Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Information Technology (IT) with sprinkles of Enterprise Architecture (EA)

A few weeks back I posted an article (Why IT Should Be on the CEO’s Agenda) on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) LinkedIn group about why Information Technology (IT) should matter to the CEO. A reader commented and referred me to his blog post. After reviewing his post, I have the following responses:

  • I would argue the perception that IT is too complex and decision-makers need to have a deep understanding of IT in order to leverage it. For most organizational decision-makers, simply recognizing that IT can be leveraged for competitive advantage can be sufficient to have a leg up over the competition. Think about it, although the CEO might have a high-level understanding of Finance, Accounting, Operations, and Sales but does s/he needs to be an expert in all of them? Absolutely not and similarly CEO does not need to have a deep understanding of IT although the better understanding s/he has, the better-equipped s/he will be to face the challenges of the future.
  • On the point that IT has “complex processes and structures” is a blanket statement and would not apply to each and every organization. I would say that it all depends upon the organization and careful review should be done to understand the reasons for the existence of these processes and structures. This review can help in improving the organization and create an appreciation for all sides.
  • In terms of Enterprise Architecture (EA),
    • it has many flavors to it but it almost always starts with strategy/analysis and should result in execution/operations. While EA cannot predict each and every scenario that can happen but by involving the people who are doing the day-to-day operations, EA is able to create concrete solutions that work in the real world and is not merely theory.
    • one of the biggest mistakes organizations make is that they think EA is only an IT-thing, only about artifact development, only about future planning and only about software application development. While all of these are noble pursuits, EA has a much broader view of the world that goes beyond the IT world. A well-run EA practice will consistently produce qualitative (e.g., management best practices, better communications, etc.) and quantitative (e.g., increased productivity/sales, cost savings, etc.) benefits for both IT and business. So, EA sits in between IT and business and whenever you limit it to an IT-thing then it defeats the overarching purpose of EA.
    • organizations already “do” EA, no matter what they call it, how broken it is and no matter if they use custom or industry frameworks to capture the information. Each framework has its pros and cons but organizations simply cannot put the blame on EA when the business itself is not aware of how it can leverage EA across the organization.
    • since EA is the highest level of abstraction, it looks at the business and IT sides holistically and is used to drive various objectives such as organization change, business intelligence, and portfolio management to name a few. It is up to the organization collectively to understand this and then help themselves to continuously improve organizational assets such as people, processes and technologies.

I hope the above response helps shed some light on the different things that organizations need to consider. I would leave you with some questions to think about?

  • Does the organization really know what it wants to be when it grows up?
  • Does the organization really know who it wants as friends?
  • Does the organization really know what house it wants to build?

5 Observations on Being Innovative (at an organizational level)

A typical organizational analysis entails observing the organization from the strategic, political and cultural lenses encompassing people, processes and technologies. While these lenses are useful in understanding the workings of an organization, they are not sufficient for an organization to be innovative. To be innovative, organizations need to have a constant flow of ideas that are generated, captured and then shared smoothly up/down and horizontally across the organization.  These ideas can potentially turn into products and/or services and thus propel the organization forward and keep them ahead of the competition.

In this blog post, I will focus on how to generate ideas for your organization and introduce a term I coined the Innovation Diversity Lens. The basis of this lens emerges from the fact that given the right environment, diversity of people and ideas can lead to innovation. So how does an organization generate ideas? Well, I am glad you asked.  According to my current view of the world, idea generation happens in the following 5 ways:

  1. By tapping into the innovation capabilities within the organization through internal customers. Typically people who are closest to the work can tell you what is not efficient and how it can be improved. Taking this information from multiple people and the co-dependencies of processes you can have a holistic idea of what can happen.
  2. By becoming a catalyst for innovation for external customers. Think about how new versions of the software are released typically based upon new requirements from the customers.
  3. Keeping abreast of innovation within your industry.
  4. Keeping abreast of innovation outside your industry through cross-pollination of ideas. Think about how concepts of Project Management emerged from construction and are now used in software development.
  5. Integration, customization, and combination of the above.
Idea Generation Map Idea Generation Map