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.

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.

 

Organizational Design

This weekend I restarted efforts around organizational design dimension of business architecture. Its interesting to note that this is an area that most Enterprise and Business Architects do not address in their practice.  Perhaps as its been seen as non-technical and squishy, thus relegated to Human Resource Departments.  I think this is a tremendous oversight.  Both HR and Enterprise/ Business Architecture has a lot to gain from the synergies of working together.  EA/BA work is not all technology as it appears to be heading often.  This maybe due to the situation of EA/BA departments being rooted in IT organizations that are tasked with building out technology and see the others aspects (process, organization, economics, etc.) as a means to an end which Executives measure the IT organization on ( running back office software and fulfilling PC requests).

Organizational Design

About two years ago I started some R&D around the organizational design vector of Enterprise / Business Architecture, came across an excellent book by Burton, Obel & DeSanctis on the topic and started to translate the materials into a analytic tool in EXCEL.  As I come close to completing the Business Model Evaluator spreadsheet, I plan on restarting this effort and linking to the BMC and Portfolio Management work I continue with.

IT Asset Class Hierarchy cio workbench Logical Architecture

…and yes this was the original vision I had for Active Directory way back when during my first stint with Microsoft.   Looking back twenty years its hard to believe we’ve progressed so much and so little.  I thought by now CIO Workbench (aka Enterprise Portfolio Management) would be a reality now, but the state of the industry is still a cataloging system for applications and a separate accounting system for tracking IT expenses.   The Value/Benefits Management work done at IBM, DMR, and Microsoft still is used as sales aids more than a investment management tool.  Guess I’m going to have to get funding and build out the system myself.

Internet of Things (IoT): Building a scalable Info-pliance (information appliance) business

Is IoT hype or a new level of capability

“The more things change, the more they stay the same” goes the story.  The Internet is a buzz around IoT (Internet of Things).  But just what is it? Your computer browser , Iwatch, house thermostat, light bulbs, your car?  Basically if technology vendors have their way almost anything could and should be connected to the Internet.  Sounds rather appealing don’t you think?  Imagine laying on the beach and turning you house lights on and thermostat up because you’ll be back home from your vacation in a few hours.  My thoughts are these are devices that create and/or consume information.  Turing on a light remotely has been done via multiple technologies for a while.  However, things change when the light gives you back information like, “I’m off/on, I’m about 70% in my forecasted lifetime. Maybe it consumes information to make decisions: a furnace filter telling your its time to change me because the airflow throughout the house is lower and the blower is having to work harder. Or possibly the furnace will tell you’re house to order a new filter to be picked up when you’re at Home Depot tomorrow.  These are what I will call “Info-pliances” as the primary function is based upon utilization of information, not simply having remote activation.

Now for the reality many devices will have to be modified to realize that dream;  consider the dozens of apps you’ll need on your smartphone because each speaks different language.   What about security?  That small little thing.  If you worry about having your credit card information stolen, consider what will happen when your door locks are just a simply scan or hack.  How about that security camera you bought to monitor your house when you’re away –vulnerabilities in webcams have already hit the news where hackers and the government can turn on your camera without you knowing.  You and you significant other could become the next YouTube sensation without even knowing.

All this sounds like I’m a fear-mongering luddite.  If you’ve read other posts on my blog you know I’m far from it.  During the 70s and 80s I might have well been Microsoft’s, Asus, Radio Shack and Heathkit’s greatest consumer customer.  I had wired up my Condo with all sorts of devices to automate my little place.  Thus driving my future wife crazy when lights would come on without her touch a switch, announcements that someone was approaching the front door, heat and air conditioning settings could be changed from my home office computer.  My home now has its own private datacenter and multiple networks running throughout, in addition being connected to Microsoft’s Cloud.  So if I’m not forecasting doom and gloom what’s this about?

First off most of these issues have similar analogs “in the real world Neo”.  Security and Privacy has always been a spy vs. spy game and is likely to continue to be such in the future.  The real issue to overcome will be integration and scalability if IoT is to become a practical and profitable business.  Consider the consumer appliance industry today.  Unless you are manufacturing high end products, with large margins, and a near first to market provider your market share and profitability is limited and days in market are numbered.  And even then smaller competitors are likely to replace your product and features at a lower cost to consumers.

Enterprise IoT Strategy

What this suggests that if an enterprise is considering entry into the Info-pliances market it would be wise to study the analog business.  Years ago there were many appliance producing corporations.  Over the years these have consolidated with many Brand names being just that, parts manufactured by the same company but Branded differently to segment the market on perceived value and status (Consider the real differences between a Firebird and a Camaro in the 80s).  This façade of differentiation was mainly a marketing strategy.   However, underneath such a strategy to be effective an enterprise needed several elements to come together:

First a product architecture that would enable interoperability.  This is based upon the assumption consumers want interoperability which appears to be the case from a casual observation.  In an info-pliance, this is all the more important as its value is based upon interoperability. With limited interoperability the perceived value of the appliance is less.

Second traditional economies of scale strategies may require reversing.  That is rather than looking how to ramp up production of a single product, vendors may need to create a collection of components than can be assembled and packaged into multiple types of appliances rather than one specific one.  Consider creating a modular family of components that can be assemble like Lego Blocks.  Electronics manufactures already do this at a lower level of capability.

Once such enabling capabilities are in place an enterprise could start a virtuous loop.  That is to say, adding new info-pliances cheaply because the use many of the same components and interoperate together out of the box.  This creates a double loop: Quicker time to market and increase market share loop, Increased customer value perception with each new device  Thus having the potential of creating a competitive advantage at another level.

Will info-pliances  take off and become the killer app of the decade?  Only time and the consumer will tell.