November 22, 2008

A Learning Environment and Enterprise Architecture

One of the things that make an organization (or a person) succeed or fail is its ability to learn and grow.

A child learns at home and in school and grows to become a productive adult human being. An organization begins as a start-up and grows and matures into a bustling successful organization based on the combined talents and wisdom of its people; new people are brought on board to meet the growth and to pollinate the organization with the knowledge, skills, and abilities it needs to meet emerging challenges.

The underlying architecture for growth and success is continued learning for self and an ongoing stream of new, bright, and innovative individuals to feed the organization’s thirst for ideas and remain competitive.

Organizations can hire or train people to bring in creativity and intellect; they can also cross pollinate talent with other enterprises and thereby share the talent.

The Wall Street Journal, 19 November 2008, reports that “Google, P&G Swap Workers to Spur Innovation.”

“At Proctor & Gamble Co., the corporate culture is so rigid, employees jokingly call themselves “Proctoids.” In contrast, Google Inc. staffers are urged to wander the halls on company-provided scooters and brainstorm on public whiteboards. Now, odd this couple things they have something to gain from one another—so they‘ve started swapping employees. So far, about two-dozen have spent weeks dipping into each other’s staff training programs and sitting in on meetings where plans get hammered out.”

What are these two corporate juggernauts swapping staff?

P&G is trying to learn and change from being primarily TV-centric in its advertising to moving its pitch to the internet (P&G spends $2.36 billion in television advertising versus $78.6 million online—just 2%--even though ”consumers ages 18 to 27 say they use the Internet nearly 13 hours a week, compared to viewing 10 hour of TV”).

Google wants to learn how to snare a bigger slice of advertising revenue from big corporations like P&G, which happens to be the largest advertising spender in the world. Although Google “controls 74% of so-called ‘search term’ advertising spending…TV snags nearly 40% of the world’s total advertising spending.”

Anyway, the job swap started in January and is going great. For example, P&G started “an online campaign inviting people to make spoof videos of P&G’s ‘Talking Stain’ TV ad and post them to YouTube. And Google job-swappers “have started adopting P&G lingo” One Google job-swapper stated “This is going to get so much easier, now that I’m learning their language.”

Change won’t happen overnight. “Consumer-product companies have been among the slowest to adopt online marketing because the traditional form of marketing, including TV and newspaper fliers are still reasonably effective,” but learning what are the new possibilities is playing a big role in changing the mindset for the future.

Indeed, enterprise architecture is not just about technology, but about business processes and human beings (the big three--people, process and technology). It’s about learning to do things better, faster, and cheaper. Underscore the learning!


November 21, 2008

Collaborative Enterprise Architecture

One of the ways that traditional enterprise architectures often goes awry is when the enterprise architects hole up in their ivory tower to plan and govern. Typically, this results in the rest of the organization ignoring the plans and the architects, both of which soon become shelfware.

The only way for enterprise architecture to genuinely succeed is for the architects to climb down from their ivory tower and work hand-in-hand with the business and IT subject matter experts to build a user-centric enterprise architecture that speaks to the genuine needs and culture of the organization and its people.

Enterprise architecture needs to be a collaborative initiative where difficult problems get identified and resolved by vetting issues, best practices, and solutions among organizational stakeholders. In this user-centric model, the architects and business and technology stakeholders build an proverbial alliance and work together to develop and maintain architecture plans that are valuable to and actionable by the organization. The architects provide the leadership, structure, principles, and processes to guide the architecture development, and the stakeholder, subject matter experts contribute and vet the content with the architect staff. Neither group can be truly effective without the other.

In a broader sense, the concepts of user-centricity and collaboration that enable an enterprise architecture to succeed at the organizational level can be applied at higher levels (e.g. globally) to solve the most challenging problems we face in the world today.

The Wall Street Journal, 7 November 2008, ran an interesting editorial by Will Marshall, the president of the Progressive Policy Institute.

In this opinion piece, Mr. Marshall calls for “a new progressive internationalism” for America. He argues that rather than go it alone, America should build international alliances to tackle the difficult problems and build a way forward. He says that “Alliances don’t tie American’s hands, so much as extend our global reach.”

In other words, America can’t function as traditional enterprise architects solving the world’s problems out of an ivory tower, but rather we need to work with other nations around the world jointly tackle these.

But aren’t we smart and innovative and capable in America. Why can’t we just solve the problems on our own (the ivory tower approach)?

Marshall states: “In today’s increasingly interdependent world, no nation is strong enough to go it alone. We need other countries’ help to solve problems of the global commons like today’s financial crisis, terrorism, climate change, the depletion of natural resources, pandemics and poverty.”

Similarly, enterprise architects can’t solve our organizations’ problems alone. Architects cannot have the breadth nor depth of subject matter expertise, nor the where-with-all to implement even the best laid plans without the stakeholders that stand to benefit.

Now certainly there are times of peril or when decisions need to be made quickly that someone has just got to “make the call” and there is no time to collaborate, fully vet the issues or build consensus, but this should be the exception rather than the rule, since collaboration trumps going it alone far more often than not.


November 18, 2008

Lessons from Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, U.S. Navy

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper was an amazing pioneer and futurist of computers, and here are some lasting lessons.


Computer was the first device to assist the power of the mind rather than the strength of the arm

We’re only at the beginning…


We have to build for problems and with the equipment of the future and not with what you have today.

How do you determine priorities? Instead of giving top priority to the senior squeaky wheel, base decisions on what information is most valuable.

How do you determine what information is most valuable to decision makers? 1) Time to act 2) number of people affected 3) amount of dollars involved.


We’ve got to move to the future and recognize what we can do with computing.

Ask what the cost is of not doing something.

We have got to get new ideas moving and be willing to fight for them and push them.

Never take first no as the answer. Always go back and ask again. Some people always say no the first time.

Instead of saying “but we’ve always done it that way”—listen to your dreams.


We manage things, but we lead people.

No matter what you do or what you got, you have to do it with people.

It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.


November 16, 2008

Enterprise Architecture Plans that Stick

I read a great little book today called Made to stick by Chip and Dan Heath about "Why some ideas survive and others die."

As I read this, I was thinking how very applicable this was to User-centric Enterprise Architecture in terms of making architecture products and plans that stick—i.e. they have a real impact and value to the organization and are not just another ivory tower effort and ultimately destined as shelfware.

The Heath brothers give some interesting examples of stories that stick.

Example #1: A man is given a drink at the bar by a beautiful lady that is laced with drugs and he finds himself waking up in a bathtub on ice with a note that tell him not to move and to call 911—he has been the victim of a kidney heist and is in desperate need of medical attention.

Example #2: Children Halloween candy is found tampered with and there is a scare in the community. The image of the razorblade in the apple is poignant and profoundly changes people’s perception of and trust in their neighbors.

Now, you may have heard of these stories already and they probably strike a deep chord inside everyone who hears them. Well, surprise—neither story is true. Yet, they have lasting power with people and are remembered and retold for years and years. Why do they stick, while other stories and ideas never even make it off the ground?

Here are the six necessities to make ideas have lasting, meaningful impact and how they relate to enterprise architecture:

Simplicity—drilldown to essential core ideas; be a master of exclusion; come up with one sentence that is so profound that an individual could spend a lifetime learning to follow it. In enterprise architecture, keep information products and plans straightforward and on point.

Unexpectedness—violate people’s expectations; surprise them, grab people's attention; I call this the shock factor. In architecture, we can use principles of communication and design (for example identify critical relationships in the information) to garner people’s attention, and help them come away with actionable messages.

Concreteness—use concrete images to ensure our idea will mean the same thing to everyone. In enterprise architecture, we can use information visualization to make information and ideas more concrete for the users (i.e. “a picture is worth a thousand words.”)

Credibility—promote ideas in ways that they can be tested, so that they are credible to the audience. An example is when Reagan was running for president and he asked Are you better off today than 4 years ago. This brought the message home and made it credible with voters in ways that pure numbers and statistics could not. For architects, the roadmap provided to the enterprise must be credible—it must have the level of detail, accuracy, comprehensiveness, and currency to garner acceptance.

Emotions--make your audience feel something; people feel things for people not for abstractions. In architecture and planning, we need to inspire and motivate people in the organization effectively influence, shape, and guide change. Remember, there is a natural resistance to change, so we need to appeal to people intellectually and also emotionally.

Stories—tell stories that are rich and provide for an enduring mental catalogue that can be recalled for critical situations in later life. Often, architects create isolated products of information that describe desired performance outcomes, business processes, information flows, systems, and technology products and standards; however, unless these are woven together to tell a cohesive story for the decision makers, the siloed information will not be near as effective as it can be.

These six principles spell out SUCCES, and they can be adeptly used successfully by enterprise architects to hone information and planning products that enable better decisions. These are the types of architectures that stick (and do not stink) and are truly actionable and valuable to the organization.


November 15, 2008

Speed versus Accuracy and Enterprise Architecture

What’s more important speed or accuracy when it comes to developing and implementing a enterprise architecture?’

On one hand, if your target architecture and transition plans are inaccurate, then you are leading your organization down the wrong business and IT path. One the other hand, if your architecture is not timely, then you are serving up outdated plans and strategy to the organization to no avail.

The Wall Street Journal, 12 November 2008, has an interesting article on an innovative Google “Flu-Bug Tracker” that I think sheds some light on this issue.

Google has a free web service at that “uses computers to crunch millions of Internet searches people make for keywords that might be related to the flu—for instance ‘cough’ or ‘fever’. It displays the results on a map of the U.S. and shows a chart of changes in flu activity around the country.”

The Google Flu Trend data is meaningful because of strong correlation found between those searching flu related keywords and those actually coming down with the flu as reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) one to two weeks later.

“In any given year, between 5% and 20% of Americans catch the flu.”

By getting advance warning of flu trends out to CDC and the public, Google may help provide an early warning for outbreaks. “For epidemiologists, this is an exciting development, because early detection of a disease outbreak can reduce the number of people affected. If a new strain of influenza virus emerges under certain conditions, a pandemic could emerge and cause millions of deaths (as happened, for example, in 1918).” (

So speed of information is crucial here to early warning—helping people and saving lives. However, the Google Flu Trend information, based on tracking keyword searches, is not as accurate as capturing actual cases of the flu confirmed by laboratory testing.

So like with enterprise architecture, you have a trade-off between speed and accuracy.

With the Flu Trends data, “what they lose in accuracy, the site may make up in speed…reducing that time is crucial for combating influenza, which can manifest itself one to three days after a person comes into contact with the virus.”

Ms. Finelli of the CDC stated: “If you get data that’s not very timely one or two weeks old, it’s possible that the outbreak has already peaked.”

So is there a lesson here for enterprise architects?

Speed and agility is crucial in the making valuable decisions for the organizations in the marketplace, as it is in helping people in their healthcare. Trying to get all or completely accurate information to do an enterprise architecture or strategic plan is like trying to get 100% confirmed cases of the flu—if you wait until you have complete and perfect information, it will be too late to respond effectively.

It’s sort of like the adage “analysis paralysis”—if you keep analyzing and mulling over the data never making a decision, you are essentially paralyzed into non-action.

So it is crucial to get good-enough data that allows you to extrapolate and make decisions that are timely and effective. Of course, you can always course correct as you get more and better information and you get a clearer picture. But don’t wait till everyone in the enterprise has a confirmed case of the proverbial flu to start taking reasonable action.


November 13, 2008

The Awesome Implications of Gmail and Enterprise Architecture

Recently, I took the leap from Yahoo! and added a Gmail Account.

For a long time, I thought, “What can be the difference? E-mail is e-mail.” Further, I thought people were just switching because it was the latest fad, and they wanted to be associated with the then-upcoming Google versus the troubled Yahoo!

While this may be partly true, there are some tangible advantages to Gmail. Gmail has a better interface than Yahoo!—it provides one look and feel while Yahoo! has a switching mechanism between the legacy email and a new Yahoo! mail, which is still kind of quirky. Gmail better integrates other tools like instant messaging and VOIP. Gmail offers a huge amount of storage. Gmail associates email strings so you can easily expand or click through the chain.

And finally,
Gmail has a label structure for emails versus Yahoo’s folder structure. This is the one that matters most.

The label structure is superior to the folders. You can have multiple labels for an e-mail and can therefore locate items of interest much more easily by checking in any of the pertinent label categories. In contrast, in the Yahoo! folder structure, you can only store the e-mail in one folder, period. This makes it it difficult to store, connect, and discover items that cross categories.

For example, if you have e-mails on enterprise architecture topics from a particular source, you may want to label it by the topic EA and by the source it came from, so in the future you can find it by topic or by source.

Reflecting on this archiving structure from an enterprise architecture perspective, it became apparent to me that the legacy folder structure used in Yahoo! mail and the typical Microsoft Office applications such as Outlook and My Documents is built according to a typical taxonomy structure. By this I mean that here are one “parent” to multiple “children” relationships (i.e. a folder has one or more files/emails, but a file/email is constrained to only one folder).

However, in Gmail, the archiving structure is built according to an ontology structure, where there are multiple relationships between objects, so that there is a many-to-many relationship. (i.e. a label category can have multiple files/emails and files/emails can be tagged to many labels)—a much more efficient and expansive metadata structure.

So in short, the analogy goes like this--

Folder structure : Taxonomy : : Labels : Ontology

And Google wins in e-mail archiving hands down!

In enterprise architecture, the implications are enormous. For example, Microsoft, which is the defacto standard in most of our organizations, rules the way we store files in the legacy folder structure. Perhaps, the time has come for us to evolve to the superior metadata structure using labeling. This will make it far easier and more productive for the average user to search and discover information they need.

Further, metadata is at the heart of enterprise architecture, where we seek to break down the siloes in and between our organizations and make for better interoperability and information sharing. The goal is a holistic view of what’s going on in our organization and between organizations, and the only way to achieve that from an IT perspective is to label information so that it is discoverable and usable outside stereotypical stovepipes.


November 11, 2008

Improving Project Management and The Total CIO

IT projects are notorious for coming in late, over cost, and not meeting the customer’s needs. has an excellent article on ways to improve project management in an article entitled, “When Failure is Not an Option,” by Meredith Levinson (3 July 2008).

For organizations, good project management is a critical success factor!

“Project management is the number-one success factor for getting anything done in the organization. A firm’s ability to execute its strategy lies with its ability to manage projects,” according to Sam Lawler, the director of GlassHouse Technologies’ project management practice.

Yet, for years, organizations have faulted CIOs and IT departments with failed IT projects. As recently as 2004, a study by The Standish Group found that only 29% of IT projects “were completed on time, on budget, and with all features and functions originally specified.”

Project management methodologies work when business and IT work together as a team.

There are various methodologies being employed to try to improve project’s success, such as PMBOK and ITIL. However, IT projects’ success depends on IT and business people working together to achieve results; if this partnership and collaboration doesn’t happen, then no PM framework will bring us the project success we desire. Our organization’s business people are critical to ensuring project success—they develop the business case, identify requirements/functional specifications, realign and improve business processes, and test technical solutions to ensure they meet mission and business needs.

No longer is it about tossing the proverbial hot potato to IT and then pointing fingers and assigning blame when something doesn’t work right. Instead, the business and IT people are on the same team, sharing accountability, and working toward the success of the project and the enterprise.

Performance measurement is a must:

Improved project management needs to be accompanied by measurement of project success and reporting on these to executive management. We can’t manage what we don’t measure. And we need transparency to senior management to ensure that everyone—business and IT—have “skin in the game.”

Further, there are trade-offs in project management between cost, schedule, and scope/performance. Changing one affects the others, so we need to manage projects harmoniously in this triad. If for example, a project is delayed or costs more, but delivers on added functionality requested by the business, then the project can still be a success. At the end of the project, success is defined by the business!

November 8, 2008

Micromanagers and Enterprise Architecture

Human capital is such a critical aspect of our enterprises, yet in typical enterprise architectures (traditionally focused on IT and if we’re lucky maybe some business), it’s not seriously addressed.

Here’s an example of a major human capital issue and one that if dealt with sensitively and humanly could make a big difference in our organizations and toward productivity and innovation.

This issue that I am referring to is micromanagement.

How many people like to be micromanaged?

Of course, that’s a rhetorical question! Yet, micromanagement is a pervasive problem in our organizations. Twice this past month alone, articles have appeared in mainstream publications on this issue.

Here’s the first one. The October 20, 2008 issue of Federal Computer Week had an article entitled, “Are you a Micromanager?”

This piece recounted an FCW Insider Blog the prior month that asked “How could your agency or manager make you happier and more successful on your job?” To which, the first comments from a DoD employee was the following:

“We have no trust, therefore, we have micromanagement. Of course, there can be no empowerment for employees in this culture. Innovation and creativity are the enemies of senior management.”

Another read wrote:

“Because of the micromanagement, we spend up to 50 percent of our time proving that we are accountable by writing justifications and filling in data sheets showing that we are working!”

Here’s one more to think about:

“I resent being micromanaged as if I am a child, not a professional.”

Then on November 3, 2008, The Wall Street Journal reported “Micromanager Miss Bull’s-Eye.”

“Leadership experts say micromanagers…share an unwillingness to trust subordinates.”

Here’s what the authorities recommend:

“Clearly articulate expectations

Focus on hiring and placement of subordinates

Give employees decision-making power [as appropriate, of course]

Encourage questions and suggestions

Offer constructive feedback

Don’t grab the reins at the first sign of trouble”

The best managers provide meaningful and challenging work to their employees; facilitate the work, but do not actually do it for them; explain to employees what to do, but not how to do it; and let employees make mistakes and learn and grow from them.

To do this, managers needs to learn to have faith in people, listen to their employees, understand that employees are not only working on the project, but on their careers as well, make people feel safe to make honest mistakes, and of course, recognize and reward performance and promote diversity.

Mike Lisagor, a management consultant, put it well when he said: “Every manager can make a difference and the more enlightened the manager is, the more enlightened the organization will be.”

I agree with Mike. We need to change how we manage our human capital. As managers, and as organizations, we can and must do better. And I would suggest that we include this as part of our enterprise architecture efforts. The sooner, the better!


November 6, 2008

Mr. Clean and Enterprise Architecture

How many of you know people at work whose desk’s are BIG dumping grounds for papers, magazines, office supplies, coffee cups, knickknacks, and G-d knows what else?

One guy at work moved out of his office after about 4 years collecting mounds of stuff, and a new guy moved in last week and cleaned up the place, it looked like a completely different office. I had never noticed how spacious the office was, how bright it was with the big window, or how gorgeous the shinny mahogany furniture was. It was a true metamorphosis.

One of my colleagues, told a story about how one of the people she used to work with had so much paper on the desk, people used to think the guy was incredibly busy with work all the time. When he moved on and they finally got to check out the work at the top of the 3” pile, they found that the newest stuff, at the top of the pile, was THREE YEARS OLD!

Why do some people keep their offices looking like a dump yard?—Perhaps, some people are truly busy, overworked, and maybe even a little overwhelmed; others, like in the story above, may just want to SEEM very busy and hardworking so their bosses and peers leave them alone at work; then there are those who just like having a place to sprawl out their stuff without their significant others yelling at them to clean up after themselves; finally, some people just feel more comfortable and homey in their clutter—so different strokes for different folks.

While some workplaces, let each person handle their workspaces as they see fit, The Wall Street Journal, 27 October 2008, reports that others are enforcing a more structured and clean work environment, called 5S.

5S is a “key concept of lean manufacturing techniques that have made makers of everything from cars to candy bars more efficient. The S’s stand for sort, straighten, shine, standardize, and sustain.”

The 5S approach “has been moving from the plant floor to the cubicle at hundreds of offices around the country.”

Some companies, like Kyocera, are taking this even further and invoking “Perfect 5S,” which “not only calls for organization in the workplace, but aesthetic uniformity. Sweaters can’t hand on the back of chairs, personal items can’t be stowed beneath desks and the only decorations allowed on cabinets are official company plaques or certificates.”

When I started my career at IBM, we had a “clean desk policy” that was more like 5S than Perfect 5S, and it was generally speaking a good thing. Coming into this environment right out of college, brought discipline to the masses and promoted positive work habits.

In architecting a better enterprise, should 5S or clean desk policies become the norm?

In my opinion, if we implements 5S to create a rigorous authoritarian culture (emphasizing top-down) and to micromanage our employees, then no, we’re just acting the workplace police and making our people miserable because we can. However, if we do it in order to truly increase efficiency, promote a cleaner more livable environment for all, and we communicate this effectively to our employees, then it has the potential to be a good thing for the people and a good thing for the enterprise.


November 3, 2008

A Postmodernist Approach to Enterprise Architecture

It’s a crazy world out there. Just about every argument a counter-argument, every theory a contrary theory, every point a counter-point: whether we are watching the Presidential debates, open session on Capitol Hill or at the United Nations, The Supreme Court or Court TV, bull or bear on the stock market, religious and philosophical beliefs, and more. Even what some deemed scientific “facts” or religious doctrine are now regularly debated and disputed. Some examples: Creation or “Big Bang,” global warming or cyclical changes in the Earth’s atmosphere, peak oil theory or ample supplies, right to life at conception or at some point of maturation, cloning and stem cells or not, criminal punishment or rehabilitation—it seems like there is no end to the argument.

So what are we to believe?

For those who are religious, the answer is simple, you believe what you have been taught and accept as the “word of G-d.” This is straightforward. However, the problem is that not everyone adheres to the same religious beliefs.

For those that believe in “following their hearts”, gut, intuition, then we have very subjective belief systems.

For those that only “believe what they see” or what is “proven”, then we are still left with lots of issues that can’t be proved beyond a doubt and are open to interpretation, critical thinking, teachings, or which side of the bed you woke up on that day.

Fortune Magazine, 27 October 2008, has an article on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco, “the state-owned national oil company…it’s daily profit is 21/2 times that of Exxon Mobil, the world’s most profitable publicly held company.” Aramco’s annual report contains details about “daily oil and natural gas production, the number of wells it drills, exports, refinery outputs, and more. The only problem: Since it contains no audited financial numbers, it’s hard to know what to believe.”

Similarly, “it warms readers not to listen to scaremongers spreading the ‘misperception’ that future supplies may not meet global demand. The world’s resources, it says are sufficient for well over a century—and when technological advances are factored in, for another 100 years after that.”

It’s hard to know who and what to believe, because usually those presenting “a side” have a vested interest in the outcome of a certain viewpoint. Hence all the lobbyists in Washington!

For example, Aramco and OPEC have a vested interest in everyone believing that there is plenty of oil to go around and stave off the research and development into alternatives energy sources. At the same time, those who preach peak oil theory, may have an interest in energy independence of this country or they may just be scared (or they may be right on!).

From an enterprise architecture perspective, I think the question of getting to the truth is essential to us being able to plan for our organizations and to make wise investment decisions. If we can’t tell the truth of a matter, how we can set a direction and determine what to do, invest in, how to proceed?

Of course, it’s easy to say trust but verify, validate from multiple sources, and so on, but as we saw earlier not everything is subject to verification at this point in time. We may be limited by science, technology, oppositional views, or our feeble brain matter (i.e. we just don’t know or can’t comprehend).

When it comes to IT governance, for example, project sponsors routinely come to the Enterprise Architecture to present their business cases for IT investments and to them, each investment idea is the greatest thing since Swiss cheese and of course, they have the return on investment projections, and subject matter expert to back them up. Yes, their mission will fail without an investment in X, Y, or Z and no one wants to be responsible for that, of course.

So what’s the truth? How do we determine truth?

Bring in the auditors? Comb through the ROI projections? Put the SMEs on the EA Board “witness stand” or take them to a back room and interrogate them. Perhaps, some water boarding will “make them talk”?

Many experts, for example, Jack Welch of GE and other high profile Fortune 500 execs, including the big Wall Street powerhouses (Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Fannie/Freddie) call for asking lots of questions—tearing this way and that way at subordinates—until the truth be known. Well look at how many or most of these companies are doing these days. “The truth” was apparently a lot of lies. The likes of Enron, WorldCom, HealthSouth, and on and on.

So we can’t underestimate the challenge of getting to truth and planning and governing towards a future where argument and questions prevail.

Perhaps the answer is that truth is somewhat relative, and is anchored in the worldview, priorities, assumptions, and constraints of the viewer. From this perspective, the stock market crashes not necessarily or only because businesses are poorly run, but because investors believe that the bottom has fallen out and that their investments are worthless. Similarly, from an enterprise architecture perspective, the baseline/target may not be an objective set of “where we are” vs. “where we want to be,” but “how we perceive ourselves and are perceived by others now” vs. “how we want to be perceived in the future.”

This approach is not wholly new—this is the postmodern attitude toward the world that academics have been preaching for decades. What is unique is the application of postmodernism and relativism to the IT/business world and the recognition that sometimes to understand reality, we have to let go of our strict addiction to it.


November 2, 2008

"Visual Thinking" and Enterprise Architecture

A must read…The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam presents a topic near and dear to me: the power of Visual Thinking.

Visual thinking—"taking advantage of our innate ability to see--both with our eye and with our mind's eye--in order to discover ideas that are otherwise invisible, develop those ideas quickly and intuitively, and then share those ideas with other people in a way that they simply get."

In visual thinking (similar to me to “mind mapping”), we solve problems with the power of pictures. The ability to effectively visualize enables us to see difficult problems and “nearly invisible solutions.”

What kinds of problems can be solved with pictures?

“The answer is almost all of them. Pictures can represent complex concepts and summarize vast sets of information in ways that are easy for us to see and understand.”

How do we do this?

Look—“collect and screen” information (In user-centric enterprise architecture, we call this capture)
See—“select and clump” (catalogue the architecture information)
Imagine--see what isn't there (analyze the baseline, target, and transition plan)
Show--make it all clear (serve up the information in useful and usable ways i.e. make it user-centric)

Visual thinking provides us a way to clarify vague ideas, synthesize and analyze information, communicate and collaborate with others, and tackle difficult problems.

Dan’s approach is particularly interesting to me as I have also been developing and implementing a visualization-based approach to problem solving--User-Centric Enterprise Architecture.

In fact, my approach began as a response to the usual way of doing business, which was to produce fairly lengthy and convoluted technical documents or “artifacts” to solve pressing problems, and then to find that nobody read them.

While enterprise architecture is not a “back of the napkin” exercise, Dam Roam’s approach of visual thinking is compelling and consistent with how we can implement a more User-centric Enterprise Architecture.


November 1, 2008

“Hodo-Hodo” and Enterprise Architecture

Human capital is one of the most important and overlooked aspects of enterprise architecture.

With all the business process acumen and sleek IT, we can get nothing truly accomplished without the innovation, dedication, finesse, and talent of people!

Unfortunately, people are often poorly understood and mishandled in the workplace and the results can be disastrous for our enterprises and nations.

Japan is a good example of a country where these effects are pronounced.

The Wall Street Journal, 1-2 November 2008 reports on “Slacker Nation? Young Japanese Shun Promotions.”

Generally, one would think that people want to advance themselves professionally and be productive human beings in general. This is sort of a cornerstone of capitalism.

Yet, in Japan now-a-days, “in a country once proud of its success-driven ‘salarymen,’ managers are grappling with a new phenomenon: Many young workers are shunning choice promotions—even forgoing raises—in favor of humdrum jobs with minimal responsibilities.”

Here’s an example:

“the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, a destination for the city’s elite, says only 14% of eligible employees took higher level exams for management positions in 2007—down from 40% three decades ago.”

So enterprises are not understanding generation Y and what they are looking for in the workplace.

Things have gotten so bad that a labor relations lawyer advises companies not to “shock” workers with promotions, but rather to “first see if they’re ready.”

“Employment experts have begun to call these workers hodo-hodo zoku, or the ‘so-so folks.’ They say these workers, mostly in their 20s and early 30s are sapping Japan’s international competitiveness.”

One labor consultant says “They’ll ruin Japan with their lax work ethic.”

Yet although gen Yers are at the center of this trend, apparently this goes beyond being just a generational issue:

“A study this year…found just 3% of Japanese workers says they’re putting their full effort into their jobs.”

So what are organizations missing in understanding and in handling their human capital?

First, organizations need to listen to what people’s needs are and work to satisfy them.

Instead of seeking legal counsel to see “whether they can fire employees who refuse promotions,” they need to make the work and conditions of employment palatable to today’s workforce.

For example, one “24-year old agent at a staffing company recently got promoted to help manage a small group of employees. The new job means a higher salary and a better title. But he isn’t happy about it. Now he often works past 10 p.m. leaving him less time with his girlfriend.”


People are human and need work-life balance. A 24 year old with a relationship doesn’t want to work until 10:00 every night. That’s really hard to understand isn’t it? (sarcasm here)

Here’s another reason:

Japan has suffered “economic woes during the long slump in the 1990s and early 2000s…young workers saw older generations throw themselves into their work, only to face job and pay cuts as companies restructured. Now young people are cautious about giving too much of themselves—even if it mean less money or prestige.”

A 2nd Aha—not really:

If people are not rewarded for their hard work and dedication they are not motivated to perform. Companies that used to provide lifetime employment and/or substantial salary raises for managerial positions, no longer are providing these.

To me, the big Aha’s here are not the cause-effect reactions of workers to organizations that do not reward their efforts, promote work-life balance, or demonstrate commitment to match the dedication of their people, but rather the surprise is that enterprises are continue to overlook their most valuable asset in their enterprise architecture—which is of course, their people!

Enterprise architects need to work with their Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs)/HR divisions to better understand and address the needs of the workforce so that the organization can recruit, hire and retain a stable and talented workforce. This will support the business now and into the future.

The enterprise architects’ unique role in this area is to

--capture information (profiles/models/inventories regarding human capital) and trends—point out gaps or other issues between current and future capabilities

--align investment decisions to business requirements—in this case, investments in human capital

If we don’t address the human capital perspective of the architecture, no business or technology plans can succeed.