11 years, 1 month ago

BPM & EA Conference London, 2013 – My Learning Experience

Last week I attended the Enterprise Architecture and BPM conference in London, probably first of its kind of joint conference organised by folks at IRM UK. I have been attending IRM European Enterprise Architecture Conference since 2005 and have witnessed it grow and mature over past 7 or 8 years. I would like to think of IRM Europe EA Conference as the “Open Source”version compared to other EA conferences which appear more “Proprietary” in their subject matter and presentation. IRM conference seems to be a more open and welcoming of a range of diverse views and opinions which are dominating current and future EA scene. 

Amit with John Zachman @ IRM UK Conference
So what did I learn in this year’s conference? By now “the traditional” John Zachman’s session on day one was as always one of the highlights of the event for me. John was his self; passionate and energetic for the cause of Enterprise Architecture. His session demonstrated Enterprise Architecture progressiveness of thinking, purpose, flexibility and sheer focus on the business relevance of Enterprise Architecture. This year John’s session was around the new Zachman Framework (version 3) and emphasizing the framework as Ontology and not as a process or method. Zachman is not a methodology, it is a scheme for classification of Enterprise aspects or components. In his own words, Zachman framework schema technically is an Ontology, a theory of the existence of a structured set of essential components of an object for which explicit expression is necessary for design, operating and changing the object (object being an Enterprise or department or value chain, solution, project, building etc)”. 

John was very clear to point out that a framework does not do anything on its own, it is a simple classification of an object. One needs to have set of methodologies to create the Ontology or classification per a schema, in this instance Zachman. I think he also very succinctly pointed out differences between Zachman and TOGAF, underlining importance of a methodology and process offered by TOGAF to enable the classification of Enterprise components.  By the way, just to clarify we are not discussing Enterprise Architecture limited to IT only, we are discussing it in the broader sense of wider business and organisation. If it was not clear already, John very clearly stated at the start of the session that Enterprise Architecture is not just about IT. We discussed where and who is best placed to undertake such as exercise? According to John, an executive in charge of managing change within the Enterprise should be the sponsor of Enterprise Architecture efforts. 

On this point, following session by Chris Potts was so interesting. Chris picked up the discussions promptly where John had left it, probably not by design. Chris very early on set the stall and clarified that the ultimate sponsor of Enterprise Architecture should be the Chief Executive, as his books make it clear, Chief Executive of an Organisation is the ultimate Enterprise Architect of that Enterprise. Chris then went onto cover some of the influencing tactics of EA. He discussed the example of Burberry as a successful Enterprise the role its chief designer Chris Bailey has played in it. He liked the role of this designer to Enterprise Architect. We talked about the consistency of the brand for Burberry, right from its website, to its promotions, to its shops and how value proposition of Enterprise Architecture must have made the difference for that business. 

We then discussed the Enterprise Investment as the End-to-End process and how Enterprise Architects should be differentiating between different stakeholder perspectives; e.g. Investor perspective and expectations vs. that of Program Manager perspective and expectations.  To me this was one of the key takeaways; how best can Enterprise Architect be relevant to Enterprise objectives and various perspectives to offer best possible value proposition. As a juggler of many conflicting priorities, “play or pass” discussion was also very important. If you are an Enterprise Architect, you are playing a rare role and there are not many resources like you in the Enterprise. How best can you deploy this resource to maximize your effectiveness and influence? Chris proposed four criteria to measure the influence and effectiveness: does EA contribution lead to substantial innovation? Does this boost the overall Enterprise performance? Does it help the Investor perspective? And where can EA be having maximum influence as a result of playing the “game”. The dashboard to summarize this I thought was very useful. 

There were a number of interesting case studies which I thought demonstrated new EA practices and new EA thinking. I particularly liked the Bath and North East Somerset Council, JPMorgan, Credit Suisse and EDF cases as they discussed real problems which we as EA face and how they overcame them. This year was unique in the sense that, IRM had combined the EAC and BPM conference and to me this was almost a bonus as under the same roof, I not only could listen to EA experts and practitioners but also listen to BPM experts such as Paul Harmon and Roger Burlton. Paul’s session on “State of BPM” and Roger’s session on “Business Capabilities” was particularly outstanding while I thought case studies from Mars, BA on BPM were excellent too. I will try to summarize above mentioned session in future posts as I think they do deserve a separate analysis dedicated for topics which they presented and discussed. 

Despite of me being an Enterprise Architecture practitioner for the past ten years, listening to fellow EA practitioners is like a learning experience for me. Their problems, their approaches, their pragmatism hopefully helps me negotiate that next tricky curve. As someone said during the conference, the field of Enterprise Architecture is still so young compared other established science or arts disciplines. There is lot to learn for all of us and learning experiences such as these indeed help.

All and all certainly a conference well worth attending and my personal congratulations to IRM UK, Conference Chair Chris Potts, Conference Panel Team for putting together one of the most relevant and modern  and open EA conference. And my personal thanks to number of speakers and practitioners who shared their knowledge, experiences and views over 3 or 4 days. I will certainly recommend readers of this blog to enroll for next conference!