Enterprise Architecture – 10 Soft Skills – Part 3: Enriched Communication

November 9, 2013

People easily get distracted.  A glance at a smartphone to check e-mail, checking the time, looking out through the window . How do we keep them engaged? Through enriched communication.

Simply put, enriched sensory-based communication is speaking with words that represent our senses – what we see, hear, feel, taste, and smell. The opposite of sensory based communication is neutral communication, which often engages the cold and critical part of one’s mind (however,  there is a time for this type of communication too, which will be discussed in a later post). Sensory based communication engages other people and has been said to give off an aura of charisma. The great communicators speak in enriched language. For example, Obama’s inaugural speech:

“Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.”

The phrases marked out represent sensory-based communication. In just those few sentences, a series of auditory and visual and kinaesthetic/feeling phrases are used that engaged the listener. Do not loose sight of the feeling that these words are for sweet victory speeches as shown in the example above. These phrases can be dropped in during normal day to day conversation. Try it yourself and see the difference!

Enterprise Architecture – 10 Soft Skills – Part 2: Clean Questions

October 12, 2013

Clean Questions

A key task for Enterprise Architect’s is understanding requirements – perhaps of a business process, service, or product – so that key decisions can be made. In order to gather requirements, questions must inevitably be asked. There is a common mistake many people make (whether conscious or unconscious of it) when asking questions to gather requirements: BIAS. Remember, requirements are the needs of the customer. Not your own needs. It’s key to understand – fully and completely – through the customer’s eyes. Do NOT impose your own map of the world on someone else by asking leading questions, assuming anything, or influencing towards your own preconceived notions of the “right path” to go down. In order to understand the customer, we must ask CLEAN questions.

The goal of clean questions is to understand another’s map of the world. A key attitude one must have when asking clean questions is to be genuinely curious and neutral; to act like an explorer in a new land. To understand someone without bias such as in voice tone, facial expressions, and body language. Assume nothing and simply see through the customer’s eyes by asking clean questions (credit for this technique must be given to David Grove,  http://www.cleanlanguage.co.uk):

Clean Questions

Start at the top of the above diagram and work your down. The key is to identify and define attributes using their own (not your own) words.

… what kind of [their words] is that [their words]?
… is there anything else about [their words]?
… that’s [their words] like what?
… where is that [their words]?
… whereabouts [their words]?

Example: Understanding a business process. It’s pretty clear each step in a business process (e.g. “Create a New Customer”, “Upgrade Product”) can be understood by asking “Defining Attribute” questions and “Locating in Space” (context/scope) questions. The steps in a business process can be related to one another by asking “Evolving Time” and “Pulling Back Time” questions.

Perhaps, the most powerful clean question is the “Shifting Symbol” question, which is essentially a metaphor!  (see this post on Metaphor’s – http://ericweinstein.wordpress.com/2013/09/13/enterprise-architecture-10-soft-skills-part-1/). Metaphor can be used to understand business processes – whether chunking up to a “Conceptual” level to understand the goal of the process or chunking down to a Logical (or physical) level to understand the intent of a single process step.

By using [their] words, with a neutral, exploratory attitude, and following the clean question model and occasionally shifting into metaphor, we can bring to life the customer’s map of the world!

Enterprise Architecture – 10 Soft Skills – Part 1: Story and Metaphor

September 13, 2013

Enterprise Architecture – 10 Soft Skills – Pt 1

A new architect will quickly realize that simply applying an EA framework will not be very effective without effective communication. These next few posts will discuss some “comm-hacks” that may not be so obvious.

1)      Story and Metaphor– As discussed in a previous post, an architect can use the business motivation model (BMM) for the “strategy architecture”; goals/objectives/strategies/tactics – and how they depend upon each other. The BMM is a GREAT way to structure strategy! But, does it light the fire in the hearts and minds of the team? Maybe/probably not. It’s a very analytical, left brain approach to defining strategy.

What about the right brain? The right brain is equally, if not more important (according to me) in setting strategy because it’s easier to directly access the heart – of a person, a team, or an organization. The abstract, right brain is directly tied to lighting a fire in the heart!

How does one light a fire, in the context of a cold, analytical EA strategy (BMM)? Through metaphor and story! Metaphor and story are abstract and often indirect – the message of the metaphor or story need not be stated directly. Instead, one is motivated and unconsciously directed, through the context set by the metaphor, to search for meaning. The meaning that one finds on their own is far more powerful and motivating than the quantitative side of things. Often, the best stories and metaphors are those with very large scope (e.g. the purpose of entire project, mission of the organization etc..)

EXAMPLE – Let’s say a key project is well underway and an Enterprise Architect is now in a governing role for this project. There are some challenges with the project while others parts of it are going fine. If we were to ask a few key managers in the office and extract their metaphor for the overall status of the project, what could we hear?

Manager 1’s metaphor: “Rome is burning”

Manager 2’s metaphor: “This project is like a roller-coaster, you scream every-time there is a bump or throw your hands up and enjoy the ride!”

Manager 3’s metaphor: “This project is like having a baby. It’s coming out all bloody but in the end you get something beautiful!”


Which metaphor is most useful? People often have unconscious metaphors that can be “read” by what they say and do.

And, here is the coolest part: You can choose your own metaphor! Choose one that is most helpful for the outcome of the project – and communicate it to everyone! You will be surprised at how effective this can be.

Big Data – An Infographic Perspective

September 1, 2012

Big Data – An Infographic Perspective.

Big Data – Who will find the patterns of value?

May 8, 2012

Big Data has great promise – no doubt that we are on the brink of discovering innovative ways to make a lot of money due to the ability to consume and analyze a greater volume, velocity, and variety of data than ever before.

The question, however, is who will make these innovative discoveries?

Can the innovation be made by a kid in a garage, a college kid in his dorm room, or a talented IT professional dreaming of a start-up in his free time?

On the one hand, the answer is NO – the college kid in the dorm will NOT be changing the world via big data the way Mark Zuckerberg did with social networking. Why? The reason quite simply is because “Big Data” requires DATA and a lot of it and in potentially many different forms.

Data is not free

In fact, there are billion dollar businesses that are essentially data companies – they sell raw data (and analytics on it). I’ve even worked at one in my time. OK – Some of that raw data is free but much of the data is not. The sheer volume of data is prohibitively expensive to acquire for a college kid to start to experiment with. Additionally, some big data use cases revolve around social data that sites like Facebook can use to make money (data is why Facebook has such a high valuation). Did you think Facebook gives away their data for free? If the college kid can’t even get his hands on the data then the game is over before it even starts.

On the bright side, however, cloud computing infrastructure as a service and pay-as-you-go pricing provides affordable infrastructure for the college kid. Powerful infrastructure is also a pre-requisite for Big Data – but it’s not a barrier for the college kid.

It goes back – again – to access to data.

The majority of the big data discoveries will come from big established companies with the resources to acquire it.

Agree or disagree? Actually, proving me wrong would make me happy.

Application Portfolio Management – Notes & Mindmap

March 19, 2012

Application Portfolio Management: TIME for the Application Masses

  • Findings
    • Large inventories of small applications can often be categorized rapidly by frequency of use.
    • Many infrequently used applications can be retired or consolidated.
    • Proactively proposing retirement can accelerate portfolio simplification
  • Analysis
    • Big, complex applications are often a fairly small percentage of the total application count., support a lot of business value, and merit a detailed analysis
    • How can we economically categorize and overhaul the thousands of smaller applications that form the rest of the portfolio?
    • ” Application-hunting license,” prescreening applications by usage and requiring user involvement in creating appropriate life cycle strategies.
      • Create a routine process that will rapidly align the thousands of applications into tolerate, invest, migrate and eliminate (TIME) categories — ideally driving extensive application elimination
  • Application Hunting
    • Start this routine with any applications that haven’t been accessed in a year, then systematically bring the time down to nine months, then six months and then three months.
    • It’s Rare that anyone thinks of retiring applications after task is done or the project is completed. In extreme cases, none of the people who used the application remain with the organization.
  • Send out a message listing five to 20 applications that have not been accessed in several quarters.
    • In the case of nobody responding, the exercise is straightforward to retire the system
    • Otherwise ask How often is the application used? Could you live without it? Is there another way to get that job don
  • One less system to maintain, fewer licenses for which to pay maintenance fees, and less storage and power being consumed
  • “mock” retire the system — that is, bring it offline for a full quarter, and if no one complains, then officially retire it

Application Portfolio Management: Maximizing Value

March 11, 2012

Application Portfolio Management (APM) is about maximizing the value of the applications running your business.  The goal is to achieve beneficial changes that improve the balance of value to supported cost and risk.

Without an APM practice, the unmanaged portfolio of applications grow stale. This may be in the form of higher operating costs to “keep the lights on” for the application, weak service level and support, or obsolete technology – to name a few. The key here then is to methodically and pragmatically assess all or a subset of the applications top-down in the business in order to devise strategies and define projects and request funds.

We begin the process by assessing key factors of each application in order to categorize each application. Ideally the scope is the entire application inventory but it may be segmented based on current strategic business initiatives with a process, risk, cost, or value perspective. There are various methods to categorize the applications. A popular format is based on the 2X2, 4 quadrant matrix. An example is the “TIME” (Tolerate, Invest, Migrate, Eliminate) method as defined by Gartner.

T – Tolerate applications that provide good enough business value but may have an old architecture or not be well integrated. Without APM, this is probably the largest category.

I – Invest in strategic or newer applications in order to increase value and use.

M – Migrate technologies that have high business value but have issues the with people, data, or technologies that support it. The technology may be unsupported or people may be on the verge of retiring with a declining pool of replacement skills.

E – Eliminate applications that no longer provide sufficient business value.

Once each application has been categorized then define a strategy and high level set of actions, and create a business case and project charter. Also, add these newly defined strategies to the overall future-state enterprise architecture plans and roadmaps.

Over time, the application portfolio balance should shift to a greater percentage of “invest” applications with a lower percentage of tolerate and eliminate applications. This will result in a greater proportion of IT spending to business value and growth based projects  – and that’s the goal.


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