March 31, 2008

The Whopper Bar and Enterprise Architecture

First, let me start off and say that I am Kosher and have never had a big Whopper. Nevertheless, Burger King has announced plans for a Whopper Bar that sounds marvelous!

The Wall Street Journal, 29-30 March 2008, reports that “Burger King Holdings Inc. plans to start building a new version of its restaurants this year called the Whopper Bar that will sell a wider variety of its signature hamburger in a hipper setting.”

The menu “could include as many as 10 types of Whoppers…one menu sketch has a section called ‘pimp your Whopper,’ where patrons can chose from additional toppings.” Beer may be on the menu as well, especially in overseas markets where it already sells alcohol.

The Whopper Bar “is akin to McDonald’s Corp.’s creation of McCafe coffee bars, except that it is built around the chains signature sandwich.”

“Workers will place toppings on burgers in front of the customers ‘to put a little more theatre into it.’”

“Early design plans call for the bars to have chrome, wood, and exposed brick and plasma screen televisions with images of fire playing on them to evoke Burger King’s flame-broiled motto.”

The bars are planned “for places like casinos, airports, and other venues with limited space.”

The Whopper Bar tastes right from the start from a User-centric enterprise architecture perspective. Why?

Well traditional fast-food joints tend to be somewhat dirty and unsightly “restaurants” (and I use this term generously here). It is not unusual to find filthy bathrooms and the restaurants being used as shelter, especially in the inner city—how do I know, I’ve stopped to use the restroom on occasion.

From what I’ve seen, even if I was not Kosher, there is very little appeal in eating the food in these establishments. Moreover, the unhealthy stigma of the extremely greasy food is a Whopper of a turn-off.

This is exactly why the Whopper Bar is such a genius idea. It borrows from the success of Starbucks and their magic formula for creating a high scale ambience from a simple cup of joe. It also, elevates the unhealthy food by them making it in front of you—taking away the stigma of what goes on “in the back.” The result is more upscale and not-so-bad for you at least in perception.

The target architecture here is exactly what many customers want. A fast, cheap meal, but in a feel good environment. In fact, my advice to Burger King would be to roll out the Whopper Bar much more broadly, and replace their traditional eatery concept altogether.

In this case perception is everything!


March 30, 2008

Speed is the Name of the Game and Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architecture is a way to manage change and complexity. Enterprise architecture establishes the plan forward and governs the decision-making process, one IT investment at a time, and one business process improvement at a time, toward fulfillment of the target state.

However, change can happen slowly or quickly. The faster the change, assuming is it made with clarity of purpose, intent, and discipline, the better.

In the book, Never Fry Bacon in the Nude, by Stone Payton, the author states that “today’s (and tomorrow’s) market leaders recognize that speed may very well be the most consistent and durable source of competitive advantage.”

Why is speed so important to an organization?

In virtually every industry, the first to market enjoys as much as ten times (10x!) the profit of its nearest competitor…[further,] organizations that meet the most needs for the most people [measured in time] with an increasing ‘economy of motion’ dominate their respective markets.”

Speed is a cure for what ails an organization:

Like a powerful antibiotic, speed travels through the corporate bloodstream neutralizing the debilitating diseases of procrastination, apathy, confusion, malicious compliance, blame, and victim thinking.”

Stagnation is death for an organization or a person. The world is moving ahead and if we are not moving with it or better yet, ahead of it, we will fall behind (like the sick and feeble) and eventually die—as the theory of evolution and law of survival of the fittest prescribe.

Like the law of inertia, “objects [or organizations or people] at rest tend to stay at rest; objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Make no mistake about it—speed breeds speed, and the fast get faster.”

In enterprise architecture, we develop mechanisms to govern information technology. These mechanisms include architecture reviews of proposed new projects, products, and standards. The findings from these reviews get fed to the IT investment review board, who decides whether a project will be funded and how much. These governance mechanisms could be seen as detrimental to the organization’s ability to achieve change quickly.

Therefore, it is important that governance not be employed in the organization arbitrarily and that it not impose undue burden or slow the pace of innovation and transformation. Instead, IT governance should be applied so as to ensure clarity of purpose so that “good decisions are implemented with speed [to] produce good results.”

How does an organization move with alacrity?

  1. Structure—developing defined, repeatable, measureable processes with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, and standards for performance.
  2. Personal Accountability—“taking and expecting personal responsibility for corporate results.” And accepting failure to promote success—“many of today’s top performers have a surprisingly mediocre track record, with far more losses than wins to their credit.”
  3. Empathize—“when contemplating a new idea, they seek out potential resistors. Not to change their mind (not yet anyway), but to learn their mind.” Hearing and embracing opposing points of view actually can produce better decisions.
  4. Education—“fast, agile companies are Learning Organizations. They are relentless in collecting information, but more important—they organize and re-distribute knowledge more effectively than their slower, less nimble competitors.”
  5. Direction—“perhaps one of the most common characteristics among top performers—in every arena—is clarity of purpose.”

These disciplines for moving with speed tie directly to the goal of User-centric Enterprise Architecture, which is to provide useful and usable information products and governance services to the end-users to improve decision-making. EA provides structure through the architecture framework. It demands personal accountability through establishing the role of EA product ownership and the governance boards and setting up performance measures and criteria for selecting, controlling, and evaluating proposed new IT investments. User-centric EA empathizes with people through the human capital perspective of the architecture and through vetting enterprise information. EA provides a robust information asset base for the organization to make information easy to understand and readily available. And finally, EA sets direction for the organization by providing a clear roadmap, including a target architecture and transition plan.

What’s the biggest obstacle to speedy organizational change?

Probably the biggest speed trap for an organization or a person is fear of failure. But “even the simplest task, seemingly performed to perfection, is actually comprised of countless failures and one final correction.”

We cannot be afraid to change or to fail. We must be brave and steadfast in demanding ever-higher levels of excellence of ourselves and our organizations.

“If you want something to be scared of, then be deathly afraid of what will happen if you don’t capture the learning, make the corrections (and the connections), and go forward.”


March 28, 2008

Lean Six Sigma and Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architecture is one way for an organization to drive business process improvement and technology enablement. Another way is through Lean Six Sigma.

Federal Computer Week, 3 March 2008, reports that “DoD rallies around Lean Six Sigma: The methodology has become the Defense Department’s ‘tool of choice’ for business transformation.”

“Lean Six Sigma is simply a process-improvement method for reducing variability and eliminating waste.” With Six Sigma (developed by Motorola), the idea is to make processes efficient and repeatable, so that there are fewer than 3.4 defects per 1 million. The Lean (developed by Toyota) concept refers to “eliminating any steps that don’t add value.”

In Lean Six Sigma, process improvement is enabled through the following steps:

  1. Define—identify problem and measures
  2. Measure—capture data points
  3. Analyze—discover areas for process improvement
  4. Improve—implement process changes
  5. Control—verify and validate that improvement is attained and sustained

In 2000, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England made Lean Six Sigma the foundation for DoD’s continuous process improvement program.

Currently, “about two-thirds of DoD organizations by some estimates are committed to Lean Six Sigma.”

DoD is training their people in Lean Six Sigma and intends to have 5% of its employees attain Green Belt (involves typically a week of training) and 1% reach Black Belt (typically involves approximately two years of training in math and statistics and several years experience working on projects as Green Belts).

However, DoD has been criticized by some for focusing more on the training, than on translating that training into practical on the job know-how to transform the Department.

Yet, by some measures DoD has made improvement. The Army claims to have “completed 770 Lean Six Sigma projects, from which it estimated savings of $1.2 billion in 2007.”

To me it seems like enterprise architects would do well to work in partnership with Lean Six Sigma professionals in order to understand the business processes, improve them, and identify requirements to technology enable those. In User-centric Enterprise Architecture, business drives technology rather than doing technology for technology’s sake. Lean Six Sigma can help business led the way for truly useable and usable technology solutions.


Spy Phones and Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architecture is running into many situations these days with new and exciting technologies that raise the hairs on the back of your neck in terms of privacy and security concerns.

One such technology is phones that provide GPS tracking on YOUR location to others and vice versa.

The Wall Street Journal, 28 March 2008, reports “would you want other people to know, all day long, exactly where you are, right down to the street corner or restaurant? Unsettling as that may sound to some, wireless carriers are betting that many of their customers do, and they’re rolling out services to make it possible.”

One example, “Sprint Nextel Corp. has signed up hundreds of thousands of customers for a feature that shows them where their friends are with colored marks on a map viewable of their cellphone screens.

Making this people-tracking possible is that cellphones today come embedded with Global Positioning System technology.” GPS was developed by DoD using a network of earth satellites that “determine an object’s [or person’s] location based on how long it takes for a signal to reach the object from satellites.”

GPS enables not only mapping features like driving instructions, but also “tracking of cellphone users’ whereabouts in real time.”

The drawback with this high potential technology is that the location-tracking may be “abused by stalkers, sexual predators, advertisers, or prosecutors.”

Sam Altman, the CEO of Loopt (the location tracking service that Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless will be using) states: “it’s one of those things, the more you think about it, the more ways you can figure out a creep could abuse it.”

A related issue is “under what circumstances carriers or service providers like Loopt will have to turn over realtime location information in criminal proceedings.” Will this require a simple subpoena or a more stringent order based on probable cause?

Sprint is concerned enough about the security and privacy issues that it requires customers sign a disclaimer that states that “Sprint is not responsible for the Loopt service” and customers disclose their location “at your own risk.” Similarly, Loopt has “several pages of disclaimers and privacy notices.”

“The Federal Communications Commission back in 2002 considered issuing regulations for commercial location services, but decided it was too early to delve into the issue. The agency says it hasn’t any plans to restart those proceedings.”

While vendors are building in a number of protections, such as limiting the users who can view your whereabouts or features that allow users to give false locations, there continue to be concerns about potential for misuse and abuse.

The result is that with promising technologies such as location-tracking and the counterbalancing issues of security and privacy, enterprise architects will continue to be challenged on recommending these as part of an organization’s target architecture and transition plan.


March 27, 2008

Identifying a Phony and Enterprise Architecture

Part of what distinguishes a good enterprise architect from a mediocre one, is the ability to discern fact from fiction and the important from the mundane when it comes to the state of the enterprise. Having the skill to do this is critical to being able to establish viable targets and transition plans. A mediocre architect may collect information, but can’t spot the true nature of the enterprise, what is right and wrong with it and how it needs to course correct. The truly talented architect can make those distinctions.

Recently in the news there was an item about a doctored photo of a Tibetan antelope running harmoniously alongside the controversial high-speed train developed by China in the animals’ Himalayan habitat. When first released, this photo was accepted as genuine and only upon analysis was it discovered as a fake.

Just like with the photo of the Tibetan antelope, as enterprise architects, we must a look with circumspection and fine tuned analyses at the information presented, so that we can come to valid conclusions and not just accept everything at face value.

MIT Technology Review, 17 March 2008, reports that “new tools that analyze lighting in images help spot tampering.”

One MIT researcher states: “lighting is hard to fake…even frauds that look good to the naked eye are likely to contain inconsistencies that can be picked up by software.”

Similarly, in enterprise architecture, we need to proverbially shed light on the information we capture in the architecture to discern its meaning to the organization—are there really gaps or in our capabilities or does some executive just want to have the latest technology gadget to showcase? Are the redundancies identified in the enterprise needed for backup purposes or are they truly superfluous? Is a process efficient or is this just the way things have been done for so long, that no one really knows differently or wants to change? Is an opportunity really advantageous to the organization or is it fool’s gold?

These are tough questions and answered incorrectly, could lead the organizations down the wrong path and result in costly mistakes, such as unsatisfied customers, lost market share, wasted time and effort, and demoralized staff.

The MIT Technology Review article states: “many fraudulent images are created by combining parts of two or more photographs into a single image.”

Similarly, in enterprise architecture, facts are often misinterpreted or distorted by combining pieces of information that do not go together or by omitting information from the puzzle. For example, user needs and technology solutions can be combined as touted as the ideal solution for the enterprise, but in fact the solution is mismatched to the requirement. Or an IT investment may be heralded as the be all and end all, but critical information was not examined such as the security of the product, the vendor support and training available, the true cost including operations and maintenance in the out years and so on. So just as with photographs you can have errors of commission and omission.

Cynthia Baron, associate director of digital media programs at Northeastern University and author of a book on digital forensics states: “it’s amazing to me, some of the things that make their way onto the web that people believe are real. Many of the things that software can point out [as fraudulent], you can see with the naked eye, but you don’t notice it.”

This is the same with the information that enterprise architects analyze—so much of it is can be misinterpreted—but with a little more attention and a skilled architect, you can find the true meaning behind the data.

In the end a good enterprise architect can be worth their weight in gold to the organization.


March 26, 2008

The Enterprise is Unwieldy and Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architecture develops the architecture for the enterprise, right? You’d think that’s a no-brainer. Except what happens when the enterprise is so large and complex that it defies the efforts to architect it?

Federal Computer Week (FCW), 24 March 2008 reports that Dennis Wisnosky, the chief architect and chief technical officer for DoD’s Business Mission Areas states that “the Department [of Defense (DoD)] is too large an organization to attempt to encompass all of its activities in a single enterprise architecture.”

Similarly, FCW, 26 November 2007, reported that “the size of the Navy Department and the diversity of its missions make it impossible to describe the service in a single integrated architecture.”

Dennis Wisnosky goes on to say that “DoD must achieve business transformation by breaking off manageable components of an enterprise architecture rather than trying to cover everything at once…[this is how we will achieve] the goal of an enterprise architecture [which] is to guide future acquisition and implementation.”

Richard Burk, former chief architect of the Federal EA (FEA) at OMB states: “there is no practical way to create a useful architecture for a large organization. You can get an overall picture of an agency using an [enterprise architecture] of everything the agency does, but when you get down to making it operational, at that point you really need to break it down into segments, into the lines of business.”

The Navy is using the concept of segment architecture, but is calling it “architecture federation.”

Michael Jacob, the Navy’s chief technology officer, “compared the architecture effort to the development of a city plan, in which multiple buildings are built separately, but to the same set of standards and inspection criteria.”

Mr. Jacob continues that “our effort will allow common core architecture elements [technical standards, mission areas, business processes, and data taxonomies] to be identified so that architecture efforts can be aligned to those same standards.”

I believe that every level of an organization, including the highest level, can have a architecture, no matter what the size, and that we should tailor that architecture to the scope of the organization involved. So for an organization the mega-size of DoD, you would have very little detail in at the highest level, EA (like the FEA Practice Guidance demonstrates), but that the detail would build as you decompose to subsequent layers.

For any organization, no matter its size, every level of the architecture is important.

Within the enterprise architecture itself we need multiple views of detail. For example, from an executive view, we want and need to be able to roll up organizational information into summary “profiles” that executives can quickly digest and use to hit core decision points. At the same, time, from a mid-level manager or analyst view, we want and need to be able to drill down on information—to decompose it into models and inventory views--so that we can analyze it and get the details we need to make a rational decision.

Similarly, within the overall architecture, we need the various views of enterprise, segment, and solutions architecture. The enterprise view is looking at strategic outcomes for the overall enterprise; the segment view decomposes this into actionable architectures for the lines of business; and the solutions architecture “brings it all home” and operationalizes the architectures into actual solutions.

Just like with the profiles, models, and inventories of enterprise architecture where we can roll-up or down, the key with these various architectural levels is that there is line-of-sight from the enterprise to the segment and to the solution. The lower levels must align to and comply with the levels above. This is how we achieve integration, interoperability, standardization, and modernization.


March 25, 2008

Weather Engineering and Enterprise Architecture

In enterprise architecture (EA) we plan business processes improvement and technology enablement to engineer the business, drive results of operation, and manage change and transformation. We do this for both core mission functions as well as mission support and business support function in our organizations. But how far can our organizations go in architecting change and results?

For the Olympics this year, China will literally be engineering the weather!

MIT Technology Review, 25 March 2008, reports that “the Chinese plan to modify the weather in Beijing during the Olympics using supercomputers and artillery.”

Here’s the architecture plan for how this will work—it involves technology and fine-tuned choreographed processes to achieve the target weather desired for the Olympics:

“To prevent rain over the roofless 91,000-seat Olympic stadium …the city’s branch of the National Weather Modification Office…will track the region’s weather via satellites, planes, radar, and an IBM p575 supercomputer…that executes 9.8 trillion floating point operations per second…then using their two aircraft and an array of twenty artillery and rocket-launch sites around Beijing, the city’s engineers will shoot and spray silver iodide and dry ice into incoming clouds that are still far enough away that their rain can be flushed out before they reach the stadium. Finally, any rain-heavy clouds that near (the Olympics stadium)…will be seeded with chemicals to shrink droplets so that rain won’t fall until those clouds have passed over.”

China’s national weather-engineering program is also the world’s largest, with approximately 1,500 weather modification professionals directing 30 aircraft and crews, as well as 37,000 part time workers—mostly peasant farmers—who are on call to blast away at the clouds with 7,113 anti-aircraft guns and 4,991 rocket launchers.”

How successful is China’s weather modification program?

“The state run news agency Xinhua claims that between 1999 and 2007, the office rendered 470,000 square kilometers of land hail-free and created more than 250 billion tons of rain—an amount sufficient to fill the Yellow River, China’s second largest, four times over.”

Although they possess the world’s largest weather modification program, the Chinese point to the Russians as being the most advanced. In 1986, Russian scientists deployed cloud-seeding measures to prevent radioactive rain from Chernobyl from reaching Moscow.”

What’s our weather modification program like in the U.S.?

“During the 1960s and ‘70s, the United States invested millions…simultaneously the U.S. military tried to use weather modification as a weapon in Project Popeye, during the Vietnam War…[but] a 2003 report from the National Academy of Sciences concluded…‘there is still no convincing scientific proof of the efficacy of international weather modification efforts.’”

Other meteorologists disagree and say “the evidence that it works in certain situations is very compelling.”

For thousands of years, mankind has looked to gain dominion over the environment. From mere charlatans to professional engineers and architects, human beings seek to control the world around them and in essence, their very fate. With modern technology and science, supported by planning and governance, we no longer need to rely on witch doctors or rain dancers to effect change. G-d has given us the resources and the tools to try and make the world a better place.


March 24, 2008

Malthusian Fears and Enterprise Architecture

As enterprise architects, we plan for an unknown future. In most cases, we plan to grow and evolve our organizations to provide products and/or services well into the future. In the best case scenario, we are planning for organizational growth in terms of serving more customers, stakeholders, shareholders. We view growth as a sign that we are succeeding in the marketplace.

What happens though as the world grows more populous--is there a limit to the ability of the world to support this growth? And in such a scenario, where growth potential outstrips our ability to meet demand, how is architecture planning affected?

The Wall Street Journal, 24 March 2008, reports that “across the centuries, powerful voices have warned that human activity would overwhelm the earth’s resources…[yet] each time there were new resources to discover, new technologies to propel growth.”

But is there a limit to these resources and technological boundaries that are cause for concern?

As the world grows more populous—the United Nations projects eight billion people by 2025, up from 6.6 billion today” and up from 1.65 billion at the turn of the 20th century. By 2050, the projection is for 9.19 billion people!

The English demographer and political scientist, Thomas Malthus in 1798 forewarned of this problem: “The power of population is so superior to the power of the Earth to produce sustenance for man that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race.”

Similarly, The Club of Rome think tank in 1972 raised these concerns: “If the present growth trends in world population, industrialization, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime in the next 100 years.”

The problem with the population explosion is magnified by the population becoming more prosperous. “The average person is consuming more food, water, metal, and power. Growing numbers of China’s 1.3 billion people and India’s 1.1 billion are stepping up to the middle class, adopting the high protein diets, gasoline-fueled transport, and electric gadgets that developed nations enjoy.”

“The result is that demand for resources has soared. If supplies don’t keep pace, prices are likely to climb further…and some fear violent conflict could ensue.”

Many say not to worry, that economic forces and human ingenuity will spur technological innovation, which will overcome the limits of growth and the scarcity of resources.

As enterprise architects, we play a critical role in matching requirements to technological enablers and in driving business process improvement. These are essential to organizations and the world doing more, productivity-wise, with less resources.

“New technology could help ease the resource crunch. Advances in agriculture, desalinization, and the clean production of electricity among other things would help.”

“Indeed, the true lesson of Thomas Malthus…isn’t that the world is doomed, but that preservation of human life requires analysis and then thorough action.”

For enterprise architects, we are at the center of capturing these data points, analyzing them, and making solid recommendations for our organizations to spur them to action to meet the growth head-on. Growth is good, but it is also challenging. As the population continues to grow, we are about to face extraordinary business and technological challenges for providing for the needs of many a billion.


In Love with Information and Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architecture helps to ensure the decision-makers in the organization have the information they need to make improve business processes and make sound IT investments.

In general, people love information and the more the merrier, up until the point of information overload.

We need information to survive, to gain a semblance of control over our lives, and to satisfy our human curiosity.

The Wall Street Journal, 12 March 2008, reports “why we’re powerless to resist grazing on endless web data.”

Apparently, when the human mind is stimulated with information, there is an “increased production of the brain’s pleasure-enhancing neurotransmitters called opioids.

“New and richly interpretable information triggers a chemical reaction that makes us feel good, which in turn causes us to seek out even more of it…it is something we seem hard-wired to do…when you find new information, you get an opioid hit, and we’re junkies for those. You might call us ‘infovores.’”

So in essence, we eat up information. We are addicted to information. (Hence, all the time your teenagers and you spend on the web).

“The reverse is true as well: we want to avoid not getting those hits, for one, we are so averse to boredom.”

In fact, when people’s minds are idle or information deprived, they seem to get into more trouble. They are bored and they seek out experiences to liven things up a little.

Years ago, before the age of planes, trains, automobiles and the Internet, people lived much more shallow lives. Most were constrained to lives that wondered no further than maybe 10-20 miles from their villages. Information was scarce. Forgot about national headlines or international intrigue. More often than not, people were misinformed and often relied on neighborly gossip.

“Today, we can find in the course of a few hours online more information than our ancient ancestors could in their whole lives.”

“We are programmed for scarcity [of information, like scarcity of food] and can’t dial back when something is abundant.” Hence, we are addicted to the water hose flow of information and sometimes have the feeling that we are drowning in it.

One advantage of User-centric enterprise architecture is that it structures and regulates the flow of information, so that it is useful and usable to organization end-users. It is developed for specific users and users, and is not just more shelfware information.


March 23, 2008

Gross National Happiness and Enterprise Architecture

“Gross domestic product, or GDP, of a country is one of the ways of measuring the size of its economy. GDP is defined as the total market value of all final goods and services produced within a given country in a given period of time (usually a calendar year).” (Wikipedia)

Generally, enterprise architecture looks to improve business processes and enable them with technology to improve results of operation and productivity measures. Our national productivity is often measured in terms of its gross domestic product (GDP). But is productivity alone really the measure we need to be focused on?

The Wall Street Journal, 22-23 March 2008, reports that in the “tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan,” they have developed a new measure, called Gross National Happiness (GNH).

The idea of GNH is to balance the country’s modernization and democratization with things that will “boost morale.” The leaders of Bhutan “want to prove that they can achieve economic growth while maintaining governance, protecting the environment, and preserving an ancient culture.

“By traditional economic measures, Bhutan is doing well averaging about 7% growth annually over the past decade.” However, “fast growth should also not usher in a consumerist invasion that affects the national mood.” In other words, materialism isn’t and shouldn’t become the be all and end all!

GNH is a commitment “that if we are going to manage this change, we have to be able to measure it.” So “the government has contracted a local think tank to conduct a nation-wide survey to determine what makes people happy and what makes them sad or stressed out.”

“Researchers have fanned out across the country interviewing more than 1,000 households…the sample size is considered large in a country with only 750,000 people and not a single traffic light.”

The survey is quite comprehensive and includes “nearly 300 questions [that] take several hours to complete.”

Interestingly enough, Bhutan’s planning commission was even renamed early this year to the Gross National Happiness Commission—as we know, enterprise architecture is all about planning and governance too; wouldn’t it be cool to call EA, enterprise happiness and have it focus on a balance of organizational performance factors that are not just based on productivity, but also on truly improving human life?

Even the blueprint for Bhutan’s future (or their target architecture) includes happiness as a goal. The plan is called “Bhutan 2020: A Vision for Peace, Prosperity, and Happiness.” How many of us can say that our organizations’ strategic plans or architectures includes happiness as a dimension of our planning?

While, we focus on architecting our organizations for success, we need to remember that success is multi-dimensional. Yes, productivity, innovation, efficiency, and technological prowess are important. But we must not lose sight of the bigger picture, which is respect for the individual, and as the United States Declaration of Independence so eloquently puts it—what really important— “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”


March 21, 2008

The Foreign Software Threat and Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architecture is the developer and keeper of the organization's systems inventory, and it is the champion for system interoperability, integration, standardization, and modernization. Of course, all this within the framework of a secure information infrastructure.

What happens though when the security of systems is threatened from the inside—that is through malicious code itself?

Imagine a terrorist sleeper cell embedded in our country that can be activated at any time to cause destruction and havoc. So too, hidden malicious software code can be embedded in applications developed overseas or even by homegrown adversaries. And this code can be launched or used as a back door to disable our vital military systems for communications, weapons, navigation, and so on.

Military Information Technology, April 2008, reports that “DoD combats risks of a ‘mole’ in software written in other nations.”

According to a March 2007 report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), “malicious code, cyber-attacks, and espionage [are cited] as top threats facing the DoD and defense industry today, resulting primarily from software developed overseas, and to a lesser extent, from the global use of commercial software.”

Further, “the CSIS report noted that the number of U.S. companies outsourcing software development overseas had grown 25% from 2003 to 2006.”

“In September [2007], the Defense Science Board Task Force…came to similar conclusions” about foreign software exploitation. It states: “'while COTS development environments are more porous to attack than those of DoD custom development environments,’ subversion of the latter is more like to achieve adversarial objectives.”

Custom code does not get the same scrutiny as commercial code (especially open source) and so it is more vulnerable to exploitation via back doors or malicious code written into the software.

Dan Geer, the chief scientist and vice president of Verdasys, a security software firm, states: “Instead of trying to put a mole in the CIA, they try to put a mole in software.”

While “the technology industry has made progress at finding which writing patterns leave software vulnerable to inadvertent bugs…we don’t have as good a handle on what malicious programmers introduce.”

So how can we architect safer software?

  1. Scan—conduct vulnerability scans of software to identify known vulnerabilities.
  2. Patch—when vulnerabilities are detected, patch them quickly.
  3. Inform—have developers disclose what tools they are using and how they developed the code.
  4. Test—embed security testing and analysis in all phases of the systems development life cycle.
  5. Measure—develop metrics for software assurance so it can be rated and improved on.

Of course, we also need to ensure that developers are security-cleared to work on the software being developed or customized and that we layer our defenses and create redundant systems so that we mitigate risk from any single particular entry point.


Telework and Enterprise Architecture

Telecommuting, e-commuting, e-work, telework, working at home (WAH), or working from home (WFH) is a work arrangement in which employees enjoy limited flexibility in working location and hours. In other words, the daily commute to a central place of work is replaced by telecommunication links. Many work from home, while others, occasionally also referred to as nomad workers or web commuters, use mobile telecommunications technology to work from coffee shops or myriad other locations. Telework is a broader term, referring to substituting telecommunications for any form of work-related travel, thereby eliminating the distance restrictions of telecommuting. (Wikipedia)

Is telecommuting a good architecture decision or not?

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), 28 February 2008, reports that “Some Companies Rethink The Telecommuting Trend.”

“A few big promoters of home-based and mobile-office work arrangements, including AT&T, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, and parts of the federal government, have called some home-based workers back to the office.”


  1. Consolidation of operations—organizations are centralizing operational functions and bringing people back in, believing that telecommuting is unnecessary. For example, “Hewlett-Packard, the company that invented flextime, called a significant number of home-office information-technology workers back to the office in 2006, during a consolidation of its 85 data centers.”
  2. Teamwork—belief that “teamwork improves when people work face-to-face” and through “impromptu dialogues, collaboration, and mentoring.”

Another reason not cited by the WSJ is continued management apprehension about losing control. Management fears that workers are either not working as productively or doing what they want them to do when they are out of sight. It’s a trust issue, and unfortunately, some employees who misuse telework programs ruin it for others who are diligent and honest putting in their hours and doing their work.

Despite these issues with telework, “U.S. corporate employees working full time from home are still rising, gaining 30% since 2005 to 2.44 million in 2007, says Ray Boggs, a research vice president with IDC.”

What are some benefits of telework programs?

  1. Cost savings—including corporate office space, furniture, equipment, and utilities.
  2. Recruiting and retaining employees—providing telework options is a benefit for workers and can aid in recruiting and retention—it can save employees money on transportation and work wardrobe, enable more flexible hours, and can provide accommodation to enable some people who could not get to a regular office setting (due to childcare or eldercare responsibilities, disabilities, or other personal situations) the opportunity to be productive human beings.
  3. Flexible work force—“teleworkers are easy to fire and relocate…because they’re not visible.”
  4. Greener environment—telework saves people from having to commute to work and reduces pollution from their vehicles.
  5. Continuity of operations—having an offsite workforce helps protect an organization continue operating even when disasters (natural, accidental, or malicious) strikes the corporate offices.

Ways for teleworkers to keep working from home: “perform well…increase your visibility…make an effort to collaborate.”

For federal employees, “Section 630(a) of Public Law 105-277 (Flexiplace Work Telecommuting Programs) authorized certain Executive agencies to spend a minimum of $50,000 for fiscal year 1999, and each fiscal year thereafter, to establish and carry out a flexiplace work telecommuting program.” (

As an enterprise architect, I firmly believe that we need to plan and implement robust telework programs—that the benefits outweigh the costs. The human capital perspective that I espouse for enterprise architecture demands that we build in programs, such as teleworking, that create a more flexible and diverse workforce and provide cost savings and other positive impacts. Of course, telework programs and teleworkers need to be structured and managed so that goals are understood and met, and collaboration and teamwork is not impeded.


March 20, 2008

Apple and Enterprise Architecture

In Fortune Magazine, 17 March 2008, Apple was rated in Fortune the #1 most admired companies in America and in the world and it won the highest mark for innovation too.

“In an industry that changes every nanosecond, the 32-yer old company has time and again innovated its way out of the doldrums. Rivals always seem to be playing catch-up.”

And Apple certainly knows innovation and mass appeal. “Invention is the creation of something new. [But] innovation is the creation of something new that makes money; it finds a pathway to the consumer.” Apple is great at creating consumer hits--just think iPod, iPhone, and MacBook.

“The iPod is to music what Kleenex is to tissue or Xerox is to copiers.”

“Almost everything Apple makes transcends gender, geography, and race.”

In the last five years, “sales tripled to $24 billion and profits surged to $3.5 billion.”

What is Apple’s enterprise architecture (business and IT strategy)?

  • Thinking big—with Apple, the sky’s the limit or there really isn’t any limit at all; “every endeavor is a moon shot. Sometimes the company misses, but the successes are huge.”
  • Excellence—Apple has become “a symbol of innovation” and there is a huge “degree of perfectionism. Apple hires people that are never satisfied.”
  • Passion—“Emotive is a big word here. The passion is what provides the push to overcome design and engineering obstacles, to bring projects in on time.”
  • Focus—Apple is anti-diversification. They believe that when companies make too many products, they get “mired in the mediocre. Apple’s approach is to put every resource it has behind just a few products and make them exceedingly well.”
  • Consumer orientation—“We figure out what people want…we do no market research. We just want to make great products” for the masses. At Apple, they look at everyday consumer products and ask themselves what’s awful about them and how can they make them better.
  • Democratize technology—“Apple’s approach has always been to democratize technology in the belief that if you make something ‘really great’ then everybody will want to use it.”
  • Technology synthesis—“Apple’s the only company that has everything under one roof…not only do we control the hardware, but we control the operating system.” Apple does hardware and software and operating systems and “can tweed it all together and make it work seamlessly.”
  • Design genius—As a company, Apple is the master of consumer electronics design. “This is not just engineering and science. This is art too.” At Apple, they understand that function is enhanced by form, and that the consumer wants a good-looking gadget.

One of the biggest lessons for me from Apple is to never give up. For years, Apple trailed the computer market with the Mac holding only a 4% to 5% market share. But they kept innovating, developing and designing the best working and looking products. Now they’ve captured 70% market share with the iPod and are targeting sales this year of 10 million iPhones. Apple is a super company with business and technology planning that others can only look at in sheer awe with their mouths hanging open.


March 19, 2008

Eliot Spitzer and Enterprise Architecture

While Eliot Spitzer didn’t get caught in bed with his mistress, he did get caught with his pants down.

How did Spitzer get caught and ultimately lose the powerful NY governorship?

Good solid enterprise architecture did Eliot Spitzer in.

In this case, the enterprise is the global financial system and the architecture is the business rules and technology that routinely check for suspicious activity.

One of the ways to catch bad guys—whether Eliot Spitzer, mob bosses, or even Al Quaeda fugitives—is by following the money trail, processing gazillions of transactions through sophisticated technology that filters out the anomalies and flags suspicious activity.

MIT Technology Review, 19 March 2008 reports that “anti-money-laundering software scrutinizes customers’ every move no matter how small.

“All major banks, and even most small ones, are running so-called anti-money-laundering software, which combs through as many as 50 million transactions a day looking for anything out of the ordinary.”

The software from one vendor, for example, contains more than 70 flags for identifying suspicious activity.

“In Spitzer’s case, the three separate $5,000 wire-transfer payments…would likely have triggered one of the most obvious of these [flags].”

“Banks are constantly on the lookout for activity that seems to be an effort to break up large, clearly suspicious transactions into smaller ones that might fly under the radar, a practice called structuring.”

The Bank Secrecy Act requires a “report of cash payments over $10,000 received in a trade or business, if your business receives more than $10,000 in cash from one buyer as a result of a single transaction or two or more related transactions.” ( Spitzer’s multiple $5,000 wire-transfer was a fairly blatant act that set off the trip wire for suspicious activity.

The technology also “groups customers and accounts into related ‘profiles’; or ‘peer groups’ in order to establish more-general behavioral baselines…each category is analyzed to determine patterns of ordinary behavior…and transactions stretching back as far a year, are then scrutinized for evidence of deviation from the norm.”

So for example, an elementary school teacher in Wyoming that deposits $25,000 would be flagged possibly as a deviation from the norm of what an ordinary teacher in Wyoming would be doing. If he deposit is in cash, well that’s even more of a no-brainer since it would be reportable as a cash transaction over $10,000.

“Every bank has a group of people who personally scrutinize transactions that have been flagged…if the human reviewers can’t explain the activity they will produce an official suspicious activity report [SAR].” This goes to the IRS and Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN)…most SARS are ultimately reviewed by regional teams of investigators, drawn from the IRS, the FBI, the DEA, and the U.S. Attorney’s office.”

The number of SARs in 2006 reached “567,080…and 2007 was on track to set a new record.”

The target architecture for financial anomaly detection will continue to get us better and better results as it will to incorporate “analyzing customers’ social networks, tapping into the vast databases of information held by companies such as LexisNexis and ChoicePoint.”

From an enterprise architecture standpoint, you can see the sophistication of the business rules and the technology working in tandem in order to achieve the impressive results of tracking suspicious money activity. This is a great example of clearly identifying the mission requirements, using that to drive technology solutions, and effectively planning and governing the solutions, so that people cannot hide suspicious financial transaction, like needles in the haystack of the information glut out there.


March 18, 2008

Bioterror Sensors and Enterprise Architecture

Since the events of 9/11, America has been widely and deeply broadening its homeland security capabilities. One area that this has been occurring in is in the ability to detect an attack and respond quickly to save lives.

MIT Technology Review, 18 March 2008, reports on a new sensor system that can “detect six potential airborne bioterror agents” within three minutes.

The “new detector uses living cells that light up in the presence of airborne bioterror agents such as anthrax and smallpox” as well as botulinum, ricin and two other bacteria.

“The company selling the sensor, Innovative Biosensors of Rockville, MD, is marketing it for use in airports and other buildings, including laboratories where research on dangerous pathogens is performed.”

“The company has a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense for building security in the Washington, DC area.” And one would imagine that similar precautions are being taken in other major metropolitan areas in the country.

This is serious business and Innovative Biosensors is taking no chances. “The system can run 16 tests simultaneously, one in each chamber of the disc…when at least two chambers are devoted to each pathogen, there are no false positives.”

Certainly, we will continue to mature our homeland defenses. To do this, all agencies involved in homeland security must grow and develop their enterprise architectures. As with the new sensor system, protecting this country cannot be done by human factors alone, but will require ever greater technological sophistication to monitor the “bad guys” and prevent, protect, respond to, and recover from any threats.

Our adversaries will not resist using technology to harm us—whether through improvised explosive devises or attacks on our networks—and we will need every technological advantage we can get to defeat them.

One way to maintain our technology edge is through the rigors of enterprise architecture. This discipline is critical in developing a well thought-out business and technology plan, making sound IT investments, and governing our IT with care and diligence.

While at times it may seem that this great country has limitless resources, the truth is that all resources are finite and we must put those to the best uses, so that the technology we develop and deploy truly enables the mission of protecting this honored country and its noble citizens.


March 17, 2008

The Evils of Computers and Enterprise Architecture

Computers and information technology have revolutionized how we do just about everything in our lives. Yet some people have demonized technology either out of fear, ignorance, or a belief that we will not be able to control the awesome power of the technology we are developing.

The Wall Street Journal, 15-16 March 2008, reports that during the 1960s and 70s, Joseph Wiezenbaum, an MIT professor, was a gifted computer programmer who later came “to preach the evils of computers.”

Wiezenbaum created a “computer program called Eliza that was designed to simulate a psychiatrist…but after test subjects told him the program really empathized with their problems, Mr. Weizenbaum became a digital Jeremiah, and spent decades preaching the computer apocalypse.”

Surely Wiezenbaum isn’t alone in predicting the concern that computers could become smarter (and stronger) than people and could pose a dire threat to humankind’s very existence. These fears have been portrayed by Hollywood in 2001: A Space Odyssey, iRobot, Termininator, War Games, and other such hit movies.

Weizenbaum “soured on computers and condemned automated decision making as antihuman.”

“He raised questions that are as relevant today as they were when he first raised them” about 40 years ago.

As an enterprise architect, my job is to align technology solutions to business problems and requirements. Am I to consider the potential for the malevolent information system, database, storage server, or network router when trying to use technology to help achieve mission results?

OK. Maybe the question is a little too facetious. The truth is computer processing power is reaching ever greater potential, and at accelerating speeds, based on Moore’s Law. Computers now can process at speeds in trillions of calculations a second. Who can even imagine?

Is it possible, at some time that a computer or robot will go loony and do the unthinkable? Of course it is. Don’t some people have pit bulls that are friendly to their owners and then go nutty and attack the neighbor’s poodle or the neighbor himself? Don’t we all drive cars that are wonderful transportation mechanisms, but also hurt and kill thousands of people a year?

We raise and develop things that have tremendous capability to improve our way of life; however, they also have the potential to hurt us if not properly controlled.

A time will soon come with technology that we will have to worry about controlling the very machines that we have created to help us do our everyday tasks. We will have to architect safeguards for people from the very technologies that we developed and deployed to aid them.


Military Robots and Enterprise Architecture

One reason that I love the military is that they truly think out of the box and are not only cutting-edge, but they continuously innovate. They drive change that ripples throughout all areas of the economy, and they use the best from the private sector and make it even cooler.

If you’re into robotics, you’ve most certainly heard of the Roomba from iRobot that vacuums floors on auto-pilot.

Now the military is taking that idea and through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) developing a robot that will aid battlefield communications.

MIT Technology Review, 11 March 2008, reports that “iRobot is developing communications robots for the military.”

“Expendable robots that can be tossed into a building or over a wall…will be used to set up communications networks to assist soldiers in urban battlefields,” where communication are often by impeded by obstacles and structures that “reflect, refract, diffract, and absorb radio signals leading to signal loss and attenuation.”

These robot are call Local Area Network or LAN-droids, and they will have autonomous positioning systems so that the bots will be mobile and be able to adapt to get the best signal. The bots “will use 801.11g Wi-Fi standards to form mobile ad hoc networks that can repair and reroute themselves if, for example, the enemy destroys a robot.”

The robots, each costing less than $100, will “weigh less than a kilogram and [be]…about 10 centimeters long,” so soldiers can carry multiple bots and be able to throw them into position.

The robots are planned to be able to travel at “half a meter a second and be capable of functioning for up to 10 hours.”

The LANdroids prototype is expected by the end of the year.

What a terrific target architecture! Focused on mission requirements with a vision for improved results of operation, DARPA is aligning technology solutions to the soldier’s needs for better, more reliable communication in the battlefield.

Further, the LANdroid is a solution that is grounded in market reality. Using the Roomba vacuum robot as a model for mobile bot technology, DARPA is taking it to the next level. They are applying the technology to their mission space and upping the ante on the adversary.

In a sense that is what EA is all about, staying one or more steps ahead of the competition whether in terms of business process efficiency, quality products and services, and technology enablement. EA engineers the organization to succeed.

Today it’s the LANDdroid, tomorrow the Battlefield KillerBot.


March 16, 2008

Dreaming and Enterprise Architecture

Planning for the target architecture of an enterprise is a difficult task; some would compare it to looking into a crystal ball and trying to divine the future of an organization and the marketplace. The funny thing is that some of the best planning and thinking that people do may actually not be when they're awake and cognizant, but rather when they're sleeping!

“Dreams are the images, thoughts and feelings experienced while asleep, particularly strongly associated with rapid eye movement sleep. The contents and purpose of dreams are poorly understood, though they have been a topic of speculation and interest throughout recorded history.” (Wikipedia)

The Wall Street Journal, 15 January 2008, reports that dreaming can be useful to making connections in your mind that you might otherwise never make.

“There is a growing body of research that indicates that sleep is a time when we can figure out patterns beyond our grasp during the day…during sleep, the brain engages in processing that explores connections and ideas in trial-and-error fashion.”

Not only are new connections made in the subconscious while sleeping, but dreams may actually be a wake-up call to the person. “Your dreams may be useful to you simply as reminders that you need to address certain issues sooner than their placement at the bottom of your to-do-list would suggest... ‘my subconscious is kicking me in the rear end,’ as one marketer puts it.”

Another researcher states that “dreams are like Rorschach tests…they ‘are basically always a report of memory that is reconstructed while the person is awake.’”

Unfortunately, not all dreams help us reconstruct events, make new connections and insights. “Roughly half of all dreams are related to anxiety and fear.”

According Freud, “dreams, which he called the ‘royal road to the unconscious,’The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) in which he proposed the argument that the unconscious exists and described a method for gaining access to it...for Freud, the ideals of the Enlightenment, positivism and rationalism, could be achieved through understanding, transforming, and mastering the unconscious, rather than through denying or repressing it.” (Wikipedia) provided the best access to our unconscious life and the best illustration of its ‘logic,’ which was different from the logic of conscious thought. Freud developed his first topology of the psyche in

While I would be cautious in interpreting dreams, when it comes to enterprise architecture and the skillful forecasting and planning that it entails, dreams can be beneficial in a number of ways. Firstly, dreams can provide insights and connections that one wouldn’t normally have in a fully conscious state. Further, not only does sleep provides the ability to see things differently in dreams, but also when you wake up and are refreshed, you “see things in a new light.” That’s why you may have heard the saying “to sleep on it” before making an important decision. Sleeping refreshes the body and the soul; with adequate sleep, the mind is sharper and the thinking more analytical and precise. I would rather get my architecture from someone who is well rested and clear-headed, than a sleep deprived architecture jockey.


March 14, 2008

Invention versus Innovation and Enterprise Architecture

User-centric Enterprise architecture is about producing valuable information products and governance services for the organization to enhance IT planning, governance and decision-making. There are elements of both invention and innovation in EA.

Invent“1. To produce or contrive (something previously unknown) by the use of ingenuity or imagination. 2. To make up; fabricate.”

Innovate“To begin or introduce (something new) for or as if for the first time.”


The definitions of invent and innovate are similar, but have important subtle differences.

  • Invent is to produce first which connotes a physical production or manufacture of an items, and secondarily to contrive or think up something imaginatively.
  • Innovate, however, is not producing or just thinking up something, but actually introducing it (for the first time), and in the process of introducing, there is an element of not only thinking up an idea or making it, but of actually bringing it to the marketplace to create value and reap benefit from it.

In User-centric EA, we both invent (think up and produce) products and services such as baseline and target architectures and transition plans as well as services to govern IT. However, we also innovate; we introduce the products and services, through effective marketing, communications, training, and leveraging their use to add value to the mission.

  • From a User-centric EA perspective, it is not enough just to put things out there (invent them)—like the “build it, and they will come” motto heard frequently during the period of “irrational exuberance” in the stock market and internet bubble of the early 21st century. Rather, we must innovate--constantly consider our users and build for them, to their requirements and make the EA of true value to them.

In BI Review Magazine, 3 December 2007, Thomas Koulopoulos presents “Don’t Invent, Innovate.”

Tom writes: “Myriad catalysts have suddenly created an ability to invent beyond our wildest dreams. Manufacturing is a global commodity…capital moves more efficiently to fund new ideas, micro markets can easily be targeted and fulfilled with well oiled supply chains. As a result we are surrounded by more useless inventions than at any other time in history. Affluence seems measured by the number of things we can accumulate and then drag to the nearest landfill…we confuse invention with innovation…too many people and organizations get wrapped up in the premise that quantity of invention is what drives progress. It’s not. Innovation is about imposing a discipline of value creation in an organization…Innovation is change with a purpose and a vision. Invention is simply change, the age-old battle between quantity and quality.”

In architecting the business and technical aspects of our enterprises, we need to keep in mind the distinction between inventing and innovation. Of course, we need to invent—we need to build idea and things--as humans, we need these “things” to survive. But also we need to innovate and ensure that what we invent is truly with purpose, vision, and is of value to the end-user.


Conflict Theory and Enterprise Architecture

“Conflict theory states that the society or organization functions so that each individual participant and its groups struggle to maximize their benefits… The essence of conflict theory is best epitomized by the classic 'pyramid structure' in which an elite dictates terms to the larger masses. All major institutions, laws, and traditions in the society are created to support those who have traditionally been in power, or the groups that are perceived to be superior in the society according to this theory. This can also be expanded to include any society's 'morality' and by extension their definition of deviance. Anything that challenges the control of the elite will likely be considered 'deviant' or 'morally reprehensible.” (Wikipedia)

In the organization that we work in, today—modern times—is everything copascetic or is there inherent conflict, and how does this affect EA? And how is this impacted by EA?

We all hear and read the message from the top—from the executive(s) in charge—messages of unity of command, unity of purpose, and unity of structure. “We’re all in this together!”

However, the reality is that there are power struggles up and down, sideways, and on the diagonals, of the organization—this is conflict theory! Those at the top, wish to stay there. Those at the lower rungs, wish to climb up and check out the view. The organization is a pyramid, with fewer and fewer senior level positions as you go higher and higher up. Everyone in the organization is evaluated by measures of performance and is competing for resources, power, influence, and advancement.

I remember learning at Jewish day school, that people are half animal and half angel. Sort of like the age old conflict of good and evil. Freud, for the individual, put it in terms of the id and superego.

On one hand, conflict theory pits egocentric and selfish behavior against the greater needs of the organization (and the goals of EA) to share, collaborate, integrate, and go forward as the army slogan states, “an army of one!” The individual or group in the enterprise wants to know the proverbial, “what’s in it for me?”

On the other hand, User-centric EA is about collaboration: collaboration between business and IT, collaboration within the business, collaboration within IT, and even collaboration outside the agency (such as through alignment to the department, the federal EA, and so on). The collaboration takes the form of information sharing, structured governance, an agreed on target and plan, and the building of interoperability, standards, efficiencies, enterprise solutions, and overall integration!

It is not easy for EA to be a counterbalance for conflict theory. The organization needs to provide incentives for positive behavior (and disincentives for negative behavior), so that everyone is encouraged to team, collaborate, share, and look at the bigger picture for the success of overall enterprise!

I’ve seen organizations take steps toward building unity through team awards, criteria in everyone’s performance evaluation for teamwork, and actual mandates to share information. These are positive steps, but more needs to be done to make the enterprise flatter, more collaborative, and remind all employees that they work for the end-user.

March 13, 2008

“Clothes that Clean Themselves” and Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architecture develops current and target architecture and transition plans and provides for governance. With the supersonic speed of change in the information technology industry, it is easy to see the necessity for constantly evolving target architectures for IT and associated business processes. However, how does target architecture apply to run of the mill items, like clothing—isn’t clothes, aside from changing fashions and styles, and occasionally a new material or two, pretty much the same old thing?

MIT Technology Review, 20 February 2008, reports on something truly novel with clothing, namely “Clothes That Clean Themselves.”

We’re all familiar with stain-repellent materials (where spills roll off instead of getting absorbed into the fabric), and that’s sort of cool. But relatively speaking that’s nothing compared with self-cleaning clothing—yes, that is for real (and boy, won’t it be nice to save even more on dry cleaning?)

“Researchers…in Victoria, Australia have found a way to coat fibers with titanium dioxide nanocrystals, which break down food and dirt in sunlight…natural fibers, such as wool, silk, and hemp that will automatically remove food, grime, and even red-wine stains when exposed to sunlight.”

Burning out stains and pathogens, but safe to fabric and the skin:

What’s great is that the nanoparticles “oxidize or decompose organic matter,” but “are harmless to skin. Moreover, the coating does not change the look and feel of the fabric. This titanium oxide coating is just burning organic matter at room temperature in the presence of light.

“Titanium oxide can also destroy pathogens such as bacteria in the presence of sunlight by breaking down the cell walls of the microorganisms. This should make self-cleaning fabrics especially useful in hospitals and other medical settings.”

What is the future for these self-cleaning clothes?

Researcher Walid Daoud says that “Self-cleaning property will become a standard feature of future textiles and other commonly used materials to maintain hygiene and prevent the spreading of pathogenic infection, particularly since pathogenic microorganisms can survive on textiles surfaces for up to three months.

From a User-centric EA perspective, it is amazing how every area of our life, even simple clothing, can be transformed to next level of target architecture through invention, innovation, process reengineering and technological advances--such as information technology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology.

What next with clothing—maybe they can self-fit in the future, so one size truly can fit all?


March 12, 2008

Knowledge Management and Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architecture is a major contributor to knowledge management.

  • EA documents and communicates the baseline, target, and transition plan for the organization.
  • User-centric EA categorizes, analyzes, and visualizes the information to make it useful and usable.
  • Further, User-centric EA develops information products to enable better decision making, and it makes these readily accessible to end-users.

The Wall Street Journal, 10 March 2008, reports that “knowledge management [KM] can make a difference—but it needs to be more pragmatic.”

What is KM?

A concerted effort to improve how knowledge is created, delivered, and used.”

“Over the past 15 years or so, many large organizations have embraced the idea that they could become more productive and competitive by better managing knowledge—the ideas and expertise that originate in the human mind.”

But many KM programs have failed miserably or just gone nowhere—why?

“Some firms stumbled by focusing their knowledge management efforts on technology at the expense of everything else, while others failed to tie knowledge programs to overall business goals or the organization’s other activities.”

Here’s how to do KM right:

  1. Creation—Organizations “define in advance the type of information they need and why they need it—say to improve customer service or to develop easier to use products. They solicit ideas, insights, and innovations from rank-and-file workers, customers, and business partners, rather than relying solely on R&D staff to come up with the ideas.” Web 2.0 technologies like blogs, wikis, and collaborative websites encourage broader participation.
  2. Dissemination—“the focus is on putting in one place all the content a specific group of workers need, regardless of its source. To that end, many organizations are using Web portals, or intranet sites as one stop information shops.”
  3. Application—“obtaining and sharing knowledge is beneficial only if employees use it to get better at what they do—that is, they learn from it.” Creating communities of interest (COIs) helps foster social learning that occurs when people with a common interest in some subject or problem are brought together to collaborate over an extended period to share ideas, solutions, and innovations.”

EA contributes to all three areas:

  1. EA identifies information needs by the business and IT areas and captures, processes, and serves up this information to stakeholders.
  2. EA disseminates information products through the EA website, handbook, EA repository, and other media to make it accessible to end-users.
  3. EA that is User-centric focuses on providing information that is actionable—useful and usable by the business and IT executives and staffs. Only products with clear uses and users are developed, maintained, and shared. EA is focused on delivering value (shelfware is a dirty word in User-centric EA).

EA can be a shining example of KM, when it is User-centric!