This week, I gave my last keynote speech as Chief Architect in the Ministry of Finance on enterprise architecture and strategy. As already revealed on Twitter and Facebook, I am taking a leave of absence from the public sector to assist Accenture in the establishment of an EA-practice inside their IT Strategy & Transformation group here in Copenhagen – starting February 7th…
Doing The Right Things Right
My primary message in the keynote address was that EA must both make IT Strategies more robust and guide IT organizations towards successful delivery. EA is not just complex diagrams and terminology that only enterprise architects understand. Viable IT strategies must be underpinned by sound EA-thinking – and successful IT-portfolio delivery must be underpinned by sound EA-thinking.
Since the publication of a white paper on EA by the National IT and Telecom Agency in 2003, Denmark has been a leader in the design of national EA-programs. But, as in many other EA-programs in private and public organizations, the implementation has often been too technically focused. As also noted in my PhD dissertation, many public EA programs spend far too much time and energy selecting and populating technical EA frameworks.
By focusing on our own unique context, we must instead secure management support for our EA programs by supporting the strategic agenda with robust EA-frameworks. The goal must not be to slavishly populate standard frameworks and follow rigid EA-methods. EA must support solution design by interlocking the language and work products of EA with those of solution design.
We must improve our ability to define our own ‘light weight’ EA-frameworks that meet the needs of the business, work within the existing IT environment and contribute towards the realisation of the enterprise’s IT strategy. EA programs must proactively be customized to a specific context if success is to be achieved – and help the business do the right things right.
The final keynote can be found at www.modernisering.dk (in Danish).
A couple of months ago I was interviewed as “Architect in the Spotlight” for the November 2010 issue of the Journal of Enterprise Architecture. It is a great honor to be in the spotlight, and I thank the chef editor and his team for noticing our work with EA in the Danish government.
With permission from JEA, I have inserted the interview with me below. Please also see the other great articles in the November issue at JEA’s new website here.
JEA: IS THERE A DANISH WAY OF DOING EA?
KHM: All EA programs must be designed for a specific context. Denmark has a strong cross-governmental collaboration culture and we have built our EA-program in this context. I’m not a fan of large and complex EA frameworks – in any sector. EA must provide just enough structure and guidance to bring the business and IT communities together for coherency. In Denmark we have bridged this traditional gap with all of our government reference models, a business reference model, and a service and technology reference model. These models span municipalities, regions, and the central government and we use them extensively for benchmarking, reviews of IT investments, service definitions for re-usable and sharable services, and semantic definitions across our public portals.
JEA: WHY THE FOCUS NOW ON REFERENCE MODELS?
KHM: In the early 00′s we built a comprehensive EA framework and methodology for Danish e-Government. But adoption has been low and many agencies have found it difficult to understand the complexity. Thus, with the reference models we now pursue a more “lightweight” approach to EA. The shared taxonomies create a common language for business and IT to use when agencies are involved in the delivery of cross-agency services and it provides the Ministry of Finance and our new shared service center for IT, Statens It, which was established in 2009, a framework for the cost-effective and timely delivery of IT services with standards, principles, and templates that assist in the design and delivery of IT capability.
The reference models are developed and maintained by a national editorial board with three FTEs representing the Danish municipalities, regions, and the central government. This setup provides a solid foundation for agencies to work from and a strong common language across the national e-Government program. We supplement the reference models with other tools from the EA toolbox. But, it is all about creating just enough structure and guidance – and not get too technically focused on frameworks and complex methodology.
JEA: WHAT IS THE NEXT BIG THING IN EA?
KHM: Fashions come and go. But, I think that EA programs should embrace and leverage social media platforms. Since 2004 I have had my own blog (EAGov.com) and in the Ministry of Finance we recently launched a blog for the reference models with a Twitter profile. The new blogging tools were not launched to jump on the IT fashion bandwagon. We are using the new tools because we think the greatest economic value will come from finding ways to connect people that work with reference models or taxonomies inside or outside government. We use the new tools to get out of our comfort zone in the editorial boardroom and, hopefully, come up with creative new and innovative ways to use the reference models that generate more value with fewer resources in the interaction with our users.
Another trend that we are seeing in both private and public organizations in Denmark is that EA is moving out of the CIO office. Sitting in the Ministry of Finance, I am not part of the CIO office. I work in the Danish CFO office and talk more about coherency, performance management, and decision support information than I talk about applications and technology. EA is moving up the value chain helping the business align itself and the underlying IT-infrastructure – providing real business value by applying the rigor of EA to the business discussion. This is a really exciting development for the EA discipline. Something that we need to study further and encourage others to do.
JEA: WHAT’S IT LIKE BEING A PRACADEMIC?
KHM: I don’t flash my PhD in the Danish government. Most of my colleagues don’t know my academic background. But, I think that my academic background has improved my “reflection on action” and “reflection in action” when I recapture my experience, think about it, mull it over, and evaluate it in our national EA program. JEA seeks to bridge the gap that tends to be between scientific and practical knowledge – and I think that is great!
Last week I was interviewed as ‘Architect in the Spotlight’ for the Journal of Enterprise Architecture about the Danish approach to enterprise architecture and emerging trends in enterprise architecture. Here I mentioned social media platforms as a trend that enterprise architects should embrace and leverage – to create business value.
The Small Shift
In the Ministry of Finance we recently launched a blog and Twitter profile for Denmark’s Joint Cross Governmental Reference Models. And the new blogging tools were not launched to jumping the IT fashion bandwagon..
We are using the new tools because we think the greatest economic value will come from finding ways to connecting people that work with reference models or taxonomies inside or outside government. We use the new tools to get out of our comfort zone in the editorial boardroom and, hopefully, come up with creative new and innovative ways to use the reference models that generate more value with fewer resources in the interaction with our users.
This blog has been active since 2004. It has been a great way for me to communicate my research to practitioners during the highs and lows of my PhD-studies, and these days it provides me an opportunity to participate in the global “conversation” about enterprise architecture.
Social media has opened up a new horizon for enterprise architects to share information and interact with a wider and larger community of users. New tools like wikis, blogs, and microblogs facilitate user involvement, experience, and relationship management.
The power of pull is here to create business value for the enterprise architecture discipline!
Seeing what is next is important in my world. Consulting firms, management gurus, researchers, and even public agencies all seem to be suppliers of IT fashion through certain rhetoric and techniques. Cloud computing, green IT, unified communications, Government 2.0… The list of new IT fashions is long. How do we know what is just buzz and what is not…?
A good framework for understanding the many fashions in the IT industry is Abrahamson’s management fashion theory. Abrahamson defines management fashion as “The process by which management fashion-setters (consulting firms, management gurus, researchers, etc.) continuously redefine both their own and fashion followers´ collective beliefs about management techniques which lead to rational management progress”. He describes the phenomenon as “rapid, bell shaped swings” in management techniques where norms of managerial progress represent societal expectations that managers use as forms of improved management techniques.
According to Abrahamson’s framework, the fashion-setters in consulting firms or research institutions elaborate on different rhetoric to convince the management fashion market and the fashion-followers that their techniques are both rational and at the forefront of management progress. They aim to do so by attempting to create beliefs that there are organizational performance gaps and that the created techniques facilitates the process of reducing these gaps. In many cases, fashion-setters exploit techniques that are being used by a few currently successful companies, and present their success to justify their claims.
Think Before Jumping the IT Fashion Bandwagon
Thus, we must be cautious when adopting leading edge technologies or management ideas in the IT industry. Together with Professor Jan Pries-Heje, I have myself looked at the promises of enterprise architecture programs in government. Enterprise Architecture has been promoted as a key tool for transformation and modernization by many governments around the world. However, taking Abrahamson’s framework further we found that the causal direction reversed from enterprise architecture programs being transformative and prescriptive in its nature to programs being reshaped and adopted in step with the institutional forces in public organizations and their macro environment (see full paper under Publications).
Similarly, if cloud computing, green IT, unified communications, government 2.0, and other fashions want to be more than just fashion fads in government, they must provide real business value; not just nice to have buzz words that look good in a glossy strategy paper – but real value for the public servants, citizens, and businesses.
Seeing what is next – requires looking closer, asking yourself “what’s really in it for me?”, and not just jumping the next IT fashion bandwagon…
My three take aways for tomorrow are:
Two Meta-Disciplines United
The IT Governance Institute defines IT governance as “… the leadership and organisational structures and processes that ensure that the organisation’s IT sustains and extends the organisation’s strategies and objectives.” As such, IT governance can been described as a ‘meta-discipline’ that embraces ideas from many other disciplines like the Balanced Scorecard, Six Sigma, etc. Similarly, enterprise architecture is a ‘meta-discipline’ that embraces, supplements, and extends other disciplines, as for example Business Process Management.
It looks like both ‘meta-disciplines’ try to provide a comprehensive and coherent view across business, information, and technology. That is, not just to guide the design of IT systems, but to deliver business change supported and enabled by IT. If we are lucky, the two disciplines go hand in hand tomorrow to avoid unclear distributions of power, unclear mandates, and help ensure that IT resources and business processes are planned, leveraged, and coordinated better in government. Will be fun!
I recently commented on Philip Allega’s blog. Phil understands that enterprise architecture (EA) programs must be more than buzzwords, and his post made me revisit one of the EA-disciplines grand old men, John Zachman.
According to John Zachman, EA is a mechanism “for defining and controlling the interfaces and integration of all of the components of the system” (Zachman, 1989). There are different architecture disciplines like software architectures, hardware architectures, network architectures and system architectures that confuse the meaning of “architecture”. While, for example software architecture describes the layout of the software modules and the connections and relationships among them, hardware architecture can describe how the hardware components are organized.
Part of the buzz-problem that Phil also describes is that the term “architecture” can have a range of meanings, goals, and abstraction levels, depending on the discipline speaking about it. For Zachman EA reflected a fundamental need to impose better management structures on system development. He was inspired by the millennial disciplines of classical architecture and the more recent development of the disciplines and methods in IE successfully adopted for the creation, design, and production of complex machine systems such as airplanes. In his first article from 1987 he observed that a great deal can be learned by observing how the expert practitioners of large edifices or machines go about their work. The framework that Zachman developed explicitly recognized the stylized roles played by key actors (e.g., owners and users) in the creation of buildings and aircraft, how they are involved in the related processes, and their unique informational needs and contributions.
Keep It Simple!
With time it has become more and more evident that creating integration and interoperability in an enterprise has more facets than just technology (i.e. the large body of literature on implementation). Obviously, having an integrated telephone network is not a sufficient condition for intelligible communication between remote sources, while the introduction of technology for local employee decision making seems pointless in an organizational context where decision making is seen as a management prerogative. Making technology work thus requires a wider perspective than technology alone, whereby contextual aspects are included in the design perspective such that the organizational context and technology are optimally matched and integrated. Many failed introductions of technology and related systems prove the importance of this notion!
In my opinion, the Zachman framework is not an architecture and was never proposed as such. It can be thought of as a multidimensional visual checklist. There is no guidance on sequence, process, or implementation of the framework. The artifacts that instantiate the cells of the framework for a given architecture are indeed architectures or subsets of an architecture, depending on one’s point of view. The framework depicts the design artifacts that constitute the intersection between the roles in the design process and the product abstractions. The large number of cells can be an obstacle for the practical application of the framework and the relationship between the different cells is not well specified.
So, take what you need from the Zachman and forget about the buzz. As noted previously on this blog, I have championed the introduction of EA reference models in Denmark. And we are working on other tools for national IT-portfolio planning, e.g. via business cases. Adoption is difficult, but if we apply EA with a natural scepticism and keep it simple we might succeed…
Just as I thought my academic publication career was over, today I noticed that the International Journal of Information Technology and Management finally published our comparative case study on Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) in the banking sector.
The article is an updated and extended version of our ECIS paper from 2005 titled Extensible architectures: The strategic value of service-oriented architecture in banking. The article has been on its way for quite some time now (the publication process can be very slow in the academic world of information systems). But, I think the updated article still has some valid insights on the different SOA-strategies organizations can peruse.
The 2010 journal article is titled The strategic value of SOA: a comparative case study in the banking sector. The abstract is inserted below – you can find a link to full article here.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has helped to drive increasingly intense global competition. In turn, this intensity increases the need for flexibility and rapid changeability in ICT to support strategies that depend on organisational agility. We report a comparative, cross-cultural case study of the implementation of Service-Oriented Architectures (SOA) at a Scandinavian bank and a Swiss bank. The strategic rewards in the adoption of SOA appear to go beyond marketplace issues of ICT capability acquisition, and unexpectedly arise in the creation of an extensible organisational ICT architecture. The extensibility of the ICT architecture that results from the adoption of SOA provides potential for greater organisational agility (and thereby competitiveness).
One of the great benefits of my long summer vacations from the Danish Ministry of Finance is that I have had more time for reading the stuff than my normal schedule would allow. I try to stay on top of the latest eGov and EA research and news throughout the year. But, a great book or report in between playing with my kids, painting the windows on our Winchester house, or swimming just beats the traditional desk studying.
Last week, when we were vacationing on the beautiful west coast of Denmark, I got to read the full OECD e-government country study of Denmark (Efficient e-Government for Smarter Public Service Delivery). Based on a rather comprehensive study of e-government in Denmark, the OECD has addressed some of Denmark’s e-government challenges and the report recommends that we consider the following four areas of focus in our upcoming e-government strategy:
1) Broadening the vision of the public sector
2) Reinforcing the organisation of the public sector
3) Enhancing capacities within the public sector
4) Strengthening citizens and businesses’ engagement
Other bloggers have commented on the report (see e.g. Breinstrup, EA Fellows, and Duus). I think the report provides an excellent overview of e-government in Denmark – and it definitely highlights some of the issues that we need to consider going forward.
Reference Models for Efficient and Smarter Service Delivery
From an architectural perspective OECD’s focus on Denmark’s enterprise architecture program is interesting. OECD especially emphasises our work with the public reference models, FORM and STORM:
“As part of the e-government strategy a central initiative on enterprise architecture FORM (the Danish acronym for Joint Cross Governmental Business Reference Model) has been launched which led to outlining all the services the public sector delivers to respectively citizens and business. The second important Enterprise Architecture (EA) effort is the adoption of the US Service Reference Model and Technology Reference Model (www.egov.gov) in the Danish Service- and Technology Reference Model (also called STORM) published in January 2009. Together with FORM this model provides a common technical vocabulary for agencies involved in the delivery of cross-agency services. The Shared Service Centre for IT (Statens IT – or SIT) relies heavily on the model and a range of municipalities are now adopting the model. The model is worth mentioning parallel to FORM as part of the overall EA-program. FORM was the first reference model developed in 2007 and is the most widely used today. But, STORM is just as important for the identification of duplicate, re-usable and sharable IT-services, the objective review of IT investments – and the general alignment between business and IT.”
The reference models provide the structural foundation to leverage the great cross-governmental collaboration and co-ordination structure that is so unique in the Danish public sector through the establishment of a neutral language shared across all government levels. A strong and coherent overview of services to citizens and the IT-infrastructure is essential, if we are to move e-government forward. OECD also highlights this potential in the report:
“The view of various stakeholders is that FORM, has been developed as a tool to classify all public tasks and services: it should be used by all government agencies as the common framework for the development of specialised taxonomies and terminologies. As FORM is mapped to legislation and responsible organisations it can become a powerful tool in defining the relevant subjects and actors that should be part of such work in specific areas.”
OECD applauds Denmark’s all of government enterprise focus and stresses the importance of exploiting the reference models’ capabilities to enable citizens to better access services, align strategic goals, and enhance the flow of information within and across levels of government. OECD also connects the reference models to the Web 2.0 agenda and calls for a broader adoption of the models:
“The business reference model FORM is another example of co-operation and could also be seen as a strategic tool in a context where options based on enhanced sharing and collaboration increasingly become more relevant, e.g. cloud-computing and the use of Web 2.0 solutions. From a Web 2.0 perspective FORM exemplifies the Danish government‘s efforts to support open government data‘. FORM provides a common structure (metadata) for data and content on various websites. The list of FORM users is already quite long, but given the nature of the tool as a reference model its use becomes interesting if adopted by a large number of users.”
From my perspective Denmark and other OECD countries must focus on coherent and effective collaboration when they build their digital platforms for the future. Connecting the dots efficiently in government requires a coherent approach to e-government with strong IT-governance. Denmark is in a very privileged e-government position. We currently hold leading positions in all international e-government rankings and with our strong cross-governmental collaboration culture, world-class broadband connection, and essential shared infrastructure components like our digital signature and citizen portal, we are now in a position to set new standards for the digital government of the future. Stay tuned!
I was first introduced to the Winchester Mystery House in 2003 when I met Steven Spewak (one of the Enterprise Architecture discipline’s founding fathers) at a conference in Washington DC. Steven used the Winchester House as a great metaphor to illustrate what happens if we do not plan our business and IT-systems. And it is a great picture! It is hard to understand why we time and again build our business models and supporting infrastructures with no blueprint, no rigour, and no understanding of the problems that we might be passing on to the next generation when we build virtual Winchester houses.
We recently bought a house in Copenhagen. It is a small house build in 1935 located very close to the beautiful Amager Beach. We love the location and we love the house. BUT, modernizing the house has been strenuous! The house itself is solid. The problem is all the home ‘improvement’ projects that the previous owner added to the house with no master building plan. Most of the ‘improvements’ were home-made, worst-of-breed solutions that we had to remove and rebuild from scratch. After six months of modernizing, the house is now like we want it. But, is it human nature to build Winchester houses without a plan…?
My experience is that most people think that they plan ahead. The problem is that they often do not know their future (business) needs and demands. And therefore they only build for the short term…
Digital Winchester Houses
Like our small Winchester House in Copenhagen, the information systems of many large organizations and corporations are under perpetual construction — growing, changing, duplicating, multiplying. Creating a master building plan – for a house or information systems architecture – has a tendency to get very complicated and technically focused. Therefore, many organizations have a tendency not to plan for the development of their digital platforms.
The problem seems to be that, on the one hand, we create Winchester Houses when we do not have a master building plan. On the other hand, we have a tendency to create complicated architectural frameworks and methods that are not linked to implementation.
Thus, as suggested in my research, I think that our IT plans must provide a comprehensive and coherent view across business, information, and technology. That is, not just to guide the design of single IT systems – but to deliver business change supported and enabled by well planned digital platforms. In my practical work, our national IT planning take advantage of the Danish Reference Models. With “just enough” structure in these models to understand business, it-services and technology, we can build more complete and consistent IT-architectures that result in greater reuse, process standardization, and shared digital platforms for innovation.
Strategic IT planning – and enterprise architecture in general – must be understood as a meta-discipline that embraces, supplements, and extends other disciplines such as IT-Governance, Portfolio Management, Business Process Management, and Information Management.
Government enterprise architecture programs should be adopted in alignment with these other disciplines, address shifting business needs in partnerships, and then use “just enough” architectural content and demanding timetables to drive changes in the way IT performs.
I wish people would build houses – and digital platforms – like that in the future…
This spring, I successfully defended my PhD dissertation and was promoted to Chef Architect in The Digital Taskforce in the Danish Ministry of Finance.
Two large projects this fall in the Ministry of Finance will require a blogging break for me. But, I will be back – and I will continue to update my list of publication and links on this website in general.
Ciao to you all… See you here again soon )