Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Musing on accidental Enterprise Architects and Enterprise Solutions Architect

Enterprise Architects (EA's) periodically like to muse on the evolution of their roles and how they need to be aligned more with the "Business." Some get on discussion forums to debate how they/their roles need to move up the value chain, which makes for an interesting blog post but practical challenges continue to keep many EA's grounded.

Last week I was visiting clients in Washington DC area and met with their EA's whose business card reads "Enterprise Solution Architect". It was in the context of their adoption of TOGAF and ideation on how they could leverage the toolkit and frameworks better. This was a group of technologists and business analysts who had grown into the EA roles in their organization, a mid-size enterprise.

During our discussion, some were voicing concerns on the strategic-vs-tactical challenge of their roles. I got a feeling that these were accidental Enterprise Architects. For some the goal was to be the Über techie, a.k.a lead technical architect, focus on technical problems with projects and programs than on other core EA challenges within the enterprise.

Of late, I see a lot more accidental EA’s wanting to move towards their Business or Solution Architect roots (circled in image above). And in many cases, organizations are also providing the nudge. Organizations that employ experienced technologists in "Enterprise Architect" roles want them to double up by wearing technical or business analyst hats in projects and programs. In TOGAF speak; the focus of Solution Architects is on B. C. and D. dimensions. (refer image).
I guess there is some rationale here: in a tough economy, employers and managers are looking for a better ROI on their employee’s skills. Remember, Enterprise Architects are highly paid "resources" and productivity of resources is a key performance indicator.

Maybe it is just me, but in an uncertain economic climate, I see a lot more Enterprise Architects hunkering down to leverage their core competencies – technical or business skills – than stepping up to prepare their firms for growth.

TOGAF: The Open Group Architecture Framework

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Musings on Jobs and Economy

The direction of economy hinges on Jobs, and jobs in the Information Technology sector has been fluid at best. Those who habitually read the newspapers, blogs and other media sources are bound to be bewildered by the swings in topics. A sampling of headlines from USA today in the span of few months

And this is just a few examples from a single newspaper. Most media outlets have similar contradicting stories coming out every day, which is enough to leave many bewildered. This said there is element of job-hopping and opportunity, especially for skilled professionals.

Here is a straw poll: Among the couple of hundred professional associates spread across the globe that are connected with me on LinkedIn, over 30-40 had a job/role change in the past six months. In percentage terms it translates to about 15-20 percent, which in the tech sector is a reasonable attrition. Another set of data points: I travel extensively on business either for client engagements or for meetings and pre-sales presentations. At airports across the country and in hotels and at Car rental outlets, I continue to see a large number of fellow consultants. Perhaps the reason WSJ continues to feature articles and blogs on Health Woes of Business Travel. Sure there has been a cutback in such travel and expnse accounts but as economic activities continue at a slower pace, so do consulting and the travel that comes with it.

In my current role of the Lead Architect for a key client, I have been interviewing candidates to fill in eCommerce and Data Warehousing roles, a situation where the demand is exceeding supply of the pool. Of course, in case of my employer, the supply is also constrained by the number of ‘visa ready’ folks who can travel onsite to client locations in the US. To be fair, it is a challenge most other offshore outsourcing firms are facing too. Local hiring is certainly an option I and colleagues continue to pursue, provided candidates are willing to be mobile.
On the flip side, my LinkedIn profile has also been attracting a number of queries from headhunters looking to "urgently fill" key technology roles, which is perhaps a silver lining in the gloomy economic cloud.

Bottomline: for journalists, jobs and economy is yet another hot-button topic but for those of us who are a part of the real economy, pursuing jobs and opportunities is something we will continue to do.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Viewpoint on Enterprise Architecture Consulting: Architecture Assessments and Roadmaps

My team is wrapping up an eCommerce assessment and Foundational Stability engagement for a client and I have been reviewing some of the older program documents. A few of these documents date back about five years ago – authored at the time of program inception – provide an excellent rear-view mirror. One in particular titled "eCommerce Strategy current assessment"is especially thought provoking. It was a report authored by EA consultants from a competing firm, highlighting the application portfolio with inputs from Technologists and Business stakeholders. The deck had a whole set of documents one would expect including

• eCommerce Capability Models, Capability Mappings
• Analysis of Business Units including Heat Maps
• Application Assessment catalogs
• Survey administration approach, toolkit and findings including highlights from technical and functional standpoint
• Benchmark surveys from other client engagements
• Health-Check and findings
• Future State Roadmap

The client is about five years into the enterprise eCommerce consolidation journey, with several projects and programs executed (read, millions of dollars spent) and my team was engaged to assess the Architecture developed and rolled out based on the original roadmap, a checkpoint if you will.

The report by itself was comprehensive, what you would expect from a tier-one consulting firm and would have probably cost a small pile of money to compile. Needless to say a tremendous amount of time and effort from the organization’s resources also went into that excercise.

The fact of the matter is that the benefits of portfolio consolidation promised by the strategic exercise are far from realized. After reviewing the report and documenting my observations on the small steps the organization had taken towards actually developing a unified enterprise "eCommerce Platform," I began to reflect on the challenges of laying a roadmap versus the effort involved in actually realizing it. The portfolio of eCommerce platforms remains fragmented with redundant applications meting their individual functional requirements in a silo. In some cases the portfolio is more fragmented than it was five years ago. For instance, the report talks about 25 Order Creation Applications, 11 applications supporting product search and over 8 reporting applications. Fast forward five years and the numbers have not changed! The TCO gains from consolidation have not been achieved. The only saving grace: the organization has been Offshoring a lot more of application development and support, thereby reducing overall IT cost.

As a consulting EA, I get to visit a fair share of clients, some of them a while after my teams have helped assess landscapes, define roadmaps or strategies for future. The sense Déjà vu during such reviews – similar to the experience in the current engagement - should not surprise the seasoned consultant in me, but it still does.

Other intersting views on EA this week. An interesting Video on Enterprise Architecture (Tipoff Mike Walker's Blog) - What is Enterprise Architecture According to Industry Thought Leaders

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Enterprise Architects and Social Media

Most of us who started our digital lives with Web 1.0 or before are well past the novelty of yet another social media tool. You perhaps remember the buzz in the mid-nineties over the novelty of signing up for new and newer free-email services before yahoo, hotmail and gmail became the gold standard, with unlimited .. or near unlimited mail achieves? We seem to be going through a web 2.0 version of the same with trying to rearrange our circle of friends on GooglePlus (re: WSJ article on “How to Circle Your Friends Without Alienating People”).

While this buzz is enough to get the stock and IPO valuations of’s going through the roof, the Enterprise Architect in me has been trying to reflect on what this means to those of us in the corporate world. Among the few dimensions that requires deliberation and analysis

  • Guiding your organization on proliferation of social media tools. This includes guiding business leaders, corporate marketing folks and other stakeholders with a viewpoint emerging tools platform and whether they are aligned with corporate business and IT strategy

  • Guiding corporate policies and governance around tools. We see extremes on social media policies in the corporate world. A few organizations block any employee access to social media tools and websites while others allow complete unfiltered access. Many, however take a middle ground (eg. Allowing access to linkedin but not facebook or adverts from streaming in). In most cases, organizations also reserve the right to monitor and log activities of employees.

  • Participating and enhancing knowledge network. Many EA’s from Service organizations and end client organizations actively participate in online discussion forums, blogs and try and leverage the tools. Few organizations also encourage internal communities of practice to go outside (e.g corporate blog on Microsoft or Oracle technologies by Infosys’ bloggers)

  • Organizational branding: while organizational branding has been a traditional area of focus when it comes to digital marketing strategies, online reputation management is an emerging area of interest to business leaders. Views on products and services can be made and weighed in on by digirati in a matter of hours if not days or weeks, and it requires an equally fast and deliberate response to defend one’s reputation.

Enterprise Architects who operate at the intersection of business and technology have a unique opportunity to bridge the gap when it comes to evaluating emerging technologies and their applicability in their business contexts. Working with their business stakeholders to visualize newer application of technologies is just one of the tasks at hand.

A few interesting blogs and viewpoints on the topic: