Monday, June 1, 2015

Shifting IT Operating Models

Just came across an interesting post by Colin Bannon, CTO BT this morning. The infographic which he has shared compares and contrasts the Old or a more traditional operating model of IT with a new, evolving operating model of IT. While I have first-hand experienced this dramatic change through my recent roles in Digital Transformation in Retail and Financial Services, the infographic drives home the key transformation points really well. Gone are the days of traditional and conventional Pyramid of IT organisation hierarchy towers where the change is driven from the top IT leaders such as CIO, CTO and their teams. Instead now what we are witnessing is more decentralized, dynamic, agile change driven by smaller, more focused teams coming not just from IT but Operations, Finance, Marketing, Sales and even Business user communities. 
I have experienced that such change is often driven by "here and now" market opportunities where the business can make immediate inroads to new opportunities or indeed react faster to emerging trends / threats. This model challenges the traditional waterfall model of doing things right from business case down to engineering and service release. I think a number of maturing trends have helped drive this; Agile, DevOps, Cloud Ecosystems, BYOD, Open Source, API platforms, Social Media and Mobility, all have helped fuel this trend. This is certainly not for faint-hearted and the pace of change is often breathtaking. But I have personally enjoyed my journey from a more traditional CTO to much more dynamic, agile and proactive CTO in the past three years. What this has meant for me is to find opportunities to make genuine difference to my business and enable them to grow past traditional IT operating model obstacles. Traditional IT Op Model is dead. Long live new IT! 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Are you Teaching a Starving Man to Fish?

Are we as Enterprise Architects guilty of teaching a starving man to fish? I came across a blog post with similar title by Bruce Kasanoff this morning. What a great little article from Bruce and what a punch of a message! It resonated so well with what I have observed in the field of Enterprise Architecture over the past decade or so. 

Whether we like it or not, sometimes Enterprise Architects are seen as a bunch of guys who are running "ivory tower" practices. Some brilliant, intellectual stuff takes place in such practices but often it seems to fail to solve real-world, practical problems. We have some good models, framework, methods but somehow the customer of our trade do not seem to find it useful. Why would this be happening? 

Here is one scenario, borrowing Bruce's metaphor from above. Our "starving man" customer approaches the talented and experienced Enterprise Architecture team expecting a "fish today". This may be in the form of a solution to a specific burning project problem, e.g. integration requirement for a new digital channel and legacy back-office. They probably expect us to deliver a crunchy API specification in quick time so that they can hand it over to third party supplier. But instead they get a dose of methods about taxonomies and generic models.

The intent here is probably noble so as to empower project teams to build interfaces based on corporate standards which are perfectly aligned with the "right EA way". But probably what the customer expected was an Enterprise Architect to drop his methodology chalks, roll up his sleeves and do some real work to deliver "fish today" integration specification. And once the hunger was tackled, this starving man would be ready to learn "fishing the EA way" based on delivery credibility for future integration work. 

The point I am getting at here is Enterprise Architects need to maintain a healthy balance between framework purity and practical implementations in real-life. Solving some project / solution problems here and now may be the best way to educate about the value of Enterprise Architecture. And then we will have a ready audience who will be interested in learning more about our great taxonomies and models to solve further real-world problems in future. If we don't, the customer will sooner than later go somewhere else where he gets a fish when he is hungry. Have you heard about "Shadow Architecture Team" by the way? 

Happy Fishing!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Are you an Architect or an Engineer or a Technician?

A few days ago I had posted some thoughts about relationship between an Architect role and an Engineer role. I had referred to the Zachman Framework to explain the trade-off and dependencies in these two important role profiles. The beauty of Zachman Framework is that it does not stop at explaining only dynamics at the Architecture level but it seamlessly connects both the Business Consumer and the Technology Implementer perspectives in a simple single framework. 

Please see the simple illustration from Zachman Framework below. At the heart of below picture is the dual-relationship of an Architect role profile and the Engineer role profile as I had outlined in my previous blogpost. The Technician perspective is an interesting one and an important one. I state this because it is at the Technical perspective that the Business and Operating Models chalked up by an Architect are realised. I think that a good mature CIO or IT department has to consider the architecture in totality and offer capabilities across this spectrum. 

Architect Engineer & Technician Perspectives from Zachman Framework
All Copyrights with Zachman International

The key question of this post is, who do you think you are? Are you an Architect or an Engineer or a Technician? I suppose the answer depends on a number of factors; your organisation design, it's operating model, your own skills and capabilities. Just to give an interesting example, I used to work for a CTO who used to say, "Give me a programmer over a process engineer anyday". What he meant was, he would rather deliver better results faster working at the Technician level rather than working at the Architect or an Engineer level. 

I am not stating that his perspective is right or wrong but the point I am trying to make is having awareness of these different perspectives is important. An organisation and individuals who identify and respect these perspectives will be progressive and will make a positive difference to their business by dynamic delivery capability. What probably my CTO meant then was, he would rather work with an architect who was not shy to roll up the sleeves and perform the role of an Engineer or a Technician. Do such architects exist? This is a rare breed in my experience. 

The first, second, third and now fourth generation outsourcing models add an interesting dynamics in this discussion. For example, if a large Retailer or a large Bank outsources it's Data Centre Infrastructure and Operations to a Technology outsourcing supplier, would you call them as your Technicians? Probably yes, if you also give away your key Technician resources. Probably no, if you keep them in-house keeping an oversight on your supplier. 

As an individual an Architect or an Engineer needs to think about his / her role and capabilities within the organisation. The CIO, CTO or the IT leadership needs to think about range of capabilities they need to invest to make a positive difference to their business consumers. You can have many labels and titles if you like but what matters is understanding and delivery of Architect, Engineer and Technician perspectives. As an operating model an organisation may choose to keep these capabilities in-house or outsource them but as long as it recognises and manages their delivery, they will meet their objectives successfully. 

References used in this blogpost for further reading and credits

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