Cloud and AI Adoption Maturity and Opinion

Developed in 1989 I observed that design disciplines such as Architecture, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Information Architecture, etc. followed a unique and recurring pattern that was intimately linked to technology.   Awareness of the technology occurred with innovators and early adopters exploiting its new characteristics first. As the technology’s performance attributes became better known application techniques developed through a maturity cycle becoming more structured. This body of knowledge eventually become ubiquitous in the discipline and the technology application common practice. Eventually, the discipline and technology application pass through industrialization stages to where practitioners debate about the aesthetics surrounding its usage. Here is where typically a shift occurs. Innovators become aware a newer technology and start the cycle over again. These innovators are typically not the innovators of the previous discipline-technology generation as most have established expertise and reputation in the status quo. However, that does not preclude a small sect of innovators that are in constant search to push the boundaries.

So where are we today in Enterprise Design (aka Enterprise Architecture not Enterprise IT Architecture)?

 

The Gartner Hype Cycle now places Cloud Technology somewhere in the Industrialization Stages 2 and 3.  However, from the artifacts and observations so far I would place Cloud maturity approaching Stage 2 as I continue to see modular componentry as the primary research thrust despite Cloud Providers, myself included**, having sold the technology as an economic benefit.  [**While at Microsoft I had been asked to research economic justification and develop a body of knowledge behind Cloud usage to create calculators and portfolio management techniques].

AI is supposedly the next big thing. From the observations and artifacts again, the discipline maturity of such is still in the Craftwork Stage where it left off in the 80s.  What has changed is the cost, performance, and availability of data for experimenting.  However, the discipline maturity is still quite low as well as the understanding of the potential hazards for a enterprise.  A decade ago program trading (AI in disguise) crashed several investment houses and several months ago a corporation had to shut down it’s AI response experiment, it had learned to become racist.  Now consider the exposure and liability a Senior Executive or CxO has with regard to such.  While AI has promise, till safety controls and the design discipline with this technology is at a Stage 3, I would suggest it be employed internally to support automation decisions with humans monitoring in failsafe positions.

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Enterprise Architecture Catalog++

Every dream about having a catalog of the complete design of your enterprise?  One that not only gives you and inventory and status of components, but also gives you the relationships between those to create higher level objects: Business and Operational Models, Capabilities, Processes.  How about linking in how these play against your business and technical strategies or assessing those strategies against your abilities to achieve?   Well the wait is almost over, because I’m almost finished building it!

Several decades ago when I met John Zachman for the first time I was impressed by his curiosity about what I was doing at Rockwell.  I was using a CAD/CAM system to design a factory.  Not only the floor plan, but the systems, applications, information flow, etc.  Several years later after John had released his brilliance regarding Enterprise Architecture I got to meet up with his again.  From our talk and his insight I’ve been working on creating a CAD for Enterprise(TM) system.  One that would enable Enterprise Architects to work with Executive Teams to design the enterprise of their dreams like designing a house.  While the UX/UI will take a while longer, the Minimal Viable Product (MVP) database which is what the application will rest upon is almost complete with a usable text-based UI.   I will be considering just a few Testers for this MVP in the next few months as well as possible partnerships with graphical design tool vendors**.  Details to follow on how-to sign up.

**Graphical Design Tool Vendors you can contact me directly now.

Are you designing your Enterprise or just copying someone else’s wiring plan?

Last week a former executive client of mine and I discussed his latest initiative: “Digital Transformation”. He was all excited about moving to the cloud, AI, and a host of other hype cycle buzzwords. After attending an analyst firm’s briefing about the latest and greatest technology trends. With his CIO in tow he was ready to invest in moving applications from his on-premise infrastructure to the cloud and magically have his business transformed.

Now my former client is also a friend so I can speak candidly to him. I asked one simple questions of him. “Aside from changing the technology you’re using, what are you going to do differently that would make you say you’ve transformed your business?”   “Well were scalable now and….” “Oh, so adding another server in your on-premise infrastructure is not scalable also?”. I could see he was getting very uncomfortable about my questions.

Next came the flash of insight I hoped would occur. “Are you trying to tell be all this doesn’t matter?” My response “Does it?” After a few awkward moments “It does but I’m not sure why”. “Tell me. You have a really nice house. Would you be willing to rip out all the wiring, replace the receptacles and switches because some new wiring technology has come to market?” A puzzled look for a moment, then a “That’s crazy, I’d only do that if it enabled me to do a lot more or something different with my house…” Then a pause and a second flash of insight. “I get it! You’re not say don’t go to the cloud. You’re saying ask what I’m going to do differently that the cloud will enable me to do”. Then a friendly dig back at me. “Just like a consultant always giving a depends answer and telling me what I already know”. “Maybe so, but would you have asked yourself those questions before coming to me. Clearly there was a reason you called me up after a couple of years have passed since our last set of discussions”.   “Brian, you’re sounding more and more each time we talk like a psychoanalyst”

“So, Doctor Brian, what should I do?”. “First off, lay here on the couch…. Seriously, the question you should be asking yourself is; am I repeating someone else’s wiring plan in my house (a pattern) and do I expect to get a competitive advantage from doing what others are already doing?”

I’m a great believer in patterns. Patterns in whatever shape and form they are: frameworks, templates, etc. help you organize information so you can focus on the innovation potential locked away in it. Implementing patterns also mean you have to focus less on routine activities that are necessary but don’t provide differentiation and advantage.   Also, examining patterns can give you insight into opportunities or threats and weaknesses. That is by examining patterns you can learn on another person’s dime.

With this little vignette and hopefully passing some insight to you, I’ll ask: Are you designing your Enterprise or just copying someone else’s wiring plan?

Why should I believe a consulting firm that doesn’t have a service catalog or any other company?

Let’s see you’re a technology consulting firm or any consulting firm and you don’t have a service catalog.   When you’re advising my company, you bring to the table a wealth of technology-speak: Cloud, Digital Transformation, AI, Containers, Blockchain, IoT, and the like.

Asked what your firm does I hear a jumble of more buzz-words: Agile, Digital Design, and the list goes on. Pressed for a simple answer I get “We’ll assist or execute for you in implementing the latest technologies”. So basically, your service catalog contains two items: Project Management and Technology of the Moment (TotM) implementation.   “Well we do more than that. We also provide Agile Training, Coaching, and blah, blah, blah…” Isn’t all of that in support of the two services you are supplying?

I know a few years ago your firm was trying to engage with my firm’s IT function about improving operational efficiency. You were proposing that you could help us by creating a service catalog as part of implementing a service management strategy.   We’re still working on creating our catalog. Can we see yours?

Oh, you have a list of services you advertise but no real catalog of how to perform or measure? Then a quick scramble behind the scenes to dig up you Secret Sause Methodology that no one else has. But I’ve seen this by every other firm just with different company specific acronyms.

I begin to wonder why if your firm had highlighted how important having a service catalog was so important years ago, that you don’t have one also. Especially since you still insist its key to an effective organization expecting to digitally transform itself.

While this is a rude hypothetical example. I assure you the events and thoughts are real, confirmed through discussions with many Executives over the years.

I don’t claim a service catalog is the answer to all of life’s questions, nor will it make a poorly conceived business model suddenly become profitable. What I do suggest is that a well thought out service catalog is part of good business and operating models.

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These models “guide” a company to success. Provided one understands these are models not the real world. These are the visualization of planning. Eris Ries along with other notable business advisors suggests two important concepts about enterprises and growth. First, you can expect you’ll need to change your business model or plans once you engage with the market. The ecosystem will inform you what is of value to your clients and your business. Second, if you focus on doing everything, you’ll eventually do nothing. For all the resources mega-enterprises have, these still must focus. It’s when they lose focus and try to do too much outside the core the business goes off the rails.

So where does a service catalog come into play?

Service catalogs are the details behind what your firm does and does not do, and how it does these. This may be why there are so many small consulting firms with big dreams that never grow up. Either not knowing what they do, trying to do everything, or not understanding how to do it repeatedly (a service) with consistent and measurable results.

Imagine going to a Cleaners only to get your clothes back partly cleaned one time, fully cleaned another, and having the service period vary by days without any indication as to when. Then going into the back room to see people cleaning clothes in no consistent manner: a dry-cleaning machine all the way through using a tub and scrubbing board. How long would you consider using this “service”?

While there is no guarantee that having a service catalog will ensure the perfect outcome. Having a one along with management oversight increases the probability of that desired outcome. Coupled with service agreements this reduces the risk to the client.

So why have a service catalog?

A service catalog is the guide rails to good outcomes for both client and company. The services included in the catalog are the execution details behind the key activities of your business.

Methodology Engine for Consultants

Early wake-up call…well not actually early for me.  Today’s agenda: More Data Mining and evaluating the best course to capture methodology for my consulting firm.   Four primary factors to consider: 1) Knowledge and Skills transfer 2) Job Aid and Execution support 3) Ease of maintenance 4) Accessibility for field consultants

In prior roles I help construct or constructed my own methodology engines for various domains: Marketing Management and Strategic Planning, Enterprise Assessments (e.g., ISO 9000, CALS, etc.).  Depending upon factor four the technology choices I had narrowed down to were: Lotus Notes, SharePoint, and MS Access.  Of all the platforms to build on, MS Access was the most popular as one could carry the engine into a client’s site where Internet access was limited.

 

I was consider a hybrid on desktop MS Access and Access Services, however, given the uncertain future of both I’m considering another option such as Pega which would have the accessibility limitation pointed our prior, but gains an orchestration engine and data consolidation of multiple engagements for future BI application.  However, to kick start the project I’ll likely use the Methodology Engine I created in ACCESS as it has the basics to capture the workflow, methods and R&Rs

Strategic Planning vs. Strategic Plans

Spent last week in my first Enterprise Leadership Team strategic planning onsite meeting.  It was one of the better if not best strategic planning sessions I’ve participated in.  Rather than focusing on the two extremes –what can be do now to address some mess — or — pie in the sky dreams that have no basis in reality or likely to be realized– the session focused on reviewing where they were, why and what the vision of the business is to be.  As we covered what others may mistakenly consider trivial issues in sequence, you could see how these decisions narrowed down options to a laser focus as we at the end of this sequenced redefined or rather clarified what inherently knew was the business design’s skeleton.  While there is still much work to be accomplished on this, the skeleton provides the supporting scaffolding to successfully build out.

Strategic Planning and Strategic Plans are all well and good until the touch the reality of engagement.  What made the past weeks activities worth the effort were the last two days of the onsite.  With knowledge of where we want to be and where we are, we started deployment planning.  This is appears to be the fatal flaw in almost all the strategic planning sessions I’ve attended in the US.  Without planning how to deploy the plan, strategic planning results in pounds of paper and dilutions.  This seems obvious but somehow often gets overlooked.

One could say that’s because the strategic planning activity is designed that way. Or because there are no tools to translate strategic plans into actions.  However, both assertions are false.  Whether its because strategic planners don’t wish to get involved in deployment or as software designers often say small matter of programming 😉 or they are unaware of intellectual tools to assist, I find it more attitude that capability.  If I was to draw a parallel.  Design Engineering is often viewed as more glamorous and desirable that manufacturing Engineering, though its the later that can make or break a company.

With that said I’ll point to several approaches I’ve used, when I’ve been able to make the case to actually plan out implementing a strategic plan:  Hoshin Planning, Results Chain (DMR Consulting), Benefits Dependency Network (Cranfield), Strategic Capabilities Network (IBM), and Elyon Strategies own planning methodology.   My preferred methods are Hoshin Planning and Elyon’s as both focus on alignment to the strategic goals and a sequence of activities that logically contribute to achievement of the goal.  As I write this post I’m thinking of how-to merge Hoshin, Results Chain, and Elyon’s methodology as each as a strong point but a small gap that the other methods address well.

 

Internal Transformation

Past week has been working on internal transformation projects for my firm.  A classic case of eat your own dog food.  The interesting situation is everyone is excited to participate and help in the transformation.  –makes the task 1) easier 2) much more enjoyable — and confirms that I joined a awesome company, with awesome people.  Revising Business Model and putting into place a strategic execution system to ensure alignment with Biz Model, Designing, building, and implementing a client acquisition system to improve getting and keeping desirable clients.

This morning’s insight

A part of a good strategy is knowing what not to do; besides what to do.  I see too many companies run off the rails by going after the wrong type of business, markets and clients. Or trying to be everything to everyone, thus ensuring you’re nothing to everybody.