Saturday, April 18, 2015

Arguing with Drucker

@sheldrake via @cybersal challenges Peter Drucker on the purpose of business.

"Peter Drucker asserted that the purpose of business is to create and keep a customer. He was right at the time in offering previously inward-looking firms a more appropriate beacon. His dictum is, however, wrong for our time."

Philip Sheldrake's challenge is based on two points.

1. A concern with the health and resilience of living systems such as organizations, society and the environment.

2. The need to recognize and understand complexity.

I completely agree with these points, but I do not think they contradict Drucker's original statement of purpose. As the webpage cited by Philip indicates, Drucker always called for a healthy balance - between short-term needs and long-term sustainability - and I think he would argue that a concern for resilience and the need to understand complexity were entailed by a customer-centric purpose.

Philip proposes an alternative purpose: Business exists to establish and drive mutual value creation. My problem with this alternative formulation is that it fails to answer Lenin's fundamental question: Who, Whom? There are businesses and business networks today whose purpose appears to be to mutually enrich a small number of mutually back-scratching executives at the expense of everyone else, including customers and retail shareholders. Drucker would not approve.

A statement of purpose is essentially an ethical statement (what is the value of the business) not an instrumental statement (what is needed to deliver this value). So let me propose an alternative ethic, a compromise between Drucker and Sheldrake, based on the wise saying of Hillel the Elder.

1. If a business is only for itself, what is it?
 (Expresses a concern for customers and society)

2. If a business is not for itself, who is for it?  
(Which may entail a concern for resilience and complexity)

3. If not now, when?  
(Expresses a concern for a balance between the present and the future)

Philip Sheldrake, What, exactly, is the purpose of business? An answer post-Drucker (April 2015)

Peter Drucker's Life and Legacy (Drucker Institute, retrieved 18 April 2015)

Wikipedia: Hillel the Elder, POSIWID, Who, Whom?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

From Coincidensity to Consilience

In my post From Convenience to Consilience - “Technology Alone Is Not Enough"  (October 2011), I praised Steve Jobs for his role in the design of the Pixar campus, whose physical layout was intended to bring different specialists together in serendipitous interactions.

Thanks to @jhagel and @CoCreatr, I have just read a blogpost by @StoweBoyd commenting on a related project at Google to build a new Googleplex. Because this is Google, this is a bottom-up data-driven project: it is based on a predicted metric of coincidensity, which is sometimes defined as the likelihood of serendipity.

With the right technology (for example, electronic monitoring of the corridors and/or tagging of employees), a corporation like Google can easily monitor and control “casual collisions of the work force”.

But as Ilkka Kakko (@Serendipitor) points out, such measures of coincidensity cannot be equated with true serendipity. I wonder whether Google will be able to correlate casual meetings with enhanced knowledge and understanding, and measure the consequent quantity and quality of innovation? And then reconfigure the campus to improve the results? Hm.

However, the principle of designing physical spaces for human activity rather than for visual elegance is a good one, as is the notion of evidence-based design. Form following function.

Stowe Boyd, Building From The Inside Out (February 2013)

Paul Goldberger, Exclusive Preview: Google’s New Built-from-Scratch Googleplex (Vanity Fair, February 2013)

Ilkka Kakko, Are we reducing the magic of serendipity to the logic of coincidence? (April 2013)

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

On the CMO-CIO disconnect

A study from Accenture exposes a disconnect between the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), with only one in 10 of the executives surveyed being satisfied with the current level of collaboration between CMOs and CIOs.

Key findings of the study, based on a survey of 400 senior marketing and 250 information technology (IT) executives in 10 countries, include:

  • CMOs believe IT doesn’t make the marketing function a priority.
  • More than thirty percent of CMOs believe IT keeps marketing out of the loop and does not make time and technical resources available.
  • Thirty six percent of CMOs say IT deliverables fall short of expectations.
  • Forty six percent of CIOs say marketing does not provide an adequate level of business requirements.
  • Despite CIOs appearing more open to engaging with CMOs, only 45 percent of CIOs say that supporting marketing is near or at the top of their list of priorities.

Accenture argues that this disconnect threatens the ability of companies to deliver effective customer experiences, and suggests some ways for CIOs and CMOs to work more effectively together.

The report contains some interesting hints of cognitive differences between the two functions. Take for example the concept of "requirement". On the one hand, marketing wants IT to respond faster and more flexibly to "market requirements". Whereas IT complains that marketing doesn't provide adequate and stable definition of "business requirements". This indicates a clash between two conflicting notions of what counts as a legitimate requirement, and the Accenture report doesn't explicitly suggest a resolution of this conflict.

There are also interesting differences in the implied value system. The marketing function tends to place higher value on hard-to-quantify business benefits such as "customer insight", whereas the IT function tends to place higher value on hygiene factors such as privacy and security. In both cases, these priorities may be influenced by the way budgets and targets are allocated to each function by the organization as a whole, and the ways in which different kinds of investment and operational expenditure can be legitimately cost-justified. Let us imagine that in a particular organization, the CIO can only justify investing in a new Customer Insight system if she can show that this system will produce measurable improvements in business outcomes. Whereas the CMO can only justify devoting any resources to customer privacy if she can show that security breaches would have a measurable effect on customer satisfaction or corporate reputation. (This may be relatively easy in some sectors, much harder in other sectors.)

There are some prevailing stereotypes of marketing and IT, which would suggest they are on different planets: one function being precise and highly numerate, the other being imprecise and unreliable.  In reality, they are much closer together, and should be able to collaborate closely, if only they can manage to speak the same language.

Source: The CMO-CIO Disconnect, Computer Weekly, August 2013.

Friday, October 31, 2014

EA/ST Meeting Report October 2014

Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture and Systems Thinking

Unfortunately, I missed this month's EA/ST group meeting on Tuesday 21st October. But the presentations by @KlausØstergaard, @kvistgaard, @PhilipHellyer and @tetradian are now available.

  • Klaus Østergaard, Value in Utilizing Systemic Thinking in the Field of Enterprise Architecture and Vice Versa (DropBox link)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Autumn Events 2014

Open Group Conference - Empowering your Business

I was originally billed to speak at the Open Group conference in London later this month. Unfortunately, I shall be in Japan that week. My place will be taken by Daren Ward, Partner at Glue Reply, who will give a presentation on Boundaryless Commerce on Monday 20th October. Daren has led the retail practice at Glue for many years, and is a passionate advocate of retail integration. (Declaration of interest - he is also my boss.)

EA/ST - Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture and Systems Thinking

I shall also be sorry to miss what looks like another great day organized by the EA/ST group on Tuesday 21st October, with presentations by Klaus Ostergaard, Ivo Velitchkov, Philip Hellyer and Tom Graves.

Advance booking only. Please see for details.

Unicom EA Forum - Making Changes in Enterprise Architecture

The next EA Forum will be in London on Thursday 20th November. Unicom has kindly invited me to chair this event again, and I look forward to meeting some of you there.

This is usually one of the most interactive EA events, and always affords excellent discussion and networking opportunities. For my part, I am especially looking forward to hearing a new set of case studies. If you are interested in attending this event, please contact Unicom on 01895 256484. The full programme is available via the Unicom website.

Enterprise Architecture Forum
Hashtag #UnicomEA

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Towards an Open Architecture for the Public Sector

#diggovreview #publicsectorIT .

Attended an interesting workshop last week to discuss some of the architectural aspects of Digital Government, hosted by Skyscape. One purpose of this discussion was to feed into the Labour Party Digital Government Review, and possibly into the Labour manifesto for the next election. Under modified Chatham House rules, I believe I am permitted to blog about the workshop as long as I don't attribute anything to anybody or any organization.

There are several architectural themes that are probably shared between the political parties, although there may be some differences of emphasis and interpretation. For example, everyone seems to pay lip service to the idea of opening up public sector IT, and reducing the power of the incompetent and self-interested, whoever these may be. But there will undoubtedly be different views on the right tactics for redistributing commercial and bureaucratic power.

Openness leads to fashionable ideas about IT acquisition - a preference for consuming rather than self-build, and a preference for agile development rather than waterfall. These are great ideas when used properly, but we must be careful not to encourage the illusion that these ideas provide a magic solution to the troubles of public sector IT. Indeed, some recent IT disasters have been attributed to an ill-considered rush to "Agile". And the Buy-Not-Build agenda must be governed properly, to avoid ceding too much architectural control to the large platform providers.

Openness also means structural change. For example, a shift from vertical integration and vertical silos to lateral modularity and co-creation, which my friend and associate Philip Boxer calls Collaborative Composition. This connects with the notions of Shared Services and Platform.

Finally, there is the question of the tempo of change. Government policies have a fairly rapid cycle time - in some cases around 18-24 months depending on department - but we cannot afford to reengineer systems and services, let alone platforms, at this sort of frequency.

So there was considerable discussion about the role of Government in providing a platform, and whether the platform should be a Minimum Viable Platform (similar to the Internet) or provide added value. There was also some debate as to whether politicians could be persuaded to support systems and platforms that would last longer than the policies that they were intended to implement.

The Public Sector suffers, perhaps even more than other organizations, from a confusion between Requirement and Solution. So people like to talk about Open Standards or Agile as the solution to high IT costs, or advocate Big Central Database as the perfect solution to any information needs, instead of talking about the requirements, such as interoperability and low switching costs. I hope that the Labour Party (or any other party for that matter) can be encouraged to express its policies in terms of the requirements and governance approach, rather than mandating specific technological solutions.

As I've pointed out before, the term "Joined-Up Government" has several different interpretations. From an Inside-Out (supply-side) perspective, it is commonly taken to imply improved integration between separate government departments and agencies - in other words, some kind of reorganization, not merely of IT systems and services but also the agencies responsible for these services. Of course, reorganization might sometimes be needed, but this is merely one possible solution to the real requirement, which in my opinion comes from the Outside-In (demand-side) perspective - the citizen's need for a coherent experience of government services.

For example, the much-discussed integration between Healthcare and Social Care doesn't entail merging two massive and inefficient silos into one even more massive and inefficient silo, but could be achieved simply by opening up the silos and improving the flows of information between them. The Outside-In perspective merely calls for the citizen to get a coherent joined-up service across both healthcare and social care, however this may be done.

And consider the much maligned Contact Point, which had somehow morphed from an information sharing platform ("System of Engagement") to a Big Central Database ("System of Record"), largely under the control of people who didn't appreciate that these weren't necessarily the same thing.

Effective multi-agency working depends on effective information sharing, but this doesn't mean putting all the data into a single source of truth. Many of the breakthroughs of Digital Government have come, not from building massive central databases, but from improving collaboration between different agencies – health, social care, police, justice, etc – often dealing with the same problem families from different professional perspectives. As we say at Glue Reply, it’s about the conversation.

Some of us have been talking about these themes for a long time. In my own small way, I have written a number of articles and blogposts about eGovernment and Joined-Up Government, and I submitted something on Shared Services to the Cabinet Office in January 2006, most of which is probably still valid. See previous posts on this blog - eGovernment, Joined-Up, Shared Services.

Philip Boxer, Creating Value in Ecosystems (December 2010)

Jerry Fishenden and Mark Thompson, Digital Government, Open Architecture, and Innovation: Why Public Sector IT Will Never Be the Same Again (Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory September 2012)

Mike Martin, Open Architecture Critique - A Draft (March 2014)

David Sprott and Richard Veryard, Shared Services for the UK Public Sector (Submission to the Cabinet Office, CBDI Forum January 2006)

Richard Veryard, Joined-Up Services (Review of the Public Management and Policy Association. February 2002)

Richard Veryard and Philip Boxer, Public Sector IT - The CSA Case (December 2004)

See also David Sprott's response to this post. Open Architecture for the Public Sector (May 2014)

Thursday, April 03, 2014

The Enterprise Architect of Hamelyn

Stakeholder Concern Enterprise Focus Project Focus
The city of Hamelyn is plagued with rats. This indicates a serious problem with the “Public Health and Hygiene” capability. We just need a quick project to eliminate the rats. So we buy some “Eliminate Creature” capability from an external vendor.
The Pied Piper gets rid of the rats. Real business problem has not been addressed. Let’s now push on with the next phase of solving the problem. Project successful.

The Pied Piper is too expensive. We need a careful transition plan while we build an in-house capability. Let us immediately renegotiate our contract with the vendor.
The Pied Piper gets rid of the children. It turns out that the Pied Piper can reuse his “Eliminate Creature” capability for other purposes. !*!?**!
Which Role? Enterprise Architect?
Strategic Procurement?
Solution Architect?
Tactical Procurement?

See also my article “Requirements Engineering as if Stakeholders Mattered” (Requirenautics Quarterly, Issue 29, August 2003, pdf)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What's Wrong with Universal Credit? On The Rooting of the Particular in the Universal

According to Hegel, the administration of a corporation's affairs by its own supervisors will often be inept, "for although they know and have before them their own distinct interests and affairs, they have a less complete grasp of the connection between these and more remote conditions and universal points of view". (GWF Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, 1820)

Therefore, one of the challenges for enterprise architecture is to maintain a pragmatic balance between the particular and the universal, especially when many of the decision-makers (as Hegel observed) tend to see things from a narrow short-term perspective.

So at first sight, we might think that the UK Government initiative known as Universal Credit represents a welcome exception to this narrow short-term thinking. What a brilliant idea to consolidate all benefit systems into a single simpler system!

The devil, of course, is in the detail. Mark Ballard explains:

Universal Credit would not only re-engineer the complex administration of £70bn social security payments to 8m households, merging six benefits systems across two government departments and local authorities throughout the country. It would also rely on councils up and down the country making their own systems and processes compatible. It would depend upon HM Revenue & Customs completing its own income tax system reforms of unprecedented ambition, Real-Time Information. And HMRC would in turn depend on employers, banks and payroll software suppliers reforming their computer systems and processes as well. Universal Credit would have to navigate this exponentially explosive collection of risk factors. This was a spaghetti junction of high-stakes computer gambits from which Universal Credit would have to pull a benefits payment that was reliable and secure. (Mark Ballard, Universal Credit failures put coalition ICT strategy in purdah. Computer Weekly September 2013)

What went wrong? Agile Development? Procurement? Interdepartmental warfare? Bureaucracy?

"There was an extremely strong command and control culture at the DWP, which goes against agile. We were trying to alleviate that - but it wasn't working," said a source. "The fundamental problem was procurement," said an anonymous participant. "Our hands were tied because of procurement. If you don't set up the contract properly, you are on a hiding to nothing." (Mark Ballard, Why agile development failed for Universal Credit, Computer Weekly July 2013)
Iain Duncan Smith is stuck between using traditional waterfall and systems integration, advocated by DWP, and "agile hacking", advocated by GDS.  (Bryan Glick, The question that matters on Universal Credit: Do you believe Iain Duncan Smith? Computer Weekly Feb 2014, comment by John Alexander)
Any system which is designed to operate with a smaller bureaucracy will be opposed tooth and nail by the bureaucrats mandated to implement it. (Benedict Brogan, Whitehall is shuddering over Universal Credit problems Telegraph February 2014, comment by Littlegrayman)

And was it just poor execution, or was the vision faulty? Paul Spicker thinks the whole project was doomed.

It is easy to blame the IT when things go wrong, but when people are asked to do impossible things, it should not be surprising if they do not deliver. ... The most basic flaw rests in the idea that we can “personalise” benefits for millions of people. There are just too many moving parts; and in a system with millions of iterations, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. (Paul Spicker, Universal Credit: Don’t blame the IT Computer Weekly Feb 2014)

(I want to make two observations here. Firstly, requirements are not additive. Even if each requirement makes sense on its own, that doesn't mean that the whole set of requirements makes sense. And secondly, requirements that make sense in some contexts don't make sense in other contexts. For example, retail may be able to achieve a good level of personalization, because it doesn't matter much if a customer sometimes gets the "wrong" promotional voucher. But it matters a lot if people get the "wrong" benefits, so the stakes are much higher.)

And even the Spectator (a right-wing weekly magazine) complains about ministerial incompetence and inflexibility.

The Universal Credit fiasco exemplifies Duncan Smith’s narcissistic failure to admit and remedy mistakes. As Computer Weekly — a far better guardian of the taxpayer than the Conservative backbenches or press, incidentally – has said, Duncan Smith proceeded with a vast and complicated IT project without learning the lessons from the IT disasters of the Labour years. (Nick Cohen, The conservative case against Iain Duncan Smith, Spectator June 2014)

John Naughton compares Universal Credit with Obamacare, and detects the same problem with both.

How is it that governments stuffed with able and conscientious civil servants screw up so spectacularly whenever IT is involved? ... The strange thing about this is that you wouldn't need to have been a geek to spot the problem with You just had to think architecturally about it. Yet apparently nobody in the administration did. The same applies to the post-9/11 decision to link all the previously separate US security databases into one giant file to which at least 250,000 people had access, one of whom happened to be Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning. (John Naughton, Obamacare, universal credit… why do governments make such a mess of IT? Observer December 2013)

You don't have to be a geek. You just have to think architecturally. And thinking architecturally means - among other things - anticipating and resolving the kind of problems faced by projects like these.

Standing up for the universal point of view doesn't justify a Stalinist approach to smoothing out the unavoidable complexities of dealing with real individuals and their messy lives. Is this a failure for IT, or a failure for bureaucracy? And can we tell the difference?

Updated 3 July 2014

Friday, February 07, 2014

Spring Events 2014

Unicom EA Forum - Business-Driven Enterprise Architecture

The next EA Forum will be on Thursday 20th March. Unicom has kindly invited me to chair this event again, and I look forward to meeting some of you there.

This is usually one of the most interactive EA events, and always affords excellent discussion and networking opportunities. For my part, I am especially looking forward to hearing a new set of case studies. If you are interested in attending this event, please contact Unicom on 01895 256484. The full programme is available via the Unicom website.

Hashtag #UnicomEA