Tuesday, October 13, 2009

EA Skills and Compentencies

As many of us know Enterprise Architecture and Enterprise Architects (EA) are the hottest IT business words. The Open Group during their Enterprise Architecture Practitioners Conference attempted to define the role of an Architect. Their goal is to help the EA community clearly define this job description. It was said that by doing this “they hope to cut down on people holding the title without actually being able to do the job, which obviously would help hiring companies.” I say in doing this will help organizations that may have hired “EAs” to the level of incompetency.

Of course the main reason behind this endeavor is the current financial climate that unfortunately is dictating business strategies centered on budget and results, putting aside real strategies for long term sustainability. Don’t misunderstand “coherence and more commonality” are components to long term survival. Clearly defining what an EA is and the professional characteristics of the Architect will insure the right match is made and is in line with the strategy of the enterprise. Below are some skills and competencies that I believe EAs need to be successful.

• Ability to be professional with a humanitarian character in interfacing with those who work the value chain and manage processes,
• Ability to provide business people professional guidance and recommendations during planning, using the people skills.
• Understand processes, information technologies and other assets of the enterprise, understand the recursive relationship of business and IT.
• Possess understanding the strategy of the enterprise; its goals and objectives and strategically align business units and IT based on the latter.
• The EA needs the business savvy to strategically work with cross functional departments such as Marketing, HR, Customer Care, office of CEO, board members, etc. to build relationships between IT, business people and stakeholders.

The final determination of the skills and competency of the EA rest with each enterprise - is the focus on budget restraints and results or healthy long term sustainability of the organization or is the focus on a temporary fix. The answer determines how the role of an EA will be defined. If the organization’s focus is long term sustainability the latter skills and competencies should be sought. If the focus of the enterprise is budget and results, then anyone with an IT background will do.

The Open Group panel suggested three places to find EAs. They are as followed, to include my opinion.

• Open Group: Check your program mangers. It turns out, there's a lot of skill overlap in program managers and EAs, according to Len Fehskens, vice president, Skills and Capabilities at The Open Group. “In the architecture group at Digital ... we used to joke that if you had a program without a program manager, the architect filled that role. If you had a program without an architect, the program manager filled that role,” said Fehskens.

What’s the focus here management or operations. Just because he is a Program Manager does not mean he has the understanding or knowledge of IT and its recursive relationship with business. A Program Manager is just that – a manager. Do you really want your managers interfacing with the business units on a daily bases or managing the program and putting in place tactics for program success.

• Open Group: You might also find a future EA among your consultants – but make sure it's a consultant you've worked with, not someone you just hire in. It's an approach many companies have successfully used, according to Foote. And it makes sense, because in many ways, EAs act like internal consultants, looking not just at the technology, but the entire process the technology will support.

Ok, I can go for this, my reason is obvious – I’m a consultant. My professional recommendation would be to look at a consultant that has IT_BPA/BPM experience.

• Open Group: Look outside of IT. Many EAs come from engineering. Uppal also recommended you consider looking internally in other areas, then develop your enterprise architects. He compared it to a similar, successful program used at one of his previous employers. The company found people who had the skills it was trying to develop in engineers, established an apprenticeship and then trained the workers in the technical skills.

How can you train an introvert to be an extravert? Engineers have the tendency of tunnel vision…they like to build things, like DBAs they can really do without the business people interface. Keep in mind what the EA is…the architect has to possess a sound knowledge of IT, be business savvy with people skills. With the advance of IT just in the last 10 years it would take quite a bit of financial resources and time to train someone. My professional opinion, this is not a good place to look, especially if there is increased pressure and constraints on budget and focus on results.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

That crazy iPhone

I read an article about how the iPhone is for “taking care of business” and all the savvy tools and apps that are useful for small companies as they pound the pavement; I agree. What the article failed to mention is how the iPhone has as many glitches as a new Microsoft operating system. When I'm trying to call a client I do not need my phone to go black and when it does come back on, with or without the assistant of a iPhone Tech, I do not want to see a never ending listing of "blank names" in my phone book, nor do I need to have roving icons. A friend of mine has the new iPhone, her application icons roam - Google icon will become the icon for some database application, yahoo icon will mask a game, etc. Another friend said her phone went black, working with a Tech over the phone she was told to sync it - she did, it synchronized for 2 hours, locking her out, when it was done she no idea what was synchronized and what wasn't. What professional wants to be in middle of making that important client call and the phone goes black or the screen turns white and you cannot see who is calling or even use the phone – had the experience, it is very frustrating.

With all the craziness I like the iPhone, it is a business tool, you can actually see what you are doing and the keyboard is great when I cannot find my glasses and need to text. I like that I can get and send email in real time and do a little research while mobile, among other tasks. Yes, it has the potential to be an asset to us small business owners on the move with all the available business apps, only after they get the glitches out. Making trips to the iPhone store and phone calls to tech support can get old really fast. It would be highly embarrassing to click on the database icon to market your services to the client sitting with you and up pops a game. Our trip to the iPhone store was a breeze – the Tech swapped the broken phone for another, an even exchange, no questions asked. That tells you something.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I disagree end-2-end process improvment is not over rated

An interesting topic in the BPM group; end-2-end process improvement is over rated compared to optimization.

Sustainability of an enterprise requires ongoing continuous improvements. The enterprise must be engaged in making continuous simple common sense improvements and refinements to critical end-2-end business processes. End-2-end process improvement provides worth to the process steps along the way that may use and/or produce intermediate goods, services and information to reach the primary end.

Optimization will adjust processes to maximize efficiency and/or minimize cost within some specified set of boundaries, creating risk that the value stream will be compromised. Optimization is not without its merit. One would have to ask how will optimizing a process change the shape the enterprise as a whole and is there alignment with the overarching enterprise strategy?

End-2-end process improvement in my professional opinion is not over rated. Constantly improving end-2-end processes supports the strategy of the enterprise for constant improvement and sustainability.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

BPManagement has a learning curve with clients

In the BPM groups today I noticed a trend in discussions… the lack of understanding from clients the importance of enterprise strategy in defining processes and how strategy designed processes create value for the customer and reduce cost and effectively manage risk.

We are brought in to fix something that is broken, without the goals and objectives of the enterprise we end up wrapping duck tape around a still broken process. As professionals it is our responsibility to not only design good processes that are based on corporate goals and objectives to improve performance, we also shape strategies that guide their purchases. In order to be successful we have the professional responsibility to educate our clients on the recursive relationship between processes aligned with enterprise strategy and the success of the organization. Let me take a few steps backwards. During the sales presentation we need to communicate not just the benefits of Business Process Re-engineering & Management but the real ROI is with by-in at every level. As a result the first task would be to meet with senior management collectively to introduce the goals and objective of the BP task. From there you have the opportunity to meet individually with all managers, allowing you to capture strategy at the level of executive and below. As you develop your models show them off, show them to the managers, IT architects and senior staff. Let them see how the strategy is being tied at every level in organization. This is like a JAD session for process improvement.

Now if there is not an enterprise strategy and everyone is clueless, bow out gracefully.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Governance and Control

Stephanie Quick

Much of what I do is analysis of an organization’s intelligence with a real focus on how performance is associated with IT. At a number of client sites I have noticed the lack of controls for information security, data integrity and IT purchases aligned with goals and objectives putting my client at risk. There have been client sites where best practices have been in use and where evident from the start of our work. A framework of best practices for managing and protecting information, assets and subsequent acquisitions is effective management of risk and controlling costs.

One such framework is Control Objectives for Information and related Technology practices, also known as COBIT or COBiT, a framework of best practices for IT management that has been around since 1996. COBIT provides a set of generally accepted measures, indicators, processes and best practices to assist management in maximizing the benefits derived through the use of information technology while developing appropriate IT governance and controls.

COBIT was developed 13 years ago and its framework for control and protection of information is critical in managing IT in 2009. Year 2000 also known as Y2K raised the red flag on data integrity while HIPPA and The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 alerted us to the protection of information. Such regulations mandate strong internal controls and protection of information and assets worldwide. As the sharing of information has become and will continue to be global and the use of IT becomes more sophisticated so does the problematical nature of information security.

As we continue to move forward in the development and use of IT in business, organizations need to reach into the past for the implementation of best practices for understanding IT systems and deciding the level of security and control that is necessary to protect their assets, through the development of an IT governance model. COBIT control objectives are categorized in four domains:

• Planning and Organization,
• Acquisition and Implementation,
• Delivery and Support, and
• Monitoring and Evaluation.

Organizations benefit from utilizing COBIT because it offers a foundation on which IT related decisions and investments can be based. Decisions are more aligned with the organization’s goals and objectives because there is a framework of best practices for defining a strategic IT plan, defining the information architecture and the acquisition of the necessary hardware and software to implement the strategy; processes for ensuring uninterrupted services and the ability to monitor the systems performance.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

BPR is About Change

Stephanie Quick

Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) is about change, changes to improve the performance of an organization’s business challenges, with a focus on improving the information technology (IT) infrastructure and shaping strategies that will guide purchases. BPR is more far reaching than the IT infrastructure – it requires change management strategies with effective communication. Many organizations stop at re-engineering the IT infrastructure without considering the effect change will have on staff, customers and other stake holders.

The need for re-engineering a process stems from the end result of product or service delivery to the customer that usually involves cost/expense overruns. BPR is a customer driven project that provides discovery of risks, redundancies and obstacles as well as the outdated use of technologies and other resources. It has amazed me on many projects that operational staff, the ones directly affected by the change initiated by BPR were not aware of the project and the impact it would have. For many the concern of job security inhibited the progress of the assignment which in tern jeopardized the quality of product and or created an obstacle to successful implementation. The use of Knowledge Management software and internal websites as tools for managing change can be effectively used in communicating project status across the organization. Including Change Management as part of the project plan in my professional opinion is a wise decision.

One thing I have noticed with BPR project plans is they have a tendency to change due to scope creep, which is common on IT projects, however focused planning with an understanding of the character of BPR to include roles and responsibilities; scope creep can be effectively managed. Understanding the nature of BPR and what is involved makes for good project planning.

Any project affecting change must be sponsored and endorsed at the top of the organization down to the operational management levels. Having their by-in and support makes the analysis and implementation task lighter and more productive. BPR concept starts at the top – the more on board the less the cost and higher the return on the investment.