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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Business innovation is not done by Commando

Following the post made by Forrester great analyst Randy Heffner called Build Innovation Zones Into Your Architecture, I decided to make some comments.

I'm still surprised that in 2010 people still thinks that business people are "immature" person that are doing unconsidered things in order to stay competitive.

Business innovation is not done by commando. Business innovation is needed and very often is realized through software product. Corporate IT was not always built to sustain business innovation, and is sometimes not able to cope with its specific needs (long planning cycle, specific highly skilled professional, reduced time to market).

So I do not see any issue of using external solutions (IAAS, PAAS, SAAS, etc.) to make business innovation. Innovation networking in a business ecosystem is key.

Now going back to the Enterprise Architect roles. For me, EA role is to head and support the business needs in providing governance, coherence and a digital quality seal. If they are experiencing "nightmares" with business innovations creations extending the IT landscape outside the corporate datacenter boundaries, it's mainly because they did not do they work! Defining interfaces and integration point with the external world (innovation zone) is one of their key roles.

Moving to cloud and XaaS is done especially to overcome LONNNGGGG IT cycles and high maintenance cost, but also to share the risks with other clients and benefit from innovation immediately available. Using a pay per use approach is a very effective financial and business strategic approach. It enables "digital Darwinism" at a reasonable cost. Instead of spending millions on a project to discover 3 years later that it's not adapted to your need anymore, you can select the right XaaS suppliers and follow/benefit your (and external) innovation cycles. For companies with great internal dev. shop, it is also a way to keep their troops motivated by using new technologies and languages that enables to develop and deploy more quickly.

IT people, EA architects should stop spreading the idea that business innovation is done by irresponsible business people that are only taking care of speed and will endanger the company by their decisions. More and more, business innovation is done by previous EA staff. That's also why you've got such an acceleration: having people in you business innovation team with both business knowledge and IT knowledge helps moving fast.

Of course, and as usual, pervasive innovation is not always easy. It depends still on many factors like the system type (less easy for a back office), its business and IT criticality, its capability to fit the needs, etc.

If business innovation is so Hard it is because:
  • EA failed to prepare for it, and may be it is a mission statement issue
  • IT did not listen to the business needs (in politically correct words, it is better to say "did not align"), and was operating and working in Silo. This case is very easy to detect. If IT told the business that the business is like a client in a restaurant. They should look at the menu and request existing or new (never made) dishes. IT is then the presented as the kitchen, where the business should never enter. The result is that if you ask for a hamburger, a new dish, then, the kitchen will tell you: "well, it's a new dish, so we will bring you the hot bread in 5 minutes, with tomato, but no beef. Then we will provide you the beef later". In order to do business innovation you need to avoid the V model.
  • business was changing too quickly, was not mature and did mature, or because they made mistakes and decided to change their way of doing things. That's the main advantage of business people thay can make mistakes, since the world they operate with is changing constantly! So in order to be fair, companies should allow also IT shops to change their mind and evolve. Budgets should be allocated for agility and for reducing the technical debt.
  • companies did not invest in training their IT people to new technologies, and massively outsourced their development. The best example today is mobile devlopment. Some companies are building new teams by considering that mobile development will be key for their business and that they should have talent internally. Others are building apps or mobile web site with external suppliers, asking their corpoaret IT shop to work on the integration points and provide robust interfaces (REST/SOAP API).
  • some non critical business features can be obtained immediatly, for a fraction of the cost needed for building it internally, with Saas suppliers.
  • you have great potentials outside your company and if you do not benefit from them, your competitors will.
  • none of the EA framework was built to support innovation and to optimize delivery time / cost / security of a system within an ecosystem. We can clearly state today that the EA team does not have today the methodology and tools adapted to their new missions.