11 years, 3 days ago

Enterprise Architecture Leaders’ Interview Series – Q&A with Gil Long

Enterprise Architecture Leaders’ Interview Series – Q&A with Gil Long

I caught up with Gil Long who has served IBM as a Business Development Executive, Distinguished Engineer and CIO Office Chief Enterprise Architecture leader. As the Worldwide Enterprise Architecture Community Leader, he specialized in architecture governance, strategic architecture design and infrastructure transition planning. He was responsible for IBM’s enterprise architecture strategy and planning service offerings, global enterprise architecture training programs, and functioned as a member of IBM’s Architect Certification Board.

Gil has had direct management responsibility for large IT organizations and staffing, and substantial ongoing budget accountability. His multi-industry experience includes international banking, securities, education, retail, healthcare, insurance, utilities, manufacturing, semi-conductor, airlines, telecommunications and government.

Gil is a competitive aerobatics and commercial pilot.

In many years of your experience across hundreds of customers, what is the fundamental thing that organizations miss about Enterprise Architecture?
Understanding the value of EA is often an issue.  The value is not only about reducing IT cost, but investing in innovative ways to improve the business. In my opinion, many companies do not understand what EA is!

EA needs the buy-in from upper management, but most upper managements think it is merely a technical or standards issue, and miss the point that it covers all aspects of business and technical structure and management. It is very important to have someone at the sponsorship level who understands what EA is and what value it brings.

In your experience what has been one of the most remarkable transformations enabled by Enterprise Architecture?
Obviously, I am intimately familiar with IBM’s EA and how it has influenced multiple internal transformations.  I shared with you the IBM Transformation Story. Great showcase!

I have seen many other transformations in the client world.  One involved the consolidation of 90 companies (utilities) into a common footprint!  Generally, the more complex the environment, the greater the benefit EA can deliver.

What do you think is one of the most underrated aspects of Enterprise Architecture? 
The leadership role that an Enterprise Architect can provide to the organization.

For an aspiring Enterprise Architect, what are some key things she needs to start working on right now?
[-] Understand what EA is and what value it brings to the organization.

[-] Get EA training. You could start with understanding TOGAF, which is an internationally recognized standard for Enterprise Architecture.

[-] Get certified if you can, it could establish your credibility both within and outside your organization.

[-] Develop strong relationships with stakeholders that are impacted by EA. Its importance cannot be overstated. Involve them in the process.

[-] Understand your industry. Industries have their own context, business process models, histories, politics and challenges. Understanding your industry gives you an edge when working with partners across the company.

[-] Work on your communication skills. Always put yourself in the shoes of your audience. Communicate in a way that the listener will understand. Your message should be simple, concise and actionable, and answer the question, ‘What’s in it for me?’.

[-] An Enterprise Architect needs to stand up and speak, evangelize ideas, develop consensus, work across boundaries. Do not throw up your hands and quit, or be draconian and say if I don’t get what I want, the world will come to an end!

Do you think Enterprise Architecture has a brand issue?
Yes, the name itself implies it is a technical concept, rather than an overall business concept. The word “architecture” conjures an image of a guy with his head down, drawing a complex picture! The word “enterprise” can also be a bit vague.  The enterprise represents the totality of the business; including business partners, customers and other stakeholders, and the infrastructure they use to accomplish their objectives.

However, a good Enterprise Architect will be able to explain EA to anyone in terms they can understand.

At the risk of drawing you into the “war of EA frameworks”, how important is the EA framework brand to you? 

IBM’s EA Method and Framework are important to me, since IBM ‘invented’ EA in the 1980’s and participated in the internationalization of EA via TOGAF involvement.  All frameworks have something to offer, but they essentially are all true to the same basic EA concepts. 
You should select one EA approach for your enterprise, and TOGAF, the international standard for EA, is generally accepted across all industries worldwide.

You have quite a collection of funny “ditties”! Which one is your favorite?
I have many favorites, but the “You are here!” picture always gets a laugh from architects :-)

How many countries have you traveled to, for business? Which one was the most unique?
Fifty three countries!  I’ve had so many wonderful experiences in these countries.  Each had its challenges and rewards.  Istanbul (banking) was unique, as was China (telecom), as was Taiwan (semiconductor), and Hawaii (education) … working from the top of a mountain overlooking Pearl Harbor.  Also, Prague, with a mixture of former communist and democratic staff, and South Africa (banking). Although cultures can vary from place to place, I find that the Enterprise Architects are universally smart, enthusiastic and hungry for knowledge about EA.
I smile when I think about nap time on sleeping mats during lunch in China, and loud cell phone conversations going on during a serious lecture!!  What is normal in some countries is unusual in others.
Had to ask this – tell us a little bit about your flying hobby and what are your flying plans for 2013?
Just got back from Sun-n-Fun in Lakeland, Florida (major fly-in with thousands of airplanes).  Next stop is Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the largest fly-in in the US, and possibly the world.  
I practice aerobatics every week and feel quite comfortable being upside down, like any good Enterprise Architect :-)
I hope you all enjoyed my interview with Gil Long. As usual, please keep your comments and feedback coming, I love to hear from you – whether you agree with me or not! Thank you for reading.