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...


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