Translating Business to Enterprise Architecture: Methodology Activity #1

Converting Business definition to an enabling Enterprise Architecture is not a direct mapping.  Business definitions do not neatly fit into a structural taxonomy that most Enterprise Architects use.  Business definitions do not fare well in process oriented ontologies either.  The nature of business definitions is, as social constructs, these entities are multi-dimensional.  Thus any attempt to document has often met with gaps in perception that appear based upon the orientation of the modeler.  If you’re a structural focused, dynamics are missed.  If you’re process focused you might miss structures or goals.   The Zachman Framework, givens insight to this issue.  However, the establish linkage between on cell to another with the same robustness as in mechanical design has eluded the field for two decades.  While there have been attempts as creating production rules to project from one cell to another, the linkage and visualization has still to be accomplished.  This is not a failure of the framework, but of the representation systems we have at present.  The situation only gets worse as we move down the hierarchy from owner to builder the framework.

 Added to this lack of dimensional integrity between representations systems are the differences in language constructs at each level.  The structures and dynamics at each layer and within each dimension are substantially different due to context.   This until a unified representation system can be developed translation and design will always require human intervention to interpret and unify.  This inconsistency acknowledged a team can still overcome the effects of this situation.  This first activity addresses some of the intermediate forms to translate between the hierarchy levels previously identified in the framework. 

 At the Owner level, the common business model representations used have typically been based on those developed by Michael Porter or Adrian Slywotzky.  These models represent business activities on a broad scale and despite the author’s clear definitions, have merged activities and the organizational structures that accomplish these as a single construct. The Michael Porter models define how an enterprise competes in the world.

Adrian Slywotzky’s model describes how an enterprise creates and captures value within the business world.

Converting these constructs into I.T. Infrastructure Designs is rather significant challenges as the gap between these concepts are not direct translations.  Therefore Enterprise Architects should focus on intermediate forms that bridge these gaps.  One intermediate form that bridges this gap is defining capabilities.  During the late 1990s and early 2000s a method call Strategic Capabilities Network was introduced.  This technique has staff define and relate capabilities to the activities and functions used the business models most corporations use.  These capabilities are closer in concepts to the processes and applications that I.T. Architects use.  Thus mapping between functions and applications through a capabilities network provides a semantically rich association that can be discussed with business owners enabling them to understand how the I.T. Architecture will enable the functions needed to fulfill strategy.            

Strategy Alignment and I.T.

Been away from my blog the past few days as I’m heads down packing to leave my corporate apartment for new digs.   I had time then to mull over some ideas regarding Business and I.T. strategic alignment.  These circled back to ideas I had in the 80s regarding Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) and a quote from a friend “Technology makes a good servant but a poor master”.    Most of the strategies, and I’ve seen a lot these days.  Everyone has an I.T. strategy and so called architecture –I’ll get on my soapbox about architecture another time—which is positioned as the silver bullet for what ails a corporation.  The problem I see with these is there is no linkage between Business and I.T. Strategies and Architectures.   

I spent most of yesterday in discussion with one of the people I’m mentoring about such.  She’s starting a new position as a Sr. Architect and was trying to figure out her first steps.   I suggested getting to know the organization and its business model first.  We spent time discussion Michael Porter, Adrian Slywotzky approaches and how to analyze the business.  In a short time we had decomposed her new employer’s business model and the competitive threats on the horizon.    She was amazed at how easy yet difficult this was to do.  The “wow” was in her voice.  I replied this was the easy part.  The tough part is determining what to do and aligning the critical stakeholders to do it. 

I had previously worked an engagement years ago, with IBM, in which we used a business strategic analysis method; Strategic Capabilities Network (SCN).  At that time it was just a IBM Research paper.  A subordinate and I built a quick tool to support the method out of MS Access for a strategy engagement we were doing.   We collected the data, analyzed it which helped us develop and eCommerce strategy for the client.  I took a quick mental note that this could be eventually used as the bridge between business and I.T. strategy.  

Fast forward to today, I still see gaps between business and I.T. that Evel Knievel would have second thoughts about jumping.  However, as I started pondering this issue It came to me the reason why was it still was a translation issue.  Business and Technology don’t talk the same language which has brought me back to my SCN application a few other tools and methods I’ve used in the past and how to integrate them into a more cohesive methodology than TOGAF or many of the other technology driven architecture approaches.   This is not a slight against TOGAF, etc. but rather a thought how to bridge Business Strategy and I.T. Architecture into a symbiotic relationship.

In the new role I’m looking at fulfilling I can see this greatly helping my peers be more successful; faster and with greater results that delight clients.