01/4/2013 2am

Woke up early today..Guess it was the Pizza late at night. Past several months been concentrating on research for various white papers; from IT Economics to Business Continuity and Social Media. I’ve read a few interesting books of later worth mentioning –most of which goes along the lines of the C4UC, Systems Thinking and Business Continuity research:

  • Interop The promise and perils of highly interconnected systems, Palfrey and Gasser
  • Beyond the Limits, Meadows, Meadows and Randers
  • Principles and Practices of Business Continuity tools and techniques, Jim Burtles
  • The signal and noise why so many predictions fail-but some don’t, Nate Silver
  • The Art of Explanation making your ideas, products and services easier to understand, Lee Lefever
  • To sell is Human the surprising truth about moving others, Daniel Pink
  • One Strategy Organizing, Planning and DecisionMaking, Steve Sinofsky and Marco Iansiti
  • How To Deliver A TED Talk: Secrets Of The World’s Most Inspiring Presentations, Jeremey Donovan
  • Reliability Simplified: Going Beyond Quality to Keep Customer for Life, James Harrington
  • 101 Design Methods: A Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization Vijay Kumar
  • Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software, Steven Johnson

Translating Business to Enterprise Architecture: Case Study #1 & 2 establishment

Situation

The past week been engaged in two projects; developing a business plan for a start-up nonprofit and reviewing information technology strategy for a large existing non-profit that is trying to transform themselves.   Both projects have similar attributes and as I survey other organizations, it seems to be a common malady:  misalignment between Business and Information Technology.

In the case of the start-up, it’s more a case of designing the business to enable the technology that provides the service for its clients.  In the case of the existing nonprofit, the I.T. organization has an objective to assist the business in revitalizing itself by making itself more relevant through innovation.  A quick review of the I.T. organization’s strategy and activity indicates a strong misalignment with the current business strategy

Startup

The Startup is composed of a group of technically brilliant people all focused upon their individual technical expertise.  The issue becomes how to integrate the individual work efforts of each, build and enabling infrastructure that would support the nonprofit’s mission.  However, design of organizations are still an evolving multi-disciplinary activity that continues to present challenges as new disciplines need to be integrated into the design.  Followed by the challenge of how-to align technology to support the workflow that the organization believes gives it a competitive advantage yields a wicked problem.

This is yielding a business plan unlike the typical plans most enterprises assemble that cover the financial aspects and minimal organizational structures.  The goal of this business plan is not primarily obtaining finance or defining organizational hierarchy.  Its objective is to define a roadmap for the enterprise’s initial construction, operation and evolution.  As such more attention to system dynamics and relationships are its key features which will yield a series of states that are used for financial projections using options theory concepts to guide its evolution.   Next week the first draft will be distributed to the team for comments.       

Existing Nonprofit

Recently the I.T. organization had engaged a management consulting firm to assist.  The result of several weeks of engagement was a recommendation to rationalize the application portfolio.  While this will make the I.T. organization more cost effective, it does not necessarily support the business objective.  It brings to mind the old air travel joke:  “Pilot gets on the P.A. to tell the passengers good news and bad news.  The bad news; we’re lost, the good news we’re making excellent time”.  This I.T. organization, like so many others has focused on the technology acquisition and deployment to the exclusion of other objectives.  The rational was that they were creating capabilities for the business.   Unfortunately the business often is unable to exploit these capabilities because they require business people to be technologists or technologists to be business people –a rare skill and behavior mix in most corporations.

During my initial discussions with the I.T. group representatives, the sense that the rationalization strategy while providing local success for the group would not yield organizational success was confirmed.  This left them with a choice; focus on their own success or raise the issue and investigate on how to realign to help the business be successful or merge both objectives.  The problem with the latter two alternatives is that most I.T. organizations have never developed the competency to do such effectively.   With tightening budgets and new technologies, it’s usually all an I.T. organization can do to develop minimal competence in deployment and operation of technology, so developing a practice for alignment with business gets short attention if any.  This was all our hour discussion could achieve; however, it’s not the end of the activity we’ve schedule another meeting this coming week to discuss using the alignment methods I’ve been developing. 

Translating Business to Enterprise Architecture: Methodology Activity #2

Capabilities from this context are the “what do we need to be able to do” to enable the strategy.  This requires more thought than just saying we need the capability to collaborate.  Collaborate by itself is just an activty with no context. If we add a software application associated with collaboration we’re still not talking about a real strategic capability.  There is a lot still missing from such a short capability definition.  To be effective a capabilities definition should contain what activitiy, who is envolved, what is to be accomplished and how. 

 Using capability to collaborate as an example, it would be neccicsary to define the what and who of collaboration.  This could be “we need to have our marketing staff around the country collaborate on collecting and analyzing market intelligence to determine new opportunities”.  This moves the definition from a broad and vague initiative to a supportive activity that could be associated to a strategy such as “the enterprise being more market agile and adaptive than competitors”.   When associated with this strategy those in the organinzation can see why collaboration capability is important and how it should be implemented. 

This definition also brings to the surface that developing a capability is more than just providing technology, it infers that there are people to be envolved with skills and knowledge, information that needs to be supplied and further sub-activties to be accomplished other than just sharing the base information.  This underlying information with the objective of usage or what is to be accomplished provides the context on how the capability is to be used to provide the what of the satrategy.  With this context established the further refinement of creating the capability by selecting the technology, configuring its, and informing staff on its usage is kept in alignment with the strategy.  Too many technology driven projects often are successful in deployment of software, but fail in implmentation for te business.  Further research had shown that while the technology was functional, its usage was never thought of or publized in context to the enterprise strategy.  In some exterme cases the implementation and thereby adoption was actually counter to the enterprise’s goal.  As such while capability discussions seem simple these are crictially important and is where most of the loss of value occurs.  It is my believe this is where most initatives start going off track and further deviate from the path as the activities move from the abstract to the concrete.