Cloud –hype or a lesson to learn about ongoing technology change

A while back the model was there was a market for just 10 mainframes worldwide, or so the quote goes.  The in order for a corporation to join the big boys, you needed your own.  Decades later I’ve the equivalent of a S/360 processing power in my pocket.  If one follows the technology generations: On-Prem. Mainframe; Department Minis; Timeshare; PCs; Client-Server; then Internet, Now Cloud. There is always a new technology on the horizon (e.g., quantum computing) that will solve the worlds problems and put the kids to bed on time or so the marketing hype goes.

I’m neither a fan-boy or luddite when it comes to new technology.  I believe I’m a pragmatist.  I’ve a set of simple rules when it comes to acquisition and holding onto technology:

  • Explore and examine, but do not commit till conditions point to such
  • When exploring the technology, examine both the technological aspects:
    • does it add new capabilities
    • Is it stable (mature enough, reliable enough, has enough market share to continue a reasonable lifespan)
  • and business application:
    • does that new capability add something to my business
      • Reach to customers or markets
      • Improve customer relationships
      • Allow me to do something new for customer or improve my operations
    • or reduce costs and risks

Which brings me to the latest R&D I’ve been conducting over the past few decades that fits into my larger research project of creating a CAD/CAM system for Enterprise Design, Construction, Operations, and  Remodeling.   That latest research has been all about the overlap between business and technology strategy.  This is something my mentor John Zachman had started decades ago.  By now I can imagine several people’s eyes rolling. “Zachman Framework!, that so yesterday…”  However, those that have seen the decades of methodology hype go by know that the Ontology expressed in the Framework still is relevant.  Its just not the “silver bullet” everyone wants.  It takes some work to understand that the views defined in the Framework are there for a reason: To understand the various aspects of an abstract entity, Enterprise, to be manifested.

Given the hype and technology priesthoods that have developed around various methodologies: TOGAF, DODAF, SAFe, BPMN, etc.. I will not enter into the fray, other than to say these all have some aspect of utility and all address some dimensions in the Zachman Framework. 

Back to Cloud and business/technology strategy:  As of late business models or various levels of business models (Campbell’s Operation Model Canvas**) are become more mature from decades ago and starting to reach across to technology or rather technology has been identified as an enabler to business strategy.  With that as an underpinning to this post.  I post the real question around Cloud and Cloud Hype:

The real issue is how or should you take advantage of such. If you’re just switching technology to “modernize” that’s fine.  If the cost of maintenance or business continuity risk due to end of life is a significant threat changing technologies is a simple model (i.e., you’re replacing you car because you can’t get anything more out of your Model T).  That does suggest however, it will be running business as usual.

That, in my opinion, is short sighted as few businesses are in an environment that enables that.  Today business as unusual is the norm.  There is so much volatility and change going on in the space we call enterprise that operating a business is now more an effort of managing complexity and change than executing a simple production line was twenty or thirty years ago.  As such prior to committing to such a change it behooves Executives to ask the questions beyond the easy just replace On-Premise with On-Cloud for a supposed cost saving, how will I exploit the technology to improve my business besides just keep it operating another day?  As well as ask what are the trade-offs I make with such choices:

  • Dependencies/Risks on a service provider
    • Will they be around tomorrow
    • Will the service change
    • Besides Security and Data Ownership, can I extract such to a new provider should I decide to
  • Will/Can I integrate a broad spectrum of services together (primary vendor and others) with moderate or less effort, or is it really a closed system
  • How long will it take to covert?  Will the conversion take more time than the technology is likely to be in place

The thing I tell my clients continually, there is no free lunch, there are always trader-offs.  Some immediately, Some during an event, and Some eventually (i.e., in the future).  It is up to your executive team, not the technology providers or operators within the company, to understand these implications and impacts.  -And if your team does not have the confidence in making these decisions get a Business – Technology Strategy Consulting firm to assist.  This is not a technology strategy consulting firm (i.e., how to install, configure, and operate), but one that focuses on how-to use the technology for business as well as what are its implications to the business.

**full disclosure I’m working with Andrew Campbell on a tool suite to evaluate Operating Models similar to the evaluation tool suite I built for the Business Model Canvas community

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Zachman Ontology (Framework) and other Ontological Models

This past Friday a had a short but insightful email thread with a new colleague, Karen Morphy. I’ve been busily working on my –to quote a joke from my PDES Inc. / ISO10303 development friends and associates — Mother of All Frameworks. Except its not my framework or ontology. Its John Zachman’ s.

I had previous discussed my various discussions with John about the Architect Metaphor and the drafting paradigm that people only partly understand. My thought around such is that the Framework is a 2D projection of a Multi-Dimensional Problem-Solution Space. The issue I brought up then to John and continue to work; on sending him insights that I discover for he and I to discuss. [I am still a supporter of and hopefully contributor to the advancement of the framework] Is finding the logical/mathematical connection that binds the rows and columns together into a unified whole. The Unified Field Theory of Enterprise Architecture if you please.

I had agreed to read and review [soon to come on Amazon] Operating Model Canvas book by another colleague Andrew Campbell.

About a quarter in I found that it would provide some valuable insights to a project of mutual interest between Karen and I.   I fired off a quick note suggesting this may be of value as it focuses upon the “architecture of implementation” –cringe at the application of such a phrase, but in this context I think its true to my definition of architecture .

Her question back: “How does that differ from the Business Model Canvas? Seems like it puts the Value Chain at the center so there is more of a customer journey represented? Being a Zachman disciple, I see many of these as just a rearrangement of the Zachman ontology…”

Almost without thinking my reply came. It seemed so natural: “I see all of these models as either subsets of Zachman Ontology or auxiliary views (I.e. Combinations of columns or rows to create a specific perspective needed for illumination (same thing is done in other engineering fields)”

Which brings me back to the drafting metaphor and my original personal R&D. With so many I.T. and Business Framework popping up every day how is one supports to make rational sense of such. As stated above I believe all these others are simply views or auxiliary views of the Zachman Framework. These are not better or worse than each other, but specific perspectives needed to illuminate a specific item of interest, similar to such in the drafting domain.

 

Business Architecture

There is a lot of “Architecture” out there in the enterprise world?  It seems that the title ARCHITECT once held a lot of cachet.  You’d find someone titled or a book titled with the term architect in it almost everywhere.  However, during my most recent deep dive into the term applied almost all –IMHO– were not architects but designers and in many cases project managers.  I reached this conclusion based upon the definition I used to define architecture.  That definition has as it foundation the understanding of the components, interactions and uses of such used to create a desired entity.  That entity can be as concrete as a house or as abstract as an enterprise.  Which has led me to an interesting linguistic puzzle:  In many organizations and associations there has been a stated difference between an Enterprise and a Business architect.  Yet isn’t the definition of enterprise a business?  So rightly so shouldn’t an enterprise architect be a business architect?

With that puzzle aside, I again started to ponder my activities around Portfolio Management.  Much of what I’ve seen and experienced in large corporations in regard to Portfolio Management has been around economic prioritization.  That is “We has a fixed budget, how can we spend it all to receive the greatest return on each individual investment?”  This inevitably results in a effort to stack rank projects by simple ROI or in the case of IT projects KLO (keep the lights on).

Most recently I watched several organization build up a portfolios (aka backlogs) of projects to be prioritized and executed.  Many of these projects were classified as either KLO or Innovation projects which were given the highest priorities depending upon who in executive leadership was overseeing.  However, deeper investigation revealed that these where neither, but rather what I would call optimization projects (see portfolio management project portfolios).  While not a bad thing doing such gamesmanship results the enterprise as a whole not achieving the optimum return on investment strategy.  That is to say senior leadership has developed a strategy and middle to lower management, though well meaning, compromises achievement of such through their efforts of local optimization.

The way out of such conundrums is not having senior leadership make every investment decision down to the smallest detail though.  My belief is the best way to ensure investment optimization for the enterprise is to make the business architecture explicit and develop a consistent means to determine alignment, interdependency, and priority of current and future desired states.  Though looking at the existing enterprise’s state as a whole — what needs to say the same, what needs to change and when– an optimum path to an uncertain future can be charted.

The problem with such an approach is that it is often looked upon as complicated, thus is rejected out of had as lately the management trend is make things simple.  Which is rather ironic given we are in an time of multiple priorities and the second generation of the information age.  Such thinking is both comical and disturbing, given that many high tech companies are pushing products for Business Intelligence and Analytics to gain actionable insights yet they are still managing their own investments with nothing more than glorified spreadsheets.  Maybe I should not be so critical of the state of industry, given how long it has taken other engineering and design disciplines to mature into well understood principles to be applied.

In either event I’m now about an eight (real swag) through defining a comprehensive enterprise design methodology and associated curriculum for the book.  In architect-speak, I’ve laid out the rough framework and have started construction/acquisition of components for the methodology.  Two moths in, I may have to push back my anticipated book completion date.  One the positive side my employers will gain the benefit of this research and hopefully be able to apply it to their advantage.

 

Structure in Threes: Concerning Architecture

There is a broad debate within the various enterprise architecture communities 1) What is Enterprise Architecture 2) What is the value of Enterprise Architecture, and 3) Who is an Enterprise Architect and how does s/he accomplish work.  This text will present my own opinion on this topic, the three questions above, and more.  This is based upon my own experiences practicing this arcane discipline.  I do not propose this is the definitive answer to such questions –but rather an effort to document an ontology of the architectural concerns with methods and tools I’ve collated over the years to manipulate these variables– though a publisher may later add hyperbole in an effort to sell the book.

This work is being design to be used in a digital format as there will be many cross connections to the multidimensional space I believe Enterprise Architecture exists in.  If you are reading this in book form be prepared to flip forward and backward to get the full context of what is being discussed.

Enterprise Portfolio Management

Updated the CMM and Capabilities Roadmap yesterday still have a few more items to add.  The roadmap is slowly coming into shape.  Hope to have presentation and tools ready by February conference

Modern IT Portfolio Management CMM

Like the original CMM this version for Portfolio Management has 5 levels.  Taking a page from the CMMI work I did in the Marketing Domain for IBM/Samsung, et al. It will contain an assessment tool to help enterprises do it themselves.

I’ve been developing a CMMI for Enterprises Architecture similar to the Software CMMI.  Enterprise Portfolio Management will be the first subsection of the EA CMMI which will be part of the Structure in Threes book in works. Modern IT Portfolio Management CMM Capabilities

Business Model Enablement

One of the problems with Enterprise Portfolio Management (EPM) is its’ limited focus.  EPM to a large extent has been dominated by technocrats that act as though the entire enterprise is populated primarily by hardware and software; that is people exist to serve hardware and software needs rather than the reverse.

One can hardly blame management for this perspective and behavior when you consider the management systems in place such as financial systems have not evolved much since the middle ages.  Financial systems are “thing” based, listing such artifacts as depreciable assets.  While executives give lip service with such fraises as “People are our most important asset”, the majority of systems account for people as liabilities. When was the last time you saw a balance sheet listing the value of the people employed within the corporation?  This seems rather odd considering H/W and S/W requires people and their skill and knowledge to operate, maintain, and gain benefit from these other assets.

This brings me back to business models, currently the rage within executive and VC circles.  In the Business Model Canvas activities and resources hold a key position.  Its though these two components that value is realized as per the company’s value proposition.  Yet often neither the activity or resources boxes account for the people component –expect as either partners to engage with or customers to engage with.

Yesterday’s R&D activities has me investigating corporate capabilities and the associated competencies of people that enable these capabilities which are used to enable the business model.  Several years ago I developed a competency model that was associated with the process activities for a major function within corporations.  I see revisiting that work in light of business models will likely produce the alignment between people, portfolio, and business model that I’m looking to address in this round of R&D.

Benefits Realization

Been a bit busy stoking the home fires of late.  Attended COFES, amazing conversations as usual.  This month I’ve been focused on several areas of applied business architecture research.  IT Portfolio Management, Benefits Management, and Complexity Management.  All three are related to my Structure in Threes project.

  • I continue to develop the portfolio model section by section along with a working prototype.  Started considering the technology and system to offer to the market.
  • Benefits Management this month is really a parallel track, both R&D for ensuring a portfolio action supports Enterprise Goals as well as applied practice for the projects I’m working on at Microsoft.  The past few weeks I’ve been creating a Benefits Dependency Network for one of the subprojects.  I’ll be reviewing and revising that today with stakeholders as well as creating a draft Benefits Management Plan to help ensure the initiatives realize the promised benefits.  Part of that will be a Results Chain Contribution Matrix, a Benefits Distribution Matrix, and a Stakeholder Management plan.  Most of these artifacts I’ll recommend to my group for future projects
  • Complexity Management R&D is part of the BPR/M activities at work as well as Portfolio Management R&D.  Had a great discussion with Dr. Jacek Marczyk discussion elements of complexity.  We’ll have lots more to discuss.  I like his high level model:  Structure Elements x Uncertainty = Complexity.    I had previously separated Uncertainty from the equations I was developing:  Business Process Complexity =  {Information Complexity} x {Activity Complexity} using BPMN models as the base to calculate each factor.  As of yesterday I revised calculations from a standard node count bases to also include network linkages between nodes in each factor.   Later this week I’ll look at how I include Dr. Marczyk’s perspective of accounting for uncertainty.  I think I may also expand on that and use some of Courtney, Day, Schoemaker, and Primozic research into risk and uncertainty.  They’ve a lot of good materials that could apply to the problem space.