Is it time to reduce the complexity of our solutions

Blog post
edited by
Wiki Admin

There was a well-written article on Is it time to reduce the complexity of our solutions? that starts off with:

There are many information technology trends to observe if you’re in the business long enough.  For instance, when I began we spent much of our time replacing thin-clients (aging dumb terminals) with full-blown Windows installations and bloated software clients.  The trend was to push more horsepower out to the users and distribute the processing to increasingly powerful PCs.  We then turned around a few years later and began emphasizing bringing applications back to the data center and using thin computing once again.  Now, I am the unfortunate witness to end-user mutinies which are forcing us to return fat-clients to the desktop.  It’s classic centralization versus decentralization, and is a topic worth discussing in its own right.  But I will save that for another day.

The article continues to outline ways to address such as simplifying the solution, doing more with less, unintended consequences, managing the solution which cover some of the points in our blog on What are some patterns or anti-patterns where architecture and governance can help. The article wraps with:

There are only so many new systems and technologies a team of IT pros, however skilled, can implement before it becomes critical to take a step back from the frenzied pace and analyze the existing solutions.  Integrating everything may not always be the best course of action.  Sometimes simplifying can lead to more satisfied customers and staff.

The article was well done, but it wasnt the article that caught our eye, though we headnodded in agreement to its contents, even if a bit light on substance. BUT, it was one of the commenters, “xentity” had this to say:

I have worked in a wide breadth of operations across many sectors in the economy. I have also been working with IT since 1982. The recurring theme / problem I have seen is multi-faced:

1. Leadership in the IT industry is polar. They think about cool technologies and dressing systems in pretty bells and whistles but fail to address the core of their own industry. The industry is not about technology. The industry is about information and information processes then applying technology to those processes. These processes often travel across a wide breadth of departments, organizations, and even industries. Information and knowledge ‘ownership’ is temporal for extremely short intervals of time before others gain access to it and begin to use it. I am not discussing personal information like SSN’s but instead I am discussing practice. The actual owner of knowledge are the communities of practice. Managing and controlling information must be addressed at this level.

2. Common leadership in the various industries are inept at effectively utilizing, implementing, or managing information technology. This was something I thought would eventually fade as more competent leadership matured over the years but that has failed to fully materialize. At the center of the problem is that despite many IT professionals who are highly skilled, they often are hog tied by CFO, controllers, and other leadership. I find that a large majority of leadership and management have little grasp at running an operation but have made their way into leadership roles. Decisions are made not made based on sound strategies that resolve the root problems and advance business performance. This is something I have seen repeatedly more than the cases where they have in fact made sage decisions.

3. Information technologies are strategic in nature. The effects are long term but leadership’s attention span is about 90 days. This is evident in their calls to “Go Live” and to “Show Results”. In talking these same people the attention span is about 90 secs. Most are incapable of seeing the abstract and almost always ethereal world of IT. What appeals to them is what “sounds good”. Hence, the wild swings back and forth between strategies and platforms without realizing the long term cost and effects.

In short, today I believe there is a clash between information architectures and organizational architectures. Organizations want to cling on to tradition establishing artificial boundaries that disrupt information processes. They employ expeditors and redundant efforts to resolve the conflicts between information and organizational architectures. The complexity enters at this point. Adaptive and autonomic systems are cute technologies for IT professionals but what is really needed is adaptive systems for industry. The systems must be organized around information processes and be able to self organize. Staffing should be structured along these information processes. In the end, there needs to be a symbiotic union between staffing, business, and IT that is adaptable to emerging conditions.

What a great add-on. As the What are some patterns or anti-patterns where architecture and governance can help blog points out, we couldn’t have agreed more. Maybe it was one of our staff that put it up, but no one owned up. Well put “xentity”!

Moral of this post: Its sometimes not the blog content, but the blog topic, title, and timing that generates the best content about a blog (note to self, when we have that base community, we need to open up comments too!)

Developing a Transformation Approach

Blog post
edited by
Matt Tricomi

In 2004, when developing out an approach for business transformation, our primary goal of transformation has been to mature the investment through addressing transformation core architecture concepts discussed such as Paving Cowpaths, improving bad data lifecycles, avoiding redundant buying, balancing compliance with aligning programs, aligning products and services directly to performance drivers, and addressing inefficiencies. Our Team was under a Northrop-Grumman Contract at the Department of the Interior. Department of the Interior had multiple representatives across the CIO and Management and Budget office functions guiding and approving the enhancements.  There were three team members from Xentity, one from Phase One Consulting Group, and One from IBM and the project included management oversight by Northrop-Grumman. 

The method would provide a collaborative way to bring cross-functional business representation with the architecture analysts and consulting service to walk through major analysis steps:

  • Initiating the project 
  • Scoping the segment
  • Business analysis
  • Technical analysis
  • Author recommendation set as blueprint
  • Incorporate into Enterprise Plan and Portfolio

We knew we wanted to use architecture techniques to help, but wanted to assure architecture did not follow the path that appeared for the last fifteen years which resulted in completing the information needed to assess portfolio then serially address change.

That approach would and has not engage executive interest, and likely, give the time it takes to collect the information and map to taxonomies (which needed to be developed and fostered), the information, which is time-sensitive, thus perishable, would be stale. 

 The result was the Methodology for Business Transformation version 1.0.

Lessons Learned

We used the method and applied against four major mission area blueprints, but this was a version 1.0 and we ran into several major issues – actually, we logged around 100 improvements and 8 minor and sub-minor revisions resulting in MBT 1.5. We found issues in: Enterprise Governance, OMB Functions, Change Management, Performance, CIO Office, Scoring, Solution, Governance, Cost Benefit, and General. But the largest issues were not in the analysis, but the wrappers around the method. Here are the top two lessons plus general notes summary of the over 100 improvements discovered

#1 Lesson Learned – Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock

Instead, for large organizations ($100 million to $1 billion), we knew we wanted to take a segment approach to building out the information while moving through the phases of transformation. In our first draft of the resulting segment analysis method, the transformation phases resulted in starting with Phase 3.

The clock would start ticking for the architecture as soon as a team was formed, funding for the team assigned, and the project was kicked off.

This was a major issue after the first four blueprints, as we missed the key executive steps for assigning a sponsorship concept. Meaning, the definiition for success was in the eye of the beholder – the executive. We skipped the critical step of defining the sponsor and their executive level needs – were they interested in savings, product expansion? What Architecture Concepts?

#2 Provide precedence-based guidance on how far to mature

We knew we didnt want to re-invent how we develop service level maturity

In 2005, as part of looking at our transformation approach, we examined the GAO INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT A Framework for Assessing and Improving Process Maturity – (ITIM) – detailing “Select, Control, Evaluate” phases of management, background on proposed processes to improve IT Investment Management. 

And for guiding the maturity for the actual capabilties, we relied heavily on IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL v3) Management Best Practices (ITIL) to help in guiding how to move from reactive service to proactive and not reach to far while gaining improvements and efficiency


#3 Showing the line of sight

We needed to show clearly how the analysis and resulting work products supporting across the business drivers, and the full business value chain.

Some Enterprise Architecture experts may argue the existing Frameworks such as Zachman accomplishes that, and it does in a library function, but not in a journalism function which tells it in story mode and backpockets the work products as due diligence. 

#4 Change is the message, EA is just a set of tools – Get over ourselves

This moved Enterprise Architecture out of being front and center and moved the mission of the segment analysis first. EA became a supporting role, and we would attempt to actually remove EA from the vernacular. The obvious reaction is this was done because of the brand beating it has taken since 1996 when the intentions of Clinger-Cohen reduced EA into an IT compliance reporting role. It was actually moreso of EA`s own culture to put EA at the center of the universe when analyzing, ideating, managing change is at the center.



In our over 100 other improvements, other areas highlighted are

  • Not enough clarity on the varying roles of Enterprise Governance
  • Most transformations have strong ties to annual Budget formulation and execution activities for example, but we didnt align that enough
  • Aligning Calendars and timing OMB and Agency Management and Budget Functions such as Planning and Performance Management, Workforce Strategy, Acquisition, etc.
  • Change Management truly missed for guiding how to implement, assess and manage risk, developing transition management capability (i.e. a PMO)
  • Performance
  • Find ways to integrate other CIO Information Management requirements to synchronize data calls across privacy, records, security, CPIC further
  • Scoring for organizational readiness as well as including Scoring framework requirements from OMB, GAO, and the like to help improve the architecture maturty scoring
  • Improved linkage to work products and guidance that Solution architecture could use
  • Govenrnance
  • Cost Benefit missing in guiding alternative analysis
  • General iterations on language consistency (i.e. its work product not artifact), updating templates, improving checklists, improving training and creating hands-on exercises, helping customize to audiences

The result ended up not being a full major release, as we had yet to address cultural transformation issues and still had additional concepts to consider for linking other ways to path through the method more as an approach.

The supporting toolkit for MBT is a large difference maker from whitepaper procedures or sample templates:

(2008: Later note, the MBT 1.5 ended up becoming the core method and set of templates for the Federal Segment Architecture Methodology (FSAM) which continues in aspects as a basis to the Common Approach to Federal Enterprise Architecture). Two team members from Phase One Consulting Group, one of which on the original MBT team, supported this effort.

MBT has since been validated by the following organizations: