Friday, September 16, 2005

Help Me... Help You...

Cameron Crowe's film, Jerry Maguire, has some wonderfully memorable one-liners, such as:
"Show me the money."

"You had me at 'hello'."

"D'you know that the human head weighs 8 pounds?"
Another memorable line from that movie is the title of this posting:
"Help me... help you."

Enterprise Architecture Is Very Hard To Do

It's really easy to screw up Enterprise Architecture initiatives. It's not unusual to see loads of money get spent that generates virtually no return on investment. That's probably why on multiple occasions I've seen entire architecture teams disbanded. Management just didn't see any value add.

Most of the time, the primary driver for Enterprise Architecture stems from a desire to model and document business processes. The only problem is modeling and documenting business processes is really difficult.

For decades the computer industry has seen wave after wave of consultant-led fads promising to harness business processes. In the 80's it was called CASE -- computer aided system engineering. In the 90's it was referred to as BPR -- business process reengineering. Nowadays the buzzword du jour is BPM -- business process management. Yet, the holy grail continues to remain elusive.

I think business types are often willing to spend and spend in pursuit of process mastery because process is something they truly understand. After all, organizational structures are almost always based on functional decomposition which is a tried and true method for modeling processes. Of course, that also explains why businesses need to constantly undergo reorganizations whenever processes change.

While it's fairly easy to create simple flowcharts that describe the individual steps comprising a task, it's a whole other story to come up with a way to enable development by exception where a generic process can easily be extended to handle special cases. In other words, the tools and approaches for modeling business processes still lack the kind of capabilities inherent in object technology.

Without an easy way to accommodate exceptions, changes can result in the baby getting tossed out with the bath water. That is, the original process needs to be chucked and an entirely new one developed in its place. Obviously, that's both risky and expensive. Make a mistake and suddenly the enterprise architects find themselves in the doghouse, if not out in the cold.

I don't have any magic remedy that promises to handle development by exception. My experience has taught me to concentrate on the process of modeling processes by focusing on business events because I have found business events to be the most reusable facet of computing.

My other advice is to find additional ways to demonstrate to business people how to save money using enterprise architecture. That's where you can help me help you.

Most business people have an incredibly difficult time thinking about and talking about IT. They need a roadmap to help them better understand what they already own. Creating such a roadmap is what Technology Architecture is all about. It provides a picture that shows business people how and where past technology investments have been made. It's often incredibly illuminating for business people to see costly duplication. It's also immensely helpful to spot holes in existing technology portfolios.

I have personally spent years developing a web site called ITscout that provides a generic picture for illustrating the entirety of IT. What enterprise architects need to do is define for their own organization a custom picture detailing their own specific situation.

To model and document an organization's Technology Architecture, individual architects need to be able to implement the equivalent of ITscout's functionality. Now, for the incredibly low price of just $99 per month, an architect can leverage the generic ITscout solution by using its graphics, category descriptions, lists of products and related vendor information as a starting point for modeling and documenting a Technology Architecture. Once a Technology Architecture has been modeled and documented, the architect can, for an additional $495 per month, go ahead and publish his or her own mini-version of ITscout where people in the enterprise can query and explore.

The product offering described above is called ITguide. A highly-intuitive, quickly-deployed tool, ITguide captures and communicates all of the data pertinent to a company’s technology architecture -- including their products, product life cycle status and enterprise architectural strategy. With ITguide, companies can easily access documents describing their internal corporate initiatives, domain strategies (platforms, networking, servers, services), corporate and business strategies, technical reviews, product retirement plans, why products are being used or retired, when exceptions are acceptable, etc. ITguide also helps to identify:
  • What products are not compatible with organizational standards or a company’s current architecture
  • Obsolete, redundant, or duplicate products in use
  • Software that should be retired
  • Opportunities for re-negotiating key software maintenance and support contracts

By providing this technology view in a graphical format understood by technical as well as non-technical users, large companies can potentially save millions of dollars in pruning existing licensing costs, avoiding redundant IT evaluations/purchases, and implement corporate or division-wide standards.

As an added incentive, the first 100 companies who sign up can choose a charitable/non-profit organization that will receive an additional subscription of ITguide for free. So, help your own enterprise as well as a charity of your choice get a better handle on the technology needed to manage complex IT infrastructures.


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