Friday, May 29, 2009

New Social Network for Business Architecture

Inside Business Architecture has launched a social network for business architecture. Professionals interested in Business Architecture, Business Process Management, Business Process Re-engineering, Continuous Improvement, Strategic Alignment, Organizational Design, Motivation and Business Intelligence are encouraged to join. (Did I leave any out?). Please check us out at

You will find me there.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

SDLC and Business Obsessions: Cargo Cults and Dogma

I just finished reading Alec Sharp's excellent post On methodologies and practices. In it he referenced Ivar Jacobsen's post (on describing the fact that methodologies often collapse under their own weight, and also that we should get beyond branded methodologies and perhaps return to the fundamentals. I couldn't agree more, and was in fact making this very same point in a discussion thread on regarding TOGAF and certifications. So, Alec has inspired me to write a little more on the subject.

First, a disclaimer, I am not bashing methodologies! Much excellent work has been done over the years on advancing the practices around development methodologies. The agile manifesto was pointed in the right direction, but when I look back, I fear that the authors' intentions have, over time, suffered from two conditions: dogmatic implementation and cargo cult imitation.

The problem with "branded" methodologies, as pointed out in Alec's post, is that the adoption of methodologies is often performed with a near religious zeal (often by the novice practitioner). This is the problem of dogma. The adopting practitioner is not the founder of the method, and if the practitioner does not have enough experience to understand the intent behind a practice (or set of methods), the adoption is blind, and blind adoption is always dogmatic.

To this point, imagine the a group of students whose teacher has moved away. Their source of insight and understanding has gone. No longer can they rely on the teacher for answers. What can they do? They can turn to the teachings. There are only two ways to do this, take the teachings as law, or take them as guidance. If the student lacks the experience to interpret the teachings, they are applied with blind faith, as law, in a rigid and dogmatic style. Either way, as time marches on, the encounter of new situations will cause an instance specific - prescriptive - variation on the method - which may or may not reflect the intent of the teacher. Eventually the original teachings are lost in a compendium of epic proportion, a large and unwieldy set of rules that are so prescriptive that they lacks flexibility. Consider our own body of law - all steming from the basic principles that founded our nation.

Add to that the unending search for the best and newest methodologies (or management styles, or technologies) and the problem gets infinitely worse. We have added the problem of the Cargo Cult - what Ivar has termed as our obsession with "fashion". Cargo cults are built around the ritualistic imitation of others who have received some benefit that the cult wishes to obtain. Businesses (and technologists) are absolutely addicted to the next new thing and with today's rate of change, it is impossible to master one fashion - or determine its benefit - before the next eleven are available and touting themselves as the best thing since (insert your methodology here).

To illustrate this point, imagine an organization who has a workable methodology. It's not great, but it is getting the job done. Then, from the top of the house, perhaps due to a change in executive management, comes the order that the organization will now follow xyz methodology. This could be for any number of reasons, lets say that the CIO knows someone who has used the methodology to great benefit.

A team may be anointed and charged with implementing the new methodology. To ease the transition, the team modifies their current compendium to reflect the new methodology, making it even more convoluted and unwieldy than before, and in turn compromising much of the value of the new methodology. Time marches on, and since the new methodology isn't getting the job done, it is abandoned for the next "fashion" - with the cargo cult like hope of receiving benefits.

But it's really not as hard as all that. Back in 2002 and 2003 , while I was working on software methodologies, I was a strong proponent of a core set design principles, the fundamentals of sound practice that can be applied regardless of which methodological veneer is glued over the top I would argue most of these veneers have strong cultural bias, and one methodology is more suited than another because of corporate culture, and hence better for that culture.

Regardless, here are the basic underpinnings that work for all methodologies.

  1. Any method should be as simple as possible and adapted to need - be practical
  2. Focus activities on capital building and minimizing overhead - build value
  3. Run your project as if it were a business - because it is.
  4. Understand how the operating environment affects your methods - because they will.
  5. Stand on the shoulders of the giants - don't reinvent the wheel (but don't be dogmatic)
Not only should one adopt these principles, but a development team should have a few sound goals (other than the most obvious goal of achieving the needs of the business):

  1. Minimize complexity and exploit automation
  2. Continuously improve your methods
  3. Continuously develop team proficiency
Remember too, that practices are meant to be transcended. To may make a strange martial arts reference, we should be striving to achieve Ri, the phase of Shuhari where the practitioner has learned the techniques, tested their boundaries and forgotten them, transcending the teaching, realizing perhaps that there are no techniques, or that all techniques point to the same basic principles.

Thank you Alec for firing me up enough to write this article, and thank you Ivar for laying much of the foundation, even if the industry often looses sight.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Concerns of Economics (Prosperity)

In my post entitled The Framework for Organizational Fitness, I outlined the three basic concerns - or systems - of any organization, they are the concerns of Affiliation, Economics, and Learning. Today I would like to explore the most recognizable of an organization's three basic concerns, Economics.

To me, the concern of Economics is about creating prosperity, which is why I think I'm going to change it's name. I like the term prosperity because it encompasses more than just the accumulation of wealth. To me it also denotes success and achievement in ways that don't revolve around building monetary wealth and so includes charitable work and not for profits.

Whether for profit or not, an organization must provide something of value, say a product or a service, to the community at large. This is the organization's value proposition. The systems that configure, create, and deliver this value (products or services) are the systems devoted to managing the concerns of Prosperity. The delivery of value is often called throughput, a term I dislike because it blurs main objective - the delivery of value. Still, most BPM, six sigma, process improvement, lean or any continuous improvement effort such as (insert your favorite here), focus mostly on throughput, for example, driving down cost, speeding up delivery, or any other typical matter of efficiency. This focus can easily undermine value creation.

Since concerns of Prosperity embody the financial aspects of an organization, and since most public organizations live and die by the stock markets whose primary indicator of value is profit and growth, these elements are often overly distorted in importance. I know this may sound strange, but it's true. Most organizations tend spend way too much time focusing on finances. When profits, shares, and growth get overly distorted in importance, an organization can become fixated on driving down cost, speeding up delivery, or other typical matters of efficiency. Sound familiar? When this becomes the organizational mantra, it also becomes the hymn of both internal and contracted improvement efforts.

The focus on throughput and efficiencies is absolutely necessary but it is not sufficient. Perhaps even more important are the concerns surrounding Community and Learning. Without establishing a viable, trusted and inclusive community, and without a system of learning through the practical application of observation and insight - a fundamental aspect of adaptability and sustainability - an organization will get out of touch with its communities and will have no compass for the road ahead. More later.


Monday, May 18, 2009

New Online Publication: Inside Business Architecture

We have exciting news! This blog is now the companion blog to Inside Business Architecture, an online publication dedicated to the concerns of the Business Architect.

Inside Business Architecture is currently looking for:

Professional Business Architects who would like to share their insight.

Vendors who wish to promote their company through white papers, announcements or press releases.

Academicians who work in a related field and wish to reach out to the business community.

If you fit one of these categories, please contact us through this blog or at Inside Business Architecture.

Suggested Topics of Interest:

Business Architecture, Business Process Management, Process Improvement, Organizational Design, Program Management, Change Portfolio Management, Strategic Alignment, Service Oriented Architectures, Chaordic Thinking and Complex Adaptive Systems - or any other concerns that impact the Business Architect.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Eve and Business Architecture

So Mother’s Day has come and gone and I feel compelled to write about Eve. Not the biblical mother of mankind, or this Eve either, but the massively multiplayer online game. What does this have to do with Mother’s Day? Well, as it happens, my mother, a retired business manager, ventured – a number of years ago - into the vast emptiness of space and has become the CEO of a virtual corporation in, you guessed it, Eve.

Corporations in Eve are a rich source of game dynamics. They have CEOs, directors, and members and can distribute shares of the corporation to deserving individuals. There are a variety of goals that drive a corporation, and this shapes their approach to their game (markets). A corporation’s approach to the game, its strategic and tactical plans are often highly guarded secrets, known to only a few high ranking members. If a strategy or set of tactics becomes public knowledge, other’s in the game will try to take you off your mission.

The corporations in Eve need to be careful about who they add as members (employees) as there are slackers and spies. More importantly, if a member’s goals are not aligned with those of the corporation, they can become dead weight, become disillusioned and perhaps leave (taking valuable corporate secrets with them).

If a player shows promise and becomes a member of a corporation, the corporation often uses incentives to keep the player in the corporation, offering them perks that they could not hope to get on their own. This gives the organizational members a richer experience in the game (a better life).

Corporations can form alliances (and have enemies - competitors) with other corporations. These alliances allow the corporation to extend its reach (think integrated supply chains). Alliances have goals of their own and each corporation has a liaison to the alliance (think relationship manager).

Alliances can be friendly toward other alliances, or not. One alliance can help another achieve its goals one day and battle it the next. This is a web of coopetition as alliances make and break bonds with other alliances each in pursuit of their own goals.

It also appears that in the vastness of space, resources can be scarce. There are raw materials - a primary source of income, there are industrial resources, there are goods to be amassed and there are intellectual resources that must be acquired and appropriately managed.

In Eve, corporations also have a life cycle. Early in the formation of a corporation, you are vulnerable to misstep, mismanagement and potential dissolution (you could be betrayed, or destroyed, or you could over-reach, or under perform) there are many ways to die here. As you gain your corporate legs, you become more powerful and rather than recruiting players to join your corporation, players can start coming to you. You have good brand reputation; you are known in the universe. All this time the structure and dynamics of the organization are changing, remember that in this game, members of the a corporation are real people.

Corporations may also then, of course, join an alliance. To do so, a corporation has to give up some of its independence, but the reward here can be great, taking the corporation to another level entirely – an extended enterprise.

Corporations and alliances can age and become flabby and uninteresting and they can loose touch with the heartbeat of the game. This is a death sentence. With limited resources, too much fat, and no good idea any more about what is really happening, there is only one course of action (other than demise) and that is to reinvent and reengineer your company. You might need to become lean, shed some weight and refocus your goals, but this is a highly dynamic game and the environment is constantly changing. If you can't adapt and maintain your organizational fitness you are doomed.

I have not yet begun to scratch the surface of this rich and complex game. Perhaps later...


Friday, May 8, 2009

Six Degrees of Separation and Networks

So I just watched Connected: The Power of Six Degrees, a Science Channel show on network theory. It seems the whole thing is Kevin Bacon's fault. It is a good recap of the six degrees of separation with some pretty common sense stuff if you just stop to think about it. For example, most social networks are fairly homogeneous and rather small. These would be considered local clusters. Interconnecting local clusters has a profound impact on the transmission of information.

Most of it does seems to be common sense. Consider a native tribe using drums or smoke signals. In this way local clusters - the tribe - could signal another cluster (again tribe) about important events - perhaps the location of buffalo, or impending invaders. This kind of information transmission has been going on for a long time. Modern day examples are the telegraph, telephone, and of course the internet.

The show also discussed the importance of hubs - points of massive connectivity - and their importance, for example removing hubs can cause a network to collapse. I couldn't help but think that the television I was watching was a kind of hub. I thought about CNN and the other news channels, each of which leans this way or that, each of which feeds information from their distribution hubs into our little local clusters. Kind of a Babbit thing.

The notion of a hub, though, is not new either. Trading posts were hubs as were the first towns and cities. They were certainly larger than the local village (family) cluster! Over time they took on ever important roles, stripping the family cluster of it's independence, and perhaps even lording over the clusters (families) within their reach.

The list is endless, universities are hubs of learning, a nation is a cultural hub, and so on. An organization is certainly a hub, a center of activity that, as we have seen lately, can disrupt many clusters (again families) if it runs itself into the ground.

There are an interesting implications to self organization and adaptability. When the connections between the nodes of a network are too low, the network is overly stable and while stability seems like a good thing, it isn't when adaptability is required. Self organization and adaptability seems to occur spontaneously when all the nodes of a network have two connections.

In such a network, the number of possible states is 2^N or two to the power of N where N is the number of nodes in the network. In large networks the number of possible states can be staggering. The thing here is that when the connections is equal to two, a system settles into a relatively few number of states (behavioral patterns), which approximates the square root of the number of nodes. This is self organization. These systems are adaptive and able to withstand perturbation through reconfiguration.The classic example cited is DNA.

Our DNA has, perhaps between 65,000 and 75,000 genes. The number of possible states is 2^100,000 (a very big number). If we take square root of 65,000 (our self organizing pattern equation) we have just 256 possible states for our DNA to assume. Biologists tell us that we have somewhere around 250 or so cell types. Not too bad.

Anyway. I need to noodle on this more because as we all know social networks - facebook, myspace, and linkedin, to name a few, are all perfect examples of networks with local clusters and massive hubs.

Watch the show, its on one more time.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Organizational Fitness Chapter 1: The Effects of Structure

For this installment, I put together a presentation on The Effects of Organizational Structure that briefly outlines:

  • Structure
  • Performance
  • Context
  • Change Dynamics
  • Structure and Dynamics