9 years, 5 months ago

Five principles I use to plan my day

Make the day enjoyable! Doing my work outdoor with a hot drink.Have you ever invested a lot of effort to get into your dream college but then sloughed through it because there were just too many interesting classes and you ended up taking more than you…

9 years, 5 months ago

Where the CIO sits makes no difference to EA?

Photo titled “sit where you want”.  Pretty apt for this article!
(photo credit: DorteF)

Enterprise Architecture deals with the blueprint of enterprises, so it might make sense that the blueprint function sits close to the Chief Executive Officer in the organization chart to ensure alignment between planning and execution. Is there a correlation between where the Chief Enterprise Architect sits in the organization chart and the Enterprise Architecture maturity of that enterprise?

Figure 1 shows the data from an interview of almost 20 government agencies that included questions about their EA maturity as well as the number of layers between their CEO and Chief EA.  No clear pattern can be identified from the interview data.  Some might even argue that having two to four layers between the CEO and the Chief EA is the best!


Figure 1 Relationship between Chief EA’s distance to CEO and EA Maturity

In addition, my discussions with a researcher from Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests the same finding: that there has been no support in data of correlation between an organization’s Chief EA’s proximity to the CEO and its EA maturity.


Does this mean that it does not matter where the chief EA sits in organizations? In many organizations, the Chief Information Officer is the chief EA, so does that also mean that it does not matter where the CIO sits in organizations?

Through the interviews, I noticed that the organizations who reported having mature EA roughly falls into three groups. The first group is made up of organizations with very influential CIOs who reported either directly into the CEO or to a direct report of the CEO. The second group has stories of their CEO believing strongly in EA, and pushed the EA agenda top-down. The third group consists of organizations that I was not clear why they reported high maturity for their EA. It might be a lack of understanding on my part, but I also suspect some of them are still early in their EA journey and thus not yet equipped to provide an accurate assessment of their EA maturity.

Analyzing the mature organizations gives the following thought: where the chief EA sits is less important to an organization’s EA maturity than EA’s mindshare among senior managers. If the CEO believes in EA, the organization is more likely to have mature EA. If the CIO is influential and believes in EA, it is more likely that he can influence the CEO to think the same. The challenge though is that it is difficult to measure EA’s mindshare among senior managers, but this does reinforce an often-repeated EA best practice on the importance of gaining top management’s sponsorship to achieve successful EA implementation.

9 years, 5 months ago

Where the CIO sits makes no difference to EA?

Photo titled “sit where you want”.  Pretty apt for this article!
(photo credit: DorteF)

Enterprise Architecture deals with the blueprint of enterprises, so it might make sense that the blueprint function sits close to the Chief Executive Officer in the organization chart to ensure alignment between planning and execution. Is there a correlation between where the Chief Enterprise Architect sits in the organization chart and the Enterprise Architecture maturity of that enterprise?

Figure 1 shows the data from an interview of almost 20 government agencies that included questions about their EA maturity as well as the number of layers between their CEO and Chief EA.  No clear pattern can be identified from the interview data.  Some might even argue that having two to four layers between the CEO and the Chief EA is the best!


Figure 1 Relationship between Chief EA’s distance to CEO and EA Maturity

In addition, my discussions with a researcher from Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests the same finding: that there has been no support in data of correlation between an organization’s Chief EA’s proximity to the CEO and its EA maturity.

Does this mean that it does not matter where the chief EA sits in organizations? In many organizations, the Chief Information Officer is the chief EA, so does that also mean that it does not matter where the CIO sits in organizations?

Through the interviews, I noticed that the organizations who reported having mature EA roughly falls into three groups. The first group is made up of organizations with very influential CIOs who reported either directly into the CEO or to a direct report of the CEO. The second group has stories of their CEO believing strongly in EA, and pushed the EA agenda top-down. The third group consists of organizations that I was not clear why they reported high maturity for their EA. It might be a lack of understanding on my part, but I also suspect some of them are still early in their EA journey and thus not yet equipped to provide an accurate assessment of their EA maturity.

Analyzing the mature organizations gives the following thought: where the chief EA sits is less important to an organization’s EA maturity than EA’s mindshare among senior managers. If the CEO believes in EA, the organization is more likely to have mature EA. If the CIO is influential and believes in EA, it is more likely that he can influence the CEO to think the same. The challenge though is that it is difficult to measure EA’s mindshare among senior managers, but this does reinforce an often-repeated EA best practice on the importance of gaining top management’s sponsorship to achieve successful EA implementation.

9 years, 6 months ago

The Journey from Visibility to Governance to Standardization to Reuse

Firms need to have a single picture to guide their efforts, to build a “foundation for execution” as described in Enterprise Architecture as Strategy[1].  It is not enough to have a single picture of the vision, mission and strategies of the firm.  Firms will need to decide what business processes need to be standardized and what data need to be integrated.  There is no right answer, but not having a common picture will mean that different parts of the firm will be building to their own visions.

However, I noticed through my interviews with CIOs that not many companies had this single picture.  In fact, on probing further, some of them were not able to provide a high-level, organization-wide view of their organizations’ processes.  As such, I postulated that organizations must mature through two stages before they can get to the standardization (and integration) stage. 

Even star war troopers need mirrors!
photo credit: Kalexanderson
Firstly, they need to firstly establish an organization-wide, regularly updated view of the current situation in their organizations.  This is akin to individuals looking into the mirror to decide what to change about their appearances.  Similarly, organizations need visibility into their current state before they can decide what to standardize and what to leave alone.  This is not a trivial exercise, especially in large organizations.  Creating a current view from scratch can take months; keeping the view updated as the organization changes is an even bigger challenge.

Can you tell if something is out of line?
photo credit: chekobero
Second, organizations also need to have strong governance processes in place, so that changes to existing processes and data are channeled through a common approval body.  How can any organization standardize unless all changes and new initiatives are checked against standardization requirements?  In many of the organizations I studied that had mature EA practices, the organizations had strong governance in place.  The Enterprise Architecture team was involved in approving new business initiatives, to ensure that the initiatives are not deviating from the organization’s standardization and integration vision.  Without such a governance framework in place, standardization is just talk that has no teeth to be realized.  It is possible for organizations to have strong governance first before having visibility.  However, as mentioned above, organizations will need to establish visibility before they can move into the standardization stage.

Re-use seems to be a long way off for many organizations.  Or is it?  Maybe a iterative approach with fast and short iterations will work?  I will be keen to hear from your experience of standardization and reuse.

[1] Enterprise Architecture as Strategy by Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill and David C. Robertson    

9 years, 6 months ago

The Journey from Visibility to Governance to Standardization to Reuse

Firms need to have a single picture to guide their efforts, to build a “foundation for execution” as described in Enterprise Architecture as Strategy[1].  It is not enough to have a single picture of the vision, mission and strategies of the firm.  Firms will need to decide what business processes need to be standardized and what data need to be integrated.  There is no right answer, but not having a common picture will mean that different parts of the firm will be building to their own visions.

However, I noticed through my interviews with CIOs that not many companies had this single picture.  In fact, on probing further, some of them were not able to provide a high-level, organization-wide view of their organizations’ processes.  As such, I postulated that organizations must mature through two stages before they can get to the standardization (and integration) stage. 

Even star war troopers need mirrors!
photo credit: Kalexanderson
Firstly, they need to firstly establish an organization-wide, regularly updated view of the current situation in their organizations.  This is akin to individuals looking into the mirror to decide what to change about their appearances.  Similarly, organizations need visibility into their current state before they can decide what to standardize and what to leave alone.  This is not a trivial exercise, especially in large organizations.  Creating a current view from scratch can take months; keeping the view updated as the organization changes is an even bigger challenge.

Can you tell if something is out of line?
photo credit: chekobero
Second, organizations also need to have strong governance processes in place, so that changes to existing processes and data are channeled through a common approval body.  How can any organization standardize unless all changes and new initiatives are checked against standardization requirements?  In many of the organizations I studied that had mature EA practices, the organizations had strong governance in place.  The Enterprise Architecture team was involved in approving new business initiatives, to ensure that the initiatives are not deviating from the organization’s standardization and integration vision.  Without such a governance framework in place, standardization is just talk that has no teeth to be realized.  It is possible for organizations to have strong governance first before having visibility.  However, as mentioned above, organizations will need to establish visibility before they can move into the standardization stage.

Re-use seems to be a long way off for many organizations.  Or is it?  Maybe a iterative approach with fast and short iterations will work?  I will be keen to hear from your experience of standardization and reuse.

[1] Enterprise Architecture as Strategy by Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill and David C. Robertson    

9 years, 6 months ago

Five gamification ideas to better engage your audience

Can you captivate your audience?
(photo credit: apogee photography)

Gamification has been all the hype for me in the past months, as it got prominently mentioned in several of the classes I took.  Are there anything valuable one can take from it after digging past the marketing hype?  My classmates and I worked together over the past few months to formulate five recommendations for a financial firm, on how it could use gamification to better engage its customers in the use of its financial planning tools.  The company loved our recommendations, and we felt that the same recommendations can be applied in many different settings.  So here they are for you to try in your own settings.

#1 Focus on the first minute

The first minute a new user interacts with the tool is extremely important, as it decides if the user will continue using the tool or if he will go somewhere else. The firm thus needs a clear idea of what it wants new users to experience during that first minute.  In the first minute, the user should not experience long, boring instructions.  He should not experience painful registration processes, or hard-to-understand terms and conditions.  Instead, he should experience the core experience of the tool.  If the core experience is fun and interactivity, he should experience it.  If the core experience is easing his financial planning tasks, he should experience it.

The challenge for delivering the experience is that there are no definite points on the firm’s website where users will enter. Users can come in through the company’s main webpage, or to the planning tools’ landing page, or even directly to one of the planning tools. How then can the firm deliver consistent first minute experience to first time users? One idea is to have a prominent button on all webpages that will take first time users to a starter page. Another idea is to focus on the navigation menu on the side or top, since it shows up on all webpages.

As part of the first minute experience, the website can ask meaningful questions to help users navigate the sea of content available. One possible question is “What are you planning to save for?” and the choices can be “Buying a car”, “Getting married”, “Buying a house”, “Children’s education”, “Retirement”, etc. Based on the user’s choice, he can be taken to content that is most relevant to what he is trying to accomplish. These questions can be asked proactively (e.g. via a pop-up questionnaire) or passively (e.g. as a section of text on a webpage). 

#2: Leverage on users’ current concerns

We interviewed 25 users on their financial planning priorities, and many of them were more concerned with near term goals like “buying a car” or “getting married” than they are with long term goals of retirement planning. These life-stage events present precious windows of opportunity that can be leveraged to deepen users’ engagement with the tool. Minimally, users will grow more familiar with the tool’s user interface. More importantly, relevant user information (e.g. amount to save each month) can be collected, which increase the chances of them coming back in the future for other related financial planning tasks.

Games implement this idea through “Challenges and Quests”, like FourSquare’s badges and Farmville’s ribbons. Through challenges and quests, users are focused on smaller and more immediate tasks, and they might use the system for tasks even though they are not interested in the system (yet…). 

#3: Provide feedback using a progress bar

Business networking site LinkedIn has a visual indicator telling users how complete their professional profile is. If a user only provided his education information, his profile might be tagged as “20% complete”. If he has included his work experience, it might be “50% complete”. This progress bar is very helpful in helping users know how complete their profiles are, and it taps on inherent motivations in humans to complete tasks.

The tool can take on similar concept: tag users as “20% complete” if he provides his monthly savings goal, “50% complete” if he adds his current assets, and so on.

LinkedIn also frames this concept using a different idea. It includes an “Improve your profile” button on users’ profile pages, and when users click on the button, it shows a number of “To-dos” that users can do to improve their profiles, highlighting the first to-do task. This is an excellent way of focusing users to the next bite-size task they can focus on to improve their profiles. 

#4: Give more free rewards, more often

It is very hard to motivate people to plan for something that will only happen 40 years later. It is said that people spend more time planning for their vacations than they do for retirement, and it is not hard to believe that, because 40 years is a very long time! It is also very easy for other tasks to take precedence since in comparison; all other tasks are more urgent.

One way around this challenge is to help users break down their long financial planning journey into “levels”, and reward users each time they attain a new level.  Thus the concept “more rewards, more often”.  For example, a user might promote into the next level when he has setup an investment plan, or if he has re-balanced his portfolio at least once in the past year.

The reward can be monetary, based on the firm’s estimation of the lifetime value of such a customer.  But there are also many other “free” rewards. The book “Gamification by Design” laid out four categories of rewards strung together by the acronym “SAPS”. Figure 1 lists the four categories along with some examples.

Reward Category

Examples

Status

Badges, Levels

Access

Lunch with CEO or celebrity, Access to the firm’s clubs, Priority queue at banks

Power

Moderator on a forum, more say in what new features to include in the tool

Stuff

Freebies

Figure 1 Four Categories of Rewards

#5: Define an engagement score

How can the firm know the impact of its gamification efforts unless it measures it? An engagement score should measure more than just the conventional page views or number of unique visitors. It should also measure how much time users spend on the website, how often they return to it, if they have registered accounts, etc. A good way to create the engagement score is to think along five dimensions: recency, frequency, duration, virality and ratings (detailed in the book “Gamification by design”).

With a good engagement score, the firm can measure where it is at before it implements gamification, and later have a clear way to assess the effectiveness of the gamification efforts. In addition, the score will also be useful for incremental calibrations, as the firm experiments with tweaks in its engagement efforts.

References

[1] Gamification by Design, “Implementing Game Mechanics in Web and Mobile Apps” By Gabe Zichermann, Christopher Cunningham
[2] Lee, H., Schlossberg, E., Seelhof, M., Teo, K. S., & Wong, M. F. (2012). Fidelity Engagement and Gamification. MIT.

One of my classmates who worked on this project also wrote about the project on his blog, check out his article “Are You Game?“.

9 years, 6 months ago

Five gamification ideas to better engage your audience

Can you captivate your audience?
(photo credit: apogee photography)

Gamification has been all the hype for me in the past months, as it got prominently mentioned in several of the classes I took.  Are there anything valuable one can take from it after digging past the marketing hype?  My classmates and I worked together over the past few months to formulate five recommendations for a financial firm, on how it could use gamification to better engage its customers in the use of its financial planning tools.  The company loved our recommendations, and we felt that the same recommendations can be applied in many different settings.  So here they are for you to try in your own settings.

#1 Focus on the first minute

The first minute a new user interacts with the tool is extremely important, as it decides if the user will continue using the tool or if he will go somewhere else. The firm thus needs a clear idea of what it wants new users to experience during that first minute.  In the first minute, the user should not experience long, boring instructions.  He should not experience painful registration processes, or hard-to-understand terms and conditions.  Instead, he should experience the core experience of the tool.  If the core experience is fun and interactivity, he should experience it.  If the core experience is easing his financial planning tasks, he should experience it.

The challenge for delivering the experience is that there are no definite points on the firm’s website where users will enter. Users can come in through the company’s main webpage, or to the planning tools’ landing page, or even directly to one of the planning tools. How then can the firm deliver consistent first minute experience to first time users? One idea is to have a prominent button on all webpages that will take first time users to a starter page. Another idea is to focus on the navigation menu on the side or top, since it shows up on all webpages.

As part of the first minute experience, the website can ask meaningful questions to help users navigate the sea of content available. One possible question is “What are you planning to save for?” and the choices can be “Buying a car”, “Getting married”, “Buying a house”, “Children’s education”, “Retirement”, etc. Based on the user’s choice, he can be taken to content that is most relevant to what he is trying to accomplish. These questions can be asked proactively (e.g. via a pop-up questionnaire) or passively (e.g. as a section of text on a webpage). 

#2: Leverage on users’ current concerns

We interviewed 25 users on their financial planning priorities, and many of them were more concerned with near term goals like “buying a car” or “getting married” than they are with long term goals of retirement planning. These life-stage events present precious windows of opportunity that can be leveraged to deepen users’ engagement with the tool. Minimally, users will grow more familiar with the tool’s user interface. More importantly, relevant user information (e.g. amount to save each month) can be collected, which increase the chances of them coming back in the future for other related financial planning tasks.

Games implement this idea through “Challenges and Quests”, like FourSquare’s badges and Farmville’s ribbons. Through challenges and quests, users are focused on smaller and more immediate tasks, and they might use the system for tasks even though they are not interested in the system (yet…). 

#3: Provide feedback using a progress bar

Business networking site LinkedIn has a visual indicator telling users how complete their professional profile is. If a user only provided his education information, his profile might be tagged as “20% complete”. If he has included his work experience, it might be “50% complete”. This progress bar is very helpful in helping users know how complete their profiles are, and it taps on inherent motivations in humans to complete tasks.

The tool can take on similar concept: tag users as “20% complete” if he provides his monthly savings goal, “50% complete” if he adds his current assets, and so on.

LinkedIn also frames this concept using a different idea. It includes an “Improve your profile” button on users’ profile pages, and when users click on the button, it shows a number of “To-dos” that users can do to improve their profiles, highlighting the first to-do task. This is an excellent way of focusing users to the next bite-size task they can focus on to improve their profiles. 

#4: Give more free rewards, more often

It is very hard to motivate people to plan for something that will only happen 40 years later. It is said that people spend more time planning for their vacations than they do for retirement, and it is not hard to believe that, because 40 years is a very long time! It is also very easy for other tasks to take precedence since in comparison; all other tasks are more urgent.

One way around this challenge is to help users break down their long financial planning journey into “levels”, and reward users each time they attain a new level.  Thus the concept “more rewards, more often”.  For example, a user might promote into the next level when he has setup an investment plan, or if he has re-balanced his portfolio at least once in the past year.

The reward can be monetary, based on the firm’s estimation of the lifetime value of such a customer.  But there are also many other “free” rewards. The book “Gamification by Design” laid out four categories of rewards strung together by the acronym “SAPS”. Figure 1 lists the four categories along with some examples.

Reward Category

Examples

Status

Badges, Levels

Access

Lunch with CEO or celebrity, Access to the firm’s clubs, Priority queue at banks

Power

Moderator on a forum, more say in what new features to include in the tool

Stuff

Freebies

Figure 1 Four Categories of Rewards

#5: Define an engagement score

How can the firm know the impact of its gamification efforts unless it measures it? An engagement score should measure more than just the conventional page views or number of unique visitors. It should also measure how much time users spend on the website, how often they return to it, if they have registered accounts, etc. A good way to create the engagement score is to think along five dimensions: recency, frequency, duration, virality and ratings (detailed in the book “Gamification by design”).

With a good engagement score, the firm can measure where it is at before it implements gamification, and later have a clear way to assess the effectiveness of the gamification efforts. In addition, the score will also be useful for incremental calibrations, as the firm experiments with tweaks in its engagement efforts.

References

[1] Gamification by Design, “Implementing Game Mechanics in Web and Mobile Apps” By Gabe Zichermann, Christopher Cunningham
[2] Lee, H., Schlossberg, E., Seelhof, M., Teo, K. S., & Wong, M. F. (2012). Fidelity Engagement and Gamification. MIT.

One of my classmates who worked on this project also wrote about the project on his blog, check out his article “Are You Game?“.

9 years, 7 months ago

What impacts should Enterprise Architecture have?

Footprints on fresh snow(photo credit: dru!)Walking on fresh snow is one of my favorite activities, as I enjoy leaving the first footprints in the soft, fluffy snow.  My impact on the snow is evident to those that come after me.  What impacts…

9 years, 7 months ago

Telltale Signs of Organizations with Strong EA

Footprints on fresh snow
(photo credit: dru!)

Walking on fresh snow is one of my favorite activities, as I enjoy leaving the first footprints in the soft, fluffy snow.  My impact on the snow is evident to those that come after me.  What impacts should EA have on organizations?  What do EA’s footprints look like?  Here are answers from three authoritative sources, on tell tale signs that an organization has effective EA.

1. Clarity on Long-term Plans

The book “Enterprise Architecture as Strategy” believes that enterprise architecture help organizations focus on building strategic capabilities, instead of constantly being distracted by immediate needs. It does that by providing a long-term view of an organization’s processes, systems and technologies [1].  This clarity works hand-in-hand with strong governance to help organizations achieve future states they desire.

Following on this point, EA should also enable organizations to have clarity on current capabilities.  Without this clarity, organizations end up building capabilities that they already have, or capabilities that are not supported by their existing processes, systems and technologies.

2. Strategic, Responsive and Cheap IT 

CIO.com sees that enterprise architecture makes IT cheaper, more strategic and responsive, and help promote alignment, standardization and re-use of IT assets [2].  This builds on the clarity mentioned in the previous point, such that IT works on what matters, is positioned for the future and designed to maximize reuse and reduce duplication.

3. Agile

Gartner sees enterprise architecture as a change enabler by “by creating, communicating and improving the key requirements, principles and models that describe the enterprise’s future state and enable its evolution.” [3]  In a way this is similar to #2, but this brings the impact beyond IT to the entire organization.

Other Impacts?

What other impacts should EA have?

References

1. Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution, Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill, David Robertson
2. Enterprise Architecture on CIO.com, http://www.cio.com/topic/3020/Enterprise_architecture
3. Gartner’s Definition of Enterprise Architecture, http://www.gartner.com/it-glossary/enterprise-architecture-ea/