Samuel HolcmanThis evening I attended this BCS EA specialist group event at the IET building in London. The presentation was given by Samuel Holcman from EACOE, a US-based EA consultancy/training/certification organisation that are trying to break into the UK market. Consequently the presentation was a bit of a sales pitch and didn’t feel very “BCS-like”, but as always with these things whilst most of it was the usual familiar EA messages, there were a few interesting little snippets that I picked out.

I must admit to being pretty restless during the first 40 minutes (!) when Sam went over the usual intro material – definition of EA etc. Everything he said was sensible. But how many times can you have the basic interrogatives of the Zachman framework explained to you before you start to glaze over? I appear to have reached my limit anyway! To be fair, there was some interesting historical new ground covered when he was describing the pre-Zachman seminal paper days in IBM during the tenure of Dewey Walker.

Then he launched into the “Maximising Business Sponsorship” material. I was expecting the discussion to be about how to get the business excited about the possibilities of EA, why is it important to them, and how to keep that excitement/engagement alive over an extended period of time etc, but Sam focused on the initial EA engagement really and how to maximise business sponsorship during those early days. In our experience this is not the problem – not saying that it’s easy, but it’s keeping it going over the long term that is tougher. We were discussing this afterwards and someone proposed an interesting theory – that “organisational memory” is about 3 years long (related to organisations’ regular personnel changes and re-orgs), and so in that time period anything older is forgotten and tends to then get performed again (such as EA initiatives). The people you dealt with 3 years ago have all been replaced and moved on, and they didn’t tell their replacements which cupboard the corporate data model was put in…

His key message was that business engagement/sponsorship requires 3 things:

  • A clear methodology and defined roles/responsibilities for the EA effort. In a discussion afterwards with my BCS colleagues the general conclusion was that business guys generally won’t want to know the method you are using (in detail at least), but will want to be reassured that you have one, i.e. you’re not making it up as you go along. The method outlined by Sam was TOGAF-esque in nature – as we know there’s only so many ways of skinning that particular cat.
  • “Human consumable” outputs. Sam outlined some sensible practices and rules of thumb here for “consumability”. However I was pretty amazed when he said that all the outputs they produce are either in Visio or Excel. I like the idea of outputs being in a business-friendly format, but maintaining them in Visio? If you needed just to rename something used in more than on diagram, then…er…oh dear. Please… :)
  • Traceability. Now, I initially thought he meant traceability from corporate goals->strategy->divisional goals->divisional strategy->projects, or something similar – but maybe I jumped to that conclusion as that is one of my areas of work at present. But he meant traceability of everything (corporate goals etc) to the actual source document section that they were harvested/discovered from. This is new news to me and seems like a lot of work (and implies a kind of “plough through hundreds of documents to discover the enterprise architecture”-type approach), but I can see the benefits. It draws out and provides direct evidence for conflicts in the views between business stakeholders and also demonstrates that nothing has been “made up” by the EA team.

All in all, I’m glad I attended. It’s always a bit of a hassle to go to an event like this after your day job but Sam provided good sensible reminders of the EA basics (e.g. eat your own dog food, start scope small and build on success, communications strategy is key, have a method, timebox for frequent deliveries etc) and also threw in some good provocations to keep me interested. Thanks!