Troux 2011: Leaders Perspective: Great Conductors

Panel discussion. Panelists:
Eric Christian, Director of Global Architecture Security at Cummins
Sandy McCoy, Executive Director, Business Architecture, Kaiser Permanente
Michael Balay, AVP, Technology & Operations, Enterprise Architecture, MetLife
Moderator: George Paras

Q: Inspiring an EA team is a challenging activity. If you had one bit of advice to an aspiring EA leader, what would it be?
Sandy: There’s an outward leadership component and an inward leadership component. From the outward perspective, anyone on the team must be a leader. You operate at levels most people don’t. Emotional IQ important, and you have to be able to communicate both with a developer or project manager at one time and the CIO the next. From the inward perspective, your people must be empowered and encouraged. EA is a thankless job, you must know when your staff is having a bad day.
Eric: We have a tremendous opportunity to add value. Focus on delivering it incrementally. Focus on delivering high value in a way that the business community can embrace.
Michael: Leadership matters in every aspect of business, especially for the EA organization. Every staff member must be a leader. One of the most important things to do at each stage of transforming is to find leaders to partner with elsewhere in the organization.

Q: As a leader, when you’re looking to incrementally grow your team, what skills do you look for?
Michael: It’s about a team and having a balance of skills. I look for people with both operational and architecture skills.
Sandy: We have a minimum of 15 years of experience, through various tracks within IT to have a variation in the skill set. When you start getting into business architecture, some business acumen is becoming more and more critical. Technology is just built into the business, we are part of the DNA.
Eric: Strongest architects as of late have knowledge of the business. It’s easier to teach an architect to be an architect than to teach them the business in a particular industry.

Q: Where do architects with business acumen come from?
Eric: At Cummins, we have been looking at horizontal immersion programs. They take a horizontal assignment within the business and will hopefully come back. The same holds true for business staff to take a position within IT for a while.
Michael: The balance is going to shift toward more business architects. I always want that business architect side by side with someone who understands the implementation, though. My bias is to find business people, match them up with someone from IT, and let them learn from each other.
Sandy: One skill that I would add to the list is abstract thinking. If you have people that can really think abstractly and connect the dots, then their actual experience is not as critical. Not everyone has this ability.

Q: What size team do you look for?
Sandy: Our chief architect likes to re-organize every 6 months, but his boss tells him to stay stable for a year. You have to adjust to whatever is happening at the time. You need to have a bunch of utility players as well as some heavy hitters in particular areas.

Q: What are the best practices to organization a team?
Eric: Cummins, a couple of years ago had a very decentralized IT. Three years ago, IT was centralized, as where the architects. We have largely aligned along Technology Architecture, Solution Architecture, Enterprise Architecture.
Architecture is an evolution, a maturity process. When you move toward the block and tackle approach, you start with fundamentals (doing well with infrastructure architecture), but as you move up you look at portfolio optimization, etc.
Michael: There is no one model for EA. Almost by definition, it must be designed and tailored to the circumstances of the enterprise. Collaborate with other leaders. Enterprise Architecture must be responding to the strategic events of the company, and may not be able to steadily climb that maturity curve. Groups that do, may be too inwardly focused.
Sandy:If you look at it as a role, rather than an organization, very rarely do we play the role of an Enterprise Architecture. As EA, we can play any of the roles, and we get pulled down into various levels of the architecture depending on the needs of the organization.

Q: How do architects split their time between strategic and tactical work?
Michael: A peer of mine worked on a very successful, strategic architecture for technology integration and services. This year, he’s continuing the effort, but driving down into the implementation of it. At different periods we need different skills.
Michael: This is how things worked at Cummins a year ago. Each of the architects focused on quite a bit. They became spread to thin, weren’t focused on the right things, and the value was marginalized. We made a separation between solution architecture and enterprise architecture to create focus on both areas, and this yielded far more traction.
Sandy: It depends how your mission statement is defined. We have 13 different divisions and they each have a different opinion on what we should be, plus the CIO has another opinion. Set some metrics on what you’d like to do.
Michael: We’re struggling with refocusing. There are too many strategic things out there.
Eric: One of the first things that was negotiated with my boss was the vision and mission. That became the contract. If business partners think something else, we come back to the contract.

Q: How do you demonstrate the value of your EA program? How do you make the investment decision for a tool like Troux?
Michael: We implemented Troux standards in 2-3 months. We were re-instantiating AIG standards. We didn’t have to reinvent the standards, but we did need to reach out to the international community. Traditionally, the review process came very late in the effort. We worked with the PMO to push up the visibility of the project to early in the process, especially so EA had visibility. If managers got involved early, 9 times out of 10, the went through the process very smoothly. We turned the traffic cop into a value proposition.
Eric: We have seen value delivered in a body of analysis work that we have done. Most things have Oracle under the covers. We had our best year ever with an excellent growth trajectory. The value comes into play with trying to balance continued growth of new plants with a strategy for managing the instances of Oracle apps.

Q: What should our audience be paying attention to?
Sandy: Social networking and mobility. People who grew up with it, want and expect collaboration. On the mobility side, everyone wants a little “app” for a piece of the business. Information and data governance becomes much more critical because it is now exposed in places where you may not want it to be.
Eric: Server, app, and desktop virtualization, mobile technology, and SaaS and cloud.
Michael: Mobility, BYOD – bring your own device, Collaboration systems on a new scale, IaaS and virtualization. In the governance space, issue is that we’re already too slow for our customers.

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One Response to “Troux 2011: Leaders Perspective: Great Conductors”

  • Dan Bond:

    There are some fine insights in this discussion. EA is indeed about shepherding a portfolio investment so that it continually contributes value to the business as it evolves. EA’s role in IT is perpetually reactive in that sense. In another, but more important sense, EA is proactive in the business sense. As a partner discipline in the enterprise, EA is optimizing: continually contributing (being the technology “eyes and ears” of the business and helping IT improve its “sustainment” and “modernization” responsibilities). EA also has a related but purely non-technology role: business process improvement. Lean Six Sigma shows us in its process why IT improvements are not the primary focus of business improvements.

    Senior executives who participate in LSS get Peter Drucker’s observation that “nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.” In LSS, you 1) select processes for LSS optimization based on prior and purely business criteria; 2) drive latency/waste out of the selected process based on structural analysis of the process and its business environment (kaizen opportunities to improve); 3) anything that requires a project to fix. Senior business executives get the idea that waste and rework is costly. They also get the idea that not every fallen penny is worth rescuing–some things are more important to the organization’s value proposition than others.

    If Enterprise Architects are to be taken seriously by the enterprise, they must react to what threatens the enterprise value proposition. Gee whiz obsession with the latest “techie thing” will of course result in marginalization. They must be seen a serious business partners. And that may require suppressing their desire to wave the (what will be perceived to be a) “here’s another silver bullet” flag in the presence of people who are not impressed (for long).

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