July 26, 2009

Enterprise Architecture Design

User-centric Enterprise Architecture provides information to decision-makers using design thinking, so as to make the information easy to understand and apply to planning and investment decisions.

Some examples of how we do this:

  1. Simplifying complex information by speaking the language of the business (and not all techie).
  2. Unifying disparate information to give a holistic view that breaks the traditional vertical (or functional) views and instead looks horizontally across the organization to foster enterprise solutions where we build once and reuse multiple times.
  3. Visualizing information to condense lots of information and tell a story—as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.
  4. Segmenting end-users and tailoring EA information products to the different user groups which we do with profiles geared to executive decision makers, models for mid-level managers, and inventories for the analysts.

Interestingly enough, in the summer issue of MIT Sloan Management Review, there is an article called “How to Become a Better Manager…By thinking Like a Designer.”

Here are some design pointers from the experts that you can use to aid your enterprise architectures (they are written to parallel the principles from User-centric EA, as I have previously described above):

  1. Embrace simplicity—“people often confuse simplicity…with simplistic….it takes courage to be simple…and the simplest solution is often the best.”
  2. Look for patterns in the data—“good problem solvers become proficient at identifying patterns.” Further, designers seek “harmony to bring together hierarchy, balance, contrast, and clear space in a meaningful way.”
  3. Apply visual thinking—often managers…rely heavily on data and information to tell the story and miss the opportunity to create context and meaning,” instead managers need to “think of themselves as designers, visual thinkers or storytellers.”
  4. Presenting clearly to specific end-users—“good design is about seeing and communicating clearly.” Moreover, it’s about “seeing things from the clients point of view…designers learn pretty quickly that is not about Me, it’s about You.”

MIT Sloan states “we have come to realize over the past few years that design-focused organizations do better financially than their less design-conscious competitors…design is crafting communications to answer audience needs in the most effective way.

This is a fundamental lesson: organizations that apply the User-centric Enterprise Architecture design approach will see superior results than legacy EA development efforts that built “artifacts” made up primarily of esoteric eye charts that users could not readily understand and apply.


July 25, 2009

Finding the Meaning In It All

What a great, great article in the Wall Street Journal—Tuesday, July 14, 2009—“A New View, After Diagnosis” about how “cancer patients find meaning in the face of mortality…how can you live knowing that you’re going to die?”

To me, the article was inspiring, hopeful, and courageous.

A new therapy called meaning-centered psychotherapy addresses the question that cancer patients have: “How do I live in the space between my diagnosis and my eventual death.” And it answers the call with the philosophy of the Austrian psychiatrist and holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl, who taught, “people can endure any suffering if they know their life has meaning.

Meaning-centered psychotherapy works with cancer patients to make “the months or years of life that remain times of extraordinary growth” of “reconnecting with the many sources of meaning in life—love, work, history, family relationships,” and of resolving issues of our past.

Through spiritual well being, we can reduce our anxiety and fear of death and find meaning in life and the legacy we can leave behind.

No, this article wasn’t about work or technology or leadership per se and yet it was about all of them so much more.

How often do we go through our daily lives and question the meaning of it all? (What’s life really all about? What’s it all for? Why do we work so hard? Who really cares? What affect does it have in the end, anyway?)

In fact, all our lives we are searching for and desperately seeking spiritual meaning in what we do.

We are multi-faceted people. We have professional lives, families, friends, community, hobbies, and so forth. And we try to imbue spirituality in what we do every day—to elevate the mundane into the holy—to make the meetings, reports, bills, dirty diapers, dishes, and laundry, meaningful.

Recently, one of my friends who is looking for a new job (in this tough economy) said to me, “I want to find a meaningful job.” And I asked him “what is meaningful to you?” He answered “I’m not sure, but I’ll know it when I see it.”

It seems that we all cognizant of the short time we have here on earth and we want to make the most of it. Yet, despite all the people, activity, and things (“technology toys” or otherwise), we still are not sure what exactly “meaningful” means.

Is the answer really simple and straightforward--is it our good deeds, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and serving our maker? Well yes, of course, but we also have an inherent need to see that there is some positive end-result to our life’s work—a legacy that transcends us. Whether it is through our children and grandchildren that carry onward after us, charitable gifts or trusts that helps feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, or treat the ill, or having a positive influence on the people and society around us—inspiring, motivating, leading, and creating a better world.

Certainly, with a cancer patient, at the crossroads of the life and death, meaning must be found now or lost for all time. Others, not facing imminent death, have more time to explore, experiment, and search for the meaning in their lives. In the end, all of us desire to leave this world with a clear conscience knowing that we did our best, and left the world and the people in it that we touched, better off than had we not lived at all.


July 23, 2009

Cutting the Budget the Easy Way

Arnold Schwarzenegger , "the Terminator", definitely knows how to cut the budget--with a 2 foot long knife. Yikes!

But all kidding aside, while many critical services were cut to resolve a $42 billion budget deficit in the state of California, Governor Schwartzenegger manages to keep his cool. He posted this video of himself--combining some unique star humor with crowdsourcing--engaging people on new ideas to solve the crisis.

For The Total CIO, this is a great lesson in humility, working on difficult problems (no, not with a knife!), and reaching out to people with humor and passion to get the job done.

Good job Terminator!


July 19, 2009

Battle of the Tech Titans

Google and Microsoft are going head-to-head, and they are going for the jugular.

ComputerWorld stated in the July 6/July 13, 2009: “Google Set to Wage OS War with Microsoft.” Wired wrote in August 2009 issue according to CEO Eric Schmidt, Google is the “anti-Microsoft”.

According to Wired, the two companies are fighting for the title: King of Technology.

Here’s a quick breakdown:



Web Browser

Chrome (& FireFox distribution)


Operating System

Android, Chrome OS

Windows, XP, Vista, Mobile

Business Productivity Suite

Apps Suite





Online Advertising

Adwords, Adsense, Doubleclick


On one hand, Google is the undisputed master of the Internet delivering 78.5% of search results in the U.S. (versus 8.2% for Microsoft ) and pulling in $22 billion in revenue in 2008 for text ads. On the other hand, Microsoft owns the personal computer environment with 90% of the operating systems for all laptops and desktops yielding $16 billion in 2008 sales and $14.3 billion in 9 months for it’s productivity applications (versus Google which mostly gives away is email and other online applications); further Microsoft has 70% of the browser market to Google 2% for Chrome. (Wired July 13, 2009)

So is there really a full tech war going on or are Microsoft and Google just chipping away on the edges of each others territory, using so-called guerrilla warfare tactics?

It’s a little of each. Both companies are technology behemoths trying to be the king of the tech jungle. But they have very different approaches. Microsoft believes that computer software is the key to tech kingdom, while Google believes that the Internet is the path to people’s technology hearts.

Google is willing to give away software to challenge Microsoft on its home turf, and Microsoft is investing in its new search engine to erode the core strength of its competitor. It’s a jab for jab face-off where I would imagine we would continue to see the corporate fists flying for as long the two are standing.

From a strategic point of view, Microsoft has such a dominant position on our computers both in our homes and businesses, it is hard to imagine them being easily dethroned. Microsoft also has a war chest and the ability to replenish it to fight a darn good fight. But many companies have been smug and have lost to a determined challenger.

Google is coming out strong for its innovativeness and can’t turn down offer of free products. If the television business is any predictor of a winner-take-all, television’s advertising revenue built an incredible entertainment industry that we all enjoy and which still largely dominates today.

And now I think I will go watch 60 minutes on my big flat screen TV.


July 18, 2009

IT as a Surrogate Weapon

There is a fascinating controversy going on now over the CIA plans to kill known al Qaeda terrorists. Should we “stoop to their level” and take them out or is this “assassination” style technique out of bounds for a free and democratic society?

Wow. I don’t think too many Americans the day after 9/11 would be asking that question.

We are quickly swayed by the events of the times and our emotions at play.

When 3,000 people—mostly civilians—were killed in a vicious surprise attack on our financial and military hubs in this country; when the Twin Towers were still burning and crashing down; when smoke was rising out of the Pentagon; and when a plane crashed in Pennsylvania—I think most of us would say, these terrorists need to be dealt a severe and deadly blow.

Who would’ve though that just a mere 8 years later, questions would abound on the righteousness of killing the terrorists who planned, executed, and supported these murderous attacks and still seek every day to do us incredible harm—quite likely with chemical, nuclear, biological, or radiological (CNBR) weapons—it they could pull it off in the future.

We are a society with a short-term memory. We are a reactive society. As some have rightly said, we plan to fight the wars of the past, rather than the wars of the future.

We are also a doubting society. We question ourselves, our beliefs, and our actions. And to some extent this is a good thing. It elevates our humanity, our desire to do what is right, and to improve ourselves. But it can also be destructive, because we lose heart, we lose commitment, we change our minds, we are swayed by political currents, and to some extent we swing back and forth like a pendulum—not knowing where the equilibrium really is.

What makes the current argument really fascinating to me from an IT perspective is that we are okay with drones targeting missiles at terrorist targets (and even with a certain degree of civilian “collateral damage”) from these attacks from miles in the sky, but we are critical and repugnant to the idea the CIA wanted to hunt down and put bullets in the heads of the terrorists who committed the atrocities and are unwavering in their desire to attack again and again.

Is there an overreliance on technology to do our dirty work and an abrogation of hands-on business process to do it with our own “boots on the ground” hands?

Why is it okay to pull the trigger on a missile coming from a drone, but it is immoral to do it with a gun?

Why is it unethical to fight a war that we did not choose and do not want, but are victims of?

Why are we afraid to carry out the mission to its rightful conclusion?

The CIA, interrogators, military personnel and so forth are demonized for fighting our fight. When they fight too cautiously—they have lost their will and edge in the fight, we suffer consequences to our nation’s safety, and we call them incompetent. When they fight too vigorously, they are immoral, legal violators, and should be prosecuted. We are putting “war” under a huge microscope—can anyone come out looking sharp?

The CIA is now warning that if these reputational attacks continue, morale will suffer, employees will become risk-averse, people will quit, and the nation will be at risk.

Do we want our last lines of defense to be gun-shy when the terrorists come hunting?

According to the Wall Street Journal, “one former CIA director, once told me that the ‘CIA should do intelligence collection and analysis, not covert actions. Covert actions almost never work and usually get the Agency in trouble.’”

The Journal asks “perhaps covert action should be done by someone else.” Who is this someone else?

Perhaps we need more technology, more drones to carry out the actions that we cannot bear to face?

I believe that we should not distinguish between pulling the trigger on a drone missile and doing the same on a sniper rifle. Moreover, a few hundred years ago the rifle was the new technology of the time, which made killing less brutal and dehumanized. Now we have substituted sophisticated drones with the latest communication, navigation and weapons technologies. Let’s be honest about what we are doing – and what we believe needs to be done.

(As always, my views are my own and do not represent those of any other entity.)


July 14, 2009

A Call to IT Arms

Recently, I heard a colleague say that we should view IT not as a cost center, but as a resource center—and I really liked that.

In fact, IT is a cost center and a resource center, but these days there is an overemphasis on it being a cost center.

On the negative side, people seem to like to criticize IT and point out the spectacular failures there have been, and in fact, according to Public CIO “a recent study by the Standish Group showed that 82% of all IT project were either failures or were considered challenged.”

This is the dark side of IT that many would like to dwell on.

However, I would argue that while we must constantly improve on IT project delivery, IT failures can be just a point in time on the way to tremendous success and there are many of these IT successes that we benefit from in big and small ways every day.

Moreover, it may take 1000 failures to achieve that one great breakthrough success. That is the nature of innovation and experimentation.

Of course, that does not mean we should do stupid or negligent things that results in failed IT projects—we must do our best to be responsible and professional stewards. But, we should not be afraid to experiment and fail as a healthy part of the creative process.

Thomas Edison said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

So why are we obsessed with IT failures these days?

Before the dot com bust, when technology was all the rave, and we enjoyed the bounty of new technologies like the computer, cell phones, handhelds, electronics galore, the Internet and all the email, productivity software and e-commerce and business applications you could ask for, the mindset was “technology is the engine that drives business.” And in fact, many companies were even changing their names to have “.com” in them to reflect this. The thinking was that if you didn’t realize the power and game-changing nature of technology, you could just as well plan to be out of business in the near future. The technologies that came out of those years were amazing and you and I rely on these every day.

Then after the dot-com burst, the pendulum swung the other way—big time! IT became an over zealous function, that was viewed as unstructured and rampant, with runaway costs that had to be contained. People were disappointed with the perceived broken promises and failed projects that IT caused, and IT people were pejoratively labeled geeks or techies and viewed as being outside the norm—sort of the societal flunkies who started businesses out of home garages. People found IT projects failures were everywhere. The corporate mindset changed to “business drives technology.”

Now, I agree that business drives technology in terms of requirements coming from the business and technology providing solutions to it and enabling it. But technology is also an engine for growth, a value creator, and a competitive advantage!

Further, while some would argue these days that IT is “just a tool”, I would counter that IT is a true strategic asset to those who understand its role in the enterprise. I love IT and I believe we all do and this is supported by the fact that we have become basically insatiable for IT. Forrester predicts U.S. IT budgets in 2009 will be in the vicinity of $750 billion. (http://it.tmcnet.com/topics/it/articles/59200-it-market-us-decline-51-percent-2009-researchers.htm) Think about what you want for the holidays—does it have IT in it?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal was about how the homeless are so tied to technology that many have a computer with Internet access, even when they don’t have three square meals a day or a proper home to live in.

Another sign of how critical IT has become is that we recently stood up a new Cyber Command to protect our defense IT establishment. We are reliant indeed on our information technology and we had better be prepared to protect and defend it.

The recent White House 2009 Cyberspace Policy Review states: “The globally-interconnected digital information and communications infrastructure known as “cyberspace” underpins almost every facet of modern society and provides critical support for the U.S. economy, civil infrastructure, public safety, and national security.”

It's time for the pendulum to swing back in the other direction and to view IT as the true strategic asset that it is.


July 12, 2009

Information Management Framework

The Information Management Framework (IMF) provides a holistic view of the categories and components of effective information architecture.

These categories include the following:

Information-sharing--Enable information sharing by ensuring that information is visible, accessible, understandable, and interoperable throughout the enterprise and with external partners.

Efficiency--Improve mission efficiency by ensuring that information is requirements-based, non-duplicative, timely, and trusted.

Quality--Promote information quality, making certain that information provided to users is valid, consistent, and comprehensive.

Compliance--Achieve compliance with legislation and policy providing for privacy, freedom of information, and records management.

Security-- Protect information assets and ensure their confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

All areas of the framework must be managed as part of effective information architecture.


July 11, 2009

Adaptive Leaders Rule The Day

One of the key leadership traits is of course, agility. No single course of action—no matter how intelligent or elegant—will be successful in every situation. That’s why effective leaders need to be able to quickly adapt and to apply situation-appropriate behaviors (situational leadership) to the circumstances as they arise.

Leaders need a proverbial "toolkit" of successful behaviors to succeed and even more so be able to adapt and create innovative new tools to meet new unchartered situations.

Harvard Business Review, July/August 2009, has a interesting article called “Leadership in a (Permanent) Crisis” that offers up some useful insights on adaptive leadership.

But first, what is clear is that uncertainty abounds and leadership must adapt and meet the challenges head on:

“Uncertainty will continue as the norm even after the recession ends. Economics cannot erect a firewall against intensifying global competition, energy constraints, climate change, and political instability.”

But some things that effective leaders can do in challenging and uncertain times are as follows:

Foster adaptation”—leaders need to be able to function in two realities—today and tomorrow. They “must execute in order to meet today’s challenges and they must adapt what and how things get done in order to thrive in tomorrow’s world.” Or to put it another way: leaders “must develop ‘next practices’ while excelling at today’s best practices.”

Stabilize, then solve—in uncertain times, when an emergency situation arises, first stabilize the situation and then adapt by tackling the underlying causes and building capacity to thrive in a new reality.

Experiment—don’t be afraid to experiment and try out new ways of doing things, innovate products and services, or field new technologies. “The way forward will be characterized by constant midcourse corrections.” But that is how learning occurs and that’s how success is bred—one experience and experiment at a time.

“Embrace disequilibrium”—Often people and organizations won’t or can’t change until the pain of not adapting is greater than the pain of staying the course. Too little pain and people stay in their comfort zone. Too much change, and people “fight, flee, or freeze.” So we have to be ready to change at the tipping point when the discomfort opens the way for change to drive forward.

Make people safe to question—unfortunately, too often [poor] leadership is afraid or threatened by those who question or seek alternative solutions. But effective leaders are open to new ideas, constructive criticism and innovation. Leaders need be confident and “create a culture of courageous conversations”—where those who can provide critical insights “are protected from the organizational pressure to remain silent.”

Leverage diversity—the broader the counsel you have, the better the decision you are likely to make. “If you do not engage in the widest possible range of life experiences and views—including those of younger employees—you risk operating without a nuanced picture of the shifting realities facing the business internally and externally.

To me, while leaders may intuitively fall back on tried and true techniques that have worked for them in the past, adaptive leaders need to overcome that tendency and think creatively and in situation-appropriate ways to be most effective. The adaptive leader doesn’t just do what is comfortable or known, but rather he/she synthesizes speed, agility, and courage in confronting new and evolving challenges. No two days or situations are the same and leadership must stand ready to meet the future by charting and creative new ways ahead.


July 10, 2009

The Microgrid Versus The Cloud

It’s strange how the older you get, the more you come to realize that life is not black and white. However, when it comes to technology, I once held out hope that the way to the future was clear.

Then things started to get all gray again.

First, I read a few a few weeks ago about the trends with wired and wireless technologies. On one hand, phones have been going from wired to wireless (many are even giving up their landlines all together). Yet on the other hand, television has been going the other way—from wireless (antennas) to wired (cable).

Okay, I thought this was an aberration; generally speaking technology advances—maybe with some thrashing about—but altogether in a specific direction that we can get clearly define and get our arms around.

Well, then I read another article—this one in Fast Company, July/August 2009, about the micogrid. Here’s what this is all about:

“The microgrid is simple. Imagine you could go to Home Depot and pick out a wind or solar appliance that’s as easy to install as a washer/dryer. It makes all the electricity your home needs and pays for itself in just a few years. Your home still connects to the existing wires and power plants, but is a two-way connection. You’re just as likely to be uploading power to the grid as downloading from it. You power supply communicates with the rest of the system via a two-way digital smart meter, and you can view your energy use and generation in real time.”

Is this fantasy or reality for our energy markets?

Reality. “From the perspective of both our venture capital group and some senior people within GE Energy, distributed generation is going to happen in a big way.” IBM researchers agree—“IBM’s vision is achieving true distributed energy on a massive scale.”

And indeed we see this beginning to happen in the energy industry with our own eyes as “going green” environmentalism, and alternate energy has become important to all of us.

The result is that in the energy markets, let’s summarize, we are going from centralized power generation to a distributed model. Yet—there is another trend in the works on the information technology side of the house and that is—in cloud computing, where we are moving from distributed applications, platforms, storage, and so forth (in each organization) to a more centralized model where these are provisioned by service providers such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and IBM—to name a just a few. So in the energy markets, we will often be pushing energy back to the grid, while in information technology, we will be receiving metered services from the cloud.

The takeaway for me is that progress can be defined in many technological ways at one time. It’s not black or white. It’s not wired or wireless. It’s not distributed or centralized services. Rather, it’s whatever meets the needs of the particular problem at hand. Each must be analyzed on its own merits and solved accordingly.


July 4, 2009

CIO Support Services Framework

The CIO Support Service Framework (CSSF) has 5 major components:
  1. Enterprise Architecture--for strategic, tactical, and operational planning
  2. Capital Planning & Investment Control (or IT governance)--for managing the IT investment decision process (i.e. "putting those plans to work")
  3. Project Management (or a project management office)--to effectively execute on the programs and projects in the transition strategy
  4. Customer Relationship Management (or IT service management)--for managing service and support to our customer (i.e. with a single--belly button; one call does it all)
  5. Business Performance Management--how we measure & drive performance (like with an IT executive dashboard--so we know whether we are hitting the target or not!)
Together these five areas make up a holistic and synergistic set of CIO support functions.

So that we move the mindset of the CIO from fighting day to day operational problems to instead strategically managing IT service provision through:
  • Planning
  • Investing
  • Executing
  • Servicing
  • Measuring
This is how we are going to achieve genuine success for the CIO in the 21st century and beyond.


July 3, 2009

Industry Architecture—What’s in a Name?

ComputerWorld, 22 June 2009 has an opinion piece, called “The Benefits of Working Together,” about developing an “Industry Architecture (IA)”—in this particular case for the hotel industry.

It takes the concept of a company or organizational architecture and applies it across an entire industry.

“In difficult economic times, every company seeks cost reductions and process improvements. But now an entire industry has banded together to help its constituents maximize their IT-based assets.”

I can see how from a private sector approach, IA is a way for companies to work together and benefit their overall industry through:

  • Improved IT products—“a clear architectural roadmap allows suppliers to focus efforts on the capabilities most important to customers.”
  • Lower IT product costs—standardized products from suppliers are generally less costly to produce than customized one (but they are also less differentiated and may be less exciting and inviting to customers). The IA also facilitates component reuse, standardized interfaces, and so forth.
  • Lower training costs—IA could reduce training costs, since there are standard processes and products spanning the entire industry meaning that employees can move more seamlessly between companies and not have to learn a whole new way of doing things.
  • Improved agility—industry standards allow for faster deployments and configurations of IT.
  • Increased buyer confidence—industry architectures could provide for a “product certification program”, so buyers can have confidence that IT products meet guidelines and are interoperable with other IA certified products.
  • Improved security—IA can incorporate IT security standards, resulting in companies being more secure than if they had “conflicting security approaches.”

From a public sector perspective, the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA) is similar to Industry Architecture in the private sector. Ideally, the FEA looks across all the federal departments (like an IA looks across the various companies in an industry) and creates a roadmap, standards, certification programs, interopability, component reuse, umbrella security, and more resulting in lower IT costs, more agility, and improved service to the citizen.

In terms of naming conventions, we can come up with all types of architectures from company architectures to industry architectures, from solution architectures (for meeting specific requirements) to segment architectures (for specific lines of business). We can develop horizontal architectures (across entities in the same stage of production or service provision) or vertical architectures (in entities that span different stages of production or service provision). We can create national architectures (like it looks like we may end up doing the financial services sector now) or perhaps even global architectures (such as through environmental, economic, or military agreements and treaties).

Whatever we call the various levels of architecture, they are all enterprise architectures (just with the “enterprise” representing different types or levels of entities). In other words, an enterprise can be a company or industry, an agency or a department in the federal government. Some enterprise architectures are bigger than others. Some are more complex. But what all these enterprise architectures have in common is that they seek to provide improved IT planning and governance resulting in cost savings, cost avoidance, and performance improvement for the enterprise in question.

So, we must at all levels continue to plan, develop and implement our enterprise architectures so that we realize the benefits – from the micro to the macro environment – of both private and public sector best practices.