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.”


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