August 31, 2008

“Design Thinking” and Enterprise Architecture

Ranked as one of the most innovative companies in the world, IDEO is an innovation and design firm, founded in 1991. Its client list include heavy hitters such as Microsoft, Intel, Nokia, Nestle, and Proctor and Gamble.

According to their website, they specialize in helping organizations to “Visualize new directions for companies and brands and design the offerings - products, services, spaces, media, and software - that bring innovation strategy to life.”

Harvard Business Review, June 2008, has an article by their CEO and President, Tim Brown.

First, how IDEO defines innovation:

“Innovation is powered by a thorough understanding, through direct observation, of what people want and need in their lives and what they like or dislike about the way particular products are made, packaged, marketed, sold, and supported. “

“Leaders now look to innovation as a principle source of differentiation and competitive advantage; they would do well to incorporate design thinking into all phases and processes.”

“Rather than asking designers to make an already developed idea more attractive to consumers, companies are asking them to create ideas that better meet consumers’ needs and desires.”

The three phases of design:

  • Inspiration—the problem or opportunity that is driving the creative design process.
  • Ideation (brainstorming)—“the process of generating, developing, and testing ideas that may lead to solutions.”
  • Implementation—“executing the vision or how we bring the design concept to market.”

How you can be a design thinker?

A people first approach—based on keen observation and noticing things that others do not, you can use insights to inspire innovative ideas that meet explicit and implicit needs. This is similar to a user-centric enterprise architecture approach, where we drive business process improvement and the introduction of new technologies based on genuine user/business requirements and a strategic understanding of the performance, business, information, systems, technologies, security, and human capital aspects of the organization.

Integration—To develop innovative solutions, you need to integrate “sometimes contradictory-aspects of a confounding problem and create novel solutions that go beyond and dramatically improve on existing alternatives.” Integration is an important aspect of EA, not only in terms of enterprise architecture synthesizing business and technology to enable creative architecture plans that drive the organization into the future, but also in terms of breaking down structural and process silos and building a more holistic, synergistic, interoperable, and capable organization.

Experimentation—there are “endless rounds of trial and error—the ‘99% perspiration’ in [Thomas] Edison’s famous definition of genius.” Most great ideas don’t “pop up fully formed out of brilliant minds”—“they are not a sudden breakthrough nor the lightening strike of genius,” but rather, they are “the result of hard work segmented by creative human-centered discovery process and followed by iterative cycles of prototyping, testing, and refinement.” While enterprise architecture is not generally-speaking a disciple based in experimentation, part of the EA planning should focus on market and competitive research, including best practices identification and sponsorship that will be used to drive modernization and transformation of the enterprise. Additionally, the EA should include research and development efforts in the plans to acknowledge the ongoing innovation required for the organization to grow, mature, and compete.

Collaboration—“the increasing complexity of products, services, and experiences has replaced the myth of the lone creative genius with the reality of enthusiastic interdisciplinary collaborator.” As an enterprise architect, I am an ardent proponent of this principle. In the large and complex modern-day organization of the 21st century, we need both breadth and depth of subject matter experts to build the EA, govern it, mange change, and drive modernization in our enterprises. As any half-decent architect knows, ivory tower planning effort are bound for failure. We must work collaboratively with the business and technology experts and give all our stakeholders a voice at the table—this give change and innovation the best chance of real success.

Tim Brown says that “design thinking can lead to innovation that goes beyond aesthetics…time and again we see successful products that were not necessarily the first to market, but were the first to appeal to us emotionally and functionally…as more of our basic needs are met, we increasingly expect sophisticated experiences that are emotionally satisfying and meaningful.”

I believe this is a lesson for EA as well:

For enterprise architecture to be successful, it is not enough to be functional (i.e. to set a good plan), but rather it has to have design thinking and be useful and usable to our end-users (i.e. User-centric). By incorporating innovative thinking into not only the EA plans, but also into how we reach out and collaborate with our stakeholders to build the plans (i.e by sparking the innovative process and creative juices with constructive challenging of the status quo to a broad array of subject matter experts), and the way we employ design to portray and communicate these plans (i.e with profiles, models, and inventories for example), we will have a architecture that truly represents the organization, is understood by it, and serves its needs and aspirations.


August 30, 2008

A Federal CIO / CTO

Should the U.S. federal government have a Chief Information Officer (CIO) and/or a Chief Technology Officer?

“The chief information officer (CIO) is a job title for the board level head of information technology within an organization. The CIO typically reports to the chief executive officer.”

“A chief technology officer (CTO) is an executive position whose holder is focused on scientific and technical issues within an organization.”

“In some companies, the CTO is just like a CIO. In still others, the CIO reports to the CTO. And there are also CTOs who work in IT departments and report to the CIO. In such a situation where CTO reports to the CIO, the CTO often handles the most technical details of the IT products and their implementation. Despite the diversity of approaches to the CTO role, this IT department executive is increasingly becoming the organization’s senior technologist, responsible for overseeing current technology assets, and more important, for developing a technology vision for the business.” (Wikipedia)

For the purpose of this blog, I will use the terms synonymously.

In the federal government today, we do not actually have a federal CIO or CTO. The closest thing we do have to it is the Administrator for the Office of E-Government and Information Technology in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Within that office, we also have a chief architect.

MIT Technology Review, September/October 2008 has an interview by Kate Greene with Mitch Kapor, the founder of Lotus, founding chair of Mozilla, and a board member of Linden Research who advocates for a federal CTO.

Here’s why Kapor thinks we need a federal CTO:

The government needs cohesive technology practices and policies…tech is intertwined with virtually everything. You can’t talk about homeland security or education or energy without it being in large part a conversation about technology. The president will be well served if policy making is done in a more technologically sophisticated way.”

What are some policies the federal CTO would champion?

  • Ubiquitous and affordable broadband deployment
  • Tech policies that stimulate innovation in the economy are very important, because innovation is the engine of growth.”
  • Net neutrality is also a huge issue in ensuring the Internet isn’t controlled by the people who own the wires, because that us just going to impede innovation.”

While I believe that this is a good start, there are so many other areas that could benefit, such as—

  • Information sharing and data quality
  • Interoperability and component reuse
  • Standardization and simplification of our infrastructure
  • Beefing up our IT security
  • linking resources to results (i.e. driving performance outcomes and having our business and mission drive technology rather than doing technology for technology’s sake)
  • And of course, overall enterprise architecture planning and IT governance.

Overall, Kapor says “The advantage of a CTO is that there can be coordination. There’s a ton of work that goes on within different agencies: there needs to be someone to identify the best ways of doing things and some common practices.”

In the federal government, we do have the federal CIO Council to help coordinate and identify best practices, but the role that Kapor envisions is more of a visionary, leadership role that will truly drive the technology of our government and “lead by influence and not by command.”

As we enter the last few months before the presidential election of 2008, perhaps it is a good time to think not only about the next Commander In Chief, but also about the leadership role(s) of tomorrow—such as a federal CIO/CTO—that will be necessary for maintaining and solidifying our nation’s technological superiority for now and the future.


August 29, 2008

SOA Liberates Productivity

Harvard Business Review (HBR), June 2008, has a wonderful article (by Ric Merrifield, Jack Calhoun, and Dennis Stevens) on how SOA is “the next revolution in productivity.”

SOA defined:

“It is becoming possible to design many business activities as Lego-like software components that can be easily put together and taken apart…service-oriented architecture [is] a relatively new way of designing and deploying the software that supports a business activity.”

With SOA, business activities can be accessed via the Internet through web services. Rather than build proprietary, redundant business services, our organizations can re-use standardized services, developed internally or outsourced, as components that plug and play into our enterprise.

“Virtually all large companies suffer from an enormous duplication of activities; they continue to create and perform hundreds of non-core tasks that would ideally be outsourced; and they are spending exorbitant amounts on IT projects in order to support redundant and nonstrategic operations and to update core processes.”

How does this differ from other quality improvement initiatives?

Prior quality improvement efforts like Total Quality Management (TQM) and Six Sigma have focused on reducing waste and defects and eliminating unnecessary tasks and integrating disparate ones.

“For the most part, however, reengineering has involved recasting processes and the information systems that support them in a proprietary, rather than a standardized, form—that is, customized for individual organizations. Such designs make it difficult and expensive for business to share, consolidate, and change processes.”

Now with the Internet and web services, we can access standardized services that can be shared and re-used throughout disparate business units in the same enterprise and across organizations globally.

The result is business units and organizations that can simply plug and play to make use of needed services, eliminating proprietary processes and redundant systems and enabling outsourcing of noncore mission functions and activities and easier upgrades to new superior services as they come online.

What are some of the issues holding SOA back?

Firstly, many people do not truly understand SOA, what it is, what benefits are possible, and what the challenges are to doing it right.

Second, SOA is viewed by many executives as yet another hype or bubble that will cost the enterprise lots of money, but fail to provide the promised return. So, they are wading into SOA only enough to “deploy it in a limited fashion,” but without first rethinking the design of their business.” However, to really reap the benefits of SOA, organizations need to transform from “collections of proprietary operations into a collection of standard plug-and-play activities,” and this requires redesigning not only IT systems, but operations.

In designing SOA-based processes, the unit of analysis and reengineering is no longer the task (as in Frederick Taylor time and motion studies of the late nineteenth century) or the department, or even the division. “In the age of the Internet and SOA, the unit of analysis is not a company’s way of conducting its operations at all; it is the primary purpose or desired outcome of each activity no matter how that activity is accomplished.”

Where are we today with SOA implementation?

“Unfortunately, few companies are using SOA to create more productive and focused organizations or to slash costs by purging duplicative operations and technologies. They are not revisiting the fundamental design of their operations.”

To overcome the obstacles in reaching SOA enabled organizations, we need a strong dose of enterprise architecture to identify and decompose our performance outcomes we are driving toward, the business processes to achieve these, the information required to perform these, and the systems that can serve them up.

According to HBR, our business model activities can be categorized into the following for SOA implementation:

  • Primary (I would call this core mission)—those that should be kept in-house and are “top priority of programs to improve operations and technology” (i.e. through business process improvement, reengineering, and the introduction of new technology).
  • Shared—those that “can be shared with other divisions” (i.e. through common solutions).
  • Shifted—those that “can be transferred to customers, suppliers, or operational specialists” (i.e. outsourced).
  • Automated---those that can be “automated so they can be turned into web services.”

All but the primary activities are ripe for SOA-based enhancements. And according to HBR, only about 20% of activities are primary, so that leaves plenty of room for a SOA plug-and-play.

The idea is to cease defining our noncore mission processes and activities as proprietary, requiring elaborate and expensive customized solutions for these. Instead, we should use standardized “swapped, bought, or sold” services. Then, we can truly focus our business process reengineering and IT investments on our organization’s core mission activities—working to to differentiate ourselves and develop unsurpassed competitive advantage.


August 24, 2008

FDCC and Enterprise Architecture

Setting standards help us to reduce complexity, contain costs, build interoperability, and secure the enterprise.

The Air Force is leading the way in setting standard configurations for the Federal government for computers, servers, printers, and cell phones.

Government Computer News, 4 August 2008, reports that “The Air Force started taking delivery in July on the first of 150,000 new PCs…the first to come equipped with their Windows Vista operating systems, including Internet Explorer 7, preset to meet Federal Desktop Core Configuration (FDCC) 2.1 standards.”

The FDCC is an outgrowth of the Air Force’s IT Commodity Council (ITCC) “efforts with Microsoft in 2006 to test and develop a standard software configuration.” This was coordinated with NIST, NSA, and DISA, and other agencies. Further, OMB “required agencies to implement FDCC’s Windows XP and Vista standards by Feb, 1, 2008.”

Now ITCC is working with DISA, NSA, Army, Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard to build Server configurations. Microsoft is taking these base configurations and “will develop configurations for ‘roles placed on top,’ says Michael Harper, Microsoft Service Director.

“Those will include the file and print servers, the domain controller, Exchange, SQL server, SharePoint, Web, and Windows deployment services.”

FDCC is “forcing the software industry to pay greater attention to the default settings of its products”. This is helping to reduce security vulnerabilities, and reducing costs.

Some examples of reducing costs and achieving other benefits from FDCC include:

  • “Preinstalling software at the factory rather than retrofitting a machine.”
  • Reducing energy costs by “preconfiguring Vista’s energy management settings.”
  • Steamlining the number of…device categories.”
  • “Standardizing…software…makes it easier to manage network and document security.”

FDCC has been so successful that ITCC is now moving forward with doing the same standardization for mobile devices.

FDCC is a step forward in terms of inter-agency collaboration, working with the vendor community, and creating an enterprise architecture that hits the mark for improved IT planning and governance.


August 23, 2008

Building Enterprise Architecture Momentum

Burton Group released a report entitled “Establishing and Maintaining Enterprise Architecture Momentum” on 8 August 2008.

Some key points and my thoughts on these:

  • How can we drive EA?

Value proposition—“Strong executive leadership helps establish the enterprise architecture, but…momentum is maintained as EA contributes value to ongoing activities.”

Completely agree: EA should not be a paper or documentation exercise, but must have a true value proposition where EA information products and governance services enable better decision making in the organization.

  • Where did the need for EA come from?

Standardization—“Back in the early days of centralized IT, when the mainframe was the primary platform, architecture planning was minimized and engineering ruled. All the IT resources were consolidated in a single mainframe computer…the architecture was largely standardized by the vendor…However distributed and decentralized implementation became the norm with the advent of personal computers and local area networks…[this] created architectural problems…integration issues…[and drove] the need to do architecture—to consider other perspectives, to collaboratively plan, and to optimize across process, information sources, and organizations.”

Agree. The distributed nature of modern computing has resulted in issues ranging from unnecessary redundancy, to a lack of interoperability, component re-use, standards, information sharing, and data quality. Our computing environments have become overly complex and require a wide range of skill sets to build and maintain, and this has an inherently high and spiraling cost associated with it. Hence, the enterprise architecture imperative to break down the silos, more effectively plan and govern IT with an enterprise perspective, and link resources to results!

  • What are some obstacles to EA implementation?

Money rules—“Bag-O-Money Syndrome Still Prevails…a major factor inhibiting the adoption of collaborative decision-making is the funding model in which part of the organization that bring the budget makes the rules.”

Agree. As long as IT funding is not centralized with the CIO, project managers with pockets of money will be able to go out and buy what they want, when they want, without following the enterprise architecture plans and governance processes. To enforce the EA and governance, we must centralize IT funding under the CIO and work with our procurement officials to ensure that IT procurements that do not have approval of the EA Board, IT Investment Review Board, and CIO are turned back and not allowed to proceed.

  • What should we focus on?

Focus on the target architecture—“Avoid ‘The Perfect Path’…[which] suggest capturing a current state, which is perceived as ‘analyze the world then figure out what to do with it.’ By the time the current state is collected, the ‘as-is’ has become the ‘as-was’ and a critical blow has been dealt to momentum…no matter what your starting point…when the program seems to be focused on studies and analysis…people outside of EA will not readily perceive its value.”

Disgree with this one. Collecting a solid baseline architecture is absolutely critical to forming a target architecture and transition plan. Remember the saying, “if you don’t know where you are going, then any road will get you there.” Similarly, if you don’t know where you are coming from you can’t lay in a course to get there. For example, try getting directions on Google Maps with only a to and no from location. You can’t do it. Similarly you can’t develop a real target and transition plan without identifying and understanding you current state and capabilities to determine gaps, redundancies, inefficiencies, and opportunities. Yes, the ‘as-is’ state is always changing. The organization is not static. But that does not mean we cannot capture a snapshot in time and build off of this. Just like configuration management, you need to know what you have in order to manage change to it. And the time spent on analysis (unless we’re talking analysis paralysis), is not wasted. It is precisely the analysis and recommendations to improve the business processes and enabling technologies that yield the true benefits of the enterprise architecture.

  • How can we show value?

Business-driven —“An enterprise architect’s ability to improve the organization’s use of technology comes through a deep understanding of the business side of the enterprise and from looking for those opportunities that provide the most business value. However, it is also about recognizing where change is possible and focusing on the areas where you have the best opportunity to influence the outcome.”

Agree. Business drives technology, rather than doing technology for technology’s sake. In the enterprise architecture, we must understand the performance results we are striving to achieve, the business functions, processes, activities, and tasks to produce to results, and the information required to perform those functions before we can develop technology solutions. Further, the readiness state for change and maturity level of the organization often necessitates that we identify opportunities where change is possible, through genuine business interest, need, and desire to partner to solve business problems.


August 22, 2008

Document Management and Enterprise Architecture

Years ago, we heard the mantra that paper was going to go away and we were entering the age of the paperless society.
But this vision has not come fully to fruition.
Public CIO Magazine, August/September 2008, reports that “everyone figured the electronic processes were going to wipe out paper, but that never happened. One possible reason is that printers kept getting faster and cheaper.” (Ralph Gammon, editor and publisher of the Document Imaging Report).
Paper is plentiful in the public sector as well.
Despite the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, “which requires the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to report to congress on the paperwork burden imposed on the public, the feds are allowing the overall burden to grow.”
“The OMB’s latest report, Information Collection Budget, FY 2007, reports the burden increased from 8.24 billion hours in fiscal ’05 to 9.92 billion hours in ’06, a rise of more than 8 percent.” This amounts to an average of 39 hours in 2006 for the average adult in the U.S. to complete government paperwork.
Why is the government not cutting back on paper in lieu of digital solutions when communicating with the public?
“We realize that not everyone has access to a computer and not everyone is technology savvy. So we end up using paper as the lowest common denominator to communicate with a lot of external people.”
Over time, as technology continues to permeate our society, the necessity for paper solutions for the masses will decrease.
Even now with federal tax submissions (which account for roughly 78% of the total paperwork burden on the public), electronic submissions are available and being used by more and more taxpayers:
“Electronic Tax Filing begain in 1986, with the transmission of 25,000 refund-only individual income tax returns, [and]…as of October 19, 2004, more than 63 million individual returns had been filed electronically - 42 million from tax professionals!” (,,id=120353,00.html)
In enterprise planning for electronic document solutions for our organizations, we need to work towards ever more sophisticated solutions for the creation, storage, handling, search and retrieval, retention, and disposition, collaboration, and security of information. These solutions should provide for a feature rich electronic document environment including: document management, version control and workflow, record management, imaging and optical character recognition, and overall content management.
Through implementation of electronic document management solutions, we can continue move our enterprises toward enhanced worker productivity, reduced burden on our customers/partners/stakeholders, cost savings, better access to information and hence better decision making capability, and compliance with mandates such as the Paperwork Reduction Act, Government Paperwork Elimination Act, Federal Records Act, and Freedom of Information Act.

August 21, 2008

Microsoft, Jerry Seinfeld, and Enterprise Architecture

ComputerWorld, 21 August 2008 reports on a news article in the Wall Street Journal that “Microsoft hires Seinfeld to bite Apple.”

“Continually painted by Apple and other rivals as uncool and unsafe, Microsoft plans to spend $300 million on a new series of advertisements designed around its ‘Windows Not Walls’ slogan that will feature Seinfeld and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates.”

“Microsoft is not only trying to turn around a stodgy corporate image, but also wants to reverse recent product misfires, including the Windows Vista Operating System and the Zune digital music player.”

“Apple has rubbed in Microsoft’s lack of success and highlighted its own winning streak in a series of ‘Mac vs. PC’ ads.”

Is the Seinfeld ad a good branding strategy?

Well as my wife said, “this is as close as Microsoft can get to cool.”

Seinfeld, while rated by TV Guide in 2002 as one of the greatest TV programs of all times, is at this point somewhat dated—having aired nine seasons between 1989 and 1998—so it was over ten years ago! (Wikipedia)

In perspective, Seinfeld was already off the air before Vista, Zune, or the iPhone was ever created.

Microsoft’s attempt at reversing their “stodgy corporate image” is a feeble attempt that in fact solidifies that very image. It is no wonder that Microsoft is enamored with the 1990’s when they were the king of the hill in corporate America and in the technology arena with the launch of Microsoft Office in 1989 (the same year Seinfeld episode 1 aired) and before Google was founded in 1998 (the last season Seinfeld aired).

The Wall Street Journal, 21 August 2008, reported that “Microsoft is a little like the General Motors of technology. The software giant is, of course, much more successful, financially and in market share, than the troubled auto maker. But as at GM, Microsoft’s very size—over 90,000 employees—and it bureaucratic structure often make the company seem more stolid and less innovative than smaller, nimbler rivals like Google and Apple.”

From an enterprise architecture perspective where is Microsoft going wrong?

Microsoft is still living in the past—hence, the choice of the historic Jerry Seinfeld as their new image maker. Rather than acknowledging their current architecture and looking to the future or target architecture and how to transition forward, Microsoft keeps looking in the rearview mirror at where they were 10, 15, 20 years ago.

Microsoft keeps trying to catch up to the new generation of innovators like Google and Apple by either trying to acquire the 2nd tier competition like Yahoo or developing copycat products like the Zune.

More recently, Microsoft has tried to become more agile and take advantage of smaller groups to break their bureaucratic and cultural logjam. One example is Live Labs, “a small operation that aims to turn technology theories into real, Web-based products relatively quickly. It has only about 125 employees, and even that modest number is broken up into smaller teams tackling specific projects.”

Even if Live Labs succeeds, what are the other 89,875 employees at Microsoft doing?

To really compete in the future, Microsoft needs better planning and governance and this is what enterprise architecture can bring them—a forward looking and improved decision making framework.


August 10, 2008

Man-Machine Interface and Enterprise Architecture

A critical component of User-centric Enterprise Architecture is designing technology solutions to meet end-user requirements, and this includes making the man-machine interface simple and user-friendly. Often, this is referred to as ergonomics, defined as “the applied science of equipment design intended to maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue, safety and discomfort. “ (

According to Federal Computer Week, 4 August 2008, “Air Force researchers aim to help pilots and others operate increasingly complex aircraft and mission support systems.”

Unfortunately, all too often, the man-machine interface is not dealt with up front. “Traditionally, the machine and the technology are designed first and then the pilot has to deal with what’s left over, usually through training,” says Maris Vikmanis of the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Not designing in ergonomics from the get-go is a failure to consider the human capital perspective of enterprise architecture and will result in technology solutions that are sub-optimal to the end users and to the performance of the mission.

Dan Goodard, chief of the directorate’s Warfighter Interface Division, states, “There’s now so much reconnaissance data flowing down into the AOC (Air Operations Center) that it’s information overload. You need a much better human-machine interface to be able to get actionable information out of this very quickly.

One example of enhancing man-machine interface is “deciding the best interface for people to use with onscreen data. A regular mouse turns out not to be so good for this; it would be better if someone could actually reach into the data to interact with it, which means devising more tangible interfaces.” (Remember the movie Minority Report…) I do not know if this type of 3-D data interface even has a name yet, but I would call it something like virtual data manipulation (VDM).

Another example goes beyond the senses of sight and touch to that of hearing. “Sound perception can play an equally important role in combat scenarios. On the battlefield, people often pick up aural cues about what’s happening before they see it. Developing technology that can take advantage of that is the goal of Battlespace Acoustics Branch of the Warfighter Interface Division.”

We’ve got to change from the “build it and they will come” mindset of the failed era to a more User-centric EA approach that demands that we design IT with the end-user in mind.

As Goodard summed up, “there’s been a lack of awareness about the importance of the man-machine interface in the early designs of weapons systems.” It’s certainly time to change that and not only for military and law enforcement systems, but for IT across the board.


August 9, 2008

IT Project Failures and Enterprise Architecture

Based on a number of studies done in the last 10 years (such as The KPMG Canada Study, The Chaos Report and others), it has been established that more than 50% of IT projects fail outright!

Why do IT projects fail? More often than not, it’s because managing IT has become a by the seat of the pants proposition—where things get decided by gut, intuition, politics, and subjective management whim. And we know that is not how to manage IT.

The way to make order out of IT project chaos is through enterprise architecture and IT governance.

EA is how we plan IT, synthesizing business and technology information, and driving business process reengineering, improvement, and the introduction of new technologies.

Governance is how we administer structured, consistent, and collaborative decision making, so managing IT is no longer a black box affair.

Together EA and IT governance provide for sound IT investment decision making, where EA serves as a strategic information asset to guide and influence capital planning and investment control activities of select-control-evaluate to ensure more successful IT project delivery.

Interestingly enough, Federal Times, 4 August 2008, corroborates the true high failure rate of IT projects.

According to the GAO, “Baseline adjustments hide the truth on OMB’s IT projects.”

“OMB considers a project to be over budget and off schedule [i.e. at risk] if it is projected to miss its targets by more than 10 percent.”

The reason though that all the IT projects missing the mark don’t show up on the OMB high-risk list is that “nearly half of the 180 IT projects surveyed by GAO have been rebaselined at least once. Of those, half were rebaselined twice and 11 percent were rebaselined four or more times,” according to David Powner GAO’s director of IT management issues.

What exactly does rebaselining mean?

“Nearly all of the rebaselined projects altered their cost and schedules because of changes in requirements or funding,” according to Karen Evans, OMB’s IT administrator.

So, if your changing the projected IT cost and schedule to match the actual—well then guess what? Naturally, more of your IT projects magically seem to meet their cost and schedule goals, and the true IT project failure rate is obscured.

Note that OMB is only looking at cost and schedule overruns and that doesn’t even take into account missing the mark on IT project in terms of performance parameters—one of the most important aspect of IT projects true success.

Perhaps, if we focus more on truly investing in better enterprise architecture and IT governance, then organizations wouldn’t need to rebaseline their cost and schedule projections to make for faux IT project success.


August 8, 2008

Prediction Markets and Enterprise Architecture

A very interesting article in ComputerWorld, 7 August 2008, called "Bet on it; Employee wagers help companies predict the future," shows how difficult planning can be and highlights the necessity of bringing stakeholders to the table to get better information (enterprise architecture) and better decisions (IT governance).

Google, for example, has for three years been using employee bets (over 80,000 so far) to predict market technology. “And Google has found that its employee bets are usually right.”

Forrester Research Inc. suggests that other companies can benefit from putting in place prediction markets to more effectively tap employee opinions on topics ranging from if a store will open on time to picking specific features for a new product.”

Oliver Young, a Forrester analyst, says that “One of the biggest struggles that most companies have—not surprisingly—is predicting the future. Simple things like project updates are full of politics, full of meetings. One of the biggest values of prediction markets is you get a lot more people looking at these major questions.”

Other companies like Best Buy, Corning, HP, and Qualcomm are using predictive markets for sales projects, product evaluations, estimating project delivery, and assessing market conditions.

In predictive markets (a.k.a. crowdsourcing), “employees operate as traders to earn points--and potential prizes and other recognition--for correctly predicting future events…for example, a person who has been good at predicting how new products will be received can be invited into meetings where new product designs are discussed.”

While betting is typically associated with greed and vice and people ending up losing their shirts, in predictive markets, employee betting is used in a positive way to capture information from a broad spectrum of people and thus, enable better governance/decision making.

Predictive markets are an affirmation of the need to bring people in the planning and decision making process. Information needs to be captured from across the enterprise , for example, using predictive markets or other collection techniques.

The more information served up in a user-centric way, the better the decisions.


August 3, 2008

Texting Gone Wild and Enterprise Architecture

Information availability and communication mobility is all the craze. We are connected everywhere we go. We have our phones, PDAs, and laptops as part of our everyday gear. We wouldn’t leave the house without one or more of them or a converged device like the iPhone or Sidekick. And people are walking and driving around yapping on the phone or typing out text messages. Evan at work, people are answering the phone and texting in the stall. What is it about being connected with these devices that we literally can’t let go?

The Wall Street Journal, 25 July 2008, reports that “Emailing on the Go Sends Some Users Into Harm’s Way.”

These multi-taskers “ram into walls and doorways or fall down stairs. Out on the streets, they bump into lampposts, parker cars, garbage cans, and other stationary objects.”

Are people getting hurt?

You bet. James Adams of Northwestern Memorial Hospital is Chairman of Emergency Medicine, and he states “he has treated patients involved in texting incidents nearly every day this summer.”

Things have gotten so out of control that one London company began “outfitting lampposts with padded bumpers in the in the East End to cut down on injuries to errant texters.”

The stories go on and on about texters who bump into brides at wedding, fall off of curb and into construction barricades, walk into two-by-fours toted by construction workers, knock into bikers, and fall down staircases.

As a student of organizational behavior and an enterprise architect, I ask myself what is going on that people feel such a compelling need to be in touch literally every second. Are people craving intimacy? Are they insecure? Do they get a high by connecting with others and just can’t stop? Is this good thing for society and our organizations?

Certainly, the ability to communicate anytime, anywhere is a good thing. It makes us more capable. It can make us more productive (if we don’t end up killing ourselves in stupid accidents doing it irresponsibly). But like all good things, we need to learn to control our appetite for them. It’s the difference between eating thoughtfully or eating thoughtless, like glutton. Or between taking medicine when needed to treat a legitimate medical condition or just using recklessly like an addict.

Part of good enterprise architecture is building balance into the organization. Architects introduce new technologies to enable performance, but should also help develop policies and ensure training for responsible usage.

It’s terrific to bring new capabilities to the organization and society, but our role as architects does not end there. The human capital perspective of the enterprise architecture comes into play and demands that we go beyond the pure business requirements and technology solutions, and explore the impact of the technology on the people who will use. The human capital perspective of the architecture provides a lens through which we can manage the integration of people and technology.

I’d believe that we should educate people to use technology more responsibly, rather than outfit every lamppost and tree with bumper pads!


August 2, 2008

Big Brother and Enterprise Architecture

When people work from home, should their employers simply set performance goals for them and then evaluate them based on whether or not they met these or should employers monitor employees work at home to ensure that employers are where they say they are and doing what they say there are doing?

The Wall Street Journal, 30 July 2008, reports that “companies are stepping up electronic monitoring and oversight of tens of thousands of home-based independent contractors.”

Home-based workers have been increasing steadily over the years, with over 16 million home-based workers now in the U.S. That is huge!

But work is not care-free for these home workers. They can’t be sitting around working in their underwear, watching YouTube, or playing Sudoku. Employers are more often monitoring their employees by “taking photos of workers’ computer screens at random, counting keystrokes and mouse clicks, and snapping photos of them at their computers.”

That’s the visual inspection going on; then there is the audio piece. Companies are “plying sophisticated technology to instantaneously detect anger, raised voices, or children crying in the background on workers’ home-office calls. Others are using Darwinian routing systems to keep calls coming so fast workers have no time to go the bathroom.”

Is this big brother watching mentality too invasive or is it appropriate when we’re on the clock?

Well even well intentioned monitoring of home employees can certainly be taken to an extreme. One company, Arise-com “keeps its 8,000 at home agents so tightly tethered to their phones that they have to go schedule unpaid time off to go to the bathroom.”

From an enterprise architecture perspective, I believe it’s important to consider not only the performance aspect to the organization in terms of productivity and cost-effectiveness of these workers, but also to look at from a human-capital perspective with respect to treating the employees with trust, respect, and integrity.

I believe that people should be given the benefit of the doubt and treated kindly and humanly and not subjected to undue and invasive monitoring like photographing them on a webcam. Instead, let’s set ambitious, but realistic performance goals for our employees. Most the time, work at home employees end up exceeding performance expectations. For those that don’t meet their goals, then additional monitoring is appropriate to further assess their performance and to decide whether the privilege of working at home should be continued or not.

Trust but verify. Let’s start off with a core dose of trust, but have the verify ready to go for those that abuse it.


August 1, 2008

Robot Soldiers and Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architecture can plan, but it must also perform outreach to meet stakeholder requirements and get their buy-in and commitment. A plan without acceptance is shelf-ware.

National Defense Magazine, March 2008, reports on Robot Soldiers, where the technology now exists to make them autonomous and carry lethal weapons—a deadly combination—but the military is not ready to accept it (yet).

“An armed robot with body armor could walk into an ambush, ‘coolly find target, and prioritize them, without getting scared, without making a mistake…In a constricted environment you don’t want to go one on one with a computer controlled weapon system. You’re not going to win that one. The robot is going to get you before you get him.’”

These soldier robots have come a long way. In World War II, the Germans tele-operated 8,000 Goliath suicide robots to blow up bonkers or tanks. Now these robots are autonomous meaning they need little to no operator intervention. “A reconnaissance robot, for example, can be sent into a bunker without any radio link, and come out with a complete map populated with icons showing the location of people, weapons, or evidence of weapons of mass destruction.”

Additionally, robots can now carry lethal weapons, including guns and rocket launchers or non-lethal weapons such as pepper-ball guns, and they have various sensors “to help them navigate rooms and avoid obstacles,” and track friendly forces. They can protect themselves against tampering, conduct explosive ordnance disposal (such as in Iraq), patrol installations, and bring the fight to the enemy. The robot soldier can accompany a real-life soldier—it can follow and keep pace—and when the soldier picks up a weapon and points it at something, so does the robot. A handy companion indeed when you’re about to get into a firefight!

Yet, despite how capable these robot soldiers are, barriers to acceptance remain. Outfitting an autonomous robot with a lethal weapon to use against humans is a big step and one that many in the military establishment are not ready to accept. But is it just a matter of time, especially if our enemies are developing these capabilities too?

It’s interesting that technology can get ahead of our ability to accept it, integrate into our norms, cultures, and way of life. An enterprise architect’s job is not just to identify and introduce new technologies (and business process improvements) to the organization, but to actually help manage the change process and adapt the new technologies to meet the mission.

In the case of robot soldiers, the acceptance and culture change will need to be met with many safety precautions to ensure that even robots functioning autonomously can be managed safely.