Tag Archives: IRM

EA and project portfolio management

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Ian Ellery
Head of IT Architecture
Canterbury Christ Church University

 

 

 

 

 

 

My final technical session was from an enterprise architect and portfolio manager at Danfoss, a Danish engineering company. Although very focused on improving the bottom line and digital innovation for a manufacturing company, parts of this were very relevant. Before architecture and portfolio got together, projects were initiated and governed by individual business areas (faculties?) with no overall coherence. While they have now moved to a single portfolio model, they still allow business areas to think they have their own portfolio, even if they don’t really own it. They also spoke about technical IT people never wanting to engage with business staff, expecting business partners to act as the interface and go-between. This certainly sounds familiar at Christ Church. Their final insight for me was that although they had a big vision for how architecture and portfolio was going to come together, they cautioned against trying to explain this to business colleagues all at once. Eyes would simply glaze over, so they realised it was easier to explain the changes piece by piece.

The last session of the day was from Neil Mullarkey – formerly of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and now using the techniques of improvisation to teach businesses how to collaborate. He drew out a lot of parallels between agile development and improv, as well as getting us all to improvise a story with those sitting next to us. An excellent speaker, with some strong messages, who I would strongly suggest UCISA consider as a guest speaker at the annual conference.

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

EA and bimodal IT

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Ian Ellery
Head of IT Architecture
Canterbury Christ Church University

 

 

 

 

 

The next IRM EA conference I session went to was described as looking at the linkages between EA and portfolio management. However, little was said about the PMO, with the focus really being on setting up an EA function. One telling insight is that most EA tools are for enabling architects to talk to architects, not architects to talk to humans. The speaker’s company eventually settled on a tool with both PMO and architecture visualisation capability, which also links to technology life-cycle. This latter allows them to link projects to technology obsolescence. The speaker ended by commenting negatively on the Gartner model of bimodal IT. He felt that the faster mode does not understand BAU, while the slow side is seen as boring. This linked nicely to the next session.

This session was entitled “avoiding the bimodal disaster”, so we were in no doubt about the speaker’s viewpoint. He was president of a digital transformation consultancy, and strongly believed that the digital agenda is impossible in a bimodal organisation. In his view either the slow side will hold back the faster transformation efforts, or shadow IT will be created. There were some good aspects to this, such as not seeing EA as city planners, as planned cities are not agile. They may be efficient, but they are not able to cope with rapid change. However, throughout the talk I was left feeling that while there may be issues with Gartner’s bimodal model, there were at least as many issues with the “self-organised” approach advocated by the speaker. Perhaps it’s working in HE, but I was left thinking that there has got to be a compromise position somewhere. One observation I did agree with however, was the need to be ready for citizen IT: whether it be citizen integrator, developer or data analyst. We need to accept that in the future, these areas are no longer wholly owned by IT.

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

EA – making a first assessment

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Ian Ellery
Head of IT Architecture
Canterbury Christ Church University

 

 

 

 

 

The next session  I went to at the IRM enterprise architecture conference was from the Head of Architecture and a solution architect from Cambridge Assessment: the examinations and marking offshoot of Cambridge University. To start architecture, you should always look at what is failing. When the new head of architecture joined, he sat in IT operations and observed what was happening. He realised that things were breaking constantly, but being fixed instantly before user impact by a very dedicated team. Poor architecture was being hidden by passionate staff.

There is a balance to be made between architecture for operations and architecture for the users. In the former it’s about reliability, the latter for example about moving away from pure infrastructure (“how many data outlets do we need?”) to asking questions about the users experience in a new building. They finished by describing architecture as a set of services with outcomes aligned to decisions. And compared all EA Frameworks to the labours of Sisyphus – forever pushing a boulder up a hill for no benefit at all.

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

EA for managing change

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Ian Ellery
Head of IT Architecture
Canterbury Christ Church University

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so, here I am at the IRM enterprise architecture conference  . The opening introduction promised a mixture of talks about the theoretic as well from those who have actually done it. We were also told that there were representatives from over 30 countries and all continents (except Antarctica!). A glance at the delegate list showed that I am the only person from a UK university, with just three other university representatives. This is reflected in the talks, with lots of emphasis on product delivery, profit margins and managing a business across multiple international locations. However, there was very little that I didn’t feel could be translated into the UK higher education sector in some way.

The opening keynote was from Ashley Braganza, a professor at Brunel Business School. He spoke passionately and length about the fact that, when it comes down to it, everything is about change. Business process management leads to enterprise architecture which leads to project and portfolio management: but all of these are really about managing change.

Theoretically, everything that is being done should link back to organisational strategy, but in practice it rarely does. He used an excellent analogy of the strategy being a mirror. When SMT look in the mirror, they see their strategy reflected back at them. But the mirror is then broken apart and each SMT member takes away a piece that reflects their part of the strategy. The mirror is then broken down again and again until every individual in the organisation has their own piece of the mirror reflecting their objectives. But the big picture, the reflection of SMT’s real vision, has been lost. And unfortunately, it is the enterprise architects who are usually called on to fix things! My reflection on this (pun definitely intended) is that either we fight this and try and get a coherent strategic vision, or alternatively, perhaps we embrace it and welcome the fact that EA is the place where corporate strategy becomes visible.

To finish, Ashley reflected on different change models, which he felt were all lacking. He was especially vitriolic about Kotter’s eight steps to change . Finally, one of the phrases of the day which totally resonated with me: the problems, in his view, are that we have 21st century models and methodologies, working within 20th century organisations led by people with 19th century mindsets. By the latter he meant a Dickensian obsession with counting things. Budgets, REF, TEF… sound familiar?

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

Reflections before the Enterprise Architecture Conference Europe 2016

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Ian Ellery
Head of IT Architecture
Canterbury Christ Church University

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am the lucky recipient of a UCISA bursary  to attend the Enterprise Architecture Conference Europe 2016 run by IRM UK. In the week before the conference, I reflect here on my reasons for wanting to attend, what I am hoping to get out of it and how I hope to use the information.

I have worked at Canterbury Christ Church University for nearly 10 years and have recently become Head of IT Architecture. However, I am not an enterprise architect by background or training I am a senior IT manager and strategist. The potential power of enterprise or IT architecture was introduced to the University by the new IT director and my challenge is to deliver for her a light-touch architectural framework. This will allow the IT department to create a blueprint for the future, and allow the University to manage the significant levels of application change currently planned.

But unlike many universities, we cannot afford to recruit a team of architects. It’s just me, a software/ solutions architect, three business analysts and some project managers. And all too often, architecture feels theoretic and more concerned with tools and frameworks than pragmatic delivery. I was looking for an opportunity to learn how enterprise architecture and IT architecture delivers in real life. A few months ago we worked with Sally Bean, now a consultant and formally an enterprise architect, who consults on building and maintaining high performance architecture teams. She regularly speaks at this conference as does Chris Potts (author of “FruITion” ), and John Zachman, creator of the Zachman Framework  .

By attending I hope to gain insights into the practical application of enterprise architecture, into an organisation which doesn’t realise it needs it. I’m also interested in how hard-nosed commercial organisations use EA to improve their business.  So I am looking forward to talks with titles such as “What Can You Achieve with a New Architecture Team?”   and “Outcome Driven Architecture” . The conference is also co-located with a business process management conference, with attendees of both conferences allowed to drop into sessions from the other. This is also interesting, as in common with many universities, Christ Church has processes which have built up and grown over the years and are no longer necessarily suitable for a 21st century digital university.

As well as writing a daily blog for the UCISA website, I will be posting the occasional Tweet as @e11ery, conference hashtag #EACBPM. I will also attempt to collate my thoughts and experiences, both from the past six to twelve months as well as the conference into a beginner’s guide to creating and using enterprise architecture in higher education environment: without actually employing any trained architects.