embrace the complexity

We live in times awash in simplicity and simple-minded thinking.

But life is not simple. Nor are the challenges and issues facing us all, yet our culture seems to thirst for the false dichotomy of simple answers to complex problems.

We seek the simple. We want simplicity.

Thus, I feel that everyone misses the point.

Simplicity isn’t and nor should it be the goal.

Complexity, whether we like it or not, is the point.

Continue reading “embrace the complexity”

More rambling thoughts on Solution/Enterprise Architecture

What is EA?

This question, frankly, is the largest issue across the industry and thus the reason my initial response is such a mish-mash of definitions. Essentially, it comes down to a difference of opinion within the base premise of Enterprise Architecture:

  1. EA is an IT discipline
  2. EA is a BUSINESS discipline

What (mostly?) everyone does seem to agree on, however, is that it is based on providing a business outcome through governance and strategy.

I will tell you up-front, my personal bias is towards the second perception – ie. a business discipline. To my current state of mind, this creates two definitions of EA being:

Enterprise Architecture: Noun: “Enterprise Architecture is organising logic for key business processes and capabilities reflecting the integration and standardization requirements for the firm’s strategic objectives and operating model.”

Enterprise Architecture: Verb: Enterprise Architecture is the process utilised in the aim of making better enterprises.

The Building Industry Analogy

I have a penchant to return to the building industry analogy to describe the structural breakdown of an Architect from Enterprise back to Solutions, Domain, Technical and Engineer levels.

The Enterprise Architect is the City Planner. They’re looking to solve larger issues that will affect the total landscape. They consider the interactions of the entertainment zone, development, farming, residential and industrial zones. This will require a number of considerations – infrastructure, telecommunications, waste management, traffic management – and the broad range of areas requires that they cannot get stuck on the miniscule details. Thus, they need to consider minimum guidelines that will become the planning regulations (governance) for the city (corporation) to be followed by those that begin the implementation work. The EA has a BROAD knowledge base across multiple domains.

Solution Architects are Town Planners. Like the Enterprise Architect, they are focussed on managing the governance and strategy for a range of domains, however, they are focussed on a smaller level whether or not it is part of a larger Enterprise (City). Like the EA, the SA also has a BROAD knowledge base across multiple domains, though may still have some strong depth in key arenas as they often “graduate” from Domain Architects.

Domain Architects: These are cross-specialty multi-domain experts. Unlike the Solution Architect, they are often focussed on a range of complementary domains in which they have some DEEP knowledge accentuated by a BROAD base. In the building industry, these may be Architects who focus on Industrial Estates, Shopping Centres or on estate-wide water and utilities planning. In the world of Business and IT, we can consider these to be Industry or Portfolio Architects, Consulting Architects or simply Information System Architects.

Technical Architects: The draughtsmen of the industry. These are the people with the deep skills in a certain domain. They pull together the governance, strategy and requirements and develop an implementation design that meets the unified scope. A Data, Applications or Infrastructure Architect all meet this definition.

Engineer: Like in the building industry, we often make use of specialists to determine the finalk design meets the specifications for a particular domain or speciality. These are the people who do the detailed work on the plans. This can include DataBase Architects, Firewall Architects, Design Engineer or Engineering Architect.

see a model I tried to represent a while back

Why do I blather thus? Because, in my world view, an EA should be able to take up the reigns within any industry and utilise their skills, knowledge and abilities to make use of any of the skillsets of the “architects” for that industry.

Technology is not simply IT.

On EA vs SA and the debates over Frameworks

If an EA team is concerned with the enterprise-wide optimisation of business systems, then some form of understanding is required – a framework assists in the processing of that understanding. A framework, after all, is “a basic structure underlying a system, concept, or text.” Essentially, it matters not if you utilise Zachman, PEAF or some strange mystic runic system as long as it is consistent, communicable and functional.

If it assists in improving business systems whilst ensuring management and stakeholders understand the impact so as to commonly work towards minimised risks and maximised opportunities – then does it matter? In the end, the goal is to improve the enterprise and the measure of that should be in the reduction of complexity and increase in agility?

TOGAF may not be a “an all-out, wholehearted, EA method” – however – it does lead the primary audience of the (related) craft towards it through the influenced accumulation and iterations of TOGAF from IT Architecture (back) towards Enterprise Architecture. In fact, I would not be surprised to see the future iterations begin to incorporate elements from other frameworks to bolster it towards TOGEAF.

To iterate, if the process you are undertaking, regardless of framework utilised, is tactical, then it is a SOLUTION Architecture. If the process you are undertaking is far more abstract, defining strategies, policies and standards for cross-organisational and enterprise wide strategic value, then it is an ENTERPRISE Architecture.

The knowledge path for EA

So what is the path for an EA? I’m still nutting that one out and has been part of the overall discussions and debates that surround the process of the restructuring a curriculum in the corporate university for the training and guidance in the graduate programme.

My  personal view encompasses that TOGAF should be part of that learning path for all aspirational EAs and should perhaps even be incorporated into the MBA. I have often used my analogies and “alternative technology examples” in discussing and teaching the ADM – it offers a better grasp of the framework for thinking beyond one’s own responsibilities and in considering the larger enterprise and stakeholder landscape.

However, as stated above, TOGAF is still very much a tactical, change implementation focussed Architecture Framework as essentially, you can break up the ADM into 4 core groupings – Getting the vision right & the organisation committed (Prelim & Phase A) – Aligning the Architecture (B / C / D) – Managing the Implementation/Transformation (E / F / G) – Manage & Maintain the Operations (H / Req Mgt). It is thus thoroughly necessary to ensure a range of aspects – including unified taxonomy and standardised processes.

Does an EA need to follow a layered approach? Should they be exposed to the Delivery or domain architectures? What should they look like if that is the case? Would people agree with this as a basic map and overlay view?

Is this the Architecture layer map?
Is this the Architecture layer map?
Layered Skillsets and capabilities?
Layered Skillsets and capabilities?

Most of the areas of additional learning arenas that come into play towards discussing the EA training path – such as skilling up with the BABOK or PMI – really are just boosting or rounding out the skills within the ADM, they aren’t really furthering the skills and mindsets towards the enterprise wide strategic value element of EA thinking.

So what assists with that element of thinking and skilling up? What should be part of the toolkit for the aspiring Enterprise Architect?

The semi-regular review of my personal cloud apps

Last time I updated this was back in 2012, so, I guess it’s about time …

So, what’s changed?

Well, I still utilise Android as my phone OS of choice, I still have the iPad bought back then, but I haven’t updated it, and when it dies, I am unlikely to replace it – or if I do, it may be an Android device it is replaced with.

I considered buying a surface or Samsung Note to go BYOD, but in the end decided none of those options had the level of processing and memory capacity I required for some of the DABI tasks I undertook, thus I chose to upcycle my early-2011 17″ Macbook Pro by adding a 1TB SSD and 16GB RAM to it, upgrading to Yosemite and Parallels 10 to run a Windows 7 VM for use with work based apps such as Lotus Notes, MS Office and MS Sharepoint tools.  This has been a rather satisfactory result.

I have been making a concerted effort to evaluate the differing cloud based application offerings – choosing those that offered a good mix of bang-for-buck, cross-platform compatibility,  security and ease of use. Thus some of my offering choices have changed. 

  • eMail is maintained via the Google Mail & App Services which is still the no brainer choice here. The continued improvements of the integrated Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Drive and if you are inclined, hangouts and plus,  The implementation of inbox is also making this a choice of preference for another year. I just wish they would allow inbox to become the one window view to all my accounts, not just one eMail address at a time.
  • Storage is something that has undergone a number of contenders over the last few years. I was a fan of Dropbox, but then SugarSync stole my heart. Then I flirted and had serious affairs with Cubby and Box.com but in the end, I started forking out my hard earned dollars to TresorIT. Built for security, it offers a range of ACL options, the ability to selectively sync folders between devices, the ability to implement two-factor authentication, the ability to utilise groups and policies, IP Filtering, Device management, DRM … well, you get the idea – plus they are constantly tryinbg to improve and add new features, which is nice.
  • Evernote : It’s a constant for me – I was introduced to the application back in the day when it was still a thick client that had just introduced a “run on USB” portable option. It is the next best solution for keeping all your ‘business’ in one place. It has replaced Pocket, Reader and Instapaper for my “read it later” functions and now it is lIke a digital memory box – with OCR, camera, handwriting and audio notes, plus and an ever increasing set of capabilities that makes it hard to leave the platform. In fact, when I looked at onenote as part of the (workplace) desktop SOE, I decided that I would need IFTTT to have a better connector to send my content back into Evernote.
  • The Chrome browser : A few years ago, I was using the “Chrome to Phone” and  “Phone to Chrome” as well as the XMARKS bookmark sync engine. Frankly though, simply utilising Chrome on all of my devices allows me to synchronise bookmarks, form data, tabs and even push pages to a specific mobile device. It has all but become a cloud based browser. Though, with the known memory leak issues of Chrome on Windows, I can understand why people are starting to get annoyed with it.
  • LastPass : The “last password you need to remember” password managment system that integrates across devices, browsers and is cloud accessible. Plus the secure notes feature now allows you to add attachments (images, pdf, etc) to them, making it a great way to photograph all of your IDs, cards, passports, etc and keep them lockd behind a two-factor authentication and the best part is, this “premium” feature costs all of $12/year!
  • Whilst I like the google Doc options, the CloudOn service when I originally discovered it a few years back was a cloud based MS Word, Excel and Powerpoint service that was not just “compatible” but was an actual MS Office environment. However, since then it has reinvented itself into a Simple, Powerful Doc Editor. It’s nice, but it’s not what I wanted, but essentially, I guess the O365 made the original venture uncompetitive. This has led me to need to look at this arena again. For 90% of my document writing, editing and presentation needs, the Google offerings are fine. Yet, nothing I have found (yet) is as powerful as excel for the DABI that I do. The range of array formulas and index lookups I perform on even my simplest sheets is enough to drain most machines into a paging frenzy – so for now, excel must remain a thick client.
  • The demise of the google reader left a few of us in the lurch. There were a number of contenders for replacement, but in the end, Flipboard became my default reader. RSS feeds aren’t as simple to feed into it, but via various methods, they can still be fed into your account, plus, if you’re so inclined, you can create your own flipboard magazine to keep articles of interest on for yourself or to share with your friends.
  • Task managment is somethign I am still flipping between with Any.do and Google.Tasks both leapfrogging each other every six months or so to become my flavour of the month, as it were. I’m not sure which one will win out in the end.

So, other than the LIMA I am expecting to receive when it exits beta next year, then that’s it for now. I may not end up getting a new PC or laptop in a few years, the new QNAP devices are now offering virtualisation engines and the ability to plug a keyboard, mouse and HDMI device directly into them to utilise VMs directly when at home, and with a good tablet, remote access to them will also be a breeze.

So, once again, So, that’s my list for now … what else is out there that you’d recommend? If so, let me know, otherwise, untill next time.

Four cups of coffee, three angry eMails, two Work meetings and an ulcer in my pear shaped body …

… and it’s only just ticked over to 08:00.

Continue reading “Four cups of coffee, three angry eMails, two Work meetings and an ulcer in my pear shaped body …”

Five or so …

  1. Both my parents need surgery. Both are obstinate about accepting it not to mention requesting assistance. Both are becoming the children that I need to look after. It is both an unfortunate and an expected element of getting older I guess. I have managed to convince one to go in next week. The other is still a challenge.
  2. Ingrid was given notice of redundancy on Friday evening. Ignoring the inappropriateness of handing anyone a notice last thing on a Friday as they are walking out the door, it wasn’t , nonetheless, completely unexpected as the corporation she works for is in a declining market. However, now all we need to do is find a great corporation that will appreciate her skills, experience and work ethic.
  3. Ironically, considering we moved into Broadford to be closer to, thus have more time for, the farm … I have not had the time to work there in  these last few months. Between the changes at work, aforementioned and non-mentioned family commitments, general maintenance around the residence and general run-of-the-mill life I have not had any time to do more than inspect fence lines.
  4. I have so many thoughts in my head that I wonder sometimes if it won’t cause a synaptic-pressure-bubble aneurysm one day. There are so many things I would love to share, but the complexities are what I find difficult to espouse in any form of clarity. Concepts that seem simple in my head are far more difficult to put on paper, as it were. It frustrates me. It’s like a writer’s block for non writers I guess. Just my luck.
  5.  I haven’t socialised much in the same period of time. This is becoming a thing.  It’s not that I am unhappy with the people I have in my life, and truth be told, I am too tired most days for the lack of socialisation to bother me, but, there are other days where I could do with more people, more stories, more drinking and more laughter.
  6. So it goes.

Data … it’s not (meant to be) a dirty word

Part of my role these days is trying to gather, analyse and present data to better manage our group and in turn provide greater value to the organisation.

This is often frustrating. There are certain data elements that I expected to already be in place – not just collected, but collated and correlated as well. The fact that these data relationships do not exist slows my deliverables down quite considerably. In fact, even after I created a set of data sheets to show the data I require from a range of reports, creating a view of the correlation and effectively providing a multi-point relationship table – I still do not have what I require. I still am stuck behind a set of walls based on swimlanes, licensing limitations or simply some arbitrary “need to know” delineation. After nearly two months, what it effectively means is that I have been unsuccessfully trying to gather the data I require.

Part of the frustration, of course, comes from the fact that I see the problems and that part of me that is a lifelong Solutions person is ready to charge in and discuss the issues, provide an analysis and then fix them.

 But that is no longer my role. Nor, it seems, is it met with grace when offered.

So, instead, whilst I await the potential second coming of an anointed one to provide me with a custom report, I am playing around with trying to kludge together a data cube in excel with the Microsoft PowerPivot add-on and some fancy pancy lookup tables. So far it has eventuated in a steady migraine, a nervous twitch and what I think was a stress induced aneurysm.

This has been a Monday post.

An Alternative Working Title was : MS Excel, the enterprise tool you didn’t know you had!

Another Weekend’s efforts …

This weekend’s efforts in our little townie block was focussed on cleaning up our little eucalyptus forest patch.

Two days of removing dead branches, leaf litter, and mulching. The euco forest is only a quarter acre’s worth and we are only a third of the way done. The thing is “in the wild” bushfires and animals would do the work between them knocking off the dead branches and clearing (or at least ruffling) the ground cover as well, allowing for a faster breakdown and clearing of space for ground covers and understory plants to get a foothold. In a “domesticated” setting the “bushfire event” has to be you us.

Thus why we do these insane things.