Tag Archives: Change

HE survey on business analysis and making the most of the UCISA bursary

Sarah Cockrill
Business Systems Analyst
Coventry University

Member of UCISA-PCMG

 

 

 

As business analysts, we are constantly learning how people perform their jobs roles. Gaining an understanding of how they capture, process and output information in order to achieve the desired outcomes. We capture this information so that we can identify areas of improvement. We also help to implement new ways of working, new software systems or processes that enable our organisations to achieve their strategic goals. As business analysts how often do we take a step back and analyse our own ways of working? Do we stop and benchmark ourselves against other Business Analysts working in the HE community or beyond in the corporate world?

In 2016 as part of my role on the UCISA Project and Change Management Group (PCMG) committee, I carried out a survey to measure the maturity of the business analysis community within the higher education (HE) sector. This informed our understanding of where we were as a community in terms of maturity.

The survey which was sent out to all members of the PCMG mailing list received a 32% response rate, which falls well within the expected response rate for an email survey. The survey results showed that every responding institution was undertaking business analysis activities, with over 65% having a dedicated business analysis team. This clearly shows that there is a recognised need for business analysis activities in the sector. When we looked at the average size of the business analysis teams, we found that it came in at around five members of staff on average, which shows that it is still considered a relatively small area of operations for most organisations. The majority of business analysis teams had been in existence for less than ten years, however most institutions had been undertaking analysis activities prior to the formation of a dedicated business analysis team. The question that gave us a real insight into the maturity of the business analysis function, showed us that 70% of organisations still see the business analysis function as an IT related one. In a mature organisation, we would expect to see the business analysis function sitting with and supporting the senior management team of the organisation. One may argue that just because they are located in an IT function they still may be closely aligned to senior management.  However, evidence shows that most organisations still consider them to be an IT asset with half of business analysts in the sector only working on IT change projects.

Overall, the survey results show us that as a sector we have not matured enough to be in a position to assist in driving the business strategy. As a sector, we are still working mainly on IT driven change initiatives and are based within the ITS function. The majority of business analysts are not undertaking market and competitor analysis or getting involved in pre-project work, such as feasibility studies and business case development.

In 2011 and 2012, the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) undertook a similar survey in the UK. The results showed that the average maturity levels for business analysis functions based in industry matched those found from our 2016 survey of HE institutions. However, as the IIBA survey was four years older than the HE one I carried out, we can hypothesise they have made some progress in maturing as a sector in those intervening years.

The question then arose, how do we as a community compare against business analysts working in the commercial sector?

I wanted to get an understanding of the tools and techniques they were using, to see if they were ahead of the game compared to the HE sector. Do they experience the same issues when undertaking their analysis, did they have the same frustrations as us and encounter the same blockers? What methods did they employ to attempt to overcome obstacles?

Through UCISA’s Groups and Communities of Practice, the HE community is offered an excellent platform to share knowledge, experience and good practice. To step outside this community and gain knowledge of the commercial field, the UCISA bursary scheme allows you the opportunity to attend conferences such as the IIBA conference. This gives you the opportunity to meet and hear first-hand from Business Analysts working outside of the HE sector.

In 2016, I was lucky enough to be awarded a UCISA bursary to attend the IIBA conference in London. I found the experience gave me an invaluable opportunity to gain knowledge on the role of a business analyst working in the corporate world. Listening to presentations from speakers who came from a mix of corporate backgrounds on the topics that mattered to them, gave me an insight into the issues they faced, the tools they used and solutions that had worked for them.

The main recurring theme of the conference was not one of the newest tools, or methodologies but one of the age old issues that faces every business analyst, one of capturing the requirements effectively. I saw several speakers that presented this topic in unique ways and from different angles but the message boiled down to the same fact. As analysts when capturing requirements, we must listen to what our stakeholders really want and stop trying to solutionize and jump to conclusions without capturing the real facts.

The second topic that seemed to be prevalent at the conference was of course, Agile. I know from personal experience in the HE sector many of us are only just starting to dip our toe into the world of Agile project delivery. I found that while the corporate world had been using Agile for a number of years they were still struggling with the same basic issues of trying to fit Agile into organisational structures that were not designed to support this type of delivery. For example:

  • Off shore development teams supporting project managers and analysts working in the UK.
  • Trying to fit Agile delivery into project management structures where the supporting processes were originally developed to support waterfall delivery of projects.
  • Gaining real buy in from senior management to support Agile delivery and provide the Agile teams with someone from the business that would be not only a dedicated resource to the project, but one with the authority to make the business decisions required by the development teams.

Of course, the conference providers ensured there were lots of chances to network in between sessions and this gave me the perfect opportunity to chat one-to-one with other business analysts and delve a bit deeper into their experiences.

The key learning point for me from the whole experience is that there are very little differences between our worlds. Yes, our products or services may differ but the challenges we face as business analysts remain the same. We all struggle to get recognition for the importance of the analyst’s role, we are all bought in too late to projects to have a real impact on the outcome, and we are all given too little resource to undertake the analysis effectively. The funding from the UCISA bursary to attend the conference informed my knowledge of the business analysis sector outside of the HE environment. I believe this knowledge is invaluable to business analyst working in HE as it enables us to mature and grow beyond the confines of our own sector.

 

Digital Skills for a New Generation


 

 

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University

Day Two EUNIS17

Day two was another great day at EUNIS17.   Following an early morning fear of conference burn out, having been up late writing up my notes from the Wednesday sessions, I took the option not to make the day quite as manic/tiring as my first day. Day two of the conference was opened with three highly interesting keynotes.

Martin Hamilton of Jisc opened his keynote ‘Life on Mars: Digital Skills for a New Generation’  with a look into the future. What careers do we think are going to play a new role in the future and what should we as HE institutions be doing to ensure that we successfully leverage/support these? When we think of our current course offerings, are we considering DNA editors, drone engineers or even asteroid miners? Should we be? Well, quite possibly. We need to ensure that we are “equipping today’s learners for tomorrow’s world,” Martin tells us, and ensure that we support the “digitally disadvantaged to achieve their potential.” These three mentioned careers are already available in our transforming marketplace; are we helping them to achieve their career aspirations?


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, what more does our future world hold for us? Martin felt it important that we not only focus on the future, as there are elements of the present, which we may not be best supporting to enable our students to meet that future. With “every self-respecting billionaire” investing in a space programme, maybe we should take note.  Space X have developed a rocket that would have previously been sent into space at a cost of $100 million, never to return. They’re now making space exploration “affordable” by the launch and safe return of rockets to Earth!! Is this the sort of development of the future that we in higher education should ensure we do not simply overlook?

SpaceX – First-stage landing from THAICOMB mission May 2016.

Could robots actually play a big part in future? In Japan, SoftBank have invested in the development of a humanoid robot they call Pepper. “He” is intended to be able to interpret emotions and effectively respond to questions. As you can see in the below video, emotional robotics may be in their infancy but they will need highly trained professionals to take them on to reach their potential. A gap in the mass HE market maybe?

Pepper the ‘emotional’ robot visits the FT | FT Life.

Martin explained how the technical world is changing the everyday jobs we have been accustomed to. With over 3,000,000 truck drivers in the USA and over 300,000 taxi drivers in the UK, advancements in vehicular automation is very likely to have an impact. It isn’t just Google with their WAYMO project that are investing. Tesla car owners have already driven over 140,000,000 miles on autopilot. Self-driving cars are here! With this technology now available in the present, we in HE must be aware that the post-graduation jobs market is shifting and so with it our students’ needs/demands. Martin also made reference to how Amazon have realigned their warehouses and distribution centres with over 45,000 robots (BettyBots)completing orders in a “human exclusion zone”. These are jobs that once would have been completed by humans and now make up 12% of Amazon’s workforce.

High-Speed Robots Part 1: Meet BettyBot in “Human Exclusion Zone” Warehouses-The Window-WIRED

Given the pace of change, we need to make sure that our institutions are assisting our students’ needs to re-train. Maybe we need to be re-focusing on training for careers in robot script writing, self-drive car engineering or robotic engineering. Our vision for the future will be the defining factor that shapes our successes.

For anyone wishing to view Martin’s full presentation, he has recorded and made it available on YouTube here:

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/blog/

 

 

Project and Change Management Group – an introduction.

In advance of our joint conference with our sister group CISG https://www.ucisa.ac.uk/groups/cisg/Events/2017/cisg17.
I thought I’d spare a few moments to introduce you to the UCISA Project and Change Management Group (PCMG) https://www.ucisa.ac.uk/groups/pcmg

PCMG is formed of skilled and experienced Project and Change Management professionals working together to develop and promote best practice in all aspects of project and change management in higher and further education. We have a strong sector focus which is informed and maintained by our member’s presence at the heart of project and change management activities in institutions of all sizes across the UK and beyond. We are supported by and fully integrated within the UCISA community. Our aim is to support better management and execution of projects and change initiatives so that greater benefits are realised by our member institutions across the HE and FE sectors.

The best ways of keeping in contact with the group includes attendance at events, joining one (or more) of our webinars, signing up to our mailing list (UCISA-PCMG@jiscmail.ac.uk) and follow us on twitter @UCISA-PCMG

There are currently 14 people on the PCMG committee and we cover a range of change management and project management roles in our institutions. I took on the role of chair in April 2017. The chair’s remit covers:
• Run activities associated with the group, supported by the Group Vice Chair and Group Secretary and UCISA Office.
• Run activities in agreement with the UCISA Executive and with support from UCISA Office.
• Contribute to general replies, requests passed on from UCISA Executive.
• Chairing Group meetings, including setting agenda and working with host institution to ensure all arrangements are in place to support the agenda.
• Attend the UCISA Executive meetings, including writing a short report of Group activities for each meeting.
• Write annual report of Group activities for AGM in March.
• Write annual business plan for following year Group activities.

Sally Jorjani from Edinburgh Napier University is co-Vice Chair with a remit to:
• Lead on the CISG-PCMG conference.
• Deputise in absence of Chair.
• Support chair in consideration of new members following a call for membership.
Sarah Cockrill from Coventry University is also co-Vice Chair, her remit is to:
• Lead on webinars and community engagement activity.
• Deputise in absence of chair.
• Support chair in consideration of new members following a call for membership.

We are ably supported by Lynne Hewings (Cranfield University) who is secretary and Simon Hogg (Oxford Brookes University) who is comms officer.

As well as the formal roles the other ten member really help to make the magic happen they lead on creating links with other networks e.g JISC, APM, take the lead on producing publications, toolkits and case studies.

Over the next twelve months we plan to work more closely with the other UCISA groups on events, webinars and publications. We are also piloting a mentoring, coaching and work shadowing offering between HEIs.

What kind of Business Analyst are you?

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Sarah Cockrill
Business Systems Analyst
Coventry University
Member of UCISA-PCMG

Day Two

The keynote speaker on day two of the Business Analysis Conference 2016 was Bjarte Bogsnes from Statoil  who gave an interesting talk titled Beyond budgeting – An Agile Management Model for the New Business and People Realities. The premise of his talk was how, if we remove the concept of budgets in the workplace and empower people with their own spending power, they would take greater ownership. Transparency was a key part of this process which encouraged people to make smarter spending decisions. While I found this an engaging talk and interesting idea I don’t feel many UK HE institutions are ready for this as yet.

Next up was Adrian Reed, President of the UK chapter of the International Instituteadrian-reed-_blog_1_image4 of Business Analysis  who gave a fun talk on what Business Analysts can learn from the world of magic. The talk even included a couple of successfully pulled off magic tricks from Adrian himself. Adrian questioned whether as Business Analysts we too often focus our efforts on reaching the end goal successfully and forget about the journey we take both ourselves and our stakeholders on to get there. He asked us to consider the whole performance and not just the “wow” of the trick at the end. If we involve our stakeholders in the journey every step of the way, then we will reach the end together, and even if the end isn’t quite as planned, the stakeholders will be comfortable with the process and come back to work with us time and time again. He reminded us of this by saying, “You can deliver the best system in the world but if you deliver it in a bad way then users will hate it forever.”

To iiba-bcs_blog_1_image5finish the morning off, I attended a talk from Allianz on the IT BA and Business BA.  The speakers discussed how, at Allianz, the IT and Business BAs successfully worked together to eliver solutions. During the lunch session Lucy Ireland from the British Computer Society and Stephen Ashworth from the IIBA gave a fireside chat on how the BCS and IIBA want to work together in the future. One of the main questions from the floor was how as Business Analysts we decide on which, out of the qualifications they both offer, we should do, and whether we see a time when they will bring the two together? The response was that they felt both offered and suited a different set of skills and experiences, that for the time being they would stay on separate paths, and that you, as a Business Analyst, would have to decide which route to take.

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Nigel Risner kicked off the afternoon session with a very lively presentation titled How to create massive impact and be an effective zookeeper.  Nigel’s presentation style was a cross between Michael McIntyre and Alan Sugar. It certainly revitalized the audience and woke us up for the last afternoon of the conference. Nigel gave two key pieces of advice:

1) If you are in the room be in the room. Give whoever you are speaking to your full attention as, for that moment in time, they are the most important person in your life.

2) You can spend all the time in the world analysing who you are and what type of person you are but in business it doesn’t really matter. What matters is walking into a room of stakeholders and quickly being able to recognise what type of person they are and how to communicate with them in a style that will suit them.

Nigel breaks people down into four categories;

  • The visionary, single-minded lion
  • The playful, extroverted monkey
  • The careful, analytical elephant
  • The caring, supportive dolphin

Next up was Ryan Folster from Britehouseryan-folster_blog_1_image7 who talked about being The indispensable BA This was another talk about how as Business Analysts we often reach for solutions without fully understanding the requirements, which just goes to show what an important topic it is for the community.

 

To finish off the conference I attended a talk by Simon Lynch from Aviva Health on Impact Mapping.  Simon’s talk was agile focused, explaining how before creating your epics and then breaking those down into stories, you should start with a session impact mapping. The impact maps should show why you want to do something, how it will impact a stakeholder and what you want to achieve. Simon explained that while this had taken them awhile to get the hang of, it has really helped them when creating the epics and user stories to consider all aspects of the impact.

And that was the end of my first ever IIBA Business Analysis conference. I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience of attending the conference from meeting other Business Analysts to hearing all the interesting and somewhat rather lively presentations. I can thoroughly recommend attending this conference to any fellow Business Analyst, and if you get the chance to apply for the UCISA Bursary, it is well worth the effort. I hope I will be able to attend in future years and may even pluck up the courage to speak and share a story of my own to a future audience.

Listening to customer need

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Sarah Cockrill
Business Systems Analyst
Coventry University
Member of UCISA-PCMG

Day One

As a UCISA bursary winner for 2016 I attended the Business Analysis Conference 2016 hosted by IRM. The conference was attended by over three hundred and fifty Business Analysts from a diverse range of industries: there was a mixture of experienced Business Analysts and people fresh to the industry. As a Business Analyst with over ten years’ experience in the HE sector, I often get to meet colleagues from other institutions to share knowledge, different experiences and best practice. This conference, however, gave me a chance to meet analysts from outside my peer group. I really enjoyed hearing about the projects they were working on and what they consider to be their best practices, as well as the usual horror stories of being bought onto a project too late in the day and customers’ requirements changing part way through a project. The benefits from these opportunities to chat with other attendees between sessions are hard to quantify, but I personally find them one of these best parts of attending a conference.

The conference was opened by keynote speaker Gavin Esler.gavin-esler_blog_1_image1
Gavin is an award-winning broadcaster, author and journalist and gave an engaging speech about ‘trust’. Trust is something we give to people every day, whether it be in our personal or professional lives. We place trust in leaders who tell us what is in our best interests using facts and figures to back up their arguments. The question is why do we place our trust in some people and not in others? Why as Business Analysts should we expect our customers to trust us when presenting our results and analysis? As Gavin said, “If facts were king, then Spock would have been captain of the Enterprise.” How we deliver a message is just as important as the analysis and facts of our case. As great leaders have shown us we need to become storytellers when presenting our case to the business, so we connect with our audience and gain their trust.

Virgin Media presented the next session titled Share Knowledge, Perform Stronger, Better Together – Evolving a BA practice. They explained how they had developed their BA practice over the years and survived several organisational restructures and rebrands. They had developed a BA toolkit which included templates, tools and techniques that supported their delivery framework as well as also utilising the SFIA capability model for developing their team.

mohamed-bray_blog_1_image2Next up was Mohamed Bray from Saratoga Software who came all the way from South Africa. Mohamed’s talk was titled Think like an Analyst, Act like a Consultant.  Mohamed was an engaging speaker who told us a real life story of when he failed to think about the customer needs first; how he had assumed what they wanted and what he had learned from this experience. As Business Analysts we often fall into the trap of thinking of solutions before we really understand what the problem is and what the customers’ needs are. Often we jump to a technology that we think will solve a problem when technology should only ever be the enabler of a solution, and not the solution itself. If we fail to listen to our customers and truly understand their problem, we will fail to engage them in our solutions. By actively listening to their problem the customer will become the co-creator of the solution taking ownership of the change and become the catalyst driving it forward in the organisatkim-bray_blog_1_image3ion.

After a very tasty lunch, we were welcomed to the afternoon session by a keynote from Kim Bray from Nationwide. Kim took us through her thirty-year career as a Business Analyst. Kim explained how she may not have always held the job title of Business Analyst, but that did not stop her from undertaking business analysis activities for her organisation. Kim described herself as being ‘professionally nosey’ and at the start of her career her naturally inquisitive nature meant she was capturing information on issues and analysing the data before presenting solutions to her organisation without even knowing what a Business Analyst role was. However, one of the key messages Kim left me with was ‘You don’t get something if you don’t ask.’ How often in both our professional and personal lives do we not pluck up the courage to ask for something we want or need simply because we are scared of hearing the answer ‘No!’

The afternoon session was, for me, dominated by Agile.  I attended a talk from Ashley Watson of the NHS Blood Transplant service and Menaka Priya Shanmugavadivelu from Aviva. Ashley talked about UAT and Menaka talked about delivering Agile development when your customers, business, Business Analysts and developers are spread across the globe. Menaka stressed the importance of visiting your dispersed teams to get to know them and build relationships, finding common ground and continuing to build on the relationship after your return back to base.

 

Network for Change and Continuous Innovation Conference

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Rachel McAssey
Head of Process Improvement
The University of Sheffield
(Joint Vice-Chair Project and Change Management Group)

 

 

 

 

Day 3

 

The final day of the conference and it has not been a disappointment

First session of the day was “Using Balanced Scorecards, Lean and Liberating Structures to Accelerate Strategic Planning and Implementation” with Ruth Johnson, Associate Vice-President, and Jeff Fillmore, Senior Organizational Analyst both from University of Washington

This was a very motivational. For more information about liberating structures as a change approach go to the website. Liberating Structures in combination with lean processes have helped the University of Washington to actively engage staff with understanding and implementing the strategic plan. It was a very important methodology for helping the institution change and innovate. I think we all came away wanting to liberate some structures!

Next, a really informative session from three people from Institutions in California “Taking the Mystery out of Managing Change”. They had received change management training from ©Prosci and I was very grateful that they provided us with lots of tools to take away. In my opinion the most useful visual tool was one for measuring strength of sponsor, project management and change management in a project – so that the project team can agree what mitigations need to be taken. Very simple yet incredibly effective and useful. Among the many takeaways also included a really useful checklist tool for project sponsors – I’ll be amending this and use it with my project sponsors.

The final keynote address was wonderful. Allison Vaillancort, Vice President, Human Resources and Institutional Effectiveness, University of Arizona gave a visually pleasing presentation. She challenged the group to look beyond incremental change to respond to the changes in HE, and identify where and when a rebellion would be helpful. Her slides gave us a how to guide about how to ensure that bold change can be actively delivered within our institutions. I tweeted a copy of one of the slides about change sabotage and lots of followers on twitter recognised the behaviours.

The final session of the conference “Leading from Inside the Whirlwind: Creating the New Vision for Public Ed” University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
This was a really interesting case study of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire who along with the rest of the institutions in the state received a multi-million dollar budget drop. It followed the change steps the institution took from the moment the news broke in January 2015 to current period. The staff had chosen to thrive rather than just survive, it was a fascinating case study about the opportunity change can bring (most dramatically the decision to undertake 8 change projects simultaneously) and how a difficult situation can lead to beneficial improvements for an institution (markedly better student retention and increased enrolments)

It was a wonderful opportunity to attend the NCCI conference. I met so many interesting people and had some very insightful conversation about managing change projects in higher education. My heartfelt thanks to UCISA and my own institution for allowing me to have this opportunity. I’ve got so many ideas for things I can try now that I’m back in the UK.

Change and Continuous Innovation

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Rachel McAssey
Head of Process Improvement
The University of Sheffield
(Joint Vice-Chair Project and Change Management Group)

 

 

 

 

 

Day two of the Network for Change and Continuous Innovation in HE conference.

A slight downside of the day was the very sporadic Wi-Fi access in the conference hotel. I was only able to reliably tweet until mid-morning. Hopefully it will be better for day 3…

The keynote this morning was very inspiring: Professor Maxi from McGill University “Besieged and Beleaguered, Down but not out: Planned Change at Universities in 21st Century”. The keynote addressed the drivers for change in universities (funding, internationalisation, multiple purposes of mission) and spoke about ways of addressing and supporting the changes. His message about being consultative, using data to identify appropriate changes and measuring impact subsequently was well received.

Next up, I went to implementing a Lean Shared Services Operation. Very quickly, I realised that the challenges we face at the University of Sheffield when thinking about shared services are very different to many American colleges who have multiple campuses, and often very separate technologies to support the administrative work.. I was a little worried about how relevant the session would be. However, the very practical advice about:

  • Establishing a benchmark prior to undertaking the change
  • Have discussions to better understand what good looked like
  • Share the message that no. 1 private organisations are customer focused
  • Focus on process simplification and automation
  • Identify the common and routine services (stop being all things to all people)
  • Identify root causes
  • These are all transferable concepts to managing change.

There was an interesting discussion about gaining trust – a key informal theme that has been running through the conference. The discussion identified that lack of trust can lead to lack of standardisation and work-a-rounds. Gaining and maintaining trust is key to successfully managing change.

After lunch, I want to an excellent panel discussion: three women who had received the Leaders of Change Award from the conference. It was a really interesting opportunity for us to question the panel about how they had successfully implemented lean in order to make major changes and improvements at their universities. Key themes from the session were integrity, resilience, identify champions in certain areas and maximise this potential. Each approach had been slightly different, and for me the learning was about understanding the needs and challenges of your own organisation and address this, rather than implement a one size fits all approach.

Two more sessions in the afternoon: “Using Customer satisfaction and Employee Climate data to drive impactful decisions”. This session demonstrated how the University of California is using its staff and student survey data to identify changes and subsequently measure and manage the changes. The team that support this are incredibly proactive with their support for data analysis, rather than just providing the raw data to departments, this rigorous and methodical approach is a useful way of ensuring that institutions have standard ways of identifying and prioritising changes, and then monitoring the level of success.

The final session had lemon jellybeans – so gave me a well-needed sugar boost “From lemons to Culture Change: moving from a SACS Monitoring Report to a Culture of Continuous Improvement”. The key message is if something is a problem, do not try to deny that it is a problem, recognise it then recast it to identify what opportunities the problem can offer.

Enterprise Architecture and language

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Ian Ellery
Head of IT Architecture
Canterbury Christ Church University

 

 

 

 

Mark Heseltine was the next speaker I heard; talking about enterprise architecture for innovation and change, linking EA with Lean and Agile concepts. He made a really interesting observation early on in his talk: the very language of enterprise architecture causes problems. EA is based on an architectural metaphor, but because the people who are listening to us have physical, building architecture as their mental starting point there is a danger that they will (unconsciously) conflate the analogy with reality. A point I will certainly consider when talking to those outside IT.

The other interesting aspect of his talk for me was discussion around technical debt. He showed a slide of a four quadrant model for technical debt and used a financial debt metaphor for dealing with it. There is the interest we pay on technical debt – the effort in managing it – which has to be balanced against paying off the debt, in other words removing or replacing technology.

I also spotted a tweet which quoted another speaker in a parallel session: “don’t aspire to be the best airline in the world at recovering lost luggage”. I think this is something many organisations, and departments within those organisations are guilty of. We need to have appropriate goals. Let’s not be the IT department who are brilliant at fixing things when they break, let’s be the IT department who deliver services which don’t break.

The final two sessions I chose to attend were probably the least useful. The first was from the Swedish national electricity grid, and the second from the UK national air traffic control service. Both had huge problems and were undergoing massive change and transition programs. However, the very scale what they were trying to achieve made it difficult for me to see anything applicable to, or transferable to HE. The only comment I did like was from the Swedish speaker who pointed out that a target architecture is a direction of travel not “The Truth”. Something it’s easy to forget when it’s been through endless committees and gained the rubber stamp of SMT approval.

Overall, a very useful and enjoyable two days. This is not a cheap conference, so I am very grateful for UCISA funding my place. Would I recommend other HE architects to attend? Yes I would. Getting out of our own sector is always useful and the commercial challenges of disagreeing business units, limited funding, and pressure to deliver are no different to HE.

UCISA has an Enterprise Architecture community of practice which may be of interest.

Enterprise Architecture and the Double Diamond model

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Ian Ellery
Head of IT Architecture
Canterbury Christ Church University

 

 

 

 

The next talk I went to was entitled “from 0 to EA” and was about trying to use enterprise architecture in a small business undergoing radical transformation after being bought by a private equity company. They used a “double diamond” model, with ideas diverging and then converging on a solution. Another insight was thinking ahead and asking where did they want to be in the IT change cycle when “X” happens? We should specifically design timelines to meet external events. A couple of things resonated with me: firstly, true EA success is embedded and invisible, but changes everything. Secondly, be careful not to solve problems for people and tell them that EA is always right. It’s difficult to gain a seat at the table, but easy to lose it again.

I struggled to get much from the next talk from Andrew Swindell. He was describing a concept called “line of sight”, but with very busy sides, I lost sight of his concept. He showed lots and lots of alternative models, and my overwhelming impression was it was all simply too much. One to consider on rereading slides later perhaps.

UCISA has an Enterprise Architecture community of practice which may be of interest.

Enterprise Architecture – using a chess analogy

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Ian Ellery
Head of IT Architecture
Canterbury Christ Church University

 

 

 

 

This morning’s opening keynote is one I’ve been looking forward to – Gerben Wierda, author of “Chess and the Art of Enterprise Architecture”. The book was recommended to me, but I never got round to buying it. He is also creator of the well-known YouTube animation of “hairball architecture”.

His view is that EA has been generally unsuccessful. We do EA to try and make sense of complexity and prevent chaos. However, while this works in theory, chaos still remains. In many organisations there is significant churn of EA functions, and the business remain unconvinced. Why? In his view because the decisions, the action, takes place in projects and not at the higher EA level.

To make EA work, we should use a chess analogy. In chess each move is to make things better, to improve the current state, but with no specific end state in mind. So, he reasons, EA future state plans are a waste of time. The rules of chess are descriptive not prescriptive, and similarly he argues that EA principles can be toxic as they prevent any discussion leading to a “comply or explain” culture.

He also talks about ensuring that EA does not leave out relevant detail. This led to, for me, a lightbulb moment: oversimplification is as bad as over complexity. If as architects we produce a very simple picture for our senior teams – usually to try and help them understand – they will think that the problem is simple. They will then wonder what all the fuss is about trying to solve this apparently simple problem. There were several other phrases and points which made me consider just what I am trying to do with architecture. Overall, this talk was a really good challenge to the status quo of enterprise architecture. And yes, I will now be buying the book.

UCISA has an Enterprise Architecture community of practice which may be of interest.