What's in a name - Everything

I recently tweeted on maybe the perception of Enterprise Architecture and Chief Architects would change from being seen as the domain of IT to being seen as the domain of the entire organisation if they were renamed Business Design and Chief Business Designers?

It made me think of situations during my career where a name has set certain perceptions for myself and/or others or confused.

Enterprise Architecture – Isn't this something IT do?

First up is that old favourite Enterprise Architecture. I was once on a journey of moving an organisation from having an Enterprise IT Architecture to having an Enterprise Architecture covering Business, Applications and Technical Architectures. The Enterprise IT Architecture started in the IT organisation, as is quite common, and covered Application and Technical Architecture. This objective was a real challenge as I was driving and influencing this from within the IT department.

Whilst on the “world tour” of communicating, stakeholder managing, explaining and extolling the value of Enterprise Architecture I recall speaking to an executive in the organisation. I asked the question “does this Enterprise Architecture thing make sense in terms of what it is trying to achieve and the value it provides?” Their reply was that they thought it was technical. It had the words Enterprise and Architecture, which they associated with IT.

A valuable lesson I learned from this is to never use the word Enterprise Architecture if you can help it. Communicate the approach, the method and value, provide examples and scenarios and let the organisation call it what they want. It is the outcomes that we should be most interested in achieving. Not what we call things. Using Enterprise Architecture can set a certain perception which can be hard to overcome.

IS, IS/IT, ICT – Oh Computers.

So a name can set a certain perception. It can also create confusion. An area where a name can be confusing, to me at least, is in the usage of IS, IS/IT, ICT, IT, TS. It makes me think that we in IT are sometimes trying to be too clever for our own good. If you speak to the average person in the street outside of IT and say I work in IS, IS/IT or ICT they will wonder what you are talking about. Tell them IS/IT stands for Information Systems/Information Technology they will probably say “Ah you work in IT”. Why over complicate the situation. Just call it IT or maybe even simpler call it Technology. Someone I know who is definitely not in IT just says “Oh you work in computers”. However I think have Business Strategies for Computers, Computer Architectures or Computer Designers maybe going a little too far.

Organisation Names

A final example is in the names of teams and functions that creates confusion and therefore cannot set any perceptions. I have seen some team and function names that have actually required me to spend considerable time working out what they actually do. They haven't altered my perception of the team as I couldn't work out what they did from the name so I couldn't set any. It was just confusing. When I actually found out what they did it all became very clear - they were the IT department!

Simplicity – Influences perception, removes confusion

So simplicity removes confusion and can help in setting perceptions. One organisation I know had an IT function that wanted to be integrated with the rest of the organisation. It's vision was to be integrated so that it could help shape the organisations vision and direction and provide value enabling IT capabilities to support this aim. In essence creating co-determinate strategies.

The function initially started out being called Technology Office. As it moved on the journey to become integrated it renamed itself to Strategy and Architecture, removing Technology. Then it renamed itself to Strategy and Business IT Systems, removing Architecture. It then renamed itself to Future Design. Simple, doesn't mention IT or Architecture at all. It does exactly as it says on the tin - It designs the future. That is my perception anyway.

It made me wonder what others have done with regards to names to help to set certain perceptions and remove confusion?

Innovation Speed Dating

Recently I was traveling on a train reading some papers for an innovation workshop I was attending. In the papers there was a press release, from a leading newspaper website, taking about a recent new service that had been implemented. It even included quotes from satisfied users of the service and people within the organization. I thought things have been moving fast in the last couple of months because I don't recall this being implemented or even being discussed. Had I lost my finger on the pulse. I then glanced to the top of the page and noticed the date of the press release was 2011! Ah I thought this is a mock up of the possibilities the innovation workshop could achieve. It got my attention.

So the innovation workshop commenced following a short intro of the objectives it was straight into the first of three themes to brainstorm. We brainstormed and threw out ideas that stimulated other ideas for 20 minutes then it was over. We agreed as a group our top 3 ideas and fed this back in 5 minutes. Then onto the next theme in the same format. At the end all the ideas where collated and we are going to vote on the top three to take forward.

It was like Innovation Speed Dating.

However it got result and some really interesting ideas were discussed. You could see the passion in people as an idea took hold and the possibilities became apparent. Some of the ideas I had never thought of myself. But when but forward were inspirational, inspiring and sometimes so obvious. Some of these may have been missed if we had gone down the traditional waterfall approach of requirements produced and then IT respond with a solution.

This was also innovation brainstorming as an organization not as the business or IT we were working as a group of individuals adding value to the organization as a whole. Something I am passionate about and talked about in my post on you never hear of business and finance alignment.

Technology is pervasive these days. Most people have a hotmail, gmail, yahoo mail personal email account. They use facebook, online banking, shopping etc. They can see what IT can do and with a little nudge, through innovation speed dating, are able to find new business value enabling services using some of the IT approaches and services they use everyday in their daily lives.

IT solutions are no longer the domain of a few geeks talking a foreign language in white coats in a basement. This workshop reinforces why I believe my vision of Real End User Computing is achievable

The workshop was inspiring.

However before I get carried away I am not advocating this is all you need to do to generate new ideas and make them a reality. You still to need to ensure that they produce a coherent whole, create enabling capabilities that could be used elsewhere in other ideas, for example process management capabilities. You don't want to end up building vertical silo ideas, services and capabilities. Who wants to end up with three process management capabilities with 3 times the implementation and operating/maintenance costs. Not good.

So you need to ensure all this is underpinned by good old Enterprise Architecture models, frameworks and governance. These will help to turn prototypes into pilots into full scale services. If we don't do this there will be anarchy. A good post by The Enterprising Architect on Is Architecture the Enemy of Innovation shows how the two can and should work together

This workshop was simple to setup and execute but was exciting, interesting and inspiring. I am really looking forward to seeing some of the ideas being taken forward and to the next innovation speed dating workshop.

My Vision - Real End User Computing

I have a vision of what IT in the future will look like that I like to call “Real End User Computing” REUC. This is not End User Computing or Shadow IT done by a sub-set of an organization and sometimes embraced by IT or blocked. No it is much more than that.

Real End User Computing” is in a world where the suppliers of IT provide reusable business services that consumers can mashup to provide any number of solutions to meet their business needs. IT simply just keeps the lights on.

It is the evolution of the APIs we now see. For example in GoogleMaps , FaceBook and the iPhone. However in this world these are not technical APIs for technically savvy people to use. They are business APIs where business knowledge and understanding is what you really need to know. The interface to use these and create new capabilities is simple and non-technical. These types of platform exist today in one form or another – Microsoft Silverliight, Force.com, etc. This is the evolution of what is current.

It is the evolution of the operating system up the technology stack. REUC resides in a world where we will have a financial operating system with financial business services to use, government operating systems, retail operating systems. All providing business services, not technical services, and the ability to join them up in any number of ways. For example you can add information created in one business services to another. A user can orchestrate business services and at decision points raise tasks in the task service for management in the task management service which is displayed in the business portal service.

Putting the power of creation in the hands of the consumers of IT. Allowing them to experiment and create new, often unthought of, capabilities adding value to an organization. The suppliers of IT keep the lights on and add more business services for the consumers of IT, if required. So no longer do IT create solutions they create services for consumers of IT to use to create solutions.

You will need to ensure you publish and have the right business services at the right level, not too big or too granular. This will require the disciplined usage of Enterprise Architecture to ensure coverage. consistency, re-use and interoperability of the services. Get this right and REUC can become a reality

REUC is my vision of the future of IT and I believe it is achievable.

What's your vision of the future of IT?

Why do organizations have an innovation function?

I was at an event this week and where there was lots of talk about needing to be innovative. This phrase sometimes confuses and other times irritates me. People seem to use it as a nirvana for doing things better. It is as though what they have been doing previously was not doing things better or innovative.

To try and understand what others thought of innovation I did a couple of tweets on Twitter on this very subject. What came back was to me a very good definition of innovation

Not business as usual that adds value”

Now call be old fashioned but isn't that what the human race has been doing since the dawn of time? It is what makes us what we are. The invention of the wheel was innovative, Newton's laws were innovative, the PC was innovative. In fact finding a better way to get to work maybe faster, more economical, less stressful is innovative.

To me innovation is what we all do everyday. Doing things better, smarter or in a more interesting way.

So when organizations say the need to be innovative or embrace innovation it really confuses me. Surely you must have been innovative to get to where you are today? Even if that was copying someone else's idea. That is also innovative.

From a technology perspective you see many organizations that have a function that covers strategy, architecture and innovation. My view is that the art of doing strategy and architecture is innovative so why do you actually need a function dedicated to it?

As I said innovation is part of being human. It is part of life. We are all innovative so why do we need to try and seek it?