A view from one of our utilities specialists – Martin Alabone.

Let’s look at other utility models:

  • Domestic water in this country is largely unmetered, as the cost of installing the infrastructure is not warranted given the fact that one household consumes about the same amount of water as the next.
  • Domestic energy is metered mainly on a volume basis because, generally, we can’t/won’t regulate when we use energy. Economy 7 (night-time cheap rate) is about as sophisticated as it gets, but a lot of energy companies are trying to phase it out.
  • Telephone/mobile usage is metered and complex usage tariffs exist, as we all have very different usage patterns and we tend to regulate our usage.

I think car insurance is closest to the domestic energy model.  The insurance industry has already come up with the right tariffs for this model;  Social, Domestic & Pleasure unlimited, SDP + Business unlimited, limited mileage; and that pretty much covers it!

I ran a quote on coverbox for my main car.  All four quotes were either more expensive or about the same as my current non-PAYD insurer.  And I’m sure the quote for my weekend ‘fun car’ would be more expensive than my limited mileage policy.

Usage based insurance will only work if Big Brother forces it through legislation for road-use charging, or if it can be proved that there really is a strong link between knowing how I drive, what risk I therefore represent and how much I need to be charged.

Halve my insurance quote and I’m interested.  Knock £20-30 off…why bother?

You may be thinking “what the heck do nuclear weapons have to do with Enterprise Architecture”?  Well, not much really, but please read on…

 

You are probably aware of the recent tragic events that are happening in Georgia, and a lot of people are now asking why doesn’t the West intervene and launch a military response?  Well, let’s look at the big picture:  Russia supplies oil and gas to western Europe.  A LOT of oil and gas.  If the conflict escalates, access to those supplies are put at risk, and the West can’t afford that – it will have a big impact upon their industries to function, and as a result their economies will suffer.  Not to mention it will be even more expensive for people to fill their cars, or pay their heating bills in winter.  And when that happens, they tend to vent their displeasure to their governments, who they get worried about losing votes, so they over-react by changing their policies to achieve popular, short-term gains, the economy suffers even more, and chaos reigns supreme.

 

And then there is the issue of nuclear weapons.  Russia has them, and if they feel threatened, would they be inclined to use them?  I don’t know, and quite frankly, I wouldn’t be prepared to take that risk!

 

(are you still following me?)

 

So really, what I am taking about here is seeing the big picture.  On paper, a tactical solution may initially look good and fulfil the immediate requirements, but put into context of the whole of the enterprise, it may actually be a bad strategy.  Until you consider the big picture, you don’t know all the answers.  Or the important questions that need to be asked, including, is what I am designing helping my company meet its strategic objectives?

 

That’s where Enterprise Architecture comes in the equation.  By initiating an EA programme you start to look at the needs of your whole organisation, not just the needs of an individual project.  You’re not just designing point-in-time solutions, but are now undertaking some long-term planning, and thinking about effectiveness and sustainability.  If you continue to only think of your IT estate in silos – or worse, treat IT and the business as separate, unrelated communities –  your company runs the risk of implementing applications that won’t integrate with each other, duplicate or redundant functionality, processes that stop working when you need to interact with another department, or have data that can’t be shared or aggregated into information that can be used by the whole of the enterprise.

 

So that’s what I mean when I say think about the big picture.  And why their really is a relationship between Enterprise Architecture and nuclear weapons!  Well, according to my twisted logic there is…

A few months ago I attended the Enterprise Architecture conference in London.  As we Enterprise Architects aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, I found it very stimulating to be able to participate in conversations with like-minded people.

Overall, I found the conference very positive as it reinforced my own belief that for Enterprise Architecture to add value to your organisation, it must be oriented towards the business community, and it can’t be just an IT-led initiative.

However, what became apparent as the conference progressed, was that two recurring themes were emerging: firstly, a lot of people do not understand what Enterprise Architecture is; and secondly, Enterprise Architecture is not Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). Unfortunately, some presenters seemed to miss the second point.

SOA is first and foremost an application and technology architecture pattern for defining reusable, technology-agnostic composite applications.  Used correctly, SOA will deliver value to your company’s IT estate.  But there are some essential facets of architecture that SOA does not address, the most important of which is the business architecture.

The common catchphrase of SOA is that it “aligns business and IT” – but how?  Everyone knows that this is facilitated by the services that you define, and these should be “business oriented”.  But there is more to business architecture than just service definitions.  For business architecture to be truly worthwhile it must encompass an holistic view of how your organisation is defined, what are its long-term goals and objectives, what its marketing and product strategy is, and how it interacts with its customers.  And how IT is used to deliver this.

This is why you need Enterprise Architecture.  Not only does it allow you to define your architecture within consistent, reusable models and artefacts that be shared across both the IT and business communities, but by separating these artefacts into separate architectural domains (e.g. business, information, application and technology), it allows your organisation to identify the inter-dependencies between these domains (for example, between your service catalogue and your information model), so that your architecture becomes truly sustainable and the benefits apparent to IT’s customers – the business community.

This is the message that was getting lost at the conference and within the industry in general, and unfortunately, some of the worst culprits are the SOA vendors.  SOA isn’t just something you can buy out of the box – architecture is something that your organisation must invest in, to define and build the resources that empower your enterprise.  As John Zachman so succinctly put it, beware of the enterprise silver bullet that some vendors will try to convince you is the answer to everything.

We’re fortunate at Smart421.  We use our Enterprise Architecture framework to deliver SOA (in fact, EA can be used to deliver any architecture).  Maybe you can find it useful too…

Welcome to the Smart421 Weblog!

 At Smart421, we have a dedicated team of Lead Consultants, highly experienced in areas including:

  • Enterprise Architecture (EA) and TOGAF
  • Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)
  • IBM WebSphere, Datapower and J2EE
  • Microsoft BizTalk and .NET
  • Service Management and ITIL

In a series of forthcoming posts, we’re hoping to share our experiences and thoughts with you from a pragmatic and real-world perspective.

 Happy reading!

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