I had an interesting debate this week with a colleague about architectures and why we are creating so many different views. My position was that depending on the audience the architectures and the story focus would be different. For example, if I was speaking to senior leadership and was illustrating our technology stack, I would use high-level boxes and speak to the capabilities of our technologies. If I was speaking to our Infrastructure group or maybe more technology focused group my illustrations and story would be more focused on the type of technology and how we specifically use it to enable the business. My overall point was that was the benefit of Enterprise Architecture. Having the “big picture” view to be able to speak to all levels of the enterprise.
This is one part of Enterprise Architecture that I think gets lost in enterprises. Most think there is either a business strategy focus or a technology focus. What I find is that they don’t make the connection that EA is the connection between the two and its effectiveness to marry strategy and technology together harmoniously.
This week I really dove into business process modeling and architecture. It was like drinking through the firehose with all the different tools and nomenclatures. I found it difficult to understand the subtle differences with the leading industry tools.
Some tools were slated more for specific functions, such as UML for software process modeling, and some accounted for more architecture stacks. Archimate which allowed for business, systems and technology modeling. Which in some cases is very beneficial for Enterprise Architecture. I have been playing with ARIS tool and it seems to be good, but there is a learning curve for me.
This seems to be an area, where the industry must come together before enterprises can adopt one type of solution. It seems for now, enterprises should pick the best framework and tool that meets their needs. One important aspect to keep in mind is that once a tool/framework is selected. everyone should use it. variations within the enterprise at this level not only goes against a key Enterprise Architecture principle, but also is a recipe for disaster.
I would like to reflect on business process architecture. It seems that most companies have forgot this is an important part of the business. We have become so accustomed to having software applications or systems dictate our processes, that it seems we have lost the art of creating our own.
In my EA 873 class we are focusing on Business Architecture, modeling and business process management. As part of our assignments is to research how companies are using business process architecture and how mature their process are. What I am finding is that company are not investing a lot of time and energy into this area. Most companies are leaving this up to the system or software vendors to dictate process. This seems to be a very backwards way of thinking in that how would the software and or vendor know how the business is run, let alone what processes makes sense and which do not.
In some cases the business process could be a competitive advantage or business differentiator. Take the Coke Company, if they were to give away their recipe, they would be out of business. Apply that same thinking to certain business process, if companies were to use the same process they may gain that same advantage. The company I work for is manufacturing company, we use a proprietary way of manufacturing with the Surface Mount technology (SMT) machines for building our Printed Circuit Boards (PCB). If this were to get out some of our additive benefits we provide to our customers would be lost and could cost us business.
That was just one example, but they are more such as payroll processes or HR onboarding processes. If we are constantly making up the process every time we do it, think of how inefficient that is.
Picture walking into a restaurant and ordering the steak with béarnaise sauce, chopped salad and mushroom risotto. Think now that every time the chef prepares the meal, she does not follow a process. She just randomly adds the spices, she randomly prepares/cooks the food. Now you have food that doesn’t taste the same and is ready at different times. How may times do you think you would return to that restaurant?
This week I attended the Gartner Enterprise Architecture and Technology Innovation summit in Orlando. A major theme is that businesses are going digital faster each day. The more companies do nothing the further they fall behind. Businesses are going to need to understand their digital landscape and be able to react to the market with precision and decisiveness.
This new digital ecosystem that businesses will need to construct is going to be very complex and will require a comprehensive architecture program to enable the delivery of the digital platforms. The common theme I see is that most companies do not embrace business process mapping. They look to a software application or system to drive their business process and then wind up have disparencies within business integration points, not only with computer systems, but with processes as well. The trick is trying to change this mindset and culture to begin shifting employees to take control of the process and then use systems and technology to automate where possible. I struggle with this at my company. We have been successful in pocket areas of this, and maybe that is how we can eventually turn the tide, by starting with small wins and then growing the practice.