Sunday, October 30, 2011

Enterprise Architecture Frameworks for the knowledge economy?

(Warning: This post is basically me thinking out loud, it may not have a conclusion) 

Out there in the blogosphere, the most common argument about EA is between those that think EA is about architecting the whole enterprise and those that prefer a more IT centric view. I've always felt that this rather pointless, navel-gazing argument has distracted our profession from more relevant discussions about how EA can deliver value.

One thing that I have felt for some time, is that EA frameworks are often primarily derived from or based on commercial manufacturing models. Further, they usually have a strong flavor of operating excellence over customer intimacy or product leadership (See "Discipline of the Market Makers" by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema).

So I am always on the lookout for frameworks that appreciate other viewpoints that may be useful for delivering value using EA. Examples:

Even though there are examples of frameworks using different viewpoints from the commercial, manufacturing, operating excellence viewpoint; I am yet to really see a framework that is built from the ground up, to focus on a knowledge-business rather than a manufacturing-business. 

Yes, some, if not all, of the frameworks above CAN be used for EA in a knowledge-business. In fact I have personally used each of them in this way; but I have always felt that I needed to adapt these frameworks to suit the context of a knowledge-business. (Note: Yes, I know all frameworks are a starting point and that they always need to be adapted to fit context. That's not the point that I am making here. *grin*)

It is just that I wonder if there is any merit in developing a framework that is built from the viewpoint of managing a knowledge-business. First let's ask why this might be meaningful.

I read a newsletter on the weekend. It was posted on Microsoft UK's web site by Mike Lloyd, an Independent Consultant on the Microsoft Architect Council. Mike was writing about the new Microsoft Business Architecture Framework - "Motion".  (As far as I can tell, MS Motion is in beta at the moment but I would love to hear from anyone with more concrete information as to the status of MS Motion.)

The Microsoft Motion Business Architecture Methodology

Mike wrote

"knowledge-based work is not similar to production activity. Where handoffs in industry produce economic benefits, the handing off of knowledge work creates delays and discontinuity."

Ah ha!! So someone else out there thinks that there is a difference between manufacturing and knowledge-based work.

Mike then gives an example of what he means"

"Ask any customer who has navigated the labyrinth of a conventional banking organisation's customer services trying to find where their application has gone and frequently answering the same questions over and over again as their case is moved from team to team."

Not a great example but it does highlight that in this (example) bank business, the issue lies primarily in processes, knowledge management, organizational design, etc. Things that TOGAF and a raft of the other major EA frameworks don't have a whole lot of useful guidance about. (Oh no, did I just slip back into the architecting the whole enterprise vs EWITA arguament by accident there?)

Anyway, I'll probably post more about this as I haven't really reached any conclusion.

Generally what I am getting at in this post is that I have a general impression that the frameworks, case studies and research material (e.g. Gartner & Forrester) don't tend to have a sharp focus on knowledge based businesses as much as they do on manufacturing based business; and so I am wondering if there is any merit in having one. (or should I just keep using the current frameworks with their 80% fit?)

Anyway, I'll just be over here putting on my flame retardant suit in case I have offended anyone! *smile*

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Nick Malik said...

No flame from me, sir. Knowledge-based businesses are different. That said, the frameworks are agnostic to the type of business. TOGAF is just as applicable, for example, to a company like General Motors as it is to a company like Microsoft.

As far as Motion goes, it has been out of beta for a long time. Look up references to Microsoft MSBA (Microsoft Services Business Architecture). That name is already obsolete, unfortunately, as the entire method has been enveloped within a series of offerings called ITAP. Your local Microsoft office will have more details on the positioning of ITAP. But it is definitely built on top of Motion/MSBA.

As for FEAF-- I'm very aware of it. Some mature thinking there. I've used FEAF in many things I've done, and I like it, but it does take some time to remove the "government-speak" from the language of the framework in order to make it useful in a commercial context.

As for Osterwalder's Business Model Canvas -- I used it as a key input to the EBMM nearly three years ago now. Most folks have yet to understand how this affects EA, but I'm doing what I can to explain it. Tom gets it... no surprise there.

Last note: Both Gartner and Forrester ARE knowledge-based businesses. They do understand. But both are paid to provide input to the CIO of large companies. Business Architecture, to truly be effective, requires them to speak to other senior leaders, and that isn't their business model. Don't look to them to lead in this field.

Bumbo said...

Alexander, I have read all your blog and It is totally inspiring. I want to start a blog now.
I am a strong advocate against the process only view of business. And I believe that the attempt to make holistic framework by engineers failed because of their naive understanding of wheels of business

Operation's role is exactly about streamlining part of the business that are manufacturing based (relying on Process and Technology capabilities or what McKinsey call structures and systems), some part of the business apply knowledge based capabilities and cannot be put into processes that make sense (What McKinsey call all the other S's of Its 7s framework excepted strategy).

This is also why 99% of the time, EA work end up in Enterprise Wide Automation Architecture where Automation is mainly brought by automating processes with IT. The EWITA vs EA debate is not relevant for that reason. There cannot be an architect who have KNOWLEDGE to enhance ALL the capabilities.

For instance in the Motion slidepack one assumption is really mechanistic and totally stupid for any one that really made business. "2. Capabilities that don’t add value can be eliminated" slide 5. Accounting, Compliance, Facilities....don't add value can you remove them? No because, a set of business rules (the code of business law) constrains you to provide employees chairs, to comply with regulatory frameworks, to negotiate with Labour Unions, to provide financial statements even though your company is financially healthy etc...

The exact reason for that is that an enterprise is not a simple manufacture It is built essential of Human Capital from several side with different interest: Customers (The market), Investor(The capital market), Employees (The job market) and Citizens (The regulators and Legislative bodies).

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