Right Time, Right Action

Right Time, Right Action

How do CIOs and enterprise architects effectively work on the business and in the business at the same time, whilst dealing with limited resources, competing priorities, and perhaps a disengaged executive audience? 

How do we provide “just enough” of a view of the enterprise’s architecture to enable the senior management, executives and the board to identify, prioritize and invest in the right things in a consistent and repeatable way, without the need to convince them to embark on a(nother) full enterprise architecture cycle, an organizational restructure or a(nother) re-working of the PMO, CPIC, BPM or benefits realization processes?  

Just as importantly, how do we empower our teams to make decisions with complete confidence in the direction and value of their contribution towards the larger enterprise, building a corporate culture that makes this behavior self-perpetuating? 

The challenge... 

First, let’s agree that it’s important we have a clear, consolidated and agreed list of enterprise goals? And would everyone agree that the ability to quantify and visualize how a goal or a strategy affects each part of the organization is a Very Good Thing™? Yes? Neat.  

Can we also agree that it’s critical these goals are clearly communicated? Which means that it’s not too large a stretch to suggest we should be using a standard language to consistently describe and communicate our goals and strategies across the entire enterprise, and how these change over time, right? Great. This post isn’t going to dive into complexities such as benefits realization methods, architecture frameworks, etc, so put your minds at ease. 

In a nutshell, we want a way to translate subjective, transient and ever-changing goals and strategies into a common language that the entire organization can work with, well beyond the tenure of any single executive or board team. And we don’t want a team of people or a rack full of kit to make it happen. 

By way of example, when the board and executive leadership team come back from strategy and planning days, we need to be able to interpret just what the goal & objective “Customer Service: Manage and meet customer expectations” means in terms of impact and action for say Marketing,  
ICT, HR, Finance, Operations, etc. We also need to be able to quantify what the new direction means for current resourcing levels, skills/training, organizational structure, capital investments, etc. 

In the real world, this comes down to each division being able to answer questions like:  

  • What functions or processes should we focus on to deliver the current list of outcomes and/or objectives? And do we have enough of the right resources? 

  • If we focus on certain functions or processes, what value will we deliver for the organization? 

  • Do the processes required to deliver value on the one-year goals also deliver value on the five-year goals? 

  • Are our current investments/projects positively or negatively impacted by the new goals? 

The challenge is to avoid this kind of thinking taking place in what is effectively a random, arbitrary fashion, which varies (and randomly so) every time the process is undertaken – even by the same people! 

The Solution… 

Let’s assume an enterprise already has broad strategic objectives to work from, along with some idea from a Board or Executive team of what the priorities are for those objectives. Translating this towards actionable plans for individual units of a business is where Enterprise Architecture enters the picture. The specifics of strategic alignment will vary a lot depending on frameworks chosen and industry, so we can’t go into detail here, but the basics will carry over to any EA practice. 

The first step is to create an enterprise dashboard that can track and display goals and strategies, and thus be deployed for prioritization and review. Creating such a dashboard is relatively simple using a tool like iServer365, with the option to simply open up a business portfolio view for strategic objectives or users can simply create an Excel spreadsheet linked to the central repository. 

The question this dashboard enables us to answer is, “Which Goals should we focus on, in priority order, to deliver the most value for our organization given our current priorities”. So at the Enterprise level, things are looking sweet – the intended value is clear, along with our priorities. But how do we build this into something executable for each division, and maintain the linkage between the divisional plans, resourcing plans, organizational structure, etc? 

Depending on your business, the back office (or supporting) functions can quite literally be from different industries to your main line of business, covered by different regulations, with their own frameworks, processes, etc. Chances are, these regulations, frameworks and process et al will change often enough to be inconvenient, and will almost never map neatly to an overarching enterprise process framework, auditing methodology, or anything else for that matter. 

But to get our enterprise goals into a useful (executable) state for these other functions, we need some way of linking them all together with minimal overhead and re-work. Once again, how this is performed will depend a lot on frameworks: COBIT, for example, makes it very easy to map between enterprise goals and IT goals regardless of industry, but other functions may have more trouble. In any case, the mapping of enterprise goals to individual functions can take place in the same dashboard, and because linkages are easy to create and maintain in iServer365, any changes to goals or priorities will instantly update across the entire project. 

A final dashboard will enable functions to rank their goals based on overall enterprise goals. For example, for IT to deliver towards an objective like “Stakeholder value of business investments” they might focus on “Alignment of ICT and Business Strategy”, “Delivery of ICT in line with business requirements” and “Adequate use of technology solutions”. Sounds sensible enough. 

This article has focused on putting foundations in place to help assess if an enterprise is working on the right things at the right time for the right results, based on: 

  • An enterprise dashboard for enterprise goal & strategy setting, prioritizing and reviewing 

  • A method to prioritize goals & strategies for maximum business value 

  • The ability to view and assess the impact of changing business goals on functional goals and strategies 

  • A method to show how a function delivers towards a business’ goals 

  • How we can view the impact of shifting goals and strategies