July 27, 2008

Situational Awareness and Enterprise Architecture

EA is a tool for situational awareness and planning to drive modernization, transformation, and improved results. Enterprise architecture helps us as organizations to be more aware of our business and technology resources, desired outcomes, and ways to link resources/investments to results.

As far as mankind can remember, we have always looked to plan ahead to manage change and complexity. In the times of the pharaohs, people looked to the stars for a sign of what was to come. In past centuries, others have looked into the crystal ball to foretell events and plan accordingly. To many, these rudimentary methods were all they had to gain a semblance control over their lives and a world that probably felt very out of control much of the time.

Now the military has a crystal ball all of its own to deploy to the battleground to provide better situational awareness to our troops, and this is particularly helpful for identifying the enemy in close urban combat, as that which we find ourselves fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, now-a-days.

National Defense Magazine, March 2008, reports that ODF Optronics, a technology company in Tel Aviv, Israel has developed an eye-ball surveillance system “which consists of a hardened sphere that houses a sophisticated camera system and comes with a wireless display unit. Durable eye ball can be thrown over walls, into streets, tunnels, houses, or any other place of interest. Once the sphere hits the ground it establishes a 360-degree video image of the surrounding area and feeds it to operators holding the small display unit. It also features audio and day/night sensors.”

Other models like the omni-directional system, “is a sensor platform that is housed inside a hardened pole that can be mounted on top of a vehicle. It provides a 360-degree field of view for the crew inside…A five camera system is housed inside the cylindrical structure that transmits video images to a rugged laptop sitting inside the vehicle.”

ODF is now working with the DoD technical support working group and DARPA developing new sensors, because they “understood that military forces need to see the world around them.” But the truth is with all need to see the world around us with ever more comprehensive views, better resolution and clarity of image, and enhanced processing to understand what we are seeing. Only with this type of situational awareness are we better able to plan and respond to the world around us.

Like the ODF eye-ball for high-tech military surveillance and reconnaissance, our organizations need the ability to capture and analyze information and develop what Danny Nadri, a retired Israeli Air Force captain calls “quick actionable information.” And enterprise architecture is one important tool to provide us this situational awareness and planning capability.


July 26, 2008

Lessons from GE and Enterprise Architecture

General Electric (GE) is one of the largest, most successful, and most respected companies in the world. What lessons can we learn from their CIO to more successfully architect and manage our enterprises?

Fortune Magazine, 21 July 2008, reports on an interview with Gary Reiner, the CIO of GE, who has been in his role for a dozen years and oversees a $4 billion IT budget.

Reverse auctions

In purchasing IT, a major corporate expense these days, buying on reverse auction can save your enterprise mega bucks. A reverse auction is one where the purchaser puts out the specs for what they are looking to buy, and sellers bid their lowest price they are willing to sell at. (This is the opposite of a traditional auction where a seller puts out their wares for buyers to bid their highest price they are willing to purchase at). You want to avoid selling on auction at the lowest price (by differentiating you product so it isn’t treated as a commodity), but you want to purchase on reverse auction to get the best price for your purchases. In our organizations, perhaps enterprise architecture can partner with procurement and finance to leverage reverse auctions in planning for and purchasing major IT investments to reduce total cost of ownership (TCO) thereby more effectively managing scarce IT resource dollars i.e. getting more modernization/transformation for the IT dollar.

Process Improvement

GE’s CIO is responsible for Six Sigma, driving down deviances and defects in its processes. GE’s CIO says that “Six Sigma is a wonderful tool, but it is [just] a tool. What we are talking about as a company is outcomes, and the two outcomes we really want are product reliability and customer responsiveness…on the responsiveness side, it’s often less about Six Sigma and more about getting the right people in the room to map out [the processes for] how long it takes for us to do something…[and] take out those things in the way of meeting customer needs responsibly.” From an enterprise architecture perspective this is closely aligned to the idea of IT as an enabler for business, but one where business process improvement and reengineering comes first.

Information-based business

GE businesses are information-based. “In every one of our infrastructure businesses, we do something called remote monitoring and diagnostics, where we attach sensors to our equipment. So there are sensors in every locomotive, every gas turbine, every aircraft engine, [and] every turbo compressor. We’ve got software that resides with our customer or in our shops…that analyzes that data and is able in many cases to predict problems before they occur. We can prevent outages from occurring.” This information-based approach is similar to enterprise architecture and IT governance. The enterprise architecture is the information-based planning for the organization’s business and IT. And the IT governance is the information-based management and monitoring for selecting, controlling, and evaluating investments. Together enterprise architecture and IT governance are our “sensors” for predicting/planning the change and preventing problems/ensuring more successful IT project delivery.

Emerging technologies

GE sees a number of emerging technologies as having a major impact in coming years. The first, man-machine interface will evolve from keyboards and mice to “multitouch gestures,” such as “the ability to use your hands directly on screens.” Secondly, organic light-emitting diodes (OLED), “extremely thin screens…so thin that you’ll be bale to roll them up and fold them and carry them…you’ll be carrying around your screen.” And third, is cloud-computing, ‘having all your applications centrally located…[with] almost every document you create is for collaboration” and built on the web. In short, it’s really all about increased mobility of communications and ubiquity of information. Enterprise architecture should help facilitate the adoption of these new technologies.


At GE speed to market is critical to bringing new product innovations to market, providing value to customers, and maintain an edge on the competition. IT is an enabler for new product development processes. In enterprise architecture, innovation is critical to breaking old paradigms and thinking out of the box and making real change that has contributes to significant improvements in organizational results. In product development, for example, I believe this involves everything from next generation computer aided design and manufacturing tools (CAD/CAM) to business intelligence systems and fusion engines for analyzing your customers and market changes to advances in automation and robotics for speeding and improving the manufacturing process.

GE is helping lead the way building sound enterprise architectures in corporate America!


July 20, 2008

A Net-centric Military and Enterprise Architecture

Information is central to the Department of Defense’s arsenal for fighting and defeating our enemies and the ability to share information across interoperable systems in the way ahead.

National Defense, March 2008 reports that while a net-centric military is our goal, the transformation is a work in progress.

Brig. Gen. David Warner, director of command and control at DISA stated: “in this war, information is truly our primary weapon. You can’t move, you can’t shoot, if you can’t communicate.”

Yet, “the Defense Department continues to acquire stovepiped systems…the requirements change, the system grows, and then there are cost overruns. One of the first items to cut from the budget is interoperability.”

Air Force Gen. Lance L. Smith says, “the dream of a truly net-centric U.S. military will not happen overnight. But progress could be achieved within the next five to 10 years, It will be a matter of waiting for the stovepiped legacy systems to come to the end of their lifespan. If the services get onboard and stop building non-interoperable technologies now, then the new generation of net-centric communications can take over and become the norm.”

This sounds to me like the problem isn’t limited to legacy systems, but that there are still cultural, project management, and change management issues that are obstacles to achieving the net-centric goal.

The challenges are even greater and more complex when it comes to sharing information with “federal civilian agencies and foreign allies…NATO, for example, has no mechanism to ensure its members are interoperable with each other.”

Today the normal way to do business is to ‘exchange hostages’ which means sending personnel from one service, agency, or coalition partner to each other’s command centers so they can verbally relay information.” This typically takes the form of interagency operation command center, and is not very net-centric.

So we continue to have stovepipes for “communications or data sharing systems built by different agencies, armed services, or coalition partners that cannot link to each other…[yet] the U.S. military is trying to make itself more lethal, faster, and more survivable. [And] the key to doing that is the ability to share information.”

Net-centricity, interoperability, and information sharing are true cornerstones to what enterprise architecture is about, and it is where we as architects are needed to take center stage now and in the years ahead in the war on terrorism and the other challenges we will face.

From an EA perspective, we need to ensure that all of our agencies’ targets, transition plans, and IT governance structures not only include, but emphasize net-centricity and enforce it through the EA review processes and the investment review board. There is no excuse for these stovepipes to persist.

July 18, 2008

To Be A CIO and Enterprise Architecture

Public CIO Magazine, June/July 2008, has some interesting articles on what it takes to be a next generation CIO (and many of these have to do with enterprise architecture).

Here are some tips (adapted from Public CIO):

  • Develop your EA and IT Governance Capabilities—one of the first moves of Michael Locatis, the CIO of Colorado, was “hiring an enterprise architecture team leader and the development of new governance structures.” This is critical in effectively planning and change managing the consolidation of IT. In Colorado it means uniting “20 disparate IT departments into a single citywide Technology Services Division.”
  • Be a strategist—Liza Massey, CEO of The CIO collaborative, a Las Vegas-based consultancy believes that a “CIO needs to make the leap from being a technologist to being a strategist [what EA planning is all about!]…’you have to be seen as a peer working for the good of the organization, not as the chief geek.’” She says, “if you know the version number of the operating system running on your mainframe, you’re probably not a CIO.”
  • Understand that mission drives technology—Pat Schambach, retired CIO of the Secret Service, ATF, and the TSA said “it was his ability to understand his organization’s business imperatives that made him CIO material.” Pat states about the Service, “they wanted someone who knew the mission well and could bring technology to bear against that mission.” Again, this is good EA and IT governance in practice: where business drives technology and not doing technology for technology’s sake.
  • Focus on business processes—Vivek Kundra, the CTO of Washington DC believes that “The key is to focus on the business process.” He stated, “My approach is to go after the core of the problem, to look at how the employees do their jobs and then look for how we can affect change.” Again, this is EA synthesizing business and technology to satisfy mission and end-user needs and requirements.
  • “Behave like an enterprise”—Dave Wennergren, Deputy CIO for the Department of Defense and prior CIO of the Navy, said “we have to behave like an enterprise. We don’t need 50 smart card solutions or 50 collaboration tools.” He believes “the enterprise can be responsible for tools everyone uses, freeing up agency developers to work on tools specific to their needs.” In other words, we can leverage enterprise architecture and IT governance to develop enterprise solutions that are cost effective and efficient, but at the same time remain nimble in meeting niche or localized needs.
  • Be able to translate business to technology and vice versa—Alan Shark, executive director for the Public Technology Institute said, “I’m seeing a big shift from issues that were purely technology to issues have much more to do with IT governance and leadership—being a translator between the technologists who work in the trenches and the politicians or the [higher-level] people who just want to hear the facts.” Again, EA plays a critical role here in synthesizing business and technology to enable better IT decision making for the mission/business.
  • Leadership skills—In the latest survey of the National Association of State CIOs, the traits that rose to the top for CIO success: “communication skills, negotiation skills, being able to collaborate and work across the agencies, to work with their executive team.” Laura Fucci, the CIO of Clark County Nevada (home to the Las Vegas strip) echoes these sentiments for a CIO and talks in terms of team building [and networking], being a consensus builder, improving customer service (ITIL), studying metrics, and good project management.

A few other traits worth mentioning from David Wennergren, from DoD, is continuous learning and studying and driving best practices. This again ties strongly to enterprise architecture which builds the target architecture, transition plan, and IT strategic plan, bringing together the best practices from inside and outside the organization to move it steadily forward.

Clearly, the enterprise architecture is the foundation for a successful CIO and the organization he/she serves.


Learning from the Private Sector and Enterprise Architecture

There is a terrific article in ComputerWorld, 17 July 2008, called “Pentagon’s IT unit seeks to borrow tech ideas from Google, Amazon, other companies.”

Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) provides IT solutions to the Department of Defense. So what DISA does has to be state-of-the- art and best practice 24x7x365. Their mission depends on it!

To keep ahead of the curve, John Garing, DISA’s CIO and a retired Air Force colonel has been visiting with top tier private sector companies like Google, Amazon, UPS, Sabre, and FedEx to identify their best practices and incorporate them.

What has DISA learned from the private sector?

1. Cloud Computing

According to Garing, cloud computing is “going to be the way—it has to be. We have to get to this standard environment that is provisionable and scalable.”

To this end, “DISA has begin deploying a system [Rapid Access Computing Environment (RACE)] that is similar architecturally to Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) technology, a web-based computing service that enables users to quickly scale up their processing capabilities.”

Using RACE, a soldier in the field will be able to use a client device (like a PDA) with web support and “dynamically access a wide range of information sources and meld together data,” such as blue force tracking, mapping of combatant locations, identification of aid stations, fuel and ammunition supplies, and so forth.

2. Elastic and flexible

DISA has to be prepared to handle the unexpected and this means they need to be able to flexible to meet a mission need or fight a war or two. Garing has found that companies like Amazon and Sabre have built their IT infrastructures to enable “elasticity and flexibility.”

3. Competing for business

Like the private sector that competes for market share, DISA sees itself and operates “like a business and produce[s] an attractive offering of IT services at a competitive price. They recognize that they “compete for the business it gets from other military agencies, which in some cases have options to use private-sector IT service providers.”

4. Process-driven and Speedy

Like enterprise architecture, which looks at both business processes and technology enablement, Garing is “interested in the processes that companies use to deploy technology, not just their technology itself.” DISA wants to learn how to speed an idea to a service in just a few months as opposed to the years it often takes in DoD.

DISA is learning that cloud computing will enable increased standardization through a “standard suite of operating platforms” as well as increased “deployment speed and agility.”

By being open to learning from the private sector, Garing is leading an enterprise architecture that is making for a better and more capable DoD.

Job well done DISA and a shining example for the rest of the federal space!

Finally, learning is not a one-way street and surely the interchange between the public and private sector can lead to improvements for all.


July 14, 2008

Gobbledygook and Enterprise Architecture

The premise of User-centric Enterprise Architecture is to transform traditional EA, which is often user-blind, and which develops “artifacts” that are difficult for the end user to understand and apply, and to instead produce truly useful and usable information products and governance services.

User-centric EA is about taking the gobbledygook out of architecture and making it clear and simple for the end user to understand.

The User-centric EA approach has a lot in common and is consistent with the drive to make federal communications, in general, more straightforward and understandable.

Government Executive magazine, July 2008 reports that “Congress is on a crusade to clean up the language in federal documents.”

The Plain language in Government Communications Act covers benefit and tax forms, letters, publications, notices and instructions sent to the public. Under best practices mandated by the bill, federal document drafters would have to tailor communications to targeted readers, employ personal pronouns, offer examples, and use the active voice.

Spread government wide, such fixes would save agencies, citizens, and businesses billions of dollars in time and effort, backers say. The prospect of simplified interaction with the government has won the proposed legislation backing from influential organizations such as AARP and the National Small Business Association.”

The goal of the “plain language” legislation is to kill off the “clause-ridden federal guidance that former vice President Al Gore used to deride as ‘gobbledygook’ [in exchange for]…lean prose and declarative sentences.”

Oh, music to my ears and eyes!

Unfortunately, there are still quite a few naysayers out there when it comes to making things easy.

So, “by design the plain language legislation is modest. The bill exempts internal communications. And to avoid opposition from agency lawyers, it does not cover federal regulations.”

Why would anyone want to make things more difficult or NOT User-centric?

Frankly and with all due respect, the explanations I read—about plain language causing existing policy to become muddled or about having a one-size-fits-all policy not working—sounded like more gobbledygook.

Some people argue that by “oversimplifying” documents, you are leaving out important information or missing shades of meaning. However, it’s the job of professionals to communicate effectively regardless of the complexity. Put simply, how can taxpayers comply with laws and regulations if they don’t understand them?

Plain language and user-centric is the way to go in serving our citizens and our organizations.

P.S. Hats off to Annetta Cheek, chairwoman of the Center for Plain Language.


July 13, 2008

Secure Border Initiative and Enterprise Architecture

The enterprise architecture change process starts with requirements generation and management. Requirements become business cases and business cases become decision requests for new or changes to IT projects, products, and standards that go before the enterprise architecture board (EAB) and ultimately to the IT investment review board (IRB). The decision requests get vetted against the architecture for business alignment and technical compliance by the EAB. The IRB takes the findings of the EAB and also looks at return on investment and risk management. Approved changes to the IT environment get added to the enterprise architecture.

So mission-business requirements from the program sponser/end user are the starting point for changes to the EA.

What happens though when requirements are unclear?

Obviously, if the requirements are unclear, then proposed changes to the enterprise are sort of like shooting in the dark, and the ability to develop viable technical solutions is a guessing game.

An article on Secure Border Initiative in National Defense Magazine, July 2008, demonstrated how the architecture does not add up, when the “Border Calculus” is a big question mark.

After 9/11, securing the border became a more publicized issue. With the formation of DHS, the Secure Boarder Initiative (SBI) was set up in 2005.

SBI is supposed to secure the border, okay. But secure it against what is the question. What are the requirements for securing it?

  1. Illegal immigrants—“For many Americans—especially these who don’t live near the border—illegal immigration is what prompts their calls for a beefed up border.” While some say that “the U.S. economy depends on cheap labor…others claim illegal immigrants are a drain on the economy.”
  2. Terrorism—“For the Department of Homeland Security, charged with protecting the nation, keeping weapons of mass destruction out of the United States is the priority.”
  3. Drugs—“for many who live north and south of the four states that border Mexico, the real threat is narcotics.”

Each of these purposes, changes the equation. If the primary purpose you are securing the border is to protect against a genuine threat of weapons of mass destruction, then some may argue for highly secure border, one that is truly non-porous, without regard to cost. However, if the goals are more for controlling illegal immigration, perhaps a less perfect and less costly border security solution is acceptable. And if drugs are the issue, then maybe the money is better spent going after the source, rather than building fences that can be circumvented.

So understanding and building consensus on the true requirements are critical to developing a business case and a technical solution.

As it stands now, SBI is going in two directions:

  1. Physical fence—“to stop those on foot or on vehicles.” Estimates by the Congressional Research Service “say that maintaining those fences may cost up to $49 billion.” While critics say that these physical barriers “only delay an illegal crosser three to four minutes,” so is this worth it?”
  2. Virtual fence—“Sensors, cameras, improved communication systems and unmanned aerial vehicles.” According to the article, “no one seems know how much it will cost to set up and maintain these high-tech systems throughout their lifespan.”

Additionally, “plans call for doubling the number of border patrol agents.”

I guess without a clear consensus on what we’re trying to accomplish, any solution will get us there or not. Isn’t this what an enterprise architecture is supposed to help with—establishing a clear roadmap or blueprint? Of course, but it’s got to start with the requirements generation process and with the business owners.


July 12, 2008

Global Innovation and Enterprise Architecture

For architecting the enterprise, we need good ideas to mature, evolve, and innovate. And good ideas can come from literally anywhere, so we should not limit ourselves to looking for them in-house, in our industry, locally, regionally, or nationally. Good ideas are global and we need to reach out for these ideas, adopt them, and make them our own, regardless of where they originate.

National Defense Magazine, July 2008 reports that “technology flows freely across national borders and the United States depends on foreign technology to secure its military edge, says a new study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.”

In fact, “many of the greatest achievements in U.S. weaponry were made possible by foreign technologies, ‘whether that is nuclear weapons thanks to German Jewish scientists, whether it is space, thanks to German scientists…whether it is armored vehicles, a British invention, or airpower, also a British invention. Stealth technology was actually a Russian algorithm that Northrop Grumman scientists happened to see at a conference that told them how to calculate the bouncing of radio waves,” says Pierre Chao a defense industry analyst.

Remember, while the U.S. populace has many advantages including being diverse, highly educated, relatively affluent, and having the freedom to pursue and express new ideas, we represent only 4.5% of the world population. So we do not have a monopoly on science, engineering, and innovation.

Actually, “by 2010, if current trends continue, more than 90 percent of all scientists and engineers will be living in Asia,” according to Mario Mancuso head of the bureau of industry and security at the Department of Commerce.

Additionally most of our military technologies come from abroad. “In the past, approximately two-thirds of our nation’s military technologies were developed in a defense R&D setting, with the remaining third coming from adaptations of commercial, off-the-shelf technologies. Today, those proportions have been almost exactly reversed.”

Even our most advanced new jet fighter, the Joint Strike Fighter, is a global initiative, “with hundreds of contractors across many borders.”

There is an old saying that there is strength in numbers. The world is 6.7 billion in number and growing fast; the U.S., while a superpower is only a small part of the whole world. Therefore, we need to embrace innovation from everyone that can contribute positively. Innovation is incremental; we can learn from others, build on it, improve on it, and integrate it with our own creativity. Then we are architecting our enterprises with the added force of globalization.

While it would be good if the U.S. could retain its leadership in innovation, the reality is that we can no longer afford to be an island of excellence. The main thing is to harvest ideas wherever they come from and leverage them in ways that help us maintain our technological edge, promote economic prosperity and support the wellbeing of our nation.


July 10, 2008

IT Planning and Enterprise Architecture

Perhaps many of you have wondered what the relationship is between the IT Strategic Plan and the Enterprise Architecture Transition Plan? Why do you need both? Isn’t one IT plan just like another?

There are many different plans starting with the organization’s strategic plan that drives the IT plan and so forth. Each sequential layer of the plan adds another crucial dimension for the plan to enable it to achieve it ultimate implementation.

The various plans establish line of sight from the highest level plan for the organization to individual performance plans and the implementation of new or changes to systems, IT products and standards, and ultimately to the capabilities provided the end-user.

Here is my approach to User-centric IT Planning:

1. Organizational Strategic Plan—the highest level overall plan enterprise; it identifies the goals and objectives of the organization, and drives the IT Strategic Plan.

2. IT Strategic Pan—the IT Plan for the enterprise; it identifies the IT goals and objectives, and drives the IT Performance Plan.

3. IT Performance Plan—a decomposition of the IT Plan; it identifies IT initiatives and milestones, and drives the IT Roadmap and Individual Performance Plans.

4. IT Roadmap and Individual Performance Plans

a) IT Roadmap—a visual timeline of the IT Performance Plan; it identifies programs and projects milestones, and drives the Target Architecture and Transition Plan.

b) Individual Performance Plans—the performance plans for your IT staff; it is derived from the IT Performance Plan, and provides line of sight from the Organizational and IT Strategic Plans all the way to the individual’s performance plan, so everyone knows what they are supposed to do and why (i.e. how it fits into the overall goals and objectives.

5. Target Architecture and Transition Plan

a) Target Architecture—a decomposition of the IT Roadmap into systems and IT products and standards; it identifies the baseline (As-Is) and the target (To-Be) for new and major changes to systems and IT products and standards.

[Note: Target Architecture can also be used in more general terms to refer to the future state of the organization and IT, and this is how I often use it.]

b) Transition Plan—a visual timeline of the changes for implementing the changes to go from the baseline (As-Is) to the target (To-Be) state for systems and IT products and standards.

6. Capabilities—the target state in terms of business capabilities provided to the end-user derived from the changes to systems, IT products and standards, and business processes; it is derived from the Target Architecture and Transition Plan.

This planning approach is called User-centric IT Planning because it is focused on the end-user. User-centric IT Planning develops a plan that is NOT esoteric or shelfware, but rather one that is focused on being actionable and valuable to the organization and its end-users. User-centric IT plans have line of sight from the organization’s strategic plan all the way to the individual performance plans and end-user capabilities.

Now that’s the way to plan IT!


July 9, 2008

DARPA and Enterprise Architecture

As a discipline enterprise architecture strives to move the organization into the future—that is what EA planning and IT governance is all about—and that is also what an organization like DARPA is about.

“The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of new technology for use by the military. DARPA has been responsible for funding the development of many technologies which have had a major impact on the world, including computer networking [the Internet]DARPA’s original mission, established in 1958, was to prevent technological surprise like the launch of Sputnik, which signaled that the Soviets had beaten the U.S. into space. The mission statement has evolved over time. Today, DARPA’s mission is still to prevent technological surprise to the US, but also to create technological surprise for our enemies. DARPA is independent from other more conventional military R&D and reports directly to senior Department of Defense management. DARPA has around 240 personnel (about 140 technical) directly managing a $3.2 billion budget.” (Wikipedia)

National Defense Magazine, November 2007, states that DARPA “has a reputation for taking on challenges that sometimes seem to defy the laws of physics—or at least common sense.”

“’DARPA Hard’ refer to problems its researchers attempt to solve...’Please tell us that it’s something that can’t be done. It’s science fiction. That is a challenge we can’t resist,’” says Brett Giroir, director of the defense sciences office.

Here are some interesting target architectures that DARPA has set out to tackle:

  • Transparent walls—“DARPA wants to defeat rock, concrete and plaster walls—not by blowing them up—but rather by making them transparent. The agency is creating a suite of sensors to map the inside of buildings, tunnels, caves, and underground facilities.” The Visi-building project ,for example, uses radar to detect the inside of buildings, and then DARPA is exploring how to penetrate and destroy without resorting to nukes.
  • Inner Armor—“the objective is to fortify the entire soldier against attack from the enemy of the environment.” This includes environmental hardening to “protect soldiers from extreme heat, cold, and high altitudes,” and kill proofing “to protect soldiers from chemical and radiological threats,” as well as safeguarding them from deadly diseases. It’s a comprehensive protection package. DARPA for example envision “universal immune cells that are capable of making anti-bodies that neutralize…hundreds of threat agents.”
  • Chemical mapping—“there are about 80,000 commercially available chemicals, and many of them are toxic, DARPA wants to create a map showing where and if they appear in a given area.” This would show forces where chemical labs or weapons caches are. One idea is to use “replace sensors with nano-technology-based samplers that extract chemicals…[and that have ] a GPS device attached [that] could be placed on helicopters, military vehicles, or secretly placed on delivery trucks making rounds through a city”

These are great! You have got to love the “know no bounds” attitude of DARPA. They are truly innovators, and are a model for the rest of government and industry in defining problems and actually solving them.

In enterprise architecture, it is one thing to set targets that are incremental, non-monumental, and the same as everyone else is doing (like moving to Microsoft Vista). But it is an altogether different thing to set targets that are groundbreaking in terms of business process engineering and technology innovation.

While not all our targets can be revolutionary, perhaps a subset of them should be to keep us really innovating and not just copycatting the competition. We need to bring innovation back to the forefront of what we believe, how we think, what we do, and how we compete.


July 7, 2008

The Virtuous Cycle and Enterprise Architecture

To move the enterprise into the future, organizations need leaders who have the skills and abilities to generate genuine improved results for the organization. These leaders are not afraid of change, embrace new ways of doing things, and are generally speaking, growth oriented.

The Wall Street Journal, 7 July 2008, identifies the effective leadership traits of those who “demonstrate a virtuous cycle of beliefs and behaviors.” Here is my cut at them:

  1. Outlook on change—it starts with their outlook on life; effective leaders see “life as a journey of learning, [and] therefore embrace uncertainty, seek new experiences, [and] broaden [their] repertoire. This is in contrast to managers who follow the “vicious cycle” with an outlook that “life is a test,… [they] fear uncertainty, avoid new experiences, [and] narrow [their] repertoire. Leaders rich in experience often either come up the ranks, having been trained and worked in various diverse jobs internally or having worked in a multitude of external organizations in similar or different industries, but in either case, these leaders have been tested time again and have a developed a history of success in the face of constant or frequent change.
  2. Customer view—effective leaders “understand customers as people” (versus seeing them only as data points), and they are thus, better able to detect new growth opportunities. This reminds me of the user-centric approach in enterprise architecture that I espouse. If we focus on the end-user/customer, and take an thoughtful approach to genuinely satisfying their needs, rather than just trying to make a sale, then we will always be working to do things better, faster, and cheaper. This is a long-term growth approach, rather than a short-term market share or stock price watcher view.
  3. Action-orientation—virtuous leaders manage risk through action instead of through analysis paralysis, and they place “small bets quickly” rather than big bets slowly. One manager at a confectionary company put it this way, “get the products into the marketplace, and then start to understand what works and doesn’t work. If it doesn’t work, either take another shot at it or cut your losses.” That’s the price of learning. While this approach seems a little too loosey goosey; I do see the value of cutting off the analysis phase at a reasonable point, making a decision, and then following through with corrective action as needed.
  4. Agility—great leaders are agile and believe that “abilities are malleable” and with change can come growth, as opposed to believing that “abilities are immutable” and leaders being fixed in their way of doing things. There is a need for entrepreneurial leaders who while not risk seekers, are able to take calculated risks. They change as often as necessary to remain agile, growing their own and their organization’s capabilities in meeting customers’ needs, but they do not change for changes sake alone.

What interesting is that each and every trait identified here for effective leadership centers around change—embracing it, acting on it, managing it, and remaining nimble in the face of ever changing circumstance. This is highly consistent with the enterprise architecture view of identifying the baseline, target, and transition plan and moving the enterprise ever forward in the face of constant change.


July 6, 2008

Biometrics and Enterprise Architecture

Biometrics is “the study of methods for uniquely recognizing humans based upon one or more intrinsic physical or behavioral traits.” (Wikipedia)

Biometrics is crucial for identifying and taking out of play enemy combatants, terrorists, and criminals or for providing access to trusted employees or partners in public or private sector organizations, like the intelligence community, defense, security, and various sensitive industries like financial, telecommunications, transportation, energy, and so forth.

National Defense Magazine, November 2007 has an article on the significant advances being made in biometric technologies and their applications to our organizations.

According to “’The National Biometrics Challenge,’ a report produced by the Office of the President’s National Science and Technology Council…’a tipping point in the maturation of the technology has been reached.’

Both the FBI’s Information Services Division and The Department of Defense Biometric Fusion Center are leading the way in this field.

Currently, identity is established based on the trinity: “something you know (such as a password), something you have (like an identity card), or something you are, which is where biometrics comes in.”

Biometrics includes technologies for recognizing fingerprints, facial features, irises, veins, voices, and ears, and even gait.

But these are technologies identification means are not fool-proof: remembering multiple complex passwords can be dizzying and identity cards can be lost, stolen, or forged. So biometrics becomes the cornerstone for identity management.

However, even biometrics can be spoofed. For example, fake rubber fingers have been used in lieu of a real fingerprint (although now there are ways with living flesh sensors to protect against this). So therefore, biometrics is evolving toward “multi-modial” collection and authentication. This could involve using 10 fingerprints versus one or combing fingerprint, iris scans, and digital mugshots (called the “13 biometrics template” and used to gain access in U.S. managed detention centers in Iraq) or some other combination thereof.

Biometrics has advanced so much so that an Iris scan system from Sarnoff Corp. of Princeton NJ “can scan and process 20 people per minute from distances of about 10 feet away, even those who are wearing glasses.”

The keys to further enterprise application of these technologies in our enterprises are the following:

  1. Lowering the cost (especially to make it available to local law enforcement agencies)
  2. Making it rugged enough for extreme environments for the military
  3. Making it portable so that it can be used for a variety of law enforcement and defense operations
  4. Reengineering business processes so that measurements are captured, stored, accessible, and readily available for making a match and generating a decision on someone’s identity in real-time
  5. Developing policies that “effectively govern the proper use of the data” and ensure adequate protection for civil liberties and privacy.

Overall, biometrics has moved from emerging technology to applied technology and needs to be planned into your identity management architectures.


July 5, 2008

The Three I’s and Enterprise Architecture

One question that is frequently asked in enterprise architecture is whether new technologies should be adopted early (more cutting edge) or later (more as quick followers). Of course, the third course of action is to close ones eyes or resist change and simply “stay the course.”

The advantages to bleeding edge technology adoption is having the early advantage over competitors in the marketplace (this head start provides the ability to incorporate innovation into products early and capture a hefty market share and quite possibly dominance), while the advantage to quick followers being learning from mistakes of others, building from their initial investments and a more mature technology base (for example, with software, one where the bugs have been worked out) thereby potentially enabling a leapfrog effect over competitors. The advantage to staying the course is organizational stability in the face of market turmoil; however, this is usually short lived, as change overwhelms those resistant, as the flood waters overflow a levee.

The Wall Street Journal 5-6 July 2008 has an interview with Theodore J. Frostmann, a billionaire private-equity businessman, who tells of Warren Buffet’s “rule of the three ‘I’s,” which is applicable to the question of timing on technology adoption.

“Buffet once told me there are three ‘I’s in every cycle. The ‘innovator,’ that's the first ‘I’. After the innovator comes the ‘imitator.’ And after the imitator in the cycle comes the idiot. So when…we’re at the end of an era it’s another way of saying…that the idiots have made their entrance.”

I relate the innovator and the early adopter in their quest for performance improvement and their sharing the early competitive advantage of innovation.

Similarly, I associate the imitator with the quick followers in their desire to learn from others and benefits from their investments. They recognize the need to compete in the marketplace with scarce economic resources and adapt mindfully to changes.

Finally, I relate the idiots that Warren Buffet refers to with those that ignore or resist change. Often these organizations mistake their early market success for dominance and in their arrogance, refuse to cede to the need to adjust to changing circumstance. Alternatively, these enterprises are truly ignorant of the requisite to adapt, grow, mature, and transform over time, and they mistakenly believe that simply sitting behind the cash register and waiting for customers is the way to run a business (versus a Costco whose warehouse, wholesale model has turned the nature of the business on its head).

In architecting the enterprise, innovation and imitation, while not without cost and risk, will generally speaking be highly rewarded by superior products and services, greater market share and more loyal customers, and a culture of success in the face of constant change. You don't need to look far for examples: Apple, 3M, P&G, Intel, Toyota, Amazon, and more.


July 3, 2008

Earned Value Management and Enterprise Architecture

“Earned Value Management (EVM) is a project management technique used for measuring project progress in an objective manner. EVM combines measurements of technical performance (i.e., accomplishment of planned work), schedule performance (i.e., behind/ahead of schedule), and cost performance (i.e., under/over budget) within a single integrated methodology. When properly applied, EVM provides an early warning of performance problems.” (Wikipedia)

There is a terrific article on EVM called “If the Pharaoh Had Only Used An Earned Value System in Building the Pyramids,” by Lt. Col. William Neimann USAF (Ret.) Lt. Col. Neimann demonstrates very effectively how to use EVM (a scary topic to many) in a humorous scenario of ancient Egypt and the building of the pyramids.

The article starts as follows:

"The developer of the great pyramid of Egypt might be looked upon as the father of program management. He had one of the first programs in recorded history that required a great deal of integration and coordination (i.e. program management). He did not, however, have the relatively new concept of "earned value" to assist in the management of this ambitious program. An "earned value" concept is the heart of all defense contractor management information systems, which comply with DoD Instruction 5000.2 concerning the earned value management control system (EVMCS). But let's go back nearly 5,000 years to the construction of the pyramids to see if "earned value" would have been of any utility in managing that program.”

So what are the key measures in EVM for identifying cost and schedule variances?

(Positive is favorable, Negative is unfavorable)

  • Cost Variance (CV) = Budgeted Cost for Work Performed (BCWP) - Actual Cost for Work Performed (ACWP)

So, if the Pharaoh’s project manager budgeted 14 million shekels for the pyramid construction, but actual cost came in at 13 million shekel, then the project has a positive or favorable cost variance of 1 million shekels. The pyramids are under budget.

  • Schedule Variance (SV) = Budgeted Cost for Work Performed (BCWP) – Budgeted Cost for Work Scheduled (BCWS)

So, if Pharaoh’s project manager calculates that work performed was budgeted at $10 million shekels, but was scheduled to be 14 million shekels complete, then the project has a negative or unfavorable schedule variance of 4 million shekels. In other words, the pyramid builders have performed 4 million less work than planned. The pyramids are that behind schedule.

To calculate the overall project status at any given time:

  • % Schedule = (Budgeted Cost for Work Scheduled (BCWS)/Budget At Completion (BAC)) * 100
  • % Complete = (Budgeted Cost for Work Performed (BCWP)/Budget At Completion (BAC)) * 100
  • % Spent = (Actual Cost for Work Performed (ACWP)/Budget At Completion (BAC)) * 100

How efficient is the project?

Greater than 1 is favorable, less than 1 us unfavorable:

  • Cost efficiency = Budgeted Cost for Work Performed (BCWP)/Actual Cost for Work Performed (ACWP)
  • Schedule efficiency = Budgeted Cost for Work Performed (BCWP)/Budgeted Cost for Work Scheduled (BCWS)

(Adapted from Earned Value Management Gold Card, Defense Acquisition University)

There are a number of other measures, but you get the idea.

EVM is important to Enterprise Architecture, why?

Enterprise architecture planning and IT governance is all about making order out of chaos in managing IT. By setting strategic direction with the architecture and enforcing it with sound governance, we set the stage for more successful IT project delivery. EVM is a way to measure IT projects success in terms of cost, schedule, and performance. Through EVM, we can measure our IT projects to ensure that we are meeting our EA plan and making course corrections as necessary through the governance process.

EA, IT governance, and EVM are ways to ensure that we no longer manage IT by the “seat of our pants” approach (gut, intuition, politics, and subjective management whim). We now have tools to plan, govern, and measure transformation.


July 2, 2008

Always Forward and Enterprise Architecture

ComputerWorld Magazine, 26 June 2008, has a terrific interview with Loraine Rodgers, formerly Xerox CIO, Citibank senior VP, city of Phoenix CIO, and American Express director.

Her early years…

Ms Rodgers found out at 16 that she was adopted and was “so angry at being lied to I threw away my merit scholarship and refused to go to college. But I took a programmer aptitude test and I aced it, so I started in IT as a programmer. I started in the weeds.”

Over the years, “I always volunteered for seemingly thankless jobs—challenging assignments that nobody wanted.”

Here’s the best part of what she said and I believe very inspirational…

“I am self-propelled, driven, excited about life, love to learn. I got my undergraduate degree at age 40, and my MBA at 42—all working full time. I move forward always—not necessarily in a straight line, but always forward. I have been fired once, laid off twice and promoted over 27 times. I repackage myself regularly and keep moving forward. I perceive the possibilities. I am not hindered by obstacles. There are no obstacles. Some things just take longer.”


Ms. Rodgers is inspirational on an individual and organizational/enterprise architecture level.

Ms. Rodgers story is one of overcoming life’s challenges to succeed beyond probably her wildest dreams and most of ours. To succeed individually or as an organization, there are always challenges. Life is not a straight line upward, but is marked by up and downs, hopefully like Ms. Rodgers professional life, it has generally more ups then downs, and going always in an upward pattern.

Ms. Rodgers idea of always repackaging herself and constantly moving forward is terrific and in EA can be associated with an organization continually looking to reengineer and improve their processes and introduce new technologies to enable the mission and results of operation. The key is to always being grateful for what we have been granted, yet to always strive to improve things one step further: never to be satisfied with status quo or mediocrity.

Similarly, architecting the organization is not a one-time event; rather, it is an ongoing cycle of planning, governing, and transforming. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Whether on an individual or organizational level, we must learn to “move forward always—not necessarily in a straight line, but always forward!"


July 1, 2008

Online Medical Data and Enterprise Architecture

We all need access to information. In our personal lives, what’s more important than easy access to our financial and medical records?

In the case of financial records, these are generally all maintained online now. From your banking to your brokerage, from the online deposit of your paycheck to online bill pay. However, what about our medical records?

Generally speaking medical records are not available online and not easy to access. But why are medical records lagging behind financial ones in terms of their technology enablement? Is it that there is not bona fide need? Or is it that the technology is immature?

MIT Technology Review, July/August 2008, reports that “Google and Microsoft are offering rival programs that let people manage their own health information.”

Google Health (released in May) and Microsoft HealthVault (launched in October) “allow consumers to store and manage their personal medical data online. Users will be able to gather information from doctors, hospitals, and testing laboratories and share it with new medical providers, making it easier to coordinate care for complicated conditions and spot potential drug interactions or other problems.”

However, based on a 2007 poll “just 2 percent of all respondents said they had created and maintained medical records on their own computers, and just 1 percent reported using a ‘personal health record that is stored on the Internet.”

So the issues are?

  1. New software—Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault are relatively new and haven’t caught on yet.
  2. Paper records—“many doctors still do not use electronic records and others are unwilling or unable to transfer data to patients in electronic form.”
  3. Privacy—online medical data services are “not covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), under which hospitals, doctors, and third-party payers typically cannot release information without a patient’s consent.”
  4. Sensitivity—“medical information—histories of mental illness, paternity tests, genetic information—can be far more sensitive than browsing histories or even financial records.”

From an enterprise architecture standpoint, these issues really do not make a whole lot of sense to me as being showstoppers to moving medical records online.

Firstly, there is a genuine need for medical records to be digitized and made more accessible and easy to use by patients and medical providers. Just think about being wheeled into an emergency room (possibly unconscious); wouldn’t it be nice if the emergency room physician could access your medical records before they start treating you from a pretty much blank state?

Also, have you ever wondered about the archaic paper filing system your doctor uses—you know the oodles of forms you have to fill out every time you go to a new doctor, the indecipherable notes your doctors jots down on freebee paper from the pharmaceutical companies (with their logos on it), the file folders with the colored stickers that office administers attach to them for tracking purposes, and the double and triple deep, wall to ceiling file shelves on rollers that they manipulate to store and access the records. Talking about crazy!

Further, the technology solutions are available. If we can manage the bits and bytes of our financial records discretely and securely, surely the same can be said of medical records.

I’ve got to conclude that there is a cultural issue here that is impeding the transformation to online medical records, and I don’t believe that the reluctance is coming from the patients’ side, because we are living and breathing digital information transformation daily and for the most part, we are addicted to it and love it. People are still screaming for more.

We’ve got to get the medical community to get off the dime; so that they recognize the importance to the consumer of their medical information and that they treat that information as belonging to the patient as opposed to being owned by them. Whether the medical community is holding back because they want to maintain the aura of medical mystery to what they do (have you ever tried to tell your doctor that you looked up something medical on the internet and see their reaction?) or that they want to hold onto their patients by controlling their medical records—either way we are not providing the patient/consumers the service they want and deserve, particularly when health and life are at stake.

Medical records are a prime area for transformation and they need a desperate dose of enterprise architecture to transform the sad state of affairs.