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 Two

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.

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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.

Day Three

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

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!

JohnZachmanPresentationOct09 3

As advertised in my notes from the last BCS EA specialist group event, myself and my Smart421 colleague (David Taylor, head of our internal WebSphere practice) attended this evening’s John Zachman presentation at Sun’s offices in London. I felt it was too good a chance to miss as I’ve not seen John present before – regardless of whether you agree with him or not, every self-respecting EA needs to have seen him at least once I think, and usually you have to shell out some hard-won training/conference budget to do so. I must admit I was expecting quite a hard sales pitch from him, having seen collateral for all the Zachman Framework materials and courses etc, and because he’s American :o …but this was not the case, and so I humbly apologise for my stereotypical assumptions.

He is a bit of a handful though – Mike Buck did his best to ‘manage’ John at the end – whilst the sandwiches outside started to curl up at the edges. As I expected he is a very engaging speaker, with some great anecdotes from his career and he spoke passionately about enterprise architecture. He kept speaking at a quite frightening rate and intensity for about 100 minutes, going 100mph and hammering home his messages using those good old speaking techniques of repetition, comedy and metaphor. I was glad I wasn’t at the front of the audience as I suspect that was a bit full-on – it’s a bit like when you go an see a stand-up comic – always best to sit a few rows back…

So what about the content? Well, he basically covered the need to enterprise architecture as a discipline and then spent the majority of the time explaining the Zachman Framework and the justification for it. So for most people in the room, I suspect they didn’t really hear anything new. It was really quite odd to hear him refer to that thing that we’ve all grown up with, the Zachman Framework, as “my framework”. There was no content about how to execute an enterprise architecture process and his viewpoint seems quite academic in nature. In his motivating way, for a moment you are led to feel that you could “model the world” – until your real world experiences kick in and you realise that this is nonsense in almost all current business environments. I must admit I feel bad criticising John Zachman in any way – it feels like complaining about your (very sharp, clever, transatlantic) grandad. To be fair to him, he didn’t try and cover the ‘delivery’ topic at all and could not of done so in the time he had. He’d be a great guy to wheel out in front of your CEO to ‘sell’ the idea of enterprise architecture to them, but you also get the impression that you don’t want to be the guy following up on the expectations he might have created. He neatly side-stepped a few audience questions, but you got the impression he had the answers if not the time to give them, e.g. the classic cross-cutting concerns challenge such as ‘how is security architecture represented in the framework?’. I was quite impressed that he openly volunteered that the framework was an ontology but not a method – whilst this is obvious, I thought he might spin this towards a method of his choosing but he didn’t try that at all.

In some ways the asides, anecdotes and little historical lessons were the most riveting part of the presentation – he talked about the process by which he originally “discovered” the framework, the reasons he changed some things in version 2 of it such as renaming some of the terms to make them more business-relevant and less IT-centric, and the history of System R, DB2, IMS, business process modelling and so on. Overall I am very glad I went…I’m richer for the experience although my ears do feel like they’ve been assaulted. Another excellent and very well attended BCS EA SG event – well done committee.

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