Raise those Gleaming Girders


Enterprise Business Analysis and Architecture

I. We’re lost in an Agile SOA Green Cloud

There are great shifts that happen in technology and culture. Sometimes they occur sequentially, as WWII created a need for advanced computing, and the PC forever changed the nature of work.

Sometimes they happen concurrently, where pressures, both positive and negative, take place in tandem. We are in such a time of change now, with great crises and great opportunities for organizations and the people who love them. One of these challenges is the failure of Enterprise, Business and Technical architecture.

Why do the Three Stooges so often stumble and fail?

The False Conflicts with the Real

There are genuinely important new technologies, significant changes in the IT landscape, and IT spending aligned with actual business needs.

There are also buzzwords, fashions, IT fads and other disasters. These include sales and marketing for “new” IT methodologies, ill-planned outsourcing initiatives, and the political seizures and shockwaves that resound throughout all organizations.

Examples are:

  • Loss of in-house knowledge due to “cost-cutting”
  • Collapse of outsourcing firms, as in the recent Satyam debacle
  • The waste, fraud and kickbacks that are common in most IT organizations
  • Yearly reorganizations that leave IT scrambling to align itself with constantly changing business models

This is why an organization’s “current state” is called The Mess in Idealized Design. (Idealized Design: How to Dissolve Tomorrow's Crisis...Today, Wharton School Publishing; 2006). The current state models everything an enterprise is failing at. Businesses are run by people, and people are emotional, irrational, greedy for short-term results and poor decision makers.

As above, so below.

The current state is a map of an organization’s destruction. It also has velocity: those poor decisions have consequences which attain a destructive speed of their own. Architects must do their job inside this Mess, while simultaneously dealing with organizational resistance, suspicious Business areas, and the aftershocks of political earthquakes.

Attempting to re-architect the Titanic as it sinks is not a wise tactical or strategic move.

Lack of Established Architectural Structures

All good puppies go to Heaven, and all good SOA textbooks describe a seamless marriage between Business and IT.

On paper, high-level business maps, flexible structures, “turn key” IT software, and reusable “services” look fine. In reality, SOA is a young field, and there is a significant maturity curve in the overwhelming majority of organizations.

There is more to a business than providing a “service,” whether it’s a single web call, or an entire IT organization configured as a “service provider.”

My experience is that the marriage between Business and IT is often quite rocky. And along with this rocky marriage, comes a lack of consistent Architectural standards: “The lack of well-established, industry-tempered, reusable assets, such as templates, patterns, best practices, and road maps, further exacerbates the architect’s dilemma.” (Norbert Bieberstein, Service-Oriented Architecture Compass: Business Value, Planning, and Enterprise Roadmap IBM Press, 2005.)

Can the marriage of Business and IT be saved?

Can Architecture once again raise its gleaming girders as a service in the sky?

II. The Tools are not as important as the Wearer of the Toolbelt

Enterprise Business Analysis (EBA) is Strategic, Process and Organizational Consulting:

  • Strategic – Planning and execution.
  • Process – the steps.
  • Organizational – the whole enchilada.
  • Consulting - Internal or external, the combination of expertise and intuition, Techne and Poesis, improvisation and practice in planning and supporting the enchilada’s steps.

In dealing with the enchilada, EBAs can use the tools of:

  • Process, Management and IT Consulting
  • Six Sigma, Lean, System Thinking and Idealized Design
  • The entire Business Analysis armada

Alan Weiss said “Just as good external consultants can readily work cross industrially and cross-culturally, good internal consultants can readily work cross-functionally and cross-culturally.” (Organizational Consulting, Wiley & Sons 2003.)

Enterprise Business Analysts are internal consultants who use all tools and methodologies, because the process - gathering data, analyzing, collating, synthesizing and making recommendations, is similar regardless of the type of project.

EBA is the space between intuition and process, the SPOC (Single Point of Contact) that considers all organizational issues, whether process, technical or psychological.

Traditionally, business analysts have been forced to sit at the children’s table during Thanksgiving. They are not usually allowed to play in strategic spaces, or poke their sticky little fingers into senior leadership dilemmas.

EBA happens when the business analysis armada comes ashore, and BAs put on their big-boy/big-girl pants. Then Enterprise Business Analysts can rightfully take their seats with the grown-ups, while Business and IT look each other in the eyes, and say “I love you.”

III. EBA First, Architecture Second

You can’t architect what you don’t understand

Enterprise Business Analysts don’t merely “analyze,” they also plan. IT tends to think in terms of units, projects, services, processes, discrete bits of data. It’s difficult for IT to have a holistic view of The Mess, and IT is often a major contributing factor to all organizational messes.

(This explains why Business is so eager to go through divorce court: Outsourcing.)

“Strategic” is the first of the EBA skills of Strategic, Process and Organizational Consulting. If strategic analysis has not been done, chances of success are slim. Strategic analysis is the critical work of considering the enchiladas’ plans, strategies, tactics, policies and practices. If business processes are either poorly understood, or worse, are causing more harm to the enchilada than good, Architectural initiatives will fail. 

If you attempt to “continuously improve” the performance of the parts, you wind up adversely affecting the performance of the whole. Why? Because you are ignoring the ideal design of the entire system. If you plan the entire system, you can reverse-engineer how the parts optimally work together.

In the dangerous liaison between business and IT, the Enterprise Business Analyst is more than a human bridge between the current and the future state. The EBA is a coach and mentor who helps the enchilada think and create.

This is critical to organizations, because leadership needs more than correct, concise, actionable information on which to base its poor decisions. (Can there ever be too many PowerPoints?)

EBA includes the research, assessments, interviews, coaching and education that must be done prior to architectural ground being broken, and concrete poured:

  • Differentiating the real (technology, change and budget) from the false (fads and frauds).
  • Translating business fantasies into IT realities.
  • Establishing the true issues behind the designated decoys.
  • Designing a functional organization, before the Enterprise Service Bus leaves the station.
  • Enabling IT Strategy, which, like the abominable snowman, is always rumored to exist, but never actually seen.

Author: Sam Cherubin is a consultant, Strategic Business Analyst and author. He is currently exploring ways in which the tools of EBA can be used to analyze and solve social and economic issues. He can be reached at http://www.linkedin.com/in/samcherubin.

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