Gartner’s Top Prediction for 2011 mentions that four IT-enabled initiatives – context-aware computing, Pattern-Based Strategies, social networks and the channeling of IT staff innovation toward enterprise product development – can potentially directly increase enterprise revenue.
According to Gartner, as business look for opportunities to gain a competitive advantage, Pattern-Based Strategy (PBS) will help leaders harness and drive change, rather than simply react to it. One of their blog (http://blogs.gartner.com/andrew_white/2009/08/10/what-is-your-pattern-based-strategy/) states that “Pattern-based Strategy is a good example of one of those rare new ideas that was given a chance”. But there are many others who think it is not really new and the opinions range from “PBS is just common-sense”, “PBS is what business has always been doing in some form or other”, and Gartner’s “PBS is nothing but glorified Data mining”.
A Pattern-Based Strategy provides a framework to proactively seek, model and adapt to leading indicators, often-termed “weak” signals that form patterns in the marketplace. According to the picture in the Gartner presentation www.gartner.com/…/dec2_patternbasedstrategy_ygenovese_11am.pdf (which by the way is pretty good in explaining the idea) shows “Weak Signals” as the intersection of “Market/Economic”, “Customers” and “Vendors”.
Gartner acknowledges that today elements of Pattern-Based Strategy are being applied by organizations before pointing out that adopting all the disciplines of PBS by both business and technology providers (who enable the transition) would result in significant market advantage.
Gartner points out that Pattern-Based strategy is a continuous cycle – seek, model, and adapt – and not a prescriptive recipe, and as such, involves a change in the mind-set of both business and IT leaders.
1. Seek – Organizations should focus on detecting leading indicators of change in order to spot change early and quantify risk. Business leader have to learn how to “listen” carefully to identify the relevant signals and understand when the signals are patterns that require a response.
2. Model – Modeling to be used to determine which patterns represent great potential or risk to the organization by qualifying and quantifying the impact. Using a collaborative process, business must simulate the potential significance, impact and timing of patterns.
3. Adapt – Business and IT leaders must adjust strategy and operations decisively to capture the benefits of new patterns with a consistent and repeatable response that is focused on results.
The four disciplines of Pattern-Based Strategy are:
1. Pattern Seeking – seeking signals and creating new patterns.
2. Optempo (operational tempo) advantages – improving the enterprise’s ability to match pace to purpose by adapting to patterns of change.
3. Performance-driven culture – extending the traditional performance focus from measuring what happened in the past to focusing on leading indicators and scenario planning, and using measurable results to drive desired behaviors.
4. Transparency – the demonstration of corporate health and strategic use of transparency for differentiation.
Pattern seeking means looking at both inside and outside the organization focusing on the:
Pattern seeking involves exploiting sources of information like people activities, processes and the new power of the collective (made up of individuals, groups, communities, crowds, markets and firms) on the social platform as source of patterns. By ignoring new patterns that form from weak signals, and misclassifying stronger signals to fit within the norms of a current business strategy, could result in Businesses losing sight of exceptions that provide valuable leading indicators of market changes.
Monitoring a larger array of data streams, tuning to more varieties of patterns create a huge advantage as companies would be better educated about their environment and therefore in a better position to make a sound business decision.
Gartner terms optempo advantage as representing the set of coherent guidelines and actions necessary for maximizing the allocation and utilization of enterprise resources as new patterns emerge. To improve their organization’s competitive rhythm, enterprises must first understand the levers – people, process and information – that they can control to drive change. Optempo advantage gives the way to shift the levers to appropriately to speed up, slow down or change direction to take advantage of new innovations or avoid organizational risk.
Gartner recommends that companies equip themselves with the ability to tune their business practices “at the right speed”. Typically, the faster you can change the way you do business the better. In other cases – for e.g., workforce skill / role change – it means enabling a slower pace of change. Another example is where an airline observed that a slower pre-boarding security process surfaces behavioural clues and accordingly added steps in its process.
A performance-driven culture enables an organization to monitor leading indicators of change, and where performance is used to enable change through the alignment of organizational resources to strategic performance metrics. In addition to measuring performance, organizations should look at leading performance and risk indicators to provide a forward-looking focus. Similarly performance metrics must permeate all levels of an organization and not stop with financially oriented outcomes.
In the PBS context, transparency means both the demonstration of corporate health and the strategic use of transparency for differentiation. If organizations can evolve transparency to set the right expectations of seeking new patterns and responding with consistent results (rather than once-a-quarter financial results), it would enable them to enter new markets, gain access to funds and demonstrate differentiation. Transparency usage is explained by showing how Walmart making public the taxes it pays in individual jurisdictions is a means of courting those places that need extra revenue and would welcome a Walmart outlet.
When extra effort is put to describe the organization practices, business rules or business processes, sharing within the organization improves and results in better alignment. The new digital era with its social networking has changed how people trust, share and engage. It is inevitable that companies will be more engaged with social activities and more truthful. As an organization gets better at the seeking, modeling and adapting of a Pattern-Based Strategy, it becomes more transparent, putting pressure on competitors.
Technology plays a significant role in supporting the seek, model and adapt framework of a Pattern-Based Strategy. In addition to existing technologies – business intelligence, rules-based engines, performance management, service-oriented architecture, business process management, wikis for sharing – PBS needs new technologies that identity patterns, model the effects and enable organization to adapt to these patterns. Technologies are also emerging to seek patterns in nontraditional areas such as social software sites, the Internet and collaborative groups.
Additional information is available on the Pattern-Based Strategy micro site on Gartner’s Website at http://www.gartner.com/technology/research/reports/pattern-based-strategy.jsp. While Gartner’s explanation has too much hype and jargons, a more down-to-earth explanation of Gartner’s pattern based strategy is available at http://techondec.wordpress.com/2010/04/20/pattern-based-strategy-a-survival-guide-explained/.]]>
Business-IT Alignment has long been recognized as the key for effective use of IT and we have gone through various stages – Standardization, Rationalization, COTS, ERP and SOA – to achieve this and it still remains elusive.
Cloud computing is the next panacea looked upon by all Enterprises. The success of cloud in SMB has been very encouraging and it would be indeed a mistake for Enterprises not to look at this option to achieve their objectives. Pay as you use (that allows effective use of resources in a cost sensitive fashion) and the seemingly unlimited availability of resources (allowing unlimited scalability and ability to handle unexpected spikes) are the benefits that cloud has to offer.
In addition to the public cloud (shared with others), there are options like Virtual Private cloud and even having a cloud within the enterprise, the real benefits of Cloud is achievable only when IT can be treated like any other utility – Electricity or Water. Though it will take years for IT to reach that level of maturity to be strictly treated as “commodity”, from enterprise perspective IT can now itself be treated as commodity by shifting the responsibility of development, operations and maintenance to a third party and retaining only the capabilities and SLA definition and adopt effective vendor management.
When Enterprises start considering Cloud as an option, it is advisable that they look at Commoditization of IT also. Rather than trying to offload the current IT setup into a cloud only for infrastructure usage (which has limited advantage) and the other extreme of trying to change the business process to fit the vendor provide services (which could be difficult and painful), a well thought-out process of commoditization of IT would be useful in the long run. In addition to help exploiting cloud and even providing certain level of protection again “vendor lock-in”, this could lead the way for the elusive Business IT alignment.
In today’s dynamic environment, boundless Agility and infinitesimal Time to Market are vast becoming essentials. Commoditization of IT, the next logical step for IT, is required to ensure that IT doesn’t become a drag on the Enterprise but rather the one that enables enterprises soar to new heights.
Commoditization need not be looked upon as a bad word by the IT personnel either – as it would essentially bring new opportunities and new challenges, as it would free up the resources for better and more important work (rather than handling the less important but urgent work). In a way, the impact would be similar when Assembler no longer was the programming language of choice, when Database started coming up with autonomic (self-healing) capabilities. As in these cases, the change would mean that the IT personnel would be relieved from purely technical, repetitive jobs and need to focus on better aspects of making IT align with business drivers. In reality, Application development has undergone a sea change in the past decade - and today most applications are created by assembling parts and even released as Beta and continually changed to meet business needs.
In various surveys on IT conducted with CIOs, it is invariably the majority view that the significance of IT and the IT headcount would grow rather than diminish. Typical comments include “business-centric IT would remain in-house”, “IT that directly impacts competitive advantage, cost savings, and process optimization will grow”, “internal IT focus and cost would shift from servers, storage to network and security”, “while numbers of traditional application developers and operations personnel may reduce, the need for Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) would rise”.
Also the expectation from IT personnel is moving towards strategic aspects like revenue generation, enabling business to deploy technology that brings it competitive advantage, manage vendors ensuring SLAs on key applications and services, ensuring legal compliance across the globe, improving globalization and time-to-market.
When an enterprise looks toward adopting cloud, the tendency would be to arrive at a cloud strategy. But that could be short-sighted and trying to fit adoption of cloud based on what is offered by vendors today. Instead arriving at Enterprise level Architecture Strategy with “Exploiting Cloud today and in the future” as a key driver would be a better approach.
Enterprise Architecture’s key driver had always been Business-IT Alignment and irrespective of the level of maturity of EA in an enterprise, the Architects have been the bridge between the Business and the IT departments. With the ability of understand both these perspectives, and with the broad picture thus achieved, Enterprise Architects are best suited to bring in the next evolution of IT – namely the Commoditization, and exploiting the new wave of cloud computing, virtual appliances etc. The Standard EA approach of fixing up the target state, identifying potential candidates and establishing a well thought-out roadmap taking into considerations the current trends across industry adapts itself to this purpose.]]>
Enterprise Architecture has been there for over two decades now and still means different things to different people. For some it is a graphical model which excruciating level of details, while in the other extreme it is viewed as a practice that brings in business value.
Zachmann, TOGAF, FEA and Gartner’s EA practice are the four significant EA methodologies that are there in use today and most others are a combination of these. Of various artifacts that dwell on Enterprise Architectures and their comparisons, I found “Comparison of the Top Four Enterprise-Architecture Methodologies” in http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb466232.aspx the effective one is bringing out the differences. In spite of the differences in the understanding and approach of what constitutes EA, the objectives are necessarily the same “Business-IT alignment”, Agility, Cost Reduction and Improved Value.
Enterprise Architecture, though seen as an IT initiative (probably due to the reason that it has been handled by IT personnel), has to do more with Business than IT. In general, the essential reasons for developing an EA have been and remain as:
•Alignment – ensuring the reality of the implemented enterprise is aligned with management’s intent
•Integration – realizing that the business rules are consistent across the organization, that the data and its use are immutable, interfaces and information flow are standardized, and the connectivity and interoperability are managed across the enterprise
•Change – facilitating and managing change to any aspect of the enterprise
•Time-to-market – reducing systems development, applications generation, modernization timeframes, and resource requirements
•Convergence – striving toward a standard IT product portfolio as contained in the Technical Reference
Right now, Enterprise Architecture has reached an interesting phase where it is no longer looked upon as a technology or infrastructure or even application related. With Enterprise Architects today reporting to CxOs, the EA charter today includes enabling Business Strategy and addressing business issues.
Though it sounds like an ideal situation, it definitely remains an uphill task for Enterprise Architects. A survey from Forrester points out that lack of support from business is a common concern and improving perception of EA as a common goal expressed by Enterprise Architects.
Both business and technology are changing at a rapid pace and even bringing paradigm shift. Businesses are expanding, merging, de-merging and time-to-market has been shrinking and shrinking. Similarly technology advancements like Cloud computing, Software-as-a-service, COTS are making Application and Technical architecture of lesser importance than hither-to they have had.
Business Architecture, Information Architecture and Integration Architecture are the areas which are to be focused at by Enterprise Architects. Significant progress in these areas coupled with delivering business benefits, that too quickly, is what is expected from Enterprise Architects today.
In most organizations, Enterprise Architects currently spend most of their time in arriving at detailed models which no one else are able to use effectively, in creating detailed level of standards and guidelines that result in frustration during implementation, in acting as enforcement agents of the EA guidelines created and in trying to meet the immediate need of the business – giving short term the priority at the expense of long-term goals.
To enable the level of detail which Architects where arriving at and also to handle localized requirements, most large organizations had Enterprise Architecture groups at local or national level. And this trend is again changing with the focus of Enterprise Architecture increasingly becoming global.
Global Enterprise Architects should streamline their focus and efforts on high impact, high priority areas that are in alignment with the business strategy. Most of what they are currently doing cannot be ignored altogether – and these activities can be relegated to local and regional Architecture groups.
With the improved EA charter, aligning to any single EA approach may no longer be feasible and the best thing to do is to use the right set of tools, producing artifacts at the right level of detail, and most importantly within the right time frame. Communication – that always was essential for the success of EA, has become crucial today.
Enterprise Architecture, as any other discipline, should adapt itself to the changing demands and trends and agility of the EA is what would ensure that EA provides the benefits it promises.]]>