Engaging enterprise architects

Business people in office

There are a number of key motivations behind the articles which I have written over the last 18 months, which may help in appreciating the manner in which I have approached the task of communicating the essence and value of architecting enterprises. These drivers include:

  • contributing to economic, social and environmental development
  • engaging Boards, Directors, Executives and Managers
  • exploring architecture as a preventive rather than corrective measure
  • continuing my commitment to using plain business language
  • linking with other well-established and sustained resources
  • extending systems engineering to enterprise systems engineering

Economic, social and environmental development

I am convinced that architecting enterprises leads to higher accomplishing enterprises, whether the enterprises are pursued within, by or across multiple public, private or community sector organisations. Mature, sustained architecting capabilities enable enterprises to more effectively achieve their intended outcomes, whatever combination of financial, economic, social and environmental dividends they realise. To that extent, improving enterprise performance is a means of making an effective contribution to the future economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the community, state, nation and world in which I live.

Living in South Australia, an economy that has a higher proportion of small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) than most other states in Australia, prompts me to explore ways in which architecting can be applied practically and deliver value to these organisations. In considering Directors as one part of my audience, I am conscious that one third of the 40,000+ members of the Australian Institute of Company Directors lead, direct and manage SMEs, reinforcing the significance of the SME constituency.

When considering Australian commercial businesses, statistics indicate the following profile:

  • 1-19 employees – 755,000
  • 20-199 employees – 78,000
  • 200+ employees – 5,000

Architecting offers the prospect of enhancing the performance of all of these organisations, well beyond the current profile which predominantly entails the 5,000 commercial businesses with more than 200 employees, plus other large organisations in the public and community sectors.

This orientation and motivation has prompted me to write articles which enable any leader to bring architectural thinking to bear in the enterprises in which they are engaged.

Directors, executives and leaders

Executives and leaders have always been the architects of enterprises. This does not change with the introduction of a more disciplined approach to architecting. Architecting of enterprises will always be done by executives and leaders. If done by others, this can compromise the efforts and value provided by these individuals, as executives and managers will inevitably change the architecture developed on their behalf by others. Even where advice is sought or tasks are delegated to others, it is critical to the sustainment of the enterprise and the integrity of its architecture, that executives and leaders understand the manner in which the architecture is expressed and maintained.

With the increasing degree of disruption to business and operating models, Boards are giving increasing attention to the intended business and operating models for their enterprise. This requires that the language used in expressing the architecture of the enterprise is based on natural business and governance language. The ability of executives and leaders to present meaningful architectural outputs and decisioning, and to demonstrate a mature architectural capability within their enterprise will offer significant confidence and assurance to Directors.

To that end, I have explicitly chosen to convey the approach to architecting enterprises in a manner that will be readily and easily understood by directors, executives and leaders. I have also chosen to demonstrate how the architecting capability speaks to corporate governance by attending to the integration of business and operating models with a sound, well recognised governance model.

Prevention rather than cure

Architecting has a number of different objectives, and one of these is to enable stakeholders to more easily deal with complexity. I recall early in my involvement in discussions on LinkedIn in The Enterprise Architecture Network (around 2012), there were views expressed that enterprise architecture just made enterprises more complex. This typically arose in discussions relating to the need to document the current architecture, where extensive effort could lead to high costs with limited value derived from these activities.

It occurred to me that:

  • architecting enterprises was most typically undertaken in large corporate and government organisations, with few smaller organisations making use of this capability
  • architecting capabilities were often directed towards dealing with organisational silos and to achieving greater organisational integration and wholeness
  • large enterprises arise from smaller enterprises that are less complex (or so I assumed)
  • embedding architecting capabilities in smaller enterprises might prove easier to effect and might aid in preventing the emergence of organisational silos

In this manner, I formed a simple view of disciplined attention to architecture being a treatment for various organisational ailments, which might be more readily addressed by taking a preventive approach. At this time, I also read Ichak Adizes “Managing Corporate Lifecycles”. Adizes looks at enterprises through the lens of their growth, pre-conception through childhood, teenager years, early adult life, maturity and through to death. Adizes also speaks of:

  • growth and change causing disintegration and requiring re-integration of our enterprises
  • an optimal path entailing earlier, balanced attention to integration

Viewing architecting as a tool for integration, this further encouraged me to consider the architecting of smaller enterprises (which I have explored in a number of other articles).

Plain business language

The nature of architecting systems is that it entails recognition and exploitation of common principles and patterns. That can lead to the creation and use of terms which seek to be neutral across multiple contexts and agnostic to the structures established in enterprises.

As examples:

  • the term organisation may be used as a more general term rather than business, corporation, government agency, or community body
  • the term enterprise may be used to accommodate the pursuit of an endeavour by part of an organisation, an entire organisation, or multiple organisations

However, it can also lead to terms which are foreign and unfamiliar to stakeholders.  “Segment” is one such concept which comes to mind.  Whilst it makes sense, it is not a term which is commonly used in normal business and executive conversation.

I have a preference to find and use terms that stakeholders already use and understand, and to avoid “special” language which can become exclusionary. This highlights a key aspect of my thinking and practice – taking an inclusive approach.

This is part of the reason that I commenced focusing on business models and operating models, now becoming more widely referenced by Boards, Executives and Management Consultants through research and tools such as:

  • Business model canvas
  • Value proposition canvas
  • Operating model canvas

Linking to other resources

When I first encountered Bruce McNaughton, I found that he was always trying to relate different frameworks to those well established frameworks that his clients use and/or are familiar with. Where this was possible, he would prefer to use the language in these frameworks and link his approach to architecting enterprises to these frameworks.

This makes great sense to me. It means that these elements will be developed and maintained by the appropriate bodies and will be familiar to many of my clients. Examples include:

  • ISO 9001 quality management
  • ISO 31000 risk management
  • Recognised project management and program management frameworks

Linking to these resources narrows the scope of architecture frameworks and the effort to sustain them, as well as making the architecture framework more readily understood by key stakeholders.

Applying enterprise systems engineering

A more recent driver has been to explore and apply concepts which have been outlined in the field of enterprise systems engineering.

I was introduced to this field through “Beyond Alignment: Applying Systems Thinking in Architecting Enterprises” ed. John Gotze. This has since led me to INCOSE – the International Council of Systems Engineering – an international organisation advancing the discipline and profession of systems engineering, including enterprise systems engineering and socio-technical systems engineering. This provides a strong base for advancing enterprise architecture in its broadest context, being a natural part of enterprise engineering.

Early engagement with INCOSE through its International Symposium 2017 being held in Adelaide has afforded me the opportunity to explore the extent to which my articulation and practice of enterprise architecture aligns with the lines of thinking being advanced through this body. As I learn more, I expect this may result in further refinement of the language that I use in these articles and in engaging with directors, executives and leaders in architecting enterprises.

Important elements in the capability development lifecycle include:

  • stakeholder engagement in problem definition and redefinition
  • refining and building shared understanding of conceptual models

In this regard, it is important to “start simple” such that the learning journey is shared by all stakeholders.  Those facilitating the process must bear in mind that they hold a much more sophisticated model and understanding of the lifecycle processes which stakeholders will progressively learn by sharing the journey.

Summary

These different factors have remained as part of the context and motivation for the series of articles that I have developed, including the most recent one on the approach that I take to architecting.

It is aimed at providing a clear and simple approach (as outlined in my first article entitled “Enterprise architecture – plain and simple“) to architecting such that directors and leaders can apply the thinking tools that architecting offers to their ongoing role as architects of enterprises and assurers of the architecture of enterprises.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s