‘How do you measure success – what does it look like to you?’ is one of those questions that can elicit a wide range of answers, but what I’ve found is that whatever the answer is it points to a fundamental philosophy of what matters most. It was with this in mind that I asked a couple of Enterprise Architects this very question. One was from really big Pharma, the other a global bank and their answers were remarkably similar. Success they said, was when things don’t go wrong – so long as the business has forgotten that we’re here, then we’re doing OK.
The opportunity to ask these question was provided at Forrester’s Enterprise Architecture Forum 2011 which I had the pleasure of attending along with my Headshift colleague, Imran Aziz. In some sense the answers were a common thread – what matters most to the Enterprise Architect is of course stability, keeping the engines running and with zero downtime. Innovation, agility and all things social business where therefore secondary to this prime aim. But this in turn means that the Enterprise Architects had a continual juggling act to contend with, for no technology stays still, change is always present and the Business will always require new tools and deployments if the company is to stay competitive.
Part of the purpose of Forrester’s event was to look at how the Enterprise Architect might successfully keep the architecture plane flying safely and continually while all the time re-engineering it in full flight. What I found personally interesting was that Forrester recommended what I understand as a social or pace layering approach, that is a stable slow changing and secure Transaction Layer supporting the more nimble, innovative and agile Interaction Layer. One way of explaining this that I particularly liked came from Michel Dufresne of Medco, who likened the model to the iPhone. In this analogy the phone itself is the transaction layer – it is solid and slowly changing, whereas the multitude of applications available via iTunes is the interaction layer. For more information on this model and the opportunities it presents for the business, see Social layering can help bring IT and the business together.
I particularly liked the presentations from Gene Leganza, who saw ‘data as the new oil’ and learned a lot from Jeff Scott and Clay Richardson on Strategy and Business Process. One aspect of the event that pleasantly surprised me, was just how prevalent social business was on the Enterprise Architecture horizon. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised, given it’s ubiquity in all other aspects of the business, but social, along with mobile were the top agenda items for the Enterprise Architect. Indeed, what was pointed out was that architecture was one of those parts of the business that has a view right across the business. It has to, as the architecture supports all the business transactions and interactions. It is core to the business strategy.
This got me thinking. There’s room here I think for an alliance in the business and one I’ve not seen as yet. That alliance is between the Enterprise Architects and Internal Communications. The architecture enables the strategy from a core foundation IT perspective. The communications infrastructure articulates and communicates that strategy. They’re both sides of the same coin. These teams would do well to talk and plan things together more often. There’s productive synergies in place there, especially when the internal comms guys are leveraging Enterprise 2.0 tools to articulate and bring to life their message. To use social media for internal communications needs an effective and efficient enterprise architecture. And if the rest of the business only thinks about the architecture when things go wrong, there’s a communications opportunity there to be had here.
Creating these sorts of conversations is not easy – if it were they would be happening already. The architecture guys need to understand the communications people and their drivers. In turn, the communications teams need to understand the technology and process that form the Enterprise Architecture. And if Enterprise 2.0 tools are in the loop, as they should be, both need to understand the transformative possibilities of social business for both communications and architecture.