Monday, August 14, 2017

Enterprise Architecture 101: Digital Strategy Execution enabled by an ARB

A while ago, I had blogged a Pulse article about Digital Strategy Execution (ref link). This is a topic I continue to observe and reflect on since organizations continue to execute their corporate digitization strategies.

The Editor at Cutter Consortium reached out to me asking if I could expand on the topic, especially in the context of Architecture governance. This viewpoint - Digital Strategy Execution via Architecture Review Board (ARB) - was recently published as an executive update by Cutter Consortium.  I realize the report is firewalled, so for those without access to Cutter’s subscription, here is a detailed summary. I have also posted some of the diagrams from the report in a slideshare (link)
Enabling digital strategies requires CIOs, Enterprise Architects and IT leaders to engage with business stakeholders. Such engagement of IS with business stakeholders must be governed by the organization’s processes, operating model, and technology governance to ensure robust, scalable architectures. The resultant roadmaps should also be governed by a well-functioning ARB.

Digitization and Information Systems

There are lots of discussions and viewpoints on ‘digital strategies,’ and they must be contextualized for an organization. Examples of such user stories include medical insurance companies motivating consumers to video-chat with doctors, auto insurers offering “usage-based insurance” after analysis of driver data from devices on cars, and banks minimizing foot traffic at the branches while enhancing digital transactions. As an enterprise architect responsible for governance at a multinational organization, I had an opportunity to review several digital transformations. Most of them seem to fall into three distinct categories (see Figure):

  • Lights-on digitization (a.k.a IS led digitization)
  • Digital excellence
  • Customer-centric digitization

    Most lights-on digitization efforts - like migrating application platforms to cloud hosting, introducing new software as a service (SaaS), enhanced data management, automation of existing processes etc - are driven by IT leaders, who should take the opportunity to align these with other transformations.

    Technology and business leaders continually scan the external landscape for new and innovative solutions. Digital excellence initiatives include the introduction of innovative vendor solutions that can drive business growth. Examples include use of blockchain technology, tools to analyze big/unstructured data; speech recognition and interactive voice response (IVR) enabled processes, and incremental use of virtual assistants and transcription or translation services.

    Customer-centric digitization programs aim to enhance digital engagement with the company’s customers, business partners, vendors, suppliers, and other third parties. These initiatives require strong business insights and are generally sponsored and steered by senior executives. IT leaders facilitate ideation and technology foresight, and ensure seamless introduction of these solutions.

    Customer-centric digitization might also be designed to address threats from digital innovators. For instance, the travel and hospitality industry is reacting to disruptors like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb. Innovations in robotics, Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence–driven planning and modeling are beginning to disrupt the existing ways of working in manufacturing industries.
    In the report, I expand the context of Architecture Governance (figure) and execution that requires executive support and an operational cadence. Digital strategies and roadmaps continually evolve and change in response to economic conditions, changing customer preferences, competitive pressures, and external market forces. Therefore, the basic design of an ARB should be simple but extensible. Please feel free to review the references:

    Thanks for reading! 
    Please share your views on Digitization & Governance. You may Like, Share, Tweet and Comment below to continue this conversation | Reposted from my Linkedin Pulse blog |

    Saturday, August 12, 2017

    30-60 Children die at Gorakhpur Hospital: Musing on the heartlessness of business, administration and politics

    Reading about the shocking incident at a hospital in the Indian city of Gorkhpur sent a shiver down my spine. Parents of the kids with various ailments who were admitted at Gorakhpur’s Baba Raghav Das Medical College Hospital allege that oxygen supply for the patients was turned off as the vendors’ bills for the supplies had not been paid by the state government.

    Initial media accounts published notifications received from vendors - Pushpa Sales Pvt Limited, the company which supplies liquid oxygen to the Hospital. According to letters from the vendor, Pushpa sales had decided to stop supply of oxygen cylinders to the hospital since its bills hadn’t beenpaid for past supplies (link):  
    # “The delay in payment is reaching six months… in case of further delay, the entire responsibility would be of BRD Medical.”
    # “We would be unable to continue supply… in case of non-payment of dues… it would not be our responsibility.”

    Pushpa’s managers probably approached this as yet another business transaction: A vendor threatening to or actually stopping supplies when past bills are overdue is a common business practice. It is shocking to imagine how the managers didn’t stop to think that the supply of the ‘goods,’ (oxygen cylinders) would literally lead to life-and-death consequences.

    The incident has generated a huge political storm with the media and digerati weighing in. While parents allege lack of oxygen supply as the root cause, the hospital administration is taking cover under obscure medical records by stating ‘each case of death is unique and different.’ (link)

    Having lived and worked in a dozen countries around the globe, I can understand - but still not empathize – with the constraints under which middle-managers operate. Unpaid bills of over 40 lakh rupees -nearly US$80,000 as the media reports indicate - is not a small amount by Indian standards. One can guess how a middle-manager at Pushpa Sales might have been under tremendous pressure to have the bills cleared. Perhaps his job was at stake too, and he decided to stop supplies to ‘threaten’ the hospital administration as a last resort.

    Similarly, hospital administrators are also business managers accountable for Profit and Loss and general operations and surely must have tried to ‘resolve’ the impasse. In all this, did they stop for a minute to think: the ‘goods and supplies’ in question are oxygen cylinders destined for a children’s ward were helpless, innocent children might actually DIE if they didn’t receive the intake of oxygen? Post mortems and review of records will eventually unearth the truth, but by then the attention of the media and digirati would have moved on. The hapless parents will be left behind trying to reconcile the loss, eventually attempt to come to grips with it.

    As a father who lost a child years ago, my heart goes out to the grieving parents. No parent should have to go through the tragedy of burying a child. It is just not right.  

    Ref: Aditya Mohan

    Human lives are too precious to be squandered because of corporate greed and ineptitude of hospital administrators. 

    Wednesday, August 9, 2017

    Why do educated folks fall for internet hoaxes? The saga of Harshit Sharma

    Yesterday I had posted a set of Q&A about “technology addiction” but it seems the social impact of technology hoaxes go deeper.

    Hindustan Times has an article about a youngster and his family falling for a rather unsophisticated hoax: a 16-year old being offered a multi-million rupees job opportunity by the tech giant Google. (ref: Google job that wasn’t: 16-year-old diagnosed with ‘confusional psychosis’, parents affected too)

    Harshit Sharma with his mother Bharti Sharma and father Rajinder Kumar Sharma on the Chandigarh-Delhi highway on Monday August 7.
    Harshit Sharma with his mother Bharti Sharma and father Rajinder Kumar Sharma on the Chandigarh-Delhi highway on Monday August 7.(Anil Dayal/HT)

    The hoax got amplified late last month when the Department of Public Relations of Chandigarh Administration in India issued a Press Release that claimed (link)

    “After completion of his training he will get remuneration of 12 lacs per month. He went for online interview through video conferencing and was selected on the basis of posters designed by him while doing class 12th under the supervision of his teachers.”

    The PR instantly went viral and was picked up by mainstream media and Digirati: the story of an Indian high-school graduate getting a multi-million-rupee job offer had the right element of intrigue and Cinderella like aspect to it.

    The reports and bloggers blindly echoing the story didn’t pause to think if this was too good to be true. After all, the guy, Harshit Sharma, claimed to be an ‘average student’ and didn’t have other past success or other credentials. A Hindustan Times article claimed:

    A Chandigarh student has been selected by the internet giant Google for icon designing.
    Harshit Sharma, who completed Class 12 from the Government Model Senior Secondary School (GMSSS), Sector 33, this year, will be leaving for the US in August.
    Selected for Google's special programme, he will be trained initially for a year. During this period, he will receive a stipend of Rs 4 lakh per month. On completing the training, he will receive Rs 12 lakh per month. The information was released by government officials on Saturday. They said Google has told him to join by mid-August.

    By internet standards, this wasn’t even a rather elaborate prank. A quick call to Google confirmed the story was a hoax. So, why did Harshit, and more importantly his educated parents - Harshit's father is a high school principal - fall for this? And, why did they play along when media came knocking?

    And in a rather sad end to the saga, the family is now seeking help for the ‘confusional psychosis!’

    The lesson here is obvious: there are an innumerable variety of hoaxes, pranks and tricksters on the web. When it comes to the internet, check and double check, especially from the source. 

    Tuesday, August 8, 2017

    Recent Q&A on IS Careers, Architecture and Software Engineering

    A few recent questions I answered in a forum online

    How does India compare with the United States of America as far as software industry is concerned?

    Thanks for asking this interesting question. I have enjoyed an interesting career in the vibrant software and IS services industry in the past couple of decades, and got to live and work in a dozen countries across three continents.

    “Software industry” is a broad term that includes the business of innovating and developing software solutions and the use of software to enable business services. A brief review of India vs US ‘software industry’ from a few angles

    • Talent pool: With hundreds of thousands of Computer Science and Engineering graduates, India has a much larger talent pool compared to the US.
    • Cost and wages: The cost of living in India is lower than in the US and correspondingly, cost of software services are lower.
    • Corporate spending on IT: Data from analysts (like Gartner) indicate that companies spend anywhere between 3- 5 % of revenues on IT. Taking this reference, multi-billion dollar, Fortune 500 and other American companies which have larger revenues spend much more on IT than their Indian counterparts.
    • Government services: Federal, state and local government agencies in the US spend a lot on software and software enabled services for their citizen. Government services in India including Central and state government services continue to mature as awareness grows
    Note: this is an oversimplified response to a broad question


    Why is technology so addictive? How do you get over an electronic gadget addiction?

    What is Technology? Per Wikipedia

    “Technology is the collection of techniques, skills, methods and processes used in the production of goods or services or in the accomplishment of objectives, such as scientific investigation. Technology can be the knowledge of techniques, processes, and the like, or it can be embedded in machines which can be operated without detailed knowledge of their workings.”

    Therefore one can argue,

    Most technologies are not addictive. Most technologies are benign tools, intended to aid humans
    Technology is a broad area that includes Information Technology and IT enabled tools like smartphones, cellphones, laptops, tablets etc (I emphasize the tools since most of the ‘addiction’ conversation is around these tools)

    When the iIpad came out videos like this cute kid playing with ipads and magazines went viral

    One can extend ‘technology addiction’ to the addiction for Selfies, which is a real issue. Just yesterday, there was a news about an Indian Man Trampled To Death By Elephant In A Quest For Selfie

    Of course, Addiction to certain tools is a serious issue “When Technology Addiction Takes Over Your Life” - Webmd