Category Archives: Governance

Digging a hole with Enterprise Architecture #entarchs

Some Sunday morning rambling & a couple of old Dilbert cartoons which may be pertinent & should at least be a amusing…

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So, you know the scenario. You’re in there with the senior management team & they want an answer to the question: why should we invest in this thing called Enterprise Architecture?

& the answer is: I dunno; or, you tell me; or maybe, you shouldn’t.

Because they are, of course, asking the wrong question. They should be saying: how do we improve our customer experience? Or, how do we reduce the cost of procurement? Or, how do we decide what we could target as shared services? Or…a thousand other critical business questions. To any or all of which EA may be part of the answer.

But you’ve been invited along to a meeting to explain why they need EA. So you’ve come to the wrong meeting.

& because they’re asking the wrong question, you’ll probably have to give them the wrong answer.

& you can’t directly tell them they’re asking the wrong question. Well, go for it if you feel like it. After all, they’re only senior management…

There’s a lot of discussion in EA circles about how exactly do we sell EA to senior management? & the answer is, of course, you don’t.

You don’t sell someone a spade if they don’t know they need to dig a hole. At least, I hope not – don’t want to be in the snake oil business. So senior management need to know what problems EA will solve, or what new opportunities EA can open up – they need to see what bigger better hole they can dig (themselves into?) with this shiny new implement (maybe not the best analogy, then, but you have to start somewhere).

So EA isn’t always the answer – it depends on the question, & you have to make sure the right questions are being asked then you can make sure you have the right answers.

So in that meeting, you need to get them to ask the right questions – ‘I dunno’ may be a pretty good first answer – followed by, you tell me what you need to do, & then I’ll tell you if EA can help you do it. Or, maybe not…because…

If you’re an Enterprise Architect, you might think EA is always the answer, or at least part of it – & I agree, you’re probably right. But the best way to test a hypothesis is to assume that you’re wrong – & maybe the customer doesn’t really need to dig a hole, at least, not until they’ve chopped down that tree. Great thing about EA is, it’s more like a Swiss Army knife than an axe or a spade – but if the customer only wants to dig that hole or chop down that tree, some kind of multitool might seem like overkill. So, find that hole that needs digging, use EA to help it get dug, & then…

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JISC/LFHE Strategic ICT Toolkit Closedown Meeting

To the University of Nottingham for the final meeting for the project team – JISC/LFHE/JISCInfonet – & institutions who have participated in the SICT field test projects. Taxi ride from Nottingham station taking in a firebombed police station – not something you see everyday. Possibly a more than usually garbled commentary, but it was a very worthwhile initiative so I feel the need to get something down.

First session of the day was for each institution to do a Pecha Kucha presentation on their project. The following are a few interesting bits & pieces I picked up…

Bruce Levitan/Manchester Metropolitan University raised the interesting issue of the impenetrability of Enterprise Architecture for those from a non-technical background. Good point, although my experience suggests that as usually presented those from a technical background don’t necessarily find it any easier. Also see my closing comments. Anyroad, he suggested that some more engaging way of presenting EA was needed, & showed part of what looked like a very good Gartner EA animation. Which took me back to illustrating SOA/EA to LJMU management using the JISC SOA animation, & discussions in the EA Practice Group & beyond about how great it would be to have something for EA. Well, it still would.

Ian Hall/York had approached the project through the interesting mechanism of 1:1 interviews with senior managers using the toolkit. Comments: again, EA could be off putting, & not necessarily necessary/essential? Outcome – look into it. Equally, Shared services seen as a means to an end rather than necessarily a dimension on their own. Highlighted need to work on communications! & Information Governance. Started thought process. Will run again.

City of Glasgow College. Difficult to get off the ground but got conversations going. Separate toolkit for FE? EA awareness only with technical staff.

Middlesex. Academic view. Challenged dimensions ie not the ones they thought were relevant eg discarded shared services. Communications! Toolkit – jargon; limitations in spreadsheet; duplication, poor flow of questions. First real attempt at measuring ICT provision. Need to collect data over time – longitudinal.

& then things become rather more garbled than usual as it was my go & I suffered Powerpoint meltdown. My attempt at setting up a timed presentation for my Pecha Kucha (I can’t help thinking of gutta percha…) had resulted in an 0.06 second transition time between slides, which even my fast talking couldn’t keep up with. Attempts to fix it while continuing the presentation failed miserably, so I had to take time out – hence my recollection of other Pecha Kuchas is limited as I was labouring over a hot laptop, thanks for the loan, Lesley Huxley.

Clearly my new ‘zero or one’ strategy for slides is right for me – should never have gone for gutta percha.

So all I can say of the rest is: Coventry – Academic leaning, challenged the premises. Loughborough – scored Strategic! & devised their own simplified version. Bolton used it to support bringing in a Governance structure. & if I’ve missed you out completely whilst I was floundering around, apologies…

Next session: breakout to brainstorm around our projects. Lot of interesting stuff – particularly discussion around whether or not Shared Services should be a dimension, & the tension between generic/persistent dimensions – leadership, communications – & dimensions that may be time-limited eg if you did the exercise 5 years ago, or 5 years in the future, would EA & Shared Services appear? Emphasised the importance of focusing on the objective not the means ie an institution wants effective/efficient services; Shared Services may present a way of achieving these; an institution needs to understand the relationships between it’s people, processes & systems; EA is a way of articulating this. If you don’t go with Shared Services or EA it doesn’t mean you don’t need efficient/effective services or to understand relationships.

Also interesting discussion about how projects get prioritised/get senior managemnt backing, & where innovation fits into this. General rule:

Followed by a video conference session with Alex Hawker talking about the new Strategic Information Practice Group initiative, which will take on & progress the work of the EAPG and SICT, & the JISC call 11/11 for Transformation projects which will engage with these & other JISC-supported tools to deliver organisational change – very useful.

& lastly that I’m going to comment on, Lesley Huxley from the LFHE gave a rundown of how they might incorporate the SICT in their work, & led a very useful discussion around how it could be used in management development. One very straightforward idea: Senior management teams should be knowledgeable about the capability of ICT & what it can do for their business. They really should. Seriously. They should all be type 42s. They bang on all the time about the need to work smarter not harder, to be online, to engage with the digital natives – so plainly at the capability level they need to know about this stuff. So use the ICT Toolkit to find out if they do…

Also interesting discussion about how projects get prioritised/get senior managemnt backing, & where innovation fits into this. General rule: cheaper & better; can also go with better & the same; cheaper & the same; & sometimes even cheaper & worse, if a service is necessary but only needs to work rather than add value. Then raises the question: what about innovation? New things that by definition can’t be cheaper or better because they don’t exist. Suggested that innovation could be another SICT dimension.

Final comments:

– there was a lot of discussion around whether EA & Shared Services were really important strategic dimensions. I think the problem’s with the language. Using these terms can ghettoise them – they become magical technical things that can be put over there with the magical technical people – if you talk about services, which might be shared, or understanding relationships, which can be done with EA, you’re in a different ball game with a chance of winning.
– there still seems to be a lot of obfuscation around EA. EA is like Project Management – it’s just organised common sense. It’s not that complicated; it’s not as complicated as the experts make it seem; bring on the animation!
– Hell yes, JFDI

#EUNIS2011 – 16th June – Corporate IT

Build Once, Use Many – Federico Gallerani, Cineca. Many drivers for new services, increasing expectations, reduced funding – the normal condition. Also need for portals as ‘single personalised point of access to relevant information, processes and people’. But…portal has moved from IT integration to service mashup. Need to take existing services and make new services. Use it or lose it. Actually have the building blocks – needs an architect to put it together. Data + apps + integration + portal = new service. Composite services based on existing assets. This is really well articulated stuff! Description of range of services developed through this approach. Web services based integration layer – good architecture, IDM, local apps & services, local DB & legacy services, on-line services. All services – NOT systems – with the portal laid on top. So: share the vision of the portal as a service access point – NOT a website, a service container; move to OS integration (used Oracle SOA but need cheaper option); integrate with online services; imagine new services. Excellent, thank you Federico! 

IT Governance & Security – Ricardo Borillo/Universitat Jaume 1. Systems plan – to ensure alignment with strategic objectives, ease decision making, define methods & tools, with goal of automating processes. Is this about overall strategic management system & scoreboard or IT or am I missing something here? Using ISO & EFQM – woah, hold your horses! Applying the Excellence Model to IT services perhaps? Define University processes & then define technology framework. To order, direct & align product development & technology services; satisfy business process needs; align with strategic objectives. Got it – IT Governance. So then: reference models, best practise. Starting with ISO27001 for availability, privacy & integrity; IT: no data replication; powered by internal development (?); cloud services; agile methods. But is there a tension between internal development & cloud services? Information Security Management System as set of procedures, regulations & policies. Key words: acquisition; performance; responsibility; strategic. People focus: developing systems designed by persons to be used by persons, says it all really. ISO 38500: good IT corporate governance must include human behaviour – reference IT Governance/Weill & Ross – promoting desirable behaviour in the use of IT, or something like that. Another good presentation – so it was worth getting up this morning.

Counting the Cost of IT Downtime – Peter Tinson/UCISA To produce formulae to calculate the business cost of IT downtime for given scenarios. Interesting result: main causes of systems loss = power failure, or systems/programming failure. Well, that rings a bell eg someone not fully testing a patch…breaking the student records system by applying to live not test…this is madness, never heard of such a thing …must surely be possible to stop history repeating itself, although history suggests not.

Definitely the best set of parallels on the programme – that I’ve attended anyway. 

JISC Enterprise Architecture Practice Group Workshop 5 – 5/6 April 2011 #jiscfsd

The Orangery, Goldney Hall, University of Bristol – slightly different setting to the last one in Liverpool, lawns and ponds and shrubs and towers and stuff.

‘Reality Bites – EA and the Mainstream’ is the theme for the day. Great turnout, so hoping to get bitten.

Tim Phillips – Director of IT Services, Bristol. Looking at all support processes for efficiency gains. Reduce admin workload of academics. Standardisation. Customer service – focus of IT services provision. Introduced concept of process owner. Professionalisation. All needs to be supported by right systems. All systems developments to be based on EA.

Governance structure – main focus looking at business processes; very good at reviewing, maybe not so good at prioritisation. Well, that is the hard part!

How to have the conversation – know your audience.

Next – David Rose, where are we now as a practice group? My version of the words, but – prior to EAPG we were like a competitive bunch of argumentative magpies, now we are a skein of geese collaboratively coordinating flight across blue skies – thank you David!

So then my bit on governance & maturity models, seemed to get the discussion going – topped off with something from the guvnor (Samuel Beckett): ‘Ever tried, ever failed, no matter. Try again, fail again, fail better’ (Worstward Ho, 1983) – serious point being that you can’t get this right, so don’t agonise, doing it as well as you can is better than not doing it all. Followed by a quick run through on our Weill & Ross based governance structure.

Patrick O’Reilly/Bolton – interesting analysis based on Weill & Ross about where decisions get made. Have new committee in place – but doesn’t get rid of the bunfights! Politics, personalities & positioning always have a place – as does alliteration, of course. Governance group that wants to micro manage – wanting to know details of projects, sounds familiar. Can be easier to get embedded in the detail than focus on strategic decision-making.

Luke Taylor – Bristol. Again identified prioritisation as a problem – certainly something I’m struggling with at the moment in sorting out our revised project portfolio. Governance process: big systems projects; small, simple initiatives – things that don’t need heavyweight project management but still need resources/prioritisation (sounds a bit like our Developments Without Architecture process).

Next session: my Governance challenge. Paul Allatt/Imperial: EA internal to ICT – how do we engage with higher management? Nathalie Czechowski/Coventry: lots of governing boards, now board of boards, too complex/political, what kind of structure should I recommend? Kenton Wheeler/Southampton Solent: established systems governance, how to move to services governance? Can be a challenge determining the right level of granularity at which to define services – damn right! Cherry pick ITIL for useful techniques.

What is needed, imho, is for HEIs to see themselves as service organisations – which is not always/necessarily the case, & quite possibly shouldn’t be the case in respect of all aspects, although actually you should be able to describe anything as a service to someone, so already I disagree with myself. Point is, if the organisation doesn’t see itself as delivering services, why would it want services governance?

John King/Roehampton – Just Enough EA/Just Enough TOGAF. A difficult one – what to publish/what format/what objective/what audience? General view – a good thing; better than reading the TOGAF manual!; needs more warts’n’all. To me, might be better to build it up from blog posts – but then, not everyone likes blogging…

Ceri Davies – ning looks like a good idea. EAPG certainly needs a community site if it’s going to continue effectively.

Which – following the presentation of certificates to attendees who had completed the EA Foundation Programme – was the final session of the day; with all the imminent changes in funding/at JISC, whither now for the EAPG? All agreed that it was a successful community that should continue, but work will be needed to find a home. To be continued.

UCISA Management Conference 2011 – Day 2 Part 2

The New Age CIO – Martyn Harris, Cardiff; Steve Williams, Newcastle.

Chaos. Unprecedented rate of change. Trust. Empowerment. Relationship management. Enablement. Vision. Objectives. Leadership. Just enough Governance. Speak the language of the business. IT is the business. Make the right technology choices & deliver. Manage performance. Focus on the benefits. Technology changes rapidly. Technology is part of the solution. Be the change. Paradigm shifts! Dog bites man.

Maturity Models, Toolkits etc

Introduced our Information Management Steering Group to the JISC/LFHE Strategic ICT Toolkit http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/gradschool/sict/ today, & it went very well. Essentially, it’s another maturity model, tuned to HE & focusing on management awareness of the issues involved in the effective & efficient deployment of ICTs to support the achievement of strategic objectives. The idea is that you deploy self-analysis spreadsheets for individual managers to assess how the institution is doing across a range of strategically significant parameters, then aggregate the results to get an institution-wide score on where you sit between operational, strategic & transformational, & obtain valuable information on areas of strength & weakness to inform future activity. We’re funded to field test the toolkit & feedback on its usefulness or otherwise.

Interesting (cynical?) comment (not mine): this is JISC trying to get institutional managers to buy-in to their definition of what’s important to support future JISC initiatives. & yes, it’s true that if you don’t think the toolkit is measuring the right things or covering what’s important, then the results would be irrelevant. However I think it would be hard to argue that the areas covered aren’t the right ones: Strategic Leadership; ICT Services; Governance; Communications & Engagement; Enterprise Architecture; Shared Services. All the things that need to be in place to support the efficient, effective and flexible service delivery we need to thrive in the world we find ourselves in. But then I would say that – I was on the Advisory Board for the toolkit development project.

The Toolkit also has an individual level ‘savvy’ toolkit, to allow you to assess how mature you are as an individual in understanding the key areas that impact on the strategic use of ICTs, & even how much you use the stuff yourself…just a bit of fun, perhaps…

As maturity models go I think it’s got some mileage, not least in using it with your senior people to get them thinking about the right sort of stuff, in a kind of alternative, backdoor way that doesn’t involve lots of white papers, workshops & presentations.

Also well worth looking at the model developed by the University of Madison-Wisconsin, see https://wiki.doit.wisc.edu/confluence/display/ARCH/Strategic+Planning+Maturity+Model
– all good stuff.

EA, Service Design & Performance – getting busy

First blog of the New Year, & catalysed by an excellent Ovum OpinionWire report ‘Break up the IT organisation at your peril’ by Tim Jennings.

Starts with some findings from the Accenture 2010 Global IT Performance research – interesting stuff, as reported by Ovum top performers were focused on:  ‘advanced virtualisation & dynamic provisioning of infrastructure…adoption of a well-defined service catalogue…architecture and measurement…’  they have: ‘a well-defined architecture and apply it to all initiatives…a more formal process for planning and measuring their IT-enabled business investements…develop a business case for all IT investments… measure and report on whether the benefits are realised…’

All good stuff, can just look like common sense, but then common sense isn’t necessarily that common. This is also just the kind of analysis that is useful when you’re trying to make the case for EA, service approaches, benefits management etc.   ‘Ovum believes strong IT governance and enterprise architecture initiatives are crucial for both cost efficiency and value creation’ – music to my ears…

Interestingly, also a brief comment on ‘developments without architecture’, which is something close to my heart at the moment as I’ve just completed the first draft of a service approach to dealing with such eventualities.   ‘From a design standpoint, it is preferable to review all initiatives against the target architecture, even if a variation is granted for business reasons’ – couldn’t have put it better myself.

So a good summary of things to keep the focus on in the coming year, & a helpful validation of some of the stuff we’re doing: continuing to build on EA work; redesigning ourselves as a service organisation with standards and perfromance measures; working out how to merge EA & ITIL (& designing a service to cater for developments without architecture is a good first); refining the Governance structure; and getting going on our JISC/LFHE Strategic ICT Toolkit project. & that’s just for starters…

So things seem to be coming together quite nicely at the moment – but it often seems that way at this time of year, just have to hope it lasts…& remember, you don’t need systems, you need services – be careful out there…