Enterprise Architecture's Transition to Consumer Oriented Services

Unless you have been living in cave for the past five or so years, you may have noticed that technology is being democratized within your business. Perhaps right under your feet! The confluence of consumerization, cloud computing, ubiquitous connectivity, and the needs of a modern dynamic business will (if not already) fundamentally change information technology’s role in the enterprise forever. I do not believe we as Enterprise Architects will be able to over govern our way out of this. Rather, we need to embrace this change and be smarter about how we balance the operational discipline of being a great information technology provider, while giving our customers great experiences that motivates them to achieve their own objectives.

Here at Microsoft, we are undergoing a huge wave of technology changes ourselves. We are dogfooding the next generation of products and using them in everyday activities; both within the confines of work and our daily lives. Our collective experience has provided us some compelling insights as we are company that has a foot in both the enterprise and consumer space and have witnessed it effects people’s livelihood. We are also releasing a huge wave of products in the coming months which I firmly believe will unlock amazing potential for our customers. This subtle shift of orientation from being a great software provider to providing great consumer oriented experiences has dramatically changed the way I work, the manner of how I consult, and the guidance I provide Microsoft clients. 

The old days of IT in which the mindset of “build it and they will come” are gone. Being a great technology provider does not meet the high bar of our collective customer's expectations today. Customers want to be included in the enterprise experience and part of healthy technology ecosystem that improves the quality of their lives, both at work and at home. The IT function must start developing consumer oriented IT services, and enterprise architecture must be front in center of this transformation. To move towards a more consumption centric model, one has to understand how the business and individuals generate wealth or improve prosperity. This requires insight on business process and interactions and how they contribute to the organization’s products and services. Next, process and interactions require data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. Business architecture focuses on execution. Information architecture focuses on how information is consumed by the business to make decisions, document transactions or state, and collect knowledge for future consumption. Lastly, what are the applications and infrastructure required to produce this experience and be agile enough to accommodate the dynamics of an uncertain world in which we live? The old adage of "putting yourself in the customer shoes" still holds true. 

Applying enterprise architecture to this, a consumer centric experience must lead with the business and its individuals. The purpose of the business (strategy and motivation), the means of the business (architecture and composition of business), and how results achieved (execution and realization).  The diagram below depicts the relationships. The orange boxes the business behaviors or the verbs (the HOW) of the business. The blue and green boxes are business structures or the nouns (the WHAT) of the business; the subjects and objects respectively. [For those of you who are familiar with ArchiMate the terms and colors shown here are intentional.] This is what I refer to as a business sentence. The aggregation of these sentences define a capability, or does the business have the ability to carry out what the sentence describes. The blue boxes at the center (the subjects) is where people and their roles fit in. They, the subjects, are at the center because they execute the verbs with data/information (or objects). Bad data, bad execution. Bad execution, bad processes.

So how does this shift change technology? This requires a different orientation moving away from vertical and siloed solutions into horizontal or fabric oriented solutions where technology components are loosely coupled and be managed autonomously. (See previous blog entry). Technology that is used to promote business productivity around collaboration and communications has to be highly available everywhere and on any device, period. The device may be desktop, laptop, tablet, phone, or sensor. Consequently, data has to be surfaced in compelling ways where it can be acted upon. In some cases it will be analysis in real time, and in other cases it data will be mined to run what if scenarios and provide inputs to business simulations to help test business strategies. Here is where business productivity and business insights come together, or what we refer to as the collaboration and big data workloads.

People are the ultimate consumers of processes and information. By having this mindset when designing an effective and efficient enterprise, I found that I have satisfied my clients by improving their own, their employees and their customer experience. This results in more prosperity for their constituencies and revenue for their business. A win-win.  

Enterprise architecture is the profession, discipline, and technique which brings this all together in meaningful ways that drive business results. So before we all debate the frameworks, the protocols, the technology, the platform.... take a step back and ask yourself if the conversation you are having is driving value with your customers or constituencies. If not, perhaps the debate is not worth having. Are you on the same journey? As always, I am interested in hearing about your experiences.