Sunday, July 24, 2011

Weekend musings of a Global Digirati: PINs That Needle Families

I was reading a fascinating article in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal titled “PINs That Needle Families.” The article touches a nerve and also makes one reflect on our digital life and afterlife:
What happens if, god forbade, one were suddenly incapacitated or worse, drop dead?

After the logistics of sorting through the last rights etc, my better half would have to begin picking up the pieces. This includes sorting through my complex web of finances, bank and brokerage accounts, some of which I have left open in the countries I have lived and worked in during the past decade and half. Couples generally manage finances independently and Suja and I are no exception. Though my wife has a general idea of my finances, she doesn’t know all the intricacies of the various accounts that I manage.

As a global digirati, my financial management is as complex, eclectic and globally distributed as the Enterprise Architecture engagements I undertake. Some were opened because of account-opening incentives I received and keep open ‘just in case.’ Given my frequent relocations in the past years, I prefer being green: receiving online only statements. I admit there is a need to ‘rationalize’ my portfolio of accounts but that digresses from the problem at hand: how will my better half get access to my accounts?

I had a conversation with my mother on this very topic when I was in India last year; tough we decided that giving her the details of my financial accounts wasn’t the most practical solution. We discussed the possibility of my exchanging the details with my brother who lives in London, half-way around the world.

As the article alludes, the process of managing accounts and corresponding passwords does not have a cookie-cutter solution (yet). Writing it down in a sheet of paper or diary wouldn’t be ‘secure.’ And storing them in a digital file? Also, any solution would need constant maintenance to ensure synch-up with the changes to account password I have to make periodically. I am yet to evaluate a password management service: I guess am not ready to add yet another digital service/tool to my life.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Enterprise Architects Enabling Strategic Global Sourcing

As the lead Architect for my firm at the client we are engaged with, I anchor a weekly pow-wow between our teams and client’s Enterprise Architects. The agenda for the sessions is open, addressing key architectural, technical and process related issues, ideation on best practices and discussions from our respective eco-systems.

During a recent session, Dave, one of the clients EA’s brought up the topic of sourcing and a viewpoint he was building for his CIO. I pointed out to Dave how the sourcing challenge EA’s at this firm are coming to grips with are not unique. I pointed him to my Cutter Journal paper on the topic (Enterprise Architects Enabling Strategic Global Sourcing) and we began brainstorming some of the ideas as it was applicable in the current context.

After the brainstorm I began musing how I hadn’t revisited my views after I had written the paper, over a year and half ago. A few of the background issues continue to plague Enterprise Architecture groups: sluggish economy and lack of hiring means Enterprise Architecture groups are not getting fresh talent. Lack of hiring at the bottom is also impacting nurturing of homegrown talent in client organizations while continued visa restrictions also means Offshoring firms are discerning when it comes to bringing talent more than needed onsite.

I had addressed some of the key issues I had seen at client organizations in the paper:

  • Loss of technical expertise due to sourcing

  • The need to coordinate multivendor scenarios

  • Vendors lacking knowledge of organizational dynamics

  • Vendors lacking specific business context

  • Vendors not up to date on organizational processes, acronyms, and jargon

Since I wrote the paper, I have continued to be engaged with other clients and Enterprise Architects, who continually voice views on similar challenges I had highlighted in the paper. As I continue to brainstorm on the topic, I might revisit the views in the paper. Do send in your comments too.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Do Consulting Enterprise Architects provide value and meet the expectations of organisations?

There is a fascinating conversation thread in the Enterprise Architecture forum on Linkedin. It started with Michael asking "Do the consultancies (including Gartner, KPMG, DeLoitte, ...) actually meet the expectations of organisations or is there a gap between the value they claim to add and what they deliver?"

The answers are varied: those on the sell side (respondents from sourcing firms) are weighing in to say they do provide value while those on the buy side are musing on the real value. The question is all the more important given the current state of stagnant growth and sluggish growth in economy. One can perhaps look for answers in two section of the market

  • The heating up of tech hiring in Silicon Valley. The recent IPO’s are certainly adding to the buzz in the e-commerce world.

  • Hiring by technology outsourcing firms. With a slow but steady growth in outsourcing, technology consulting and sourcing firms continue to add to local jobs (though evidence on this count is purely empirical)

The role and job description of Enterprise Architect at these two ends of the technology spectrum are as distinct as their areas of focus. Silicon Valley technology firms, fueled by venture capital funding and IPO dreams focus on cutting edge solutions and adoption of emerging technologies and tools. EA’s here are really hands-on Über techies, tech leads and solution managers rolled into one. On the other hand Outsourcing firms focus on providing technology services and solutions – not always cutting edge solutions – to businesses and enterprises focused on automation of processes and deriving ROI from their existing investments. Here, the role of EA may be a bit more text-bookish: integrating business, data, information and technology architectures to meet strategic goals.

Back to Michael’s linkedIn question: the role of a consultant, or in this case a consulting enterprise architect would depend on the nature of problem s/he is hired to consult on. In the silicon-valley-firm example, the EA-hired-gun would probably be staff-augmenting the already sharp technologists. “Meeting the expectations” here would mean helping develop and take solutions to market at the speed in which the client needs it to be done.

On the other hand, EA-consultants in Corporate-America, typical clients of consulting firms, focus on bringing their breadth of consulting and problem solving experience to weigh in on the challenge being faced by the client. Lots of times such consulting is about the ability to quickly identify the problem and applying a solution pattern. The solution patterns could be custom-solutions or the ones the consultant or his firm has seen successfully applied to solve similar problems for other clients. "Meeting (or exceeding) the expectations" in this instance is dependent on quickly identifying the root cause of the problem and being able to generate consensus on the problem statement with distinct groups of client stakeholders: including the hiring manger and his other internal stakeholders. If the problem statement is wrong or wrongly identified, the solution will obviously fail.

In my years in consulting, I have worked with some sharp and business savvy Enterprise Architects and IT executives who are open to out-of-box thinking and solutions. I have also encountered a fair share of executives who engage external conlustants to validate their own thinking while strongly holding on to their NIH views. You don’t need a consultant to tell you who benefitted from my engagements. :-)

A few interesting links