of Technology Strategy and Innovation at Nationwide and Academic Director of Digital Education at The Ohio State University. Welcome back, Mike.

Mike Fulton: Great to be here, Dana.

We’re also here with Dave Lounsbury, Chief Technical Officer at The Open Group. Good to have you with us, Dave.

Dave Lounsbury: Good morning, Dana.

Gardner: Dave, the pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic response has focused a large, 40-year gathering of knowledge into a new digitization need. What is that new digitization need, and why are standards a crucial part of it?

Pandemic survival is digital

Lounsbury: It’s not just digitization, but also the need to move to digital. That’s what we’re seeing here. The sad fact of this terrible pandemic is that it has forced us all to live a more no-contact, touch-free, and virtual life.

We’ve all experienced having to be on Zoom, or not going into work, or even when you’re out doing take-out at a restaurant. You don’t sign a piece of paper anymore; you scan something on your phone, and all of that is based on having the skills and the business processes to actually deliver some part of your business’s value digitally.

This was always an evolution, and we’ve been working on it for years. But now, this pandemic has forced us to face the reality that you have to adopt digital in order to survive. And there’s a lot of evidence for that. I can cite McKinsey studies where the companies that realized this early and pivoted to digital delivery are reaping the business benefits. And, of course, that means you have to have both the technology, the digitization part, but also embrace the idea that you have to conduct some part of your business, or deliver your value, digitally. This has now become crystal clear in the focus of everyone’s mind.

Gardner: And what is the value in adopting standards? How do they help organizations from going off the rails or succumbing to complexity and chaos?

Lounsbury: There’s classically been a split between information technology (IT) in an organization and the people who are in the business. And, something I picked up at one of the Center for Information Research meetings was, the minute an IT person talks about “the business” you’ve gone off the rails.

If you’re going to deliver your business value digitally -- even if it’s something simple like contactless payments or an integrated take-out order system -- that knowledge might have been previously in an IT shop or something that you outsourced. Now it has to be in the line of business.

There has to be some awareness of these digital fundamentals at almost all levels of the business. And, of course, to do that quickly, people need a structure and a guidebook for what digital skills they need at different points of their organizational evolution. And that is where standards, complemented by education and training, play a big role.

Fulton: I want to hit on this idea of digitization versus digital. Dave made that point and I think it’s a good one. But in the context of the pandemic, it’s incredibly critical that we understand the value that digitization brings -- as well as the value that digital brings.

When we talk about digitization, typically what we’re talking about is the application of technology inside of a company to drive productivity and improve the operating model of the company. In the context of the pandemic, that value becomes much more important. Driving internal productivity is absolutely critical.

We’re seeing that here at Nationwide. We are taking steps to apply digitization internally to increase the productivity of our organization and help us drive the cost down of the insurance that we provide to our customers very specifically. This is in response to the adjustment in the value equation in the context of the pandemic.

But then, the digital context is more about looking externally. Digital in this context is applying those technologies to the customer experience and to the business model. And that’s where the contact list, as Dave was talking about, is so critically important.

There are so many ways now to interact with our customers, and in ways that don’t involve human beings. How to get things done in this pandemic, or to involve human beings in a different way -- in a digital fashion -- that’s where both digitization and digital are so critically important in this current context.

Gardner: Jim Doss, as organizations face a survival-of-the-fittest environment, how do we keep this a business transformation with technology pieces -- and not the other way around?

Project management to product journey

Doss: The days of architecting IT and the business separately, or as a pure cascade or top-down thing; those days are going. Instead of those “inside-out” approaches, “outside-in” architectural thinking now keenly focuses on customer experiences and the value streams aligned to those experiences. Agile Architecture promotes enterprise segmentation to facilitate concurrent development and architecture refactoring, guided by architectural guardrails, a kind of lightweight governance structure that facilitates interoperability and keeps people from straying into dangerous territory.

If you read books like Team Topologies, The Open Group Digital Practitioner Body of Knowledge™️ (DPBoK), and Open Agile Architecture™️ Standards, they are designed for team cognitive load, whether they are IT teams or business teams. And doing things like the Inverse Conway Maneuver segments the organization into teams that deliver a product, a product feature, a journey, or a sub-journey.

Those are some really huge trends and the project-to-product shift is going on in business and IT. These trends have been going on for a few years. But when it comes to undoing 30 or 40 years of project management mentality in IT -- we’re still at the beginning of the project-to-product shift. It’s massive. 

To summarize what David was saying, the business can no longer outsource digital transformation. As matter of fact, by definition, you can’t outsource digital transformation to IT anymore. This is a joint-effort going forward.

Gardner: Dave, as we’re further defining digital transformation, this goes beyond just improving IT operations and systems optimization. Isn’t digital transformation also about redefining their total value proposition?

Lounsbury: Yes, that’s a very good point. We may have brushed over this point, but when we say and use the word digital, at The Open Group we really mean a change in the mindset of how you deliver your business.

This is not something that the technology team does. It’s a reorientation of your business focus and how you think about your interactions with the customer, as well as how you deliver value to the customer. How do you give them more ways of interacting with you? How do you give them more ways of personalizing their experience and doing what they want to do?

This goes very deep into the organization, to how you think about your value chains, in business model leverage, and things like that.

One of the things we see a lot of is people thinking about is trying to do old processes faster. We have been doing that incremental improvement and efficiency forever and applying machines to do part of the value-delivery job. But the essential decision now is thinking about the customers’ view as being primarily a digital interaction, and to give them customization, web access, and let them do the whole value chain in digital. That goes right to the top of the company and to how structure your business model or value delivery.

Balanced structure for flexibility

Gardner: Mike Fulton, more structure comes with great value in that you can manage complexity and keep things from going off of the rails. But some people think that too much structure slows you down. How do you reach the right balance? And does that balance vary from company to company, or there are general rules about finding that Nirvana between enough structure and too little?

Fulton: If we want to provide flexibility and speed, we have to move away from rules and start thinking more about guardrails, guidelines, and about driving things from a principled perspective.

That’s one of the biggest shifts we’re seeing in the digital space related to enterprise architecture (EA). Whereas, historically, architecture played a directional, governance role, what we’re seeing now is that architecture in a digital context provides guardrails for development teams to work within. And that way, it provides more room for flexibility and for choice at the lower levels of an organization as you’re building out your new digital products.

Historically, architecture played a directional, governance role. Now architecture in a digital context provides guardrails for development teams to work within. It provides more room for flexibility and for choice at the lower levels of an organization as you're building out your new digital products.
Those digital products still need to work in the context of a broader EA, and an architecture that’s been developed leveraging potentially new techniques, like what’s coming out of The Open Group with the Open Agile Architecture standard. That’s new, different, and critically important for thinking about architecture in a different way. But, I think, that’s where we provide flexibility -- through the creation of guardrails.

Doss: The days are over for “Ivory Tower” EA – the top-down, highly centralized EA. Today, EA is responding to left-to-right and outside-in versus inside-out pressures. It has to be more about responding, as Mike said, to the customer-centric needs using market data, customer data, and continuous feedback.

EA is really different now. It responds to product needs, market needs, and all of the domain-driven design and other things that go along with that.

Lounsbury: Sometimes we use the term agile, and it’s almost like a religious term. But agile essentially means you’re structured to respond to changes quickly and you learn from your mistakes through repeatedly refining your concepts. That’s actually a key part of what’s in the Open Agile Architecture Standard that Mike referred to.

The reason for this is fundamental to why people need to worry about digital right now. With digital, your customer interface is no longer your fancy storefront. It’s that black mirror on your phone, right? You have exactly the same six-by-two-and-a-half-inch screen that everybody else has to get your message across.

And so, the side effect of that, is that the customer has much more power to select among competitors than they did in the past. There’s been plenty of evidence that customers will pick convenience or safety over brand loyalty in a heartbeat these days.

Internally that means as a business that you have to have your team structured so they can quickly respond to the marketplace, and not have to go all the way up the management chain for some big decision and then bring it all way back down again. You’ll be out-competed if you do it that way. There is a hyper-acceleration to “survival of the fittest” in business and IT; this has been called the Red Queen effect.

That’s why it’s essential to have agile not as a religion, but as the organizational agility to respond to outside-in customer pressures as a competitive factor in how you run your business. And, of course, that then pulls along the need to be agile in your business practices and in how you empower your agile teams. How do you give them the guardrails? How do you give them the infrastructure they need to succeed at all of those things?

It’s almost as if the pyramid has been turned on its head. It’s not a pyramid that comes down from the top of some high-level business decisions, but the pyramid grows backward from a point of interaction with the customers.

Gardner: Before we drill down on how to attain that organizational agility, let’s dwell on the challenges. What’s holding up organizations from attaining digital transformation now that they face an existential need for it?

Digital delivers agile advantage

Doss: We see a lot of companies try to bring in digital technologies but really aren’t employing the needed digital practices to bring the fuller intended value, so there’s a cultural lag. 

The digital technologies are often used in combination and mashed up in amazing ways to bring out new products and business models. But you need digital practices along with those digital technologies. There’s a growing body of evidence that the difference between companies that actually get that are not just outperforming their industry peers by percentages -- it’s almost exponential.

The findings from the “State of DevOps” Reports for the last few years gives us clear evidence on this. Product teams are really driving a lot of the work and functionality across the silos, and increasingly into operations.

And this is why the standards and bodies knowledge are so important -- because you need these ideas. With The Open Group DPBoK, we’ve woven all of this together in one Emergence Model and kept these digital practices connected. That’s the “P” in DPBoK, the practitioner. It’s those digital practices that bring in the value.

Fulton: Jim makes a great point here. But in my context with Digital Executive Education at Ohio State, when we look at that journey to a digital enterprise we think of it in three parts: The vision, the transformation, and the execution.

You have to be able to envision, as a leadership team of an organization, what a digital enterprise looks like. What is your blueprint for that digital enterprise? Once you have aligned that blueprint with your leadership team, you have to lead that digital transformation journey.
The piece that Jim was just talking about talks to execution. Once you’re in a digital enterprise, how do you have the right capabilities and practices to create new digital products day to day?  And that’s absolutely critical.

But you also have to set the vision upfront. You have to be able to envision, as a leadership team of an organization, what a digital enterprise looks like. What is your blueprint for that digital enterprise? And so, you have to be able to figure that out. Then, once you have aligned that blueprint with your leadership team, you have to lead that digital transformation journey.

And that transformation takes you from the vision to the execution. And that’s what I really love about The Open Group and the new direction around an open digital portfolio, the portfolio digital standards that work together in concert to take you across that entire journey. 

These are the standards help you envision the future. Standards that help you drive that digital transformation like the Open Agile Architecture Standard. Standards that help you with digital delivery such as IT4IT. A critically important part of this journey is rethinking your digital delivery because the vast majority of products that companies produce today are digital products.

But then, how do you actually deliver the capabilities and practices, and uplift the organization with the new skills to function in this digital enterprise once you get there? And you can’t wait. You have to bring people along that journey from the very start. The entire organization needs to think differently, and it needs to act differently, once you become a digital enterprise.

Lounsbury: Right. And that’s an important point, Mike, and one that’s come out of the digital thinking going on at The Open Group. A part of the digital portfolio is understanding the difference between “what a company is” and “what a company does” -- that vision that you talked about – and then how we operate to deliver on that vision.

Dana, you began this with a question about the barriers and what’s slowing progress down. Those things used to be vertically aligned. What the business is and does used to be decomposed through some top-down, reductionist, refactor or delegate, decompose and delegate of all of the responsibilities. And if everybody does their job at the edge, then the vision will be realized. That’s not true anymore because of the outside-in digital reality.

A big part of the challenge for most organizations is the old idea that, “Well, if we do that all faster, we’ll somehow be able to compete.” That is gone, right? That fundamental change and challenge for top- and middle-management is, “How do we make the transition to the structure that matches the new competitive environment of outside-in?”

“What does it mean to empower our team? What is the culture we need in our company to actually have a productive team at the edge?” Things like, “Are you escalating every decision up to a higher level of management?” You just don’t have time for that anymore.

Are people free to choose the tools and interfaces with the customers that they believe will maximize the customer experience? And if it doesn’t work out, how do you move on to the next step without being punished for the failure of your experiment? If it reflects negatively on you, that’s going to inhibit your ability to respond, too.

All of these techniques, all of these digital ways of working, to use Jim’s term, have to be brought into the organization. And, as Mike said, that’s where the power of standards comes in. That’s where the playbooks that The Open Group has created in the DPBoK Standard, the Open Agile Architecture Standard, and the IT4IT Reference Architecture actually give you the guidance on how to do that.

Part of the Emergence Model is knowing when to do what, at the right stage in your organization’s growth or transformation.

Gardner: And leading up to the Emergence Model, we’ve been talking about standards and playbooks. But what is a “playbook” when it comes to standards?  And why is The Open Group ahead of the curve to extend the value when you have multiple open standards and playbooks?

Teams need playbook to win

Lounsbury: I’ll be honest, Dana, The Open Group is at a very exciting time. We’re in a bit of a transition. When there was a clear division between IT and business, there were different standards and different bodies of knowledge for how you adapt to each of those. A big part of the role of the enterprise architect was in bridging those two worlds.

The world has changed, and The Open Group is in the process of adapting to that. We’re looking to build on the robust and proven standards and build those into a much more coherent and unified digital playbook, where there is easy discoverability and navigability between the different standards.

People today want to have quick access. They want to say, “Oh, what does it mean to have an agile team? What does it mean to have an outside-in mindset?” They want to quickly discover that and then drill in deeper. And that’s what we pioneered with the DPBoK, with the architecture of the document called the Emergence Model, and that’s been picked up by other standards of The Open Group. It’s clearly the direction we need to do more in.

Gardner: Mike, why are multiple standards acting in concert good?

Fulton: For me, when I think about why you need multiple standards, it’s because if you were to try to create a single standard that covered everything, that standard would become incomprehensible.

If you want an industry standard, you need to bring the right subject matter experts together, the best of the best, the right thought leaders -- and that’s what The Open Group does. It brings thought leaders from across the world together to talk about specific topics to develop the best information that we have as an industry and to put that into our standards.

The Open Group, with the digital portfolio, is intentionally bringing the standards together to make sure that the standards align. That brings the standards together to make sure we're thinking about big, broad concepts in the same way and then dig down into the details with the right subject matter experts.
But it’s a rare bird, indeed, that can do that across multiple parts of an organization, or multiple capabilities, or multiple practices. And so by building these standards up individually, it allows us to tap into the right subject matter experts, the right passions, and the right areas of expertise.

But then, what The Open Group is now doing with the digital portfolio is intentionally bringing those standards together to make sure that the standards align. It brings the standards together to make sure that they have the same messaging, that we’re all working on the same definitions, and that we’re all thinking about big, broad concepts together in the same way and then allow us to dig down into the details with the right subject matter experts at the level of granularity needed to provide the appropriate levels of benefits for industry.

Gardner: And how does the Emergence Model help harmonize multiple standards, particularly around the Digital Practitioner’s Workgroup?

Emergence Model scales

Lounsbury: We talked about outside-in, and there are a couple of ways you can approach how you organize such a topic. As Mike just said, there’s a lot of detail that you need to understand to fully grasp it.

But you don’t always have to fully grasp everything at the start. And there are different ways you can look at organizations. You can look at the typical stack, decomposition, and the top-down view. You can look at lifecycles, that when you start at the left and you go to the right, what are all the steps in-between?

And the third dimension, which we’re picking up on inside The Open Group, is the concept of scale through the Emergence Model. And that’s what we’ve tried to do, particularly in the DPBoK Standard. It’s the best example we have right now. And that approach is coming into other parts of our standards. The idea comes out of lean startup thinking, which comes out of lean manufacturing.

When you’re a startup, or starting a new initiative, there are a few critical things you have to know. What is your concept of digital value? What do you need to deliver that value? Things like that.

Then you ideally succeed and grow and then, “Wow, I need more people.” So now you have a team. Well, that brings in the idea of, “What does team management mean? What do I have to do to make a team productive? What infrastructure does it need?”

And then, with that, the success goes on because of the steps you’ve taken from the beginning. As you get into more complexity, you get into multiple teams, which brings in budgeting. You soon have large-scale enterprises, which means you have all sorts of compliance, accounting, and auditing. These things go on and on.

But you don’t know those things at the start. You do have to know them at the end. What you need to know at the start is that you have a map as to how to get there. And that’s the architecture, and the process to that is what we call the Emergence Model.

It is how you map to scale. And I should say, people think of this quite often in terms of, “Oh it’s just for a startup. I’m not a startup, I’m in a big company.” But many big companies -- Mike, I think you’ve had some experience with this – have many internal innovation centers. You do entrepreneurial funding for a small group of people and, depending on their success, feed them more resources.

So you have the need for an Emergence Model even inside of big companies. And, by the way, there are many use cases for using a pattern for success in how to do digital transformation. Don’t start from the top-down; start with some experiments and grow from the inside-out.

Doss: I refer to that as downscale digital piloting. You may be a massive enterprise, but if you’re going to adapt and adopt new business models, like your competitors and smaller innovators who are in your space, you need to think more like them.

Though I’m in a huge enterprise, I’m going to start some smaller initiatives and fence them off from governance and other things that slow those teams down. I’m going to bring in only lean aspects for those initiatives.

You may be a massive enterprise, but if you're going to adapt and adopt new business models, like your competitors and smaller innovators, you need to think more like them. In a huge enterprise, you need to start some smaller initiatives and fence them off from the governance that could slow them down and bring in lean aspects.
And then, you amplify what works and scale that to the enterprise. As David said, you have the smaller organizations that have a great guidebook now for what’s right around the corner. They’re growing now, they don’t have just one product anymore, they have two or three products and so the original product owner can’t be in every product meeting.

So, all of those things are happening as a company grows and the DPBoK and Emergence Model is great for, “Hey, this is what’s around the corner.”

With a lot of other frameworks, you’d have to spend a lot of time extracting for scale-specific guidance on digital practices. So, you’d have to extract all that scale-specific stuff and it’s a lot of work, to be honest, and it’s hard to get right. So, in the DPBoK, we built the guidance so it’s much easier to move in either direction -- going up- and down-scale digital piloting as well.

Gardner: Mike, you’re on the pointy end of this, I think, in one of your jobs.

Intentional innovation

Fulton: Yes, at Nationwide, in our technology innovation team, we are doing exactly what Dave and Jim have described. We create new digital products for the organization and we leverage a combination of lean startup methodologies, agile methodologies, and the Emergence Model from The Open Group DPBoK to help us think about what we need at different points in time in that lifecycle of a digital product.

And that’s been really effective for us as we have brought new products to market. I shared the full story at The Open Group presentation about six months ago. But it is something that I believe is a really valuable tool for big enterprises trying to innovate. It helps you think about being very intentional about what are you using. What capabilities and components are you using that are lean versus more robust? What capabilities are you using that are implicit versus explicit, and what point in time do you actually need to start writing things down?

At what point in time do you absolutely need to start leveraging those slightly bigger, more robust enterprise processes to be able to effectively bring a digital product to market versus using processes that might be more appropriate in a startup world? And I found the DPBoK to be incredibly helpful and instructive as we went through that process at Nationwide. 

Gardner: Are there any other examples of what’s working, perhaps even in the public sector? This is not just for private sector corporations. A lot of organizations of all stripes are trying to align, become more agile, more digital, and be more responsive to their end-users through digital channels. Any examples of what is working when it comes to the Emergence Model, rapid digitization, and leveraging of multiple standards appropriately?

Good governance digitally

Doss: We’re really still in the early days with digital in the US federal government. I do a lot of work in the federal space, and I’ve done a lot of commercial work as well.

They’re still struggling in the federal space with the project-to-product shift.

There is still a huge focus on the legacy project management mentality. When you think about the legacy definition of a deliverable, the project is done at the deliverable. So, that supports “throw it over the wall and run the other way.”

Various forms of the plan-build-operate (PBO) IT organization structure still dominate in the federal space. Orgs that are PBO-aligned tend to push work from left to right across the P, B & O silos, and the space between these siloes are heavily stage-gated. So, this inside-out thinking and the stage-gating also supports “throw it over the wall and run the other way.” In the federal space, waterfall is baked into nearly everything.

These are two huge digital anti-patterns that the federal space is really struggling with.

Product management, for example, employs a single persistent team that remains with the work across the lifecycle and ties together those dysfunctional silos. Such “full product lifecycle teams” eliminate a lot of the communication and hand-off problems associated with such legacy structures.

The other problem in the federal space with the PBO IT org structure is that the real power resides in these silos and these silos’ management focus is downward into their silo….not as much across the silos; so there are a lot of cross functional initiatives such as EA, service ownership, product ownership or digital initiative that might get some traction for a while but such initiatives of functions have no real buying power or “go/no-go” decision authority so they get squashed eventually by the silo heads, where the real power resides in such organizations.

In the US, I look over time for Congressional, via new laws or Office of Management and Budget (OMB) via policy, to bring in some needed changes and governance about how IT orgs get structured and governed.

Ironically, these two digital anti-patterns also lead to the creation of lots of over-baked governance over decades to try to assure that the intended value was still captured, which is like chasing more bad money after that other bad money.

This is not just true in federal this is also true in the commercial world. Such over-baked governance just happens to be really, really bad in the federal space.

For federal IT, you have laws like Clinger-Cohen, Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), policies and required checks by the OMB, Capital Planning and Investment control, Acquisition Regulations, DoD Architecture Framework, and I could go on -- all which require tons of artifacts and evidence of sound decision making.

The problem is nobody is rationalizing these together… like figuring out what supersedes what when something new comes out. So, the governance just gets more and more un-lean, over-bloated and what you have at the end is agencies are either misguided by out-of-date guidance or overburdened by over-bloated governance.

Fulton: I don’t have nearly the level of depth in the government space that Jim does, but I do have a couple examples I want to point people to if they are trying to look for more government-related examples. I point you to a couple here in Ohio, both Doug McCollough and his work with the City of Dublin in Ohio. He’s done a lot of work with digital technologies; digital transformation at the city level.

And then again here in Ohio – and I’m just using Ohio references because I live in Ohio and I know a little bit more intimately what some of these folks are doing -- Ervan Rodgers, CEO of the State of Ohio, has done a really nice job of focusing on digital capabilities and practices to build up across state employees.

The third I’ll point to is the work going on in India. There’s been a tremendous amount of really great work in India related to government, architecture, and getting to the digital transformation conversation at the government level. So, if folks are interested in more examples, more stories, I’d recommend you look into those three as places to start.

Lounsbury: The thing, I think, you’re referring to there, Mike, is the IndEA India Enterprise Architecture initiative and the pivot to digital that several of the Indian provinces are making. We can certainly talk about that more on a different podcast.

Transformation is almost always driven by a Darwinian force. Something has changed in your environment that causes you to evolve, and we've seen that in the federal and defense sectors in things like avionics where the cost of software is unaffordable. They then turned to modular, decomposable systems based on standards just to stay in business.
I will toss in one ray of light to what Jim said. Transformation is almost always driven by an almost Darwinian force. There’s something changed in your environment that causes you to evolve and we’ve seen that in the federal sector and the defense sector in particular where things like in avionics, the cost of software is becoming unaffordable. They turned to modular, decomposable systems based on standards in order to achieve the necessary cost savings to just stay in business.

Similarly, in India, the utter need to deliver to a very diverse, large rural population, and grow that needed digitization. And certainly, the U.S. federal sector and the defense sector are very aware of the disparity. And I think, things like, the defense budget changes or changes in mission will drive some of these changes that we’ve talked about that are driven by the pandemic urgently in the commercial sector.

So, it will happen, but it is, I’ll agree with Jim, probably the most challenging ultimate top-down environment that you could possibly imagine doing a transformation.

Gardner: In closing, what’s coming next from The Open Group, particularly around digital practitioner resources? How can organizations best exploit these resources?

Harmony on the horizon

Lounsbury: We’ve talked about the evolution The Open Group is going through, about the digital portfolio and the digital playbooks having all of our standards speak common language and working together.

A first step in that is to develop a set of principles by which we’re going to do that evolution and the documents is called, Principles for Open Digital Standards. You can get that from The Open Group bookstore and if you want to find it quickly, you go to The Open Group’s The Digital-First Enterprise page that links to all of these standards.

Looking forward, there are activities going on in all of the forums of The Open Group and the forums are voluntary organizations. But certainly, the IT4IT Forum, the Digital Practitioner Workgroup, in these large swaths of our architecture activity they are working on how we can harmonize the language and bring common knowledge to our standards.

And then, to look beyond that, I think we need to address the problems of discoverability and navigability that I mentioned earlier to give that coherent and an easy-to-access picture of where a person can find out what they need when they need it.

Fulton: Dave, I think probably one of the most important pieces of work that will be delivered soon by The Open Group is putting a stake in the ground around what it means to be a digital product. And that’s something that I don’t think we’ve seen anywhere else in the industry. I think it will really move the ball forward and be a unifying document for the entire open digital portfolio.

And so, we have some great work that’s already gone on in the DPBoK and the Open Agile Architecture standard, but I think that digital product will be a rallying cry that will make all of the standards even more cohesive going forward.

Doss: And I’ll just add my final two cents here. I think a lot of it, Dana, is just awareness. People need to just understand that there’s a DPBoK Standard out there for digital practitioners.

If you’re in IT, you’re not just an IT practitioner anymore, you’re using digital technology and digital practices to bring lean, user-centric value to your business or mission. So, digital is the new best practice. So, there’s a framework in a body of knowledge out there now that supports and helps people transform in their careers. The same thing with Agile Architecture. And so it’s just the awareness that these things are out there.

The most powerful thing to me is, both of these works that I just mentioned have more than 500 references from most of the last 10 years of leading digital thinkers. So, again, the way these are structured, the way these are built, bringing in just the scale-specific guidance and that sort of stuff is hugely powerful. There needs to be an increasing awareness that this stuff is out there.

Lounsbury: And if I can pick up on that awareness point, I do want to mention, as always, The Open Group publishes the standards as freely available to all. You can go to that digital enterprise page or The Open Group Library to find these. We also have an active training ecosystem that you can find these days. Everybody does that digital training. 

There are ways of learning the standards in depth and getting certified that you’re proficient in the knowledge of that. But I also should mention, we have at least two U.S. universities and more interest on the international sector for graduate work in executive-level education. And Mike has mentioned his executive teaching at Ohio State, and there are others as well.

Gardner: Right, and many of these resources are available at The Open Group website. There are also many events, many of them now virtual, as well as certification processes and resources. There’s always something new, it’s a very active place.

I’m afraid we’ll have to leave it there. We’ve been listening to a sponsored BriefingsDirect discussion on how open standards help organizations improve and accelerate their digital transformation. And we’ve learned how a playbook approach around digital best practices is guiding organizations through unprecedented challenges to emerge even stronger.

So, a big thank you to our panel, Jim Doss, Managing Director at IT Management and Governance, LLC, and Vice Chair of the Digital Practitioner Workgroup at The Open Group. Thank you so much, Jim.

Doss: Thanks for having me.

Gardner: We’ve also been here with Michael Fulton, Associate Vice President of Technology Strategy and Innovation at Nationwide and Academic Director of Digital Education at The Ohio State University. Thank you so much, Mike.

Fulton: Thanks, Dana. It’s been a pleasure.

Gardner: And we’ve been also here with Dave Lounsbury, Chief Technical Officer at The Open Group. Thank you, sir.

Lounsbury: You’re welcome, Dana, happy to be here.

Gardner: And a big thank you as well to our audience for joining this BriefingsDirect business enablement discussion. I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host throughout this series of BriefingsDirect discussions sponsored by The Open Group.

Thanks again for listening, please pass this along with your business community, and do come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: The Open Group. 

Transcript of a discussion on how open standards help support a playbook approach for organizations to improve and accelerate their digital transformation. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC and The Open Group, 2005-2020. All rights reserved.

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Monday, October 12, 2020

How The Open Group Enterprise Architecture Portfolio Approach Enables the Agile Enterprise

Transcript of a discussion on leveraging a comprehensive standards resources approach for transforming businesses in a new era of agility and competitiveness.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunesDownload the transcript. Sponsor: The Open Group.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you’re listening to BriefingsDirect. Our next agile business enablement discussion explores how a portfolio approach to standards has emerged as a key way to grapple with digital transformation.


As businesses seek to make agility a key differentiator in a rapidly changing world, applying enterprise architecture (EA) in concert with many other standards has never been more powerful.

Stay with us to explore how to define and corral a comprehensive standards resources approach to making businesses intrinsically agile and competitive. To learn more about attaining agility via an embrace of a broad toolkit of standards, we are now joined by our panel. 

Please welcome Chris Frost, Principal Enterprise Architect and Distinguished Engineer, Application Technology Consulting Division, at Fujitsu. Welcome, Chris.

Chris Frost: Hi, Dana. Thank you.

Gardner: We’re also here with Sonia Gonzalez, The Open Group TOGAF® Product Manager. Welcome back, Sonia.

Sonia Gonzalez: Thank you very much, Dana.

Gardner: And we’re here with Paul Homan, Distinguished Engineer and Chief Technology Officer, Industrial, at IBM Services. Welcome, Paul.

Paul Homan: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: Sonia, why is it critical to modernize businesses in a more comprehensive and structured fashion? How do standards help best compete in this digital-intensive era?

Faster, better, more agile

Gonzalez: The question is more important than ever. We need to be very quickly responding to changes in the market.

It’s not only that we have more technology trends and competitors. Organizations are also changing their business models -- the way they offer products and services. And there’s much more uncertainty in the business environment.

The current situation with COVID-19 has made for a very unpredictable environment. So we need to be faster in the ways we respond. We need to make better use of our resources and to be able to innovate in how we offer our products and services. And since everybody else is also doing that, we must be agile and respond quickly. 

Gardner: Chris, how are things different now than a year ago? Is speed all that we’re dealing with when it comes to agility? Or is there something more to it?

Frost: Speed is clearly a very important part of it, and market trends are driving that need for speed and agility. But this has been building for a lot more than a year.

We now have, with some of the hyperscale cloud providers, the capability to deploy new systems and new business processes more quickly than ever before. And with some of the new technologies -- like artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, and 5G – there are new technological innovations that enable us to do things that we couldn’t do before.

A combination of these things has come together in the last few years that has produced a unique need now for speed. That’s what I seek in the market, Dana.

Gardner: Paul, when it comes to manufacturing and industrial organizations, how do things change for them in particular? Is there something about the data, the complexity? Why are standards more important than ever in certain verticals?

Homan: The industrial world in particular, focusing on engineering and manufacturing, has brought together the physical and digital worlds. And whilst these industries have not been as quick to embrace the technologies as other sectors have, we can now see how they are connected. That means connected products, connected factories and places of work, and connected ecosystems.

There are still so many more things that need to be integrated, and fundamentally EA comes back to the how – how do you integrate all of these things? A great deal of the connectivity we’re now seeing around the world needs a higher level of integration.

Gardner: Sonia, to follow this point on broader integration, does applying standards across different parts of any organization now make more sense than in the past? Why does one part of the business need to be in concert with the others? And how does The Open Group portfolio help produce a more comprehensive and coordinated approach to integration?

Integrate with standards

Gonzalez: Yes, what Paul mentioned about being able to integrate and interconnect is paramount for us. Our portfolio of standards, which is more than just [The Open Group Architectural Forum (TOGAF®)]  Standard, is like having a toolkit of different open standards that you can use to address different needs, depending upon your particular situation.

For example, there may be cases in which we need to build physical products across an extended industrial environment. In that case, certain kinds of standards will apply. Also critical is how the different standards will be used together and pursue interoperability. Therefore, borderless information flow is one of our trademarks at The Open Group.

 Other more intangible cases, such as digital services, need standards. For example, the Digital Practitioner Body of Knowledge (DPBoK™) supports a scale model to support the digital enterprise.

Other standards are coming around agile enterprises and best practices. They support how to make interconnections and interoperability faster -- but at the same time having the proper consistency and integration to align with the overall strategy. At the end of the day, it’s not enough to integrate for just a technical point of view. You need bring new value to your businesses. You need to be aligned with your business model, and with your business view, to your strategy.

Such change is not only to integrate technical platforms, even though that is paramount, but also to change your business and operational model and to go deeper to cover your partners and the way your company is put together.
Therefore, the change is not only to integrate technical platforms, even though that is paramount, but also to change your business and operational model and to go deeper to cover your partners and the way your company is put together.

So, therefore, we have different standards that cover all of those different areas. As I said at the beginning, these form a toolkit with which you can choose different standards and make them work together conforming a portfolio of standards.

Gardner: So, whether we look to standards individually or together as a toolkit, it’s important that they have a real-world applicability and benefits. I’m curious, Paul and Chris, what’s holding organizations back from using more standards to help them?

Homan: When we use the term traditional enterprise architecture, it always needs to be adapted to suit the environment and the context. TOGAF, for example, has to be tailored to the organization and for the individual assignment.

But I’ve been around in the industry long enough to be familiar with a number of what I call anti-patterns that have grown up around EA practices and which are not helping with the need for agility. This comes from the idea that EA has heavy governance.

We have all witnessed such core practices -- and I will confess to having being part of some of them. And these obviously fly in the face of the agility, flexibility, of being able to push decisions out to the edge and pivot quickly, and to make mistakes and be allowed to learn from them. So kind of an experimental attitude.

And so gaining such adaptation is more than just promoting good architectural decision-making within a set of guide rails -- it allows decision-making to happen at the point of need. So that’s the needed adaption that I see. 

Gardner: Chris, what challenges do you see organizations dealing with, and why are standards be so important to helping them attain a higher level of agility?

Frost: The standards are important, not so much because they are a standard but because they represent industry best practices. The way standards are developed in The Open Group are not some sort of theoretical exercise. It’s very much member-driven and brought together by the members drawing on their practical experiences.

To me, the point is more about industry best practice, and not so much the standard. There are good things about standard ways of working, being able to share things, and everybody having a common understanding about what things mean. But that aspect of the standard that represents industry best practices -- that’s the real value right now.

Coming back to what Paul said, there is a certain historical perspective here that we have to acknowledge. EA projects in the past -- and certainly things I have been personally involved in -- were often delivered in a very waterfall fashion. That created a certain perception that somehow EA means big-design-upfront-waterfall-style projects -- and that absolutely isn’t the case.

That is one of the reasons why a certain adaptation is needed. Guidance about how to adapt is needed. The word adapt is very important because it’s not as if all of the knowledge and fundamental techniques that we have learned over the past few years are being thrown away. It’s a question of how we adapt to agile delivery, and the things we have been doing recently in The Open Group demonstrate exactly how to do that.

Gardner: And does this concept of a minimum viable architecture fit in to that? Does that help people move past the notion of the older waterfall structure to EA?

Reach minimum viable architecture

Frost: Yes, very much it does. It’s something that you might regard as reaching first base. In architectural terms, that minimum viable architecture is like reaching first base, and that emphasizes a notion of rapidly getting to something that you can take forward to the next stage. You can get feedback and also an acknowledgment that you will improve and iterate in the future. Those are fundamental about agile working. So, yes, that minimum viable architecture concept is a really important one. 

Gardner: Sonia, if we are thinking about a minimum viable architecture we are probably also working toward a maximum value standards portfolio. How do standards like TOGAF work in concert with other open standards, standards not in The Open Group? How do we get to that maximum value when it comes to a portfolio of standards?

Gonzalez: That’s very important. First, it has to do with adapting the practice, and not only the standard. In order to face new challenges, especially ones with agile and digital, the practices need to evolve and therefore, the standards – including the whole portfolio of The Open Group standards which are constantly in evolution and improvement. Our members are the ones contributing with the content that follows the new trends, best practices, and uses for all of those practices.

The standards need to evolve to cover areas like digital and agile. And with the concept of minimal viable architecture, the standards are evolving to provide guidance on how EA as a practice supports agile. Actually, nothing in the standard says it has to be used in the waterfall way, even though some people may say that.

TOGAF is now building guidance for how people can use the standards supporting the agile enterprise, delivering that in an agile way, and also supporting an agile approach, which is having a different view of how the practice is applied following this new shift and this new adaption.

Adapt to sector-specific needs

The practice needs to be adapted, the standards need to evolve to fulfill that, and need to be applied to specific situations. For example, it’s not the same to architect organizations in which you have ground processes, especially in a back office than other ones that are more customer facing. For the first ones, their processes are heavier, they don’t need to be that agile. That agile architecture is for upfront customers that need to support a faster pace.

So, you might have cases in which you need to mix different ways to apply the practices and standards. Less agile approach for the back office and a more agile approach for customer facing applications such as, for example, online banking.

Adaptation also depends on the nature of companies. The healthcare industry is one example. We cannot experiment that much in that area because that’s more risk assessment and less subject to experimentation. For these kinds of organizations a different approach is needed.

Adaptation also depends on the nature of companies. The healthcare industry is one example. We cannot experiment that much in that area because that's more risk assessment and less subject to experimentation. For these kinds of organizations a different approach is needed.

There is work in progress in different sectors. For example, we have a very good guide and case study about how to use the TOGAF standard along with the ArchiMate® modeling notation in the banking industry using the BIAN®  Reference Model. That’s a very good use case in The Open Group library. We also have a work in progress in the forum around how governments architect. The IndEA Reference Model is another example of a reference model for that government and has been put together based on open standards.

We also have work in progress around security, such as with the SABSA [framework for Business Security Architecture], for example. We have developed guidance about standards and security along with SABSA. We also have a partnership with the Object Management Group (OMG), in which we are pioneers and have a liaison to build products that will go to market to help practitioners use external standards along with our own portfolio.

Gardner: When we look at standards as promoting greater business agility, there might be people who look to the past and say, “Well, yes, but it was associated with a structured waterfall approach for so long.”

But what happens if you don’t have architecture and you try to be agile? What’s the downside if you don’t have enough structure; you don’t put in these best practices? What can happen if you try to be agile without a necessary amount of architectural integrity?

Guardrails required

Homan: I’m glad that you asked, because I have a number of organizations that I have worked with that have experienced the results of diminishing their architectural governance. I won’t name who they are for obvious reasons, but I know of organizations that have embraced agility. They had great responses to being able to do things quickly, find things out, move fleet-of-foot, and then combined with that cloud computing capabilities. They had great freedom to exercise where they choose to source commodity cloud services.

And, as an enterprise architect, if I look in, that freedom created a massive amount of mini-silos. As soon as those need to come together and scale -- and scale is the big word -- that’s where the problems started. I’ve seen, for example, around common use of information and standards, processes and workflows that don’t cross between one cloud vendor and another. And these are end-customer-facing services and deliveries that frankly clash from the same organization, from the same brand.

And those sorts of things came about because they weren’t using common reference architectures. There wasn’t a common understanding of the value propositions that were being worked toward, and they manifested because you could rapidly spin stuff out.

A number of organizations that I have worked with have experienced the results of diminishing their architectural governance. [But] that freedom created a massive amount of mini-silos. As soon as the need comes to scale, that's where the problems started. ... [because] they weren't using common reference architectures.

When you have a small, agile model of everybody co-located in a relatively contained space -- where they can readily connect and communicate -- great. But unfortunately as soon as you go and disperse the model, have a round of additional development, distribute to more geographies and markets, with lots of different products, you behave like a large organization. It’s inevitable that people are going to plough their own furrow and go in different directions. And so, you need to have a way of bringing it back together again.

 And that’s typically where people come in and start asking how to reintegrate. They love the freedom and we want to keep the freedom, but they need to combine that with a way of having some gentle guardrails that allow them to exercise freedom of speed but not diverge too much.

Frost: The word guardrails is really important because that is very much the emphasis of how agile architectures need to work. My observation is that, without some amount of architecture and planning, what tends to go wrong is some of the foundational things – such as using common descriptions of data or common underlying platforms. If you don’t get those right, different aspects of an overall solution can diverge and fail to integrate. 

Some of those things may include what we generally refer to as non-functional requirements, things like capacity, performance, and possibly safety or regulatory compliance. These rules are often things that easily tend to get overlooked unless there is some degree of planning and architecture, surrounding architecture definitions that think through how to incorporate some of those really important features.

A really important judgment point is what’s just enough architecture upfront to set down those important guardrails without going too far and going back into the big design upfront approach, which we want to avoid to still create the most freedom that we can.

Gardner: Sonia, a big part of the COVID-19 response has been rapidly reorganizing or refactoring supply chains. This requires extended enterprise cooperation and ultimately integration. How are standards like TOGAF and the toolkit from The Open Group important to allow organizations to enjoy agility across organizational boundaries, perhaps under dire circumstances?

COVID-19 necessitates holistic view

Gonzalez: That is precisely when more architecture is needed, because you need to be able to put together a landscape, a whole view of your organization, which is now a standard organization. Your partners, customers, customer alliances, all of your liaisons, are a part of your value chain and you need to have visibility over this.

You mentioned suppliers and providers. These are changing due to the current situation. The way they work, everything is going more digital and virtual, with less face-to-face. So we need to change processes. We need to change value streams. And we need to be sure that we have the right capabilities. Having standards, it’s spot-on, because one of the advantages of having standards, and open standards especially, is that you facilitate communication with other parties. If you are talking the same language it will be easier to integrate and get people together.

Now that most people are working virtually, that implies the need for very good management or your whole portfolio of products and lifecycle. For addressing all this complexity and to gain a holistic view of your capabilities you need to have an architecture focus. Therefore, there are different standards that can fit together in those different areas.

For example, you may need to deliver more digital capabilities to work virtually. You may need to change your whole process view to become more efficient and allow such remote work, and to do that you use standards. In the TOGAF standard we have a set of very good guidance for our business architecture, business models, business capabilities, and value streams; all of them are providing guidance on how to do that.

Another very good guide under the TOGAF standard umbrella for their organization is called Organization Map Guide. It’s much more than having a formal organizational chart to your company. It’s how you map to different resources to respond quickly to changes in your landscape. So, having a more dynamic view, having a cross-coding view of your working teams, is required to be agile and to have interdisciplinary teams work together. So you need to have architecture, and you need to have open standards to address those challenges.

Gardner: And, of course, The Open Group is not standing still, along with many other organizations, in trying to react to the environment and help organizations become more digital and enhance their customer and end-user experiences. What are some of the latest developments at The Open Group?

Standards evolve steadily

Gonzalez: First, we are evolving our standards constantly. The TOGAF standard is evolving to address more of these agile-digital trends, how to adopt new technology trends in a way that they will be adopted in accord with your business model for your strategy and organizational culture. That’s an improvement that is coming. Also, the structure of the standard has evolved to be easier to use and more agile. It has been designed to evolve through new and improved versions more frequently than in the past.

We also have other components coming into the portfolio. One of them is the Agile Architecture Standard, which is going to be released soon. That one is going straight into the agile space. It’s proposing a holistic view of the organization. This coupling between agile and digital is addressed in that standard. It is also suitable to be used along with the TOGAF standard. Both complement each other. The DPBoK is also evolving to address new trends in the market.

We also have other standards. The Microservice Architecture is a very active working group that is delivering guidance on microservices delivered using the TOGAF standard. Another important one is the Zero Trust Architecturein the security space. Now more than ever, as we go virtual and rely on platforms, we need to be sure that we are having proper consistency in security and compliance. We have, for example, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) considerations, which are stronger than ever. Those kinds of security breaches are addressed in that specific context.

The IT4IT standard, which is another reference architecture, is evolving toward becoming more oriented to a digital product concept to precisely address all of those changes.

All of these standards are moving together. There will also be standards to serve specific areas like oil, gas, and electricity. ... We are aiming for every standard to have a certification program along with it. The idea is to continue increasing our portfolio of certification along with the portfolio of standards.

All of these standards, all the pieces, are moving together. There are other things coming, for example, delivering standards to serve specific areas like oil, gas, and electricity, which are more facility-oriented, more physically-oriented. We are also working toward those to be sure that we are addressing all of the different possibilities.

 Another very important thing here is we are aiming for every standard we deliver into the market to have a certification program along with it. We have that for the TOGAF standard, ArchiMate standard, IT4IT, and DPBoK. So the idea is to continue increasing our portfolio of certification along with the portfolio of standards.

Furthermore, we have more credentials as part of the TOGAF certification to allow people to go into specializations. For example, I’m TOGAF-certified but I also wanted to go for a Solution Architect Practitioner or a Digital Architect. So, we are combining the different products that we have, different standards, to have these building blocks we’re putting together for this learning curve around certifications, which is an important part of our offering.

Gardner: I think it’s important to illustrate where these standards are put to work and how organizations find the right balance between a minimum viable architecture and a maximum value portfolio for agility.

So let’s go through our panel for some examples. Are there organizations you are working with that come to mind that have found and struck the right balance? Are they using a portfolio to gain agility and integration across organizational boundaries?

More tools in the toolkit

Homan: The key part for me is do these resources help people do architecture? And in some of the organizations I’ve worked with, some of the greatest successes have been where they have been able to pick and choose – cherry pick, if you like -- bits of different things and create a toolkit. It’s not about following just one thing. It’s about having a kit.

The reason I mentioned that is because one of the examples I want to reference has to do with development of ecosystems. In ecosystems, it’s about how organizations work with each other to deliver some kind of customer-centric propositions. I’ve seen this in the construction industry in particular, where lots of organizations historically have had to come together to undertake large construction efforts.

And we’re now seeing what I consider to be an architected approach across those ecosystems. That helps build a digital thread, a digital twin equivalent of what is being designed, what is being constructed for safety reasons, both in terms of what is being built at the time for the people that are building it, but also for the people that then occupy it or use it, for the reasons of being able to share common standards and interoperate across the processes from end-to-end to be able to do these thing in a more agile way of course, but in a business agile way.

So that’s one industry that always had ecosystems, but IT has come in and therefore architects have had to better collaborate and find ways to integrate beyond the boundary of their organization, coming back to the whole mission of boundaryless information flow, if you will.

Gardner: Chris, any examples that put a spotlight on some of the best uses of standards and the best applicability of them particularly for fostering agility?

Frost: Yes, a number of customers in both the private and public sector are going through this transition to using agile processes. Some have been there for quite some time; some are just starting on that journey. We shouldn’t be surprised by this in the public and private sectors because everybody is reacting to the same market fundamentals driving the need for agile delivery.

We’ve certainly worked with a few customers that have been very much at the forefront of developing new agile practices and how that integrates with EA and benefits from all of the good architectural skills and experiences that are in frameworks like the TOGAF standard.

Paul talked about developing ecosystems. We’ve seen things such as organizations embarking on large-scale internal re-engineering where they are adjusting their own internal IT portfolios to react to the changing marketplace that they are confronted by.

I am seeing a lot of common problems about fitting together agile techniques and architecture and needing to work in these iterative styles. But overwhelmingly, these problems are being solved. We are seeing the benefits of this iterative way of working with rapid feedback and the more rapid response to changing market techniques.

I would say even inside The Open Group we’re seeing some of the effects of that. We’ve been talking about the development of some of the agile guidance for the TOGAF standard within The Open Group, and even within the working group itself we’ve seen adaption of more agile styles of working using some of the tools that are common in agile activities. Things like GitLab and Slack and these sorts of things. So it really is quite a pervasive thing we are seeing in the marketplace.

Gardner: Sonia, are there any examples that come to mind that illustrate where organizations will be in the coming few years when it comes to the right intersection of agile, architecture, and the use of open standard? Any early adopters, if you will, or trendsetters that come to mind that illustrate where we should be expecting more organizations to be in the near future?

Steering wheel for agility

Gonzalez: Things are evolving rapidly. In order to be agile and a digital enterprise there are different things that need to change around the organization. It’s a business issue, it’s not something related to only platforms of technology, or technology adoption. It’s going ahead of that to the business models.

For example, we now see more-and-more the need to have an outside-in view of the market and trends. Being efficient and effective is not enough anymore. We need to innovate to figure out what the market is asking for. And sometimes to even generate that demand and generate new digital offerings for your market.

That means more experimentation and more innovation, keeping in mind that in order to really deliver that digital offering you must have the right capabilities, so changes in your business and operational models, your backbone, need to be identified and then of course connected and delivered through technical platforms.

Data is also another key component. We have several working groups and Forums working around data management and data science. If you don’t have the information, you won’t be able to understand your customers. That’s another trend, having a more customer journey-oriented view. At the end, you need to give your value to your end users and of course also internally to your company.

To get a closer view of the customer .... practitioners need to be able to develop new skills and evolve rapidly. They need to study not just new technology trends, but how to communicate them to the business and to gain more innovation.

That’s why even internally, at The Open Group, we are considering having our own standards get a closer view of the customer. That is something that companies need to be addressing. And for them to do that, practitioners need to be able to develop new skills and to evolve rapidly. They will need to study not only the new technology trends, but how you can communicate that to your business, so more communications, marketing, and a more aggressive approach through innovation.

 Sustainability is another area we are considering at The Open Group, being able to deliver standards that will support organizations make better use of resources internally and externally and selecting the tools to be sustainable within their environments.  

Those are some of the things we see for the coming years. As we have all learned this year, we should be able to shift very quickly. I was recently reading a very good blog that said agile is not only having a good engine, but also having a good steering wheel to be able to change direction quickly. That’s a very good metaphor for how you should evolve. It’s great to have a good engine, but you need to have a good direction, and that direction is precisely what they need to pay attention to, not being agile only for the sake of being agile.

So, that’s the direction we are taking with our whole portfolio. We are also considering other areas. For example, we are trying to improve our offering in vertical industry areas. We have other things on the move like Open Communities, especially for the ArchiMate Standard, which is one of our executable standards easier to be implemented using architecture tools.

So, those are the kinds of things in our strategy at The Open Group as we work to serve our customers.

Gardner: And what’s next when it comes to The Open Group events? How are you helping people become the types of architects who reach that balance between agility and structure in the next wave of digital innovation?

New virtual direction for events

Gonzalez: We have many different kinds of customers. We have our members, of course. We have our trainers. We have people that are not members but are using our standards and they are very important. They might eventually become members. So, we have been identifying those different markets on building customer journeys for all of them in order to serve them properly.

Serving them, for example, means providing better ways for them to find information on our website and to get access to our resources. All of our publications are free to be downloaded and used if you are and end user organization. You only need a commercial license if you will apply them to deliver services to others.

In terms of events, we have had a very good experience with virtual events. The good thing about our crisis is that you can use it for learning, and we have learned that virtual events are very good. First, because we can address more coverage. For example, if you organize a face-to-face event in Europe, probably people from Europe will attend, but it’s very unlikely that people from Asia or even the U.S. or Latin America will attend. But a virtual event, also being free events, are attracting people from different countries, different geographies.

We have very good attendance on those virtual events. This year, all four events, except the one that we had in San Antonio have been virtual. Besides the big ones that we have every three months, we also have organized other smaller ones. We had a very good one in Brazil, we have another one from the Latin-American community in Spanish, and we’re organizing more of these events.

For next year, probably we are going to have some kind of a mix of virtual and face-to-face, because, of course, face-to-face is very important. And for our members, for example, sharing experiences as a network is a value that you can only have if you’re physically there. So, probably for next year, depending on how the situation is evolving, it will be a mix of virtual and face-to-face events.

We are trying to get a closer view what the market is demanding from us, not only in the architecture space but in general.

Gardner: I’m afraid we’ll have to leave it there. You’ve been listening to a sponsored BriefingsDirect discussion on how a portfolio approach to standards has emerged as a key way to grapple with digital transformation. And we’ve learned how to define and corral a comprehensive standards approach to make businesses intrinsically agile and competitive. 

So, a big thank you to our panel, consisting of Chris Frost, Principal Enterprise Architect and Distinguished Engineer, Application Technology Consulting Division, at Fujitsu. Thank you so much, Chris.

Frost: You’re very welcome.

Gardner: And we’ve been joined as well by Sonia Gonzalez, The Open Group TOGAF Product Manager. Thank you, Sonia.

Gonzalez: Thank you very much, Dana, for the opportunity.

Gardner: And our last guest has been Paul Homan, Distinguished Engineer and Chief Technology Officer Industrial at IBM Services. Thank you so much, Paul.

Homan: Thank you.

Gardner: And a big thank you as well to our audience for joining this BriefingsDirect agile business enablement discussion. I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host throughout this series of BriefingsDirect discussions sponsored by The Open Group.

Thanks again for listening, please pass this along with your business community, and do come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunesDownload the transcript. Sponsor: The Open Group.

Transcript of a discussion on leveraging a comprehensive standards resources approach for transforming businesses in a new era of agility and competitiveness. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC and The Open Group, 2005-2020. All rights reserved.

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