How EA can assist in the global economical crisis?

Economist and financial analyst says the current economical condition is the worst since great depression. The crisis exist in all fronts. The magnitude of global issues are very high. The financial & economical growth are not bright in near future. Companies are looking for cost optimization and eliminating discretionary spending in all areas.

Enterprise architects can play a signficant role in any organization to optimize the current spend and provide facts based data to eliminate the discretionary spending. Enterprise architects are the best qualified and well suited person to perform this role since they understand holistic view of organization from financial, organization, application, business, information and infrastructure perspective.

Potential cost optimization areas where enterprise architects can assist an organization

  • Contract negogiation with existing providers (software, hardware, maintenace and enhancement, right sourcing, contractor, professional services)
  • Application portfolio assessment – Sundown or eliminate applications in the landscape does not add signficant value to core business processes
  • Technology simplification – Eliminate and reduce the technologies in the landscape
  • Sourcing strategy – Bundle the applciation for cost effective service offering
  • Reduce technological complexity – Migrate the enterprise software (like IBM websphere or BEA weblogic, IBM DB2, Oracle, Portal server and etc)usage to open source software
  • Maximize  Web 2.0 technology for corporate colloboration- (Use Wiki, Blogs, youtube and etc)
  • Assist business teams in optimizing the business processes – reduce steps in return reduce head counts
  • Explore to migrate current licensing models to the term based licenses to improve the cash flow of organization

Maturity Assessment – A General Approach

Maturity assessment in an organization is part of current state analysis. In strategy formation or in the enterprise architecture projects, understanding the current state is one of the major milestone. The maturity assessment includes project management, project portfolio management, application portfolio management , process management, IT financial control management, IT investment management, risk management, etc. The maturity level can be determined based on the answers on the following questions. It is more general (abstract) model and it can be applied almost any functional area except the people management.

  • Is there a process exist today in an organization?
  • Is the process documented?
  • Is the process communicated to the organization? (people are aware of the existence of the process)
  • Is the process consistently followed?
  • Is the process institutionalist ?
  • Is the process managed?
  • Is the process optimized?

For any maturity assessment, the level of maturity can be determined by depth of the “yes” answer in the list. If none of the above question has a yes answer, then the maturity of that area is in level 0.

Let us take a project management maturity assessment in an organization. Project management’s key objective is to manage cost, quality and time. It is triple constraint in the project management. There are frameworks available from PMBOK to perform the project management in an organization. PMBOK framework suggests that there are nine knowledge area and five process groups.

Five process groups

  1. Initiation
  2. Plan
  3. Execution
  4. Control and Monitor
  5. Closure

Nine knowledge areas

  1. Integration Management
  2. Time Management
  3. Scope Management
  4. Cost Management
  5. Risk Management
  6. Quality Management
  7. Human Resource Management
  8. Communication Management
  9. Procurement Management

Take each member of the process group and ask the above questions. For instance let us take initiation process. During this phase, for any projects, the organization must make sure there is a business case. cost benefit analysis, benefit realization plan etc. Identify the major steps in the initiation phase and ask the above questions. Collate the answers to determine the maturity level in the initiation process. Repeat the steps for all members of process groups. Collate all the answers from all the process groups and will determine the project management maturity level in the organization.

The above model can be applied to portfolio management assessment, IT financial management assessment, IT investment management and etc..

Application Portfolio Assessment – Key metrics and its measurement technique

Quality attributes of a system are few key metrics used to perform the application portfolio assessment. Quality attributes like maturity, adaptability, flexibility, availability, stability are quite a few frequently used metrics in the application portfolio assessment. All of them are subjective metrics and can not be measured directly. All of these metrics are measured through various other observed parameters. Among the listed quality attributes maturity and stability are predominately used in the assessment.

Let me propose how the maturity and stability of the systems can be measured in the landscape to perform the assessment. The purpose of the application portfolio assessment is to rank the system in various categories (same as the Boston consulting methodology). In simpler words, the list of applications which are cash cows to the company, list of applications which are dogs, list of applications which are stars and “?” question mark.

The idea is, as an enterprise architect and IT strategist, you want to make sure all the cash cow applications are stable, matured and in general, has very low risk. Measuring the stability and maturity are very subjective and often it is difficult to present the realistic picture in the exercise.

Stability represents the availability of the system. If a system is stable means that it is running in a solid platform provides a better high availability. The availability of the system can be measured by collecting the number of outages occurred, number of preventive measures (emergency change controls), number of special care taken (like special jobs, running jobs manually which are planned to run as per the schedule), number of upgrades and technology architecture. All these factors come together to derive the probability of the system failure in a given time. The probability translates to the stability of the system. If the probability of failure is negligible, then the system is very stable and if the probability of failure is very high and then the system is very unstable.

Maturity represents the obsolescences of the system. Technology and functional obsolescences are two parameters represents how much of the functionality of the systems are continued to be used by the end users, and how technology obsolescences presents the number of legacy technologies being used in the system. If the technologies used in the systems are kept up to date and fully supported by the software providers, then the technology obsolescence is considered very low. The functional obsolescence can be calculated by counting the number of functional points in the system and total number of functional points that are being used. More the number of functional points not being used by the end user the more the functional obsolescence is. More functional obsolescence is less the system maturity is.

Stability and maturity of the system can be used by the above proposed approach.

When and how to use BPMS?

Business Process Management Suite (BPMS) is a set of tools truly enables the following key strategic objectives

  • Business – IT alignment
  • Time to market (Agile software development)
  • Adaptability
  • Process Efficiency – Foundation for Six Sigma
  • and lot more

If BPMS is in the technology road map and the organization is following the road map to move towards the vision, BPMS must be articulated to the executive management teams both in IT and business. The executive management teams may ask high level questions to understand how the BPMS fit in the organization landscape and how it will assist the organization to move towards the vision. When you deal with executive management team before you make them understand some concepts, ensure you erase the misconception they might already have. What BPMS can not do?

BPMS is going to replace all ERP like SAP, PeopleSoft?

BPMS will not replace the existing ERPs, portfolio systems. BPMS will stay top of it and orchestrate any new system development involving all key enterprise systems like ERP, portfolio

BPMS can be used for technology migration projects? Example, From database version 1 to version 2?

BPMS purpose is not to use technology migration project. First of all, BPMS can not add any value in the technology migration projects.

Few frequently asked question by the executive management team related to BPMS direction are listed below.

When to use it?

Use for a new system development if – the business processes changes frequently and they are core business processes, services provided by the new system can be used across different products, the requirements of the systems are relatively vague and would change frequently, involves multiple teams to complete the life cycle of the system function.

How to use it?

From get go, approach the BPMS will be used by both business and IT teams. Get the business teams involved from the beginning, engage them in the initial market research, selection & evaluation and financial commitments in procuring, establishing the foundation like infrastructure, competency centers. Bottom line, it should not be perceived as IT tool. It is a tool used by both business and IT team. How to use it? Capture all the business process flow, analyze the business processes, implement and manage it. All done in the same tool.

How the teams from IT and business work together? (particularly how the IT architects and business process designer work together)

The tool, methodology and approach brings both the IT and business teams (IT – Business alignment, partnership) together by design. The business team will be using the tool to document the business processes (for any project requirement), business analyst/consultants from both IT & business will analyze the business requirements using the tool (like simulation, identification of bottle necks etc), IT architects will build the connectors (to the ERP, Portfolio, enterprise database ware house), IT architects/consultants will auto build (code generation) the application using the tool, business analyst will using the same tool to perform business activity monitoring (let us say, the requirement is to build the credit decision engine and BAM will used to monitor the approval rate by state, product, type of loans etc)

What are the core competencies the IT organization must have to move in this direction?

Business consulting to business, innovation, business process management, business process modeling, business architecture, enterprise architecture, strategy, IT finance management, SLA management, vendor management, etc

How the development partners (like out sourcing partners) play a role in this setup?

Like any software system, the quality of the software systems are not guaranteed until verified/tested. Out sourcing partners can a play major role in verification (testing) of the newly build software system. They can play a role in building the connectors in BPMS. They can play a major role in maintaining the enterprise systems like SAP, PeopleSoft, CRM, etc They can play a role in assisting in capturing the business processes in the tool (the percentage should be very low in this category)

General mentoring advise..

I was asked by many mantes that how they can get a promotion in the organization. Well, it is a difficult question to answer. For anyone in an organization with any responsibility to move to the next level is contextual. In most of the organization, the organization structure is hierarchical, that is a pyramid, and higher you climb the pyramid, the lesser the growth opportunity. The top most of the pyramid is a point which is a person like CEO, CIO based on the organization you are in.

How to go to next level?

In an organization, generally, no body is going to tap your shoulder and ask you to move on in your career step. There are lots of opportunity exist in an organization and it is up to an individual to learn and grow in an organization. It is generally true. Luck is also a factor and persistent hard work creates luck.

Key principle to keep in mind before anyone consider to go to next level.

  • Be great in what you are currently doing (master the subject and be evangelist in that subject)
  • Let everyone know that you are really great in what you are doing. Do it shamelessly.

If you follow the above two principle and you consistently do it over a period of time (time depends on your position and organization) AND you need to ask this question to yourself. Are you ready for the next level? You need to honestly answer this question to yourself. Do NOT answer yes because of power, money, prestige etc. Honestly and truthfully answer to yourself. If the answer is yes because you think you are qualified to the next level then start build the network through mentoring. Perform mental shadowing. Observe the members in the organization who is in your to be level and analyze how they are performing their daily operation, how they deal their situation in a daily manner and position yourself in their shoes. How they did certain things, how they answered few questions asked in the town hall, deparment meeting, staff meeting etc and position yourself how you would have done it if you were in their position. Perform a variance analysis. The key is to select the top successful person in your next to be level. A role model.

If you keep doing this, I’m confident you will get where you want to be.

Different types of architects

Architect defines the architecture. Broadly the architects are divided into the technical and business architects. The business architect are focused on the economical change of the market and devise  a set of  business process  for enterprise or systems adaption and to attain enterprise or system’s mission and vision.  The technical architects are  focused on implementation of the business architecture defined to meet enterprise’s or system’s mission and vision.

The technical architects are broadly divided into

    System/Product architect
    Domain Architect
    Solution Architect
    Applied Architect
    Enterprise architect

Based on the architect characteristics, the types of technical architects shall be divided into the generalist and specialist. The specialist focus on one specific area and the knowledge acquired and possessed by the architect is deep. Where as the generalist, knowledge acquired and possessed in a set of areas is broad.
System/product Architect

System/Product architect are the generalist, responsible for the cohesive architecture solution of the system or product. They have equal strength in the both technical and business area. Plays a vital role to bring all the stake holders together and ensure all the stake holders concern’s are captured methodologically, formally documented and validated. Assist the project manager to make the management decision and makes key technical decision for the project/system/product. Brings all the technical architects, development teams, system analyst, and support teams together to ensure the cohesive architecture is defined to meet the stake holders concern and ensures the defined architecture is implemented. The system architecture validation is done by using the user case scenarios. +1 view of the architecture. The architecture verification is done through reviews.

Domain Architect

Domain architects are the specialist, responsible for the architecture solution for that domain. The domain architect is an abstract definition and there are various domain architects. The domain architects specific to the web development projects are

  • Application architect
  • Data architect
  • Information architect
  • Integration architect
  • Security architect
  • IT Process architect
  • Infrastructure architect
    • Network architect
    • Server architect
    • Web run time architect

Solution Architect

Solution architecture team is the set of specialist working together to research and seek solutions for a specific problem.

Applied Architect

Applied architects are match makers. The applied architects have the known set of problems, solution and context. The architectural patterns are applied to the system or product. The architectural patterns includes to the process solution or methodology for the implementation and its style.

Enterprise Architect

Enterprise architect are responsible for defining the holistic architecture solution for the entire enterprise.