Recently, I attended the 3-day conference in London that combined, for the first time, EA and BPM, which had in previous years been the subject of separate conferences, see the overview at http://www.irmuk.co.uk/eac2011/overview.cfm for more details. Thanks to Robin Meehan presenting a session with Visa Europe we got a good deal on the ticket to go to all three days including the Seminar on Wednesday.
The first day gave me the opportunity to see the legendary John Zachman present a half-day introduction to his famous “Zachman EA Framework”. The seminar was subtitled “Enterprise Physics”, which made me think of Star Trek and Scottie the Engineer but maybe that’s just me. Zachman prefers using the terms “ontology” or “classification” rather than “framework” for the core 6×6 matrix (sorry, “normalised schema”) that compares with the periodic table that underlies the whole of chemistry. The main thrust of Zachman’s very entertaining presentation was that nobody can carry out any seriously complex activity without architecture and that architecture is the same for enterprises as it is for aeroplanes or one hundred storey buildings (but harder).
The analogies and application of EA to science and engineering showed how relatively young and immature is the whole practice of EA and Zachman can rightly claim to be a pioneer in the late 1960s and still going strong now at the age of 76. Robin Meehan wrote about him two years ago and I would echo a lot of the sentiments he expressed regarding the energy and passion he still displays.
In the afternoon on day one I attended a seminar on Business Process and BPMN, which told me that BPMN 2.0 has only four basic building blocks that result in 100 or so detailed objects with embellishments and decorations. For example there are something like 63 different categories of “event”. What BPMN 2.0 does is categorise into “common core” of just a few important fundamental concepts that can code the majority of simple business processes. There were a range of tool vendors in the exhibition supporting BPMN in various ways, many now based on standard archimate-style notation.
What surprises me a little bit is the way the business process delegates still seem to think they exist alongside EA whereas by definition EA encompasses the whole enterprise, as Zachman says “The whole thing including the business architecture and processes”, so therefore BPM falls within EA.
Day 2 started with a nice opening by Sally Bean (@cybersal on twitter – Twitter was in evidence including tags #IRMEAC and #IRMBPM that I used for a bit) and Roger Burlton (@RogerBurlton) that focused on having a disciplined, coherent and shared architecture strategy that encompasses both EA and BPM; ok, I would argue EA already encompasses BPM but it’s good the similarities and overlaps are now being recognised and acted upon. The other statement that stuck with me was that “The common repository” is critical, something that causes a debate in our group with respect to federated SOA and autonomy of business units within an enterprise.
The keynote was given by Thomas Lawton (@TCLawton) who was clearly suffering with mild laryngitis so has to be applauded for getting through his description of breakout strategy, leadership and vision wheels so well. Some nice categorisations of businesses in frame of their response to the recession (Panic, Protect, Cloak, Conquer) and then in terms of breakout, being offensive (in the “attacking” sense in British parlance), i.e. “…the best form of defense is attack”. He spent a long time exploring the nature of growth opportunities, where Google are a “True Original” taking an emergent market by storm and Tesco are a “Big Improver” moving from laggard to leader in established market. I stopped to think about it and would probably categorise Smart421 as “Wave Rider”, not really a true original but taking on and leading the way in an emerging market (EA Consultancy). The only thing that bothered me slightly was the example in this space was Ryan Air – I’d like to think we have a much friendlier customer focus! Thomas’s “Vision Wheel” was an interesting concept, separating external and internal aspects and the final section was about how to create a “Magnet company” that excites markets and attracts customers. The key seems simply to build the Vision for the future based on the six aspects: Price, Features, Quality, Support, Availability, Reputation. I had a go at doing this for Smart421 below. It would be interesting to get other peoples’ views on the ratings.
The afternoon keynote from Ian Gotts of Nimbus focused on CEOs and specifically selling BPM projects to CEOs. The first rule he quoted was “not BPM”, which was a theme of some other talks “Don’t mention architecture”. It reminded me of the famous football autobiography by Len Shackleton where he entitled a chapter “What the average club chairman knows about football” and left the page completely blank. Gotts’s talk used examples from the transformation of Carphone Warehouse from a basic “phone shifter” to a rounded customer-oriented gadget shop with supporting processes. The slides contained some interesting predictions like the market for BPM services to top $24bn in the next few years and he had a nice graphic showing an exponential increase in spending by 8 of their customers recently (could just be coincidence as business always increases over time). It was entertaining and made me more aware of how to present to senior business-people, as if I didn’t already know not to mention IT terminology.
Also today, I had the pleasure of attending two presentations by working Enterprise Architects from Shell and British Gas. It is always enjoyable hearing about real-world experiences that highlight gaps in the models. Dan Jeavons from Shell is far too youthful to know as much as he does about Enterprise Architecture but I found myself agreeing with what he was saying and it confirms my belief that implementing EA needs sponsorship from the top and there is a right way to do it (meta-model definition before tooling for example).
Jane Chang from British Gas pretty much developed her own practice, on the back of delivering Smart Metering to the company’s 10 million customers. The programme has been a great success and now has a large 400-person development team working on it to meet the architecture vision. A very good end to the day.
And so to the third and final day of EAC and BPM and the obvious highlight was the presentation bySmart421 CTO, Robin Meehan and Chris Forlano Lead Enterprise Architect at Visa Europe on “Maturing Visa’s Enterprise Architecture Practice”.
Robin Meehan CTO at Smart421 (pictured left) with Chris Forlano, Lead Enterprise Architect at Visa Europe. Photo by Andrew Smale.
The session was appreciated by all and they asked some very interesting questions, like “How did you justify a 530 days budget for this work?”, which should probably have been answered by Mark had he been there.
Prior to that I went along to a Lean Six Sigma presentation and learnt a few more strings to use around promoting Quality through reducing variance (Six Sigma) at the same time as addressing the 7 Sins of Waste (Lean). I thought Peter Matthijssen was really good at using examples to introduce LSS as a practice for aspiring Business Process Architects and explained the concepts really well.
The morning keynote was probably the best talk of the whole conference by Jason Bloomberg on …. you’ve guessed it… The Cloud! Or more specifically, “Architecting the Cloud – How EAs should think about Cloud Computing”. Both the Pros and the Cons were presented and the not so subtle message to delegates was to not let vendors drive down the route of private cloud and that public cloud cannot be trusted. I did think some examples: a Cloud employee taking a memory stick to your server and stealing your data, or the police impounding your (shared) boxes because of illegal activity by someone else was a little bit OTT. The main message reinforced our view that you must architect for the cloud and synergies with SOA were well presented, in particular the suggestion to extend SOA Governance to cover Cloud Governance, a reasonable extension as I’ve always thought SOA Governance should govern the underlying platforms for capacity and autonomy anyway. I didn’t quite get his point of Cloud services using REST couldn’t be governed as part of SOA because surely SOA is technology agnostic? His last slide on availability and redundancy with reference to the April Amazon outage provided a good discussion point afterwards and if anything this will be good for service providers like Smart421 offering experienced Cloud consultancy.
My second session of the day was “The Success of a Pragmatic Enterprise Architecture approach ‘STREAM'” by Jaap Schekkerman, Thought Leader Business Technology Strategy. I wasn’t completely convinced that these methods will work for everyone and the recommendation to design business methods on A0 format was provocative to someone like me who believes in a more componentised approach and that a process should fit on a single page to be understandable. Some of his slides also suffered from the A0 format and were incomprehensible. However, I did like Jaap as a presenter and he does have some original methods built into STREAM, which stands for:
Speedy Traceable Result-driven Enterprise Architecture (or Asset/Agile) Management, and it can be integrated with other frameworks and methodologies.
If I have one regret from this conference it is some of the session choices I made – Oliver Robinson’s presentation about improving the National Policing Agency drew a lot of praise, as did Tom Graves from Tetradian on “Respect as an Architectural Issue: a Case Study in Business Survival” but you can’t be everywhere. At least I have all the slides and further references like to tetradianbooks.com for the last one.
I admit I also suffered a little bit of BPM-fatigue after a while of going round the numerous vendors and trying to understand their products. However, if anyone has a need to deliver a BPM tool then I’ve got some good contacts now and a backpack full of literature and demos so give me a call or tweet me @smaley