Modern Architecture with Bauhaus inspired elements Photo: Architect Weekly

Modern Architecture with Bauhaus inspired elements
Photo: Architect Weekly

I’ve got to that age when one reflects on one’s career; the troubled projects, late nights, cancelled holidays, “go live” celebrations and [it's work, honestly] client entertaining.  Not quite rock-n-roll but a rich tapestry of consultancy and what strikes me, repeatedly, is how things change, but yet remain the same.

For my undergraduate thesis, I looked at three small businesses (we now call them SMEs), developing a picture of their business objectives, critical success factors and key performance indicators (motivation modelling) in order to understand what they wanted to be able to do (capability modelling) and what technology facilities (architecture building blocks) they needed.  Since then, I’ve done analysis, development, management, selling (shh!) and lots of other stuff but I’m back doing architecture again.  Like Viggo Mortensen’s character, I just can’t escape my past.

What we now call enterprise architecture was once an aspect of business analysis and before that was strategic planning.  So if things really have remained the same, what can we learn from our architecture forebears?  Our architecture is relatively young so let’s look at traditional architecture.

Physical architecture typically involves a professional team being commissioned by their client to plan, design and supervise the building of structures.  The formative academic study of architecture in the UK (University College, 1841) shaped architecture as a fusion of art and science, I think this mostly holds for our architecture. We have clients (internal or external), we undertake commissions (contractual or not) and we plan, design & supervise.  Do we, however, see art and science in our architecture?  The importance of communicating ideas in a digestible and attractive way certainly needs artistic flare and the development of pleasant user experience needs artistic understanding and creativity.  The need to understand people and their inter-relationships is critical to success so humanities come in to play, too.  Maybe architects are the polymaths of the information world.  To balance this accolade,  maybe I should question whether we’re professional but let’s make that rhetorical.

One area of difference is the reach of architectural projects.  Physical architecture is comfortably project based and, even when developing the head offices of corporate giants, has a specific area of impact.  Our architecture, dealing with information rather than concrete and steel, has a much more enterprise impact and hence has an existence and mandate beyond the project.  This is important as it does require an elevation for the practitioners of our architecture and it requires us to supervise for a longer period of time.  Further, physical structures have a clear purpose (to get across the river safely, to comfortably house 1000 staff) so benefits realisation is clearer and sooner.  As long as the bridge is inspected safe and cars can cross the river on it, the purpose has been achieved; Norman and Richard can be given a pat on the back and can cash their cheques.  With our information structures, the basic achievement of purpose cannot be so clearly signed off and the full realisation of benefit may need a while to confirm.  Our Zaha cannot be congratulated quite so readily.

Final, let’s consider context.  Byzantine,  Renaissance and other, older architectures are reflections of prevailing, cultural norms.  Modern architectures can be said to be establishing styles and setting trends that other aspects of society later adopt; notable in this regard is Bauhaus.   Corporately,  the move from evolved to architected enterprises (though early stage) emulates this lifecycle of physical architecture.

So…

  • Architecture needs a wide variety of skills; arts, humanities & science
  • Architecture is about change so buying in architecture is completely valid
  • Information architecture does not have physical form on which rules of certainty can be employed so we must accept a degree of ambiguity
  • The change from evolved to architected happened in the physical world and is rightly happening in the information world

Our history is indeed shadowing that of our cousins in physical architecture; things do remain the same.

 

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What is the OTA?

The OpenTravel Alliance provides a community where companies in the electronic distribution supply chain work together to create an accepted structure for electronic messages, enabling suppliers and distributors to speak the same interoperability language, trading partner to trading partner.

What does the OTA look like?

A set of XML schemas (XSDs) that define travel-related entities organised into common and domain-specific types. Domains include Air, Rail, Hotel, Vehicle, Insurance, Cruise. AirPriceRS example below (from XMLSpy):

AirPriceRS

OTA Pros?

  • Off-the-shelf extensible set of components developed by the travel industry that can save valuable time and effort when designing your XML message structures.
  • Provides a common vocabulary.
  • Helps towards developing a canonical schema/data model .
  • The OTA is updated twice a year, and all schemas are backwardly compatible.
  • Maximum flexibility – all elements and attributes are optional which allows companies to choose which parts they want to use.
  • Enables companies to derive maximum value from legacy systems by wrapping them in a service façade.

OTA Cons?

  • Provider systems may only support subsets of the OTA.
  • Companies often have their own internal vocabulary for OTA entities – mapping from one to the other can be confusing.
  • Bespoke schemas will still be required. However, XML namespaces allow OTA and bespoke vocabularies to be used side-by-side.
  • If you make any custom extensions to the OTA, these will be lost when moving to a new OTA version.
  • The flexibility of OTA entities can sometimes result in unwieldy messages.

Why use the OTA?

The choice of whether to use the OTA or a bespoke solution will ultimately depend on how applicable the OTA is for a specific travel sector and the take-up of OTA by provider systems in that sector. Smart421’s experience of working with Virgin Atlantic to develop their SOA offering is that using the OTA is beneficial.

 

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Complex Enterprise System“Simplicity does not precede complexity, but follows it. Alan Perlis
Last week’s IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis – London Chapter meeting, kindly hosted by Credit Suisse) revealed a wealth of opportunity.

While the financial markets are struggling with low growth, increased volatility, low margins, and the enveloping burden of increased regulation (e.g. Frank Dodds), the requirements for IT change still come…and come…to do more for less.

Any company in possession of an IT estate consisting of duplicated systems, application and interfaces (see Conway’s Law http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway’s_law), must be in want of simplification.

The opportunity… is to step back from tactical solutions and consider:

  • the lifetime cost of the change for RoI calculations,
  • how to leverage and re-use the existing estate,
  • consolidating systems and ‘clean up’ of the infrastructure
  • adopting standard data and methods

The cleaner the operating model, the easier it will be to:

  • show regulatory compliance,
  • find the truth in data
  • ease estimation of the costs of Acquisition + Merger integration

When this also allows progress toward the architect’s Target Operating Model (TOM), it spreads a common language and understanding across the business.

So… the recommendation is to make time for real design, take steps towards the TOM, and reject the tacticals!

“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery 

Caution workforce in the road!

What would your reaction be if the workforce in the road, fixing the road, did not have any tools or machines to do the job?

Frustration at the waste of time in the resulting traffic queue?

What would be your reaction if the washing machine repair man turned up without his tool kit, without a diagram of the appliance and without access to spare parts?

Refuse to pay the bill?

A security company providing security without enough staff

Questions in Parliament?

How is that so many Enterprise Architects can do their job without the tools of their trade?

Often Enterprise Architects are missing vital parts of their tool kit:

  • Standards
  • Principles
  • Reference architectures
  • Models of the Organisation
  • Application Landscape
  • Analysis and design tools
  • Information sources to feed the analysis tools
  • Stakeholder analysis

Worse than this they seem to lack the basic tools to be able to create the EA tools they need such as the processes to maintain the models, principles, guidance and governance.

Do you wonder why EA gets a bad name?

I am not suggesting that we go back to the old EA approaches

  • Boil the ocean documenting the current state
  • Tons of detailed standards (always out of date)
  • Heavy handed governance that increases costs,  misses deadlines and the point

And any of the other EA anti-patterns

Togaf 9.x of course points us at lots of artefacts and things to do, it is supposed to. We do not have to do them all, we can mix and match – What happens when we mix and match ourselves out of TOGAF9.x in all but name? Are we no longer doing architecture?

There are precedents for this situation:

SSADM was created and adopted, but everyone picked the bits they liked or could do. No one could afford to complete the whole SSADM – Especially with paper and pencil (there were few tools around).  SSADM became discredited; Every claim of compliance was subject to interpretation.

A similar thing happened to PRINCE.

I guess that there are many other examples of the dilution of the good practices until they are no longer effective.

Will this be the fate of TOGAF?

Are we architects no longer doing architecture?

Last week I attended the EA & BPM Conference in London. This is an interesting event covering the Holy Trinity of Enterprise Consulting; Enterprise Architecture, Business Process Management and Business Architecture (the key filling pulling this sandwich together).

This was the second year they have collocated the BPM Conference with the EA Conference and I think this makes for a really interesting mix. It also highlights the rise of BPM as a key function in the Enterprise. This was reflected in the exhibitors where BPM was a recurring theme on the majority of the stands. I found there was so much of interest that selecting a session was really tough over the course of the three days so I’ll highlight a few of my favourites.

Day one was a collection of seminars. I was intrigued by Alec Sharp’s Data Modelling seminar. Not for everyone Alec insisted on audience participation as he gradually built up his set piece of normalisation dance moves. Bizarre initially but I gradually found myself totally buying in to this. It’s a great way to reacquaint yourself with the various forms of normalisation. This was however a serious session providing tips and techniques for applying this ‘Misused Technique’. I’ll be laying out my diagrams in a more structured form and looking to apply ‘Guerilla Modelling’ where I encounter resistance to modelling in the future.

I was introduced to Blue Ocean Strategy during Jeff Scott’s Key Note on day three. He showed the use of the Strategy Canvas as a tool for developing strategy potentially making your competitors irrelevant. This was particularly interesting and BOS has been added to my reading list as a source of inspiration for my growing Business Architect’s toolkit.

For me the most challenging speaker, and also presentation attendee, was Michael Roseman. His constant reference to ‘Commodity BPM’ and ‘Cute’ ideas pushed you to think about the desired outcomes and values of your BPM initiative. Sure you need the fundamentals in place but conventional analysis and modelling techniques aren’t guaranteed to produce the innovation Enterprises need in today’s highly competitive and changeable environment. His classification of brainstorming as a child’s technique that is more often than not a hit and miss affair was great. He continued to explain that what’s needed is patterns for thinking and innovating that allow you to move towards a repeatable approach.

It was a great three days with an enormous amount of information and learning to be gained from both the presenters and in discussions with the exhibitors and attendees between the presentations. I’ve come away with new tools, techniques, ways of thinking and an even larger backlog of reading to cover. All I need is some time to sit down with a good book and a cold beer…

According to a Gartner survey presented at their EA summit in London the order of merit for the integration of EA into Business is:

1 Asia

2 South America

3 Europe

4 USA

It demonstrates that emerging economies and their developing organisations are more prepared to engineer and construct their businesses with help of the EA, than organisations in either the US or Europe.

I suspect that history is repeating itself – In the late 1970s Lean Manufacturing (Just in Time) had been developed by Toyota and had just been discovered by US businesses. Toyota, who had had a pressing need to catch up with the USA and Europe manufacturing, developed the processes originally started by Henry Ford.

In the face of competition from Japan in the 70s and 80s the US and Europe needed to catch up with Japan’s manufacturing methods and desperately copied the ideas emerging from Japan and from Toyota.

I predict that from 2013 and beyond, when the businesses in the USA and Europe realize that to compete with Asiapac and South American businesses – they too will have to re-architect and re-engineer their organisations and processes, just like in the 70s and 80s.  This time it will be the business models and the business processes created by EA that will be re-exported to the US and Europe by the developing economies.

Calling all Enterprise Architects – are we ready for the challenge?

BananaSkinOver the years, we’ve seen some blunders in the Enterprise Architecture (EA) world, and some reoccurring themes have emerged. Being honest, we’ve even been in the room sometimes when they happen :). So we thought we’d document a few of these mistakes – here’s the first three. Feel free to add comments with your own favourites – maybe we’ll collate this info together at some point and summarise it in a white paper.

Introduction

Do these things (below) for a while, and then pack your bag because your EA function will be disbanded. OK, it might be renamed (always a good rule – if a project is failing, the first thing to do it rename it) or re-organised in some way – but it’s just the organisation thrashing around you as it tries to deal with the fact that YOU HAVE FAILED. A clear symptom of this is when other teams start doing what you might consider to be EA work (“hey, I should be doing that”) – that’s when you know you’ve blown it.

Great PowerPoint strategy, but no execution

Without strategy, execution is aimless. Without execution, strategy is useless (Morris Chang)

A common EA behaviour is to specify a preferred technology for some enterprise function, but define no roadmap to create the necessary dev/test environments, train people etc – therefore the barriers to use by projects are just too high for any one project to bear. The strategy is therefore utterly pointless, even damaging in fact as it just wastes resources.

Seduced by complexity

The engineer in us loves it – e.g. we love trying to populate the whole Zachman grid. It’s like Pokemon – you’ve “gotta catch ‘em all!”. Also, we love to have a conceptual model, then a logical model, then a physical model etc – and for some aspects of EA maybe this is appropriate. But the numerous dimensions can multiply up to create a seemingly infinite number of artefacts and viewpoints that you can never complete (and definitely cannot maintain).

If you feel a need to fill in all the boxes or else “I’m not done, I don’t have a complete EA”, just take step back. It’s nonsense. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why are you there? To support the business that you work for.
  • Where do they get the value? Probably 50% of the value of EA comes from the first 20% of the effort – having a vision for various aspects of your EA, and a candidate roadmap to get there.

Modeling hell

This is a special case of the “seduced by complexity” error that deserves its own special mention. There is something incredibly seductive about using a model ling tool…

  • You suddenly feel “if only I could capture everything perfectly, then the world would be perfectly understood!”…
  • …quickly followed by “and if I could capture the right meta-data, maybe I could execute some of my model, or at least have some great live reporting from it!”…
  • …slowly followed by several months of coffee and darkened rooms…
  • …and then rapidly followed by your notice period

Sure, model ling has its place (a key role in fact) but the trick is to remember why on earth you are doing it and what value you and the business as a whole will derive from it. Otherwise you’ll descend into the 9th level of model ling hell…

Neil Miles (second from left) with Jennifer Davidson of Gartner events

Neil Miles (second from left) with Jennifer Davidson and Heenal Taylor of Gartner events

Now that we’re are no longer Gartner “virgins”, this post covers Smart421′s second only event with Gartner, their Application Architecture, Development and Integration Summit in London on 16-17 June (Twitter hashtag #gartneraadi).

We learned a lot about working with Gartner at our first one, the Enterprise Architecture Summit last month (see previous post).

For us, Getting Gartnered is an unfolding story and not self-evident; analyst relations is one part of the equation, and working with event audiences another. We don’t see this as a “one night stand” – it’s more like “going steady”.

We’re getting to know the way that Gartner does things and learning a lot of lessons in the hope that we can get closer. If it is to succeed and develop in to a long term relationship, then clearly 50/50 will never cut it – so it has to be 100% from both sides.

Joseph Spearpreparing to go on camera

Joseph Spear, marketing manager at Smart421, preparing to go on camera in a TV interview to explain Smart421's growing relationship with Gartner

Smart421 is investing in analyst relations because we recognise the power of the Gartner brand. Their analysts are well briefed people who are focused on providing their research clients with insight far beyond what’s available elsewhere. We have seen this in action at our parent company, KCOM Group, which is itself a research client. We also recognise the significance to the IT industry of their analysts’ reports and various presentation methodologies (Magic Quadrant, Hype Cycle, etc). But the rubber hits the road for us where Smart421′s customers are using Gartner research notes and consulting, etc. to help guide their strategic decisions.

We want our existing Customers to see us mentioned in research that matters to them and we think that our future customers will also reasonably expect this. We realise that we have no exposure today in Gartner research so our senior management team have agreed to act on this. Robin Meehan, Smart421′s chief technology officer, is leading this effort. Although it’s early days, I’m encouragd by all that Robin has already achieved with his three separate Vendor Briefings on Enterprise Architecture, on Cloud Computing and on SOA, in advance of the events as well as holding Analyst 1:1 sessions during the events.

In terms of events, our objective has always been to provide delegates with an exceptional experience. Whether through scheduled meetings and spontaneous encounters, Gartner summits provide an opportunity to show something about Smart421′s brand values which are an important part of who we are, what we do and why we do it.

Smart421 answering questions from Maersk Line

Smart421 answering questions from Maersk Line

I think that most delegates to industry events expect to be button-holed by the event sponsors; it goes with the territory. Yet, whereas this has been a bit uncomfortable at some other events we’ve done in the past, we’re finding that Gartner delegates are more ready to open substantive conversations. They are intelligent people who think strategically. They are more open to explain their challenges and are more prepared to listen for possible solutions.
 
This is refreshing and frankly a little unexpected.
 
Alongside the serious business of conference sessions and on-stand discussions, we really enjoyed laying on a bit of corporate hospitality for the evening Networking Reception. These receptions are deliberately informal and give a chance for each sponsor to select a theme which the Gartner events team reviews and approves. Each theme is designed to be as unique and as entertaining as possible for everyone to enjoy at the end of an intensive day of conference sessions. There were some great themes…
Jack Sparrow with Charlotte, a Smart421 Customer

Jack Sparrow with Charlotte, a Smart421 Customer

Smart421 selected a topical Pirates of The Caribbean theme (hot on the heels of the latest release) and invited the UK’s leading lookalikes to come along and help us. Simon Newton as Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Sarah Key as Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) delighted delegates by handing out champagne and chocolate, and many had their picture taken with them. We ran prize draws every 20 minutes and winners were drawn out by our MD Neil Miles, and by Keira and Johnny.

I think that the cinema chain Cineworld will be getting a lot of extra business over the next two weeks with all those lucky winners cashing in their cinema vouchers, maybe to watch Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides if they’re quick enough.

Jack Sparrow awards Cineworld tickets to Rita, one of our lucky prize draw winners

Jack Sparrow awards Cineworld tickets to Rita, one of our lucky prize draw winners

 Perhaps delegates visiting our stand didn’t find the Fountain of Youth but they certainly all enjoyed a glass of Taittinger champagne with us. 

No doubt Robin Meehan will blog about his findings from the conference sessions, so I’m off to re-count our hoard of pirate gold i.e. the belgian chocolate money we splashed everywhere to add some bling to our stand. 
 
Fans of the movies will know there are only 9 Pieces of Eight. At last count, we had 4,800.   Well, we didn’t want to run out – did we !
 

“Take all you can, give nothing back” crowed Jack Sparrow.

Smart421 stand and hospitality
Champagne & chocolate : enough to go round… several times.

All photos by Jim Templeton-Cross.

Gartner EA Summit, London 09 May 2011

From left: Brian Burke (Research VP, Gartner), Robin Meehan (CTO, Smart421), Drew Fettes as Manuel, Johnny Hansler as Basil Fawlty, Neil Miles (MD, Smart421), Julie Short (Research Director, Gartner). Photo by kind permission of Jim Templeton-Cross

During 2010, Smart421 decided it was time to take a stronger position on thought leadership and increase our brand awareness. We wanted to be mentioned in market research reports and appear at high-level events. We set to work to develop a good rapport with Gartner, known worldwide for their research and analysis of the IT market at an enterprise level. They enjoy significant influence providing reports, events and consultancy designed to help people evaluate and decide on technologies and suitable suppliers.

Smart421 has already started delivering briefings to Gartner analysts and is sponsoring two key Gartner summit events in 2011. More : http://bit.ly/b2qEPX

Our first event was the Gartner Entreprise Architecture Summit [website] which took place 09-10 May at the Park Plaza Westminter Bridge, London.  Gartner delivered a very high quality audience exceeding 300 people, 34% of whom were UK delegates. Smart421 was represented by our management team Neil Miles (MD), Robin Meehan (CTO), Martin Brazill (Director of Sales & Marketing). We also invested in deploying a team including Lead Consultant with specialisation is EA, as well as Customer Account Managers. No doubt Smart421′s CTO will be blogging about the conference sessions, which included Brian Burke’s key theme of “gamification” which had delegates buzzing during conversations I had (and some I overheard) during lunch and other refreshment breaks on day one.

Dinner at Fawlty Towers

From left: Drew Fettes as Manuel, Johnny Hansler as Basil Fawlty. Photo by kind permission of Jim Templeton-Cross

Day one also saw a Networking Reception which provided a informal place for delegates to meet sponsors, talk shop and reflect on the day. After a full day of conference sessions, delegates and analysts alike emerged looking to be entertained and to enjoy some hospitality. Smart421 stepped up to the mark and, even though it was our  inaugrual summit, we managed to pitch it just right with a stand flowing with goodies and our “Dinner at Fawlty Towers” theme, thanks to our comedy duo look-alikes courtesy of Laughlines.

Not that Smart421 can be compared in any respect to a shabby hotel in Torquay run by a maniac, but feedback indicated that people liked the fact we were very approachable, different from the crowd and didn’t take ourselves too seriously. Now that sounds like Smart421 to me.

The Tattinger champagne went down rather well, so did the fresh strawberries from Alder Carr and our Suffolk Cupcakes were a big hit.

Gartner organisation was top notch, the Park Plaza Westinster Bridge staff very efficient, our fellow sponsors very friendly and, perhaps most importantly, the delegates seemed to really appreciate the entire 2-day event.

Photos by kind permission of Jim Templeton-Cross

PresentationCroppedYesterday was a busy Enterprise (EA) Architecture day – I was presenting with a colleague from Visa Europe at the Open Group conference, and then was off to the Gartner EA Summit for the evening networking event, where Smart421 was a sponsor and had a stand. Due to a rare piece of good fortune the two events were within walking distance of each other near Westminster, and so I could race from one to the other. I even walked past Vince Cable along the way – despite last week’s hammering at the polls he was looking quite chipper. More about the Gartner EA summit in another post – maybe I’ll even mention Basil Fawlty…

The presentation was about the maturing of Visa Europe’s Architecture practice, and was jointly presented with Mark Pettit (on the left in the picture) who is head of EA for Visa Europe. Smart421 and Visa Europe have worked closely on this ongoing continual improvement process since mid-2009, and so it was nice to be able to shout about our joint success. The EA world certainly needs to celebrate successes whenever it has one, because they don’t seem to be that common :). We got good interest from the audience which was flattering, including some interest in using the presentation material as a case study for an EA under-graduate university course in the US (see below).

The attendance at the Open Group event was a little disappointing I felt – maybe about 120 delegates or so, but as always I picked up some useful snippets and a few gems during the day. Your impression of an event is always skewed by which streams you chose to attend, but there seemed to be a strong focus on business strategy (measured via balanced scored card from Kaplan-Norton) and it’s relationship to EA which was interesting – I detected a shift from the historical “is business architecture really part of EA?” wrangle towards general acceptance.

There was a stronger representation from the Middle East than I’ve ever seen before at these conferences, and clearly the Open Group see this as a key growth area. I attended two very credible presentations from speakers from this region.

The final presentation of the day that I attended was related to the teaching of EA in universities, specifically Penn State in the US. Dr Brian Cameron is clearly getting a lot of traction with industry bodies and companies – with really encouraging student employment and starting salary rates. I was surprised in a recent interaction with a university in the UK that architecture in general was so poorly represented in their Computer Science degree curriculum, and so Penn State’s advances in this area show the way forward. Tomorrow’s graduates are going to be assembling solutions from cloud-based components, not writing pages and pages of Java (although this “nuts and bolts” knowledge is still necessary, I accept) – so the EA discipline is going to become an even more relevant skill over time.

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