Category Archives: Enterprise Architecture

Washington Digital Government Summit – Presentations

I presented twice at the Washington Digital Government Summit 2018. The first presentation was with Mike Lawson, Cloud Platform Specialist, Application Development, Public Sector, Oracle.

We talked about Disruptive Technologies:

Technology is defining the way we live, work, play and govern. The adjective “disruptive” is probably an understatement when applied to trends such as autonomous vehicles, drones, artificial intelligence, ever-smarter devices, robotics and the Internet of Things. This session explores some of the technologies that are changing the face of society and – inevitably – government.

My talk was focused on the shape of disruption (building on a great talk by Chris Eagle, IT Strategist and Enterprise Architect for University of Michigan) and the impacts of digital technologies on how we design our applications and the centers of excellence we need to support this disruption.

You can see my slides in Google Slides:

Disruptive Technologies Shape of Disruption – Radical Design

The second talk was on the Future of IT Skills

Never has the future of IT jobs been so difficult to predict. In an era of disruption, the key is to keep your skill sets as sought-after as possible. If you’re a manager, that means doing the same for your team. The approaching silver tsunami, while most certainly disruptive, can also be a time of unprecedented opportunity – if you’re prepared. This session covers which IT skills will be in higher demand than others and how to best prepare for our very bright futures.

I covered the shape of disruption (again), three personas and how shifting from building software to SaaS impacts our relationships, skills and the staff. I went on to build on the topics above to talk about the organizational changes that need to occur, emphasizing the need to hire for and build above-the-line competencies in our staff. You can get the slides below:

Future of IT Skills

E!Live Webinar on Digital Transformation

I was on a panel with Jennifer Sparrow (Penn State), David Weil (Ithaca College) and the EDUCAUSE staff to discuss the Digital Transformation (Dx as they call it). You can see the slides, read the transcript and (EDUCAUSE members) can watch the webinar at the EDUCAUSE E!Live site:

EDUCAUSE Live! Webinar Digital Transformation in Higher Ed: What Is It, and Why Should You Care?

Scenario Planning and Job Pathways – Two tools to help you plan your career.

I recently published an article in EDUCAUSE Review on using scenario planning and job pathways to help individuals think about their career plans.  I suggest starting with scenario planning, with a focus on changing skills and how the workforce needs to adapt, to get a sense of possible future skills and careers.  This acts as an input into Job Pathway planning where you look at career steps you could take and the skills needed to take each step.  Here is a link to the article if you would like to read it in full:

Scenarios, Pathways, and the Future-Ready Workforce

 

Architecture and finding the path

Ron Kraemer, our VP of Information Technology and CIO, spoke at the IT Leaders Program this week. He built on his blog post, Interdependence – Both Positive and Negative. To paraphrase:

The growing interdependence of our systems is driving the complexity of our systems towards the edge of chaotic systems. The choices that we make are no longer focused on finding the perfect solution. Instead, we can see many possible solutions, many of which are good solutions. The choice is then to pick the solution which builds positive interdependency and limits negative interdependency.

Interdependency and Complexity

Fig. 1: Growing interdependency has put us at the edge of complex and chaotic systems.

In his talk at ITLP, Ron also pressed on the ever-growing rate of change. These two factors limit our ability to design and implement perfect solutions to problems. To paraphrase again:

If you take two years to design a great solution, the landscape will have changed so much that the solution may not be applicable. The level of complexity makes finding and defining the perfect solution even more difficult. The level of interdependence means that even more good solutions are available – when many systems are connected, many systems could be used to provide the solution.

Impossible Route to a Perfect Solution

Fig. 2: Impossible Route to a Perfect Solution

I agree with what Ron has come to believe. The level of integration between systems is very high. The expectation for real-time interactions has become the norm. Users expect to see real-time flight information. They expect real-time updates on openings in courses. Students can see, in real-time, the bus schedule, where they are located and the location of nearest bus stop and the location of the buses on their routes.

This interdependence has driven complexity to the point where perfect solutions are hard if not impossibly to design and deploy. Therefore, we must choose from many good solutions that exist. We need to act quickly to implement some solution to meet the rapid rate of change.

Many good solutions

Fig. 3: Many good solutions

This is where Enterprise Architecture and the other architecture practices can help. If we look out to the future and think about the desired state, then we can begin to sift out those good solutions which move us towards that future state. For us, we had stated that Service Oriented Architecture was a strategic direction. That bounded the future state some. In the student area, we had a future state process diagram. This diagram outlined improvements to the way that students manage course data and move through finding courses to enrollment. This put another boundary on the future state. When it came to think about how we get course roster type information out to a new learning management system (Moodle), we were able to use that projected future state to pick from the possible solutions (flat file transfer, shared database connections, web services) those which moved us closer to future state.

Architecture filtering the good choices

Fig. 4: EA can help filter the good choices that move you towards the desired future state.

The rate of change and interdependency drives the importance of an architectural approach. If you have not thought about the future state, then there is a multitude of choices. To pick from many choices, you have to establish some factors that affect your selection. In a restaurant, this might be dietary restrictions, cost, the weather outside. In technology, it is often quickest and cheapest. But those factors, in this complex environment are often shortsighted and misguided. The quickest and cheapest solution might need to be replicated many times for many systems. This would increase the interdependency in a negative way and push you even closer to a chaotic system. A more expensive, slower solution might serve you well over the long haul.

Architecture can help you make those choices in a framework that is focused on the future and on the overall complexity that you are creating. Enterprise Architecture (and the other architecture practices) can help sort those good solutions and help make sure the choice you make is along the path to desired future state.

SOA – Maturity is Key Presentation, EDUCAUSE Enteprise 2009

My presentation on SOA in the Enterprise – Maturity is Key has been posted in a couple of places.

First, on the EDUCAUSE site is the talk listing:

EDUCAUSE – Enterprise 2009 Site

Slides can be found at Slideshare.net:

Blue Sky to Ground part 1

 

 

Soaring

Soaring

I’ve been working with our CIO on the I.T. strategic planning initiative.  At the same time, I’ve been working with the Technical Directors and Operational Directors on planning at the technology level.  They have been creating a map of what technologies are used to support our services.  I’ve had my head in the blue sky of the strategic planning process while I’ve also had my hands in the dirt of the technology mapping.   I keep coming up against the issue of how to connect the blue-sky of the strategic plan with the down-in-the-dirt technology planning.

Finding a process and methodology to connect the sky to the ground has taken up a lot of my mental cycles recently.   The following is my take on a method to connect the strategic planning to the technology planning. 

1.  Strategy to Capabilities

The first step is to take the general directives of a strategic plan and have them expressed in terms of capabilities.   I see this work being done by leadership as part of a collective planning exercise.   As an example, a strategic initiative might be: Classrooms and learning spaces will be equipped with a base set of instructional technologies.   This strategic direction then needs to be interpreted into a set of defined and measurable capabilities.    A leadership team would be charged with determining the capabilities that would meet this strategic direction.  The capabilities should be measurable.

For example, the capabilities might be:  Multimedia Projection, Student Response Measurement and Lecture Capture

We could survey all rooms and learning spaces and get measures of current state (for example: 65% of rooms meet the projector capability, 15% meet the student response and 10% meet the lecture capture capability).   We could then decide priority – which is more important lecture capture or student response – act on those priorities and measure improvement.

2. Capabilities to Services

The next part of this to map our services to the strategic capabilities.  Some services support multiple capabilities (Hosting Services, Identity Management Services for example).  Some capabilities may not have a supporting enterprise service.  A capability that does not have a set of supporting services might indicate a gap in the enterprise.  For example, there may not be a matching Lecture Capture Service that provides the Lecture Capture capability.  This might be done in an ad hoc fashion or it might be missing completely.  This gap in the enterprise service would be worth evaluating to see if the capability is being delivered effectively in the current structure.  If not, then we might want to look at developing an enterprise-wide Lecture Capture Service that supports all of the classrooms.  

3.  Services To Technical Roadmaps

This is where we use the brick diagram in our planning.  The brick diagram captures the technologies that support a given service.  The brick captures what is current state (those technologies currently in use), what is tactical (what will be used for the next 0-2 years), what is strategic (on the plans to use 2-5 years out), what is in containment (no new development), what is in retirement (being stopped) and what is emerging (interesting trends that may move into the tactical or strategic realms in the future).  

These brick diagrams are created and maintained by the service owner – that is the group that manages the service being provided.  The bricks let the service owners and the service teams grab a snapshot of their current state and their strategic plan for the next few years – what they will leverage, what they will stop, what they are watching and what they want to move to – in a simple format.

 

Core Planning Stack from Tech to Strategy

Core Planning Stack from Tech to Strategy

This set of relationships is managed by a set of governance process that define and prioritize the layer below.  

At the lowest level, the service manager or service team usually defines and prioritizes the technology they use to deliver that service.   This is the layer that is captured in a brick diagram.  They should also describe the capabilities that are delivered by their service and which strategic directions they support.  

At the top level, senior leadership should work to refine the strategic directions as measurable capabilities that want to see delivered.  

The mid-level governance is a gap in our institution.  It is probably filled by project prioritization processes and budget processes.  I’ll talk about that in part 2 of this post.

Brick Diagrams and related planning tools

 

Brick Diagram

Brick Diagram

Brick diagrams are a strategic planning tool that I mentioned in passing in my ITANA talk at EDUCAUSE.  Since then, I’ve had several people ask for more information.  So here it is… more information.

 

Brick Diagrams are used by NIH in their Enterprise Architecture planning process.  You can see the NIH brick diagrams and their taxonomy for the brick diagrams on the NIH EA Site.

Other institutions use similar planning tools.  Read on to see links to other places that use something similar and to download slides for a talk about Brick Diagrams that I gave to our Management Team.

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