Phew, I can now stop feeling like a fraud

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Inspired by my colleague and good friend @MartinHowitt ‘s blog post “The discipline that dare not speak its name“. I thought I’d reflect on the Enterprise Architecture Journey here at the council from my perspective.

The role of Enterprise Architect is being deleted here at the council and is being replaced by a new role with a much reduced scope. Firstly I agree with Martin’s assessment on the role and the lessons he learned but would like to share my viewpoint.

My observations on my 2 years in the EA Team:

The first year I felt very much out of my depth and always felt like a fraud when telling others especially Technical Managers in IT that I was an Enterprise Architect (raised eyebrows and all that). An issue for me in not gaining an understanding and more self-confidence quicker was actually down to the team itself – not intentionally of course.

We spent too much time discussing what we thought Enterprise Architecture was and what it meant, instead of actually agreeing on what outcomes we all want to see and allowing individuals to define their own style supported by some broad models and frameworks.

It all changed for me when we defined a set of EA Services and associated processes and standards. This gave me focus on the *how* and also defined the role into meaningful services that were much easier to explain to people when they asked “So, what does an Enterprise Architect do?”.

My second year,  I can honestly say, was the most interesting, not because of the work I did, but because the level and depth of the conversation I had with colleagues in the team (in particular Martin) about how what EA is, how it can be delivered effectively within a Political environment and where we can start to make changes and refocus efforts to reinvigorate the EA effort.

So it was a sad day in February when we were informed that the Enterprise Architect posts were being deleted and we all face the prospect of redundancy….for me I was actually more concerned about the loss of the role than whether or not I had a job or not in a few months time.

In terms of Enterprise Architecture, we achieved quite a lot, but no one cared about the stuff we did, it was all really background and context setting for us to understand how and where we could apply EA in the council. We created strategies, programmes, which no one wanted to accept. But we kept going and simply refocused and re-purposed all of the early work we did in to a manageable piece of work and presented in a context that was actually relevant to the council.

We made mistakes, quite a few of them and we learned, we missed opportunities, quite a few of them but we learned, we made progress but it is only now looking back that I can actually see how much progress we made. I’d like to think that if the right people remain in the council then an element of Enterprise Architecture will continue in a covert way and the council will start to see the benefits of adopting Enterprise Architecture approaches without really knowing. I could live with that.

Martin and myself have already made progress in enabling and equipping others in the council with the skills by adopting a virtualisation of  Enterprise Architecture, you can read the blog posts that Martin and myself put together back in February on this very topic (caution – read only if interested in EA) - Virtualising EA for Sustainability and Virtualising EA – Process.

So one of my reflections is that I always thought that for practically 95% of my time as an EA I was a fraud, incapable of actually doing the role –  But looking back now,  I was more than capable, but I failed to realise what opportunities it presented me.  I was also distracted by my lack of confidence and unnecessary discussions about approaches, I realised that these discussions were driven by the lack of confidence of others and their own insecurities.  We were all learning, but we didn’t have an effective team culture to really be open about those insecurities and lack of confidence.

So as I type this I am in a position where I am looking forward thinking about what my next move will be – continue with the process and apply for one of the new posts or leave the council and find new challenges. Either way I can stop feeling like a fraud as I have now graduated from the DCC School of Enterprise Architecture.

What I do know is that the skills, approaches and general philosophy of Enterprise Architecture will always stay with me – once an EA always an EA, I just won’t tell people. :)

My lessons learned and observations from my time as an Enterprise Architect are as follows and they are applicable to most jobs really:

  • Be pure of vision but pragmatic in delivery.
  • Don’t get distracted by other people’s insecurities.
  • Their simply isn’t any substitute for effective leadership
  • It’s more about who you are, not what you know.
  • Enterprise Architecture is a professional where most people don’t agree on a common definition but come together around outcomes.
  • I believe that Enterprise Architects can come from any part of an organisation and don’t have to understand the deep complexities of IT, Information or Business Process.
  • Enterprise Architects exist already in pretty much every organisation – you must learn to spot them.
  • Use your social and business network to full effect to access knowledge and constructive challenge and feedback.
  • Your ability to communicate to all people at all levels in multiple ways will directly influence how successful you will be.
  • No one really cares what you do, they only want you to help solve their problems.
  • Accept that politics exists at ALL levels of ALL organisations – ignore this at your peril.
  • Never tell anyone you are an Enterprise Architect :) Unless you absolutely have to…

There are plenty more lessons I could share, but they maybe better shared over a beer or two, so if you are interested and you see me around, don’t be afraid to ask.

 

 

 

My post might go but my job lives on

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Earlier today myself and Martin Howitt (Co-collaborator and all round good egg) posted about how the future of the Enterprise Architecture function here at the council (which we are part of)  could be sustained, but without assuming we would have to be employed to actually do it. Now if only we could ensure we got paid as well :)…

We both feel the same way about this which is that Enterprise Architecture is even more critical to do in the current economic climate and in our opinion without adopting EA approaches etc the organisation could be at risk of not maximising value from its activities.

One outcome of the process could be that we actually architect ourselves out of a job. But in this climate it is personally more important to ensure the organisation is capable of succeeding then whether or not I can justify my job.

Anyway, the posts are very focused on the function of Enterprise Architecture, but it occurred to me that the public sector needs to adopt an approach which allows for the main streaming of a number of core disciplines moving forward,  so you may find some shareable lessons in here for your own area of work

Have a read and if you can post a comment

We are also going to be posting about the process and approach we are following too, so look out for that.

A New Public Sector Solution Architecture Group

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Colleagues of mine in the council have created an IT Solution Architecture Group in the Communities of Practice Platform – and you are invited to join (subject to the standard joining restrictions on the CoP platform).

It’s focus is:

to enable collaboration on the development and deployment of technical solutions that are fit in a future where partnership working will be key to success.

It would be great to get a diverse set of people involved in the community from across the country and from across the sector to stimulate the debate and discussion about creating agile and adaptable IT solutions fit for a modernised public sector organisation.

Unblock Access – ‘Social’ is Key to Improving Performance

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The issue of whether an organisation blocks or bans access to social media platforms has always been an interesting area. When speaking to colleagues in other councils who are not able to access, a common reason why access is blocked is due to a perceived fear that staff will simply waste time “messing about” or “chatting online”. It has been a personal desire to look for an approach which directly links the success of an organisation to the use of or at least access to social tools.

Without having any direct evidence – I’ve had to look to theoretical models and frameworks which help to explain the relationships between an organisations performance and the ability of staff to use and engage with social software, social media, enterprise 2.0, social business or whatever the current trend is for naming the variety of tools available.

Last week however a key part of the puzzle presented itself, in the form of a set of slides which I linked to in my previous post by Richard Veryard.

This is my current view is the all public sectors organisations need to unblock access to all social tools (external), and promote the use of social tools (internally) otherwise they restrict and reduce the chance for the organisation to improve its performance.

Given the current financial and organisational pressures facing the whole public sector, improving performance would be a key priority. The very least we would all agree that reducing barriers to improving performance should be a priority. This is where I now firmly believe that Social is the key to improving organisational performance.

I’ll try to give some context to my thinking by referring to some of the slides that Richard posted. I apologise in advance for some of the complexity in the following paragraphs  – believe me I have tried to keep it as simple as possible without losing the meaning :)

In “Modelling Intelligence in Complex Organizations”, my observations and interpretation of some of his slides are as follows:

Slide 5 – Cognition only makes sense for individuals
As individuals we seek out data/information, in doing this activity we essentially bring a meaning to that data/information and in turn provide the interpretation  and therefore we create and often share an understanding.
Organisations can not perform the same tasks, as organisations can only aggregates the collective view of all people within the organisation by bringing together  – perception, knowledge, learning and intelligence. This in the past has been restricted either to formal systems which require facts and statistics and would not include people’s views and opinions. The social element to an organisation would be in the informal social networks facilitated by water coolers and coffee machines.

Slide 7 – The illusion of individual performance
Individuals perform tasks which are supported by a variety of systems, the slide highlights 3 examples, but in a public sector context, this is even more relevant. For example an individual local government officer has a complex system environment, which could include Peers, Press and Media, local demographic, local political influence, national political influence, training, policy framework etc.

Essentially an individuals performance is the result of the ‘systems’ own restrictions and ability to achieve and facilitate outcomes.

So what I’m thinking in relation to this is that when an organisation restricts the “social” element within it, it actually restricts the ability of the system and the individual to achieve better outcomes. By providing “social” tools the organisation gains access to a greater organisational intelligence. I believe that the Knowledge Hub would in fact allow the public sector organisational intelligence to grow and in turn help facilitate better outcomes across the whole sector.

Slide 20 – Intelligence Strategy
In my post Move aside Intranet, here comes the super powered Extranet I share the vision for my authorities intranet/extranet and considering this new viewpoint, what that is contributing to is in fact the organisations Intelligence Strategy. The main benefit of integrating the Knowledge Hub into the core infrastructure of the council is the increased connections that it provides for each individual member of staff. It will provide them with a larger organisational intelligence system and my conclusion would be that this contributes directly to better outcomes for citizens and improved services.

In the second set of slides “How Can IT Fix the Problems of Stupid Organizations?” – I have thought about the wider linkages to a range of core business activities and capabilities which are and will become more critical in public sector environments even if they choose to adopt a commissioning agenda.

Slide 23 – Tools for organisational intelligence
The key challenge for publica sector organisations are not related to individual issues such as business intelligence, social networking, knowledge management and even customer relationship management (CRM), but are in fact how you plan and architect the links between these kinds of tools to achieve and facilitate organisational intelligence.

So the main takeaway for me is that ICT can directly improve the performance and intelligence of an organisation – however an organisations architecture needs to be designed with this outcome in mind otherwise you will fail to deliver the benefits.

Conclusion

I would recommend that any public sector organisation who is blocking access rethink that decision and consider how there organisation facilitates organisational intelligence and improved performance.

On a practical level, staff who abuse access should still be subject to existing policies around employee code of conduct – but the potential for a whole organisation to improve its performance and increase its intelligence far outweighs the risk of one individual mis-using an internet connection, which they can also do via their personal mobile phone.

GartnerSym – EA for CIOs

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My last session of the day was EA for CIOs: What Does Enterprise Architecture Really Mean to You and Your Organisation? with Gartner Analyst Brian Burke.

The main reason for attending this session was to kind of get a feeling from a wide group of people who generally  understood the value of EA and that this recognised and appreciated.

Well, it wasn’t that straight forward, we started by introducing ourselves to the person next to us and saying what we thought our own organisations thought EA was about and the type of stuff we were doing – I spoke to a guy (can’t remember his name now) who was from the Financial Sector – Banking who basically said to me that his organisation were still working out what it thought EA was – this was comforting and reassuring but also at the same time worrying as it only meant that there was still a long way to go before people (CIO’s in particular) had a consistent view of what value EA’s brought to the table.

However i started worrying too soon, as Brian Burke said that EA will be different for different organisations as we all have a different “strategy direction” so EA’s will naturally offer different value depending on that vision.

Brian likened EA’s to Witch Doctors – No one really knows what we do but something “magical” happens < I chuckled at this point, as I’m still waiting for the magic to be honest, but i understood and agreed with what he said as I often face the same question over and over again “What does an Enterprise Architect Do?”

Again Brian had this covered as he recently put out a note on twitter asking for a definition of EA in no longer than 140 characters which is as follows:

Enterprise architecture increase business value by providing direction to shift the optimisation point from the project to the Enterprise = 138 characters

The key is to create not the perfect or most elegant architecture for the moment, but the most adaptable architecture for the future EA future. There is still a huge problem with most EA team around communications, but that was recognised by most people in the room.

brian went on to outline an example set of value that EA delivers – Value can be derived from:

  • Identify standards (business processes, information, technology, solutions, people skills, etc.).
  • Consolidate expenditures by reducing duplication.
  • Assist in application rationalisation.

There were more on the screen but I didn’t capture them all…

After that the session covered aspects of reports I’d previously read or had access to so my concentration wavered. It was a good session, although i was perhaps hoping for something which providing a unified picture across all sectors – but that just isn’t possible – EA is about what your organisation requires you to do, so it has to be organisation specific – the approach and disciplines can be similar but this session wasn’t about that.