Digital Transformation Perth held a panel discussion to tackle the topic of managing enterprise evolution in an architectural context. The panellists were Cristian Southall (CTO of JourneyOne), Darryl Carr (JourneyOne Solutioniser/Enterprise Architecture Consultant), and Jackie O’Dowd (CEO of Realising-Potential).
Below follows the transcript of Part 1 of the evening’s opening discussion.
Interviewer: How do you explain to the CEO why architecture is needed in this world of rapid change and digital transformation?
Cristian: What is the cost of not doing something that you should have done? What is the cost of doing something the wrong way? What is the cost of trying to do something, and failing to get there in a reasonable period with a reasonable investment?
That’s the nub of what architecture is doing. To be reductionist about it, there are three criteria: decision quality, delivery risk, and strategic alignment. You can express those three things in different ways — but it’s performance related. If you’re having to tell a story, to for instance the CEO, it helps if you can boil it down to just a few things.
Jackie: From the boards and CEOs that we work with, the big driver is the ability for uninterrupted continuous delivery. That’s becoming more and more important. I think architecture has a great role to play because, in the main, it does the visualisation of what we have, where it is, how we use it, what we do and who uses it. In most cases, CEOs don’t have that information. In some cases, they don’t care, but they need to know. And I think with the pressures that are landing in the realm now, then there is a great place for architecture. But architecture also needs to evolve. So, there is a big need for it.
Darryl: Do we need architecture? No. Do we need architects? No. Do you want to know what you’re doing and how to do it optimally? Yes. Can an architect help with that? Yes. So, you should probably have an architect.
A real-world example: I was asked by the owner of a large construction company, the first time I met him – I sat down in his office, he pulled up a chair, and he said, ‘So, you’re an enterprise architect. What do you do?’ And I said: ‘Organisational change to deliver on your business strategy.’ And he sat back, and he said to me, ‘Oh, good.’
The reason why he said that was because the management team had a piece of butcher’s paper in one of their offices with a mess all over it. It had a big circle in the top right corner that said ‘utopia’, lots of arrows pointing up to that circle, and a question mark in the middle. What that meant was: ‘How do we get there, and what does it look like?’ None of them knew the answer, so that’s what I was there to help with. That’s a practical example of how you can have a short conversation, that has real meaning, with an executive.
Interviewer: How do you sell architecture more broadly to the Product Teams, Product Owners and the Scrum Masters who are delivering large transformation programs?
Jackie: I think it’s about orchestration across those various teams. They will all have various objectives that they need to fulfil. They’re all charged with different things, they’re all measured on different things, they’ve all got their own initiatives in play. Those things need to come together from an enterprise level, so somebody needs to be the orchestra conductor. It’s the orchestration and making sure everybody in the organisation works well together.
Cristian: I’d put a slightly different spin on that, but I fundamentally agree. If we didn’t need architects to help us deliver change, there’s still a strong place for them in balancing our change across the competing demands for it. So, we’re all working in organisations, the organisations have constraints: the amount of change they can handle, the amount of resource they can spend doing it, etc, etc. So, architects are in a great place to help facilitate the decisions around how we best use those resources.
But you asked how we sell it to the product teams, which is a different story because their focus is around delivering something specific. If there’s a sense of altruism in the organisation, and you can make the case for why one thing is more valuable to the organisation as a whole than something else, then maybe there’s a way of appealing to those people.
There are some other tactics though. Jackie used the word ‘orchestration’, which does imply a certain strong agency, like we’re arranging things to happen, and that is appropriate in some circumstances. In other organisations, though, there might be more subtle ways of effecting that same kind of change. It’s not the first time tonight, I suspect, we’re going to hear the term ‘guard rails’. And that’s one of the ways of doing this — to try and get people to internalise a set of rules that they might not know exactly where they came from, but if they know that they’re expected to work within them, then we end up moving in the same direction. So, it requires crafting a slightly different story for people with the delivery focus than for those that have a more strategic view.