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Starting Business Architecture in your Organization with Amy Crockett
My name is Amy Crockett, and I am the Director of Enterprise Business Architecture at VF Corporation. The reason I would say you would want to listen to me is that I have been in this field since 2007. I have found it very beneficial in transitioning out of an IT role into the business role, and being able to really help enable the business to achieve its goals and having us partner with the business as well as other practitioners.
They got involved in January 2015, so right over a year. That was why I was brought into the organization. I was previously at another company for 17 years and helped [state 00:00:16] up their business architecture practice. Through some of the conferences and conversations and dialogues like this, they found out about me. We had conversations and it turned into an opportunity for me to come and help [BS 00:00:31] set up their business architecture practice.
I would say probably, initially, it started from a complexity issue in IT as well as investment run rate spend. Those were the 2 things that really were keeping them from being able to move forward. Because of that, they knew that they needed to change their focus. There's one particular gentleman leader there that really gets it. He proposed that they start looking at this from a business architecture perspective and that we look at capabilities because from that, we can drive what work we should be doing. We could probably reduce complexity, reduce duplication and thereby reducing your run rate and your spend and being able to have money free to do other type of work.
For us, we report to IT. Our immediate director, or manager, is a CTO, but also he has a duplicate role of CIO for all of Europe. Then we report to the global CIO. Yes, it is an NIT organization, but I have the benefit of operating as if I don't. I'm always accused of not wearing my IT hat and representing, maybe, business architecture as if I existed outside of IT.
Sure, so we just completed our first pilot at VF for Business Architecture and the way we really apply that is we really look at it from a business perspective. We look at a holistic perspective, we take into account the experience, the capabilities, the people, the process, information and technology, and we tackle it from an opportunity of a strategic change. Helping the business to either solve a problem or to leap ahead in the industry in something that they're trying to achieve, so we use a standard methodology. It is a flexible methodology though, so that way based on the problem you're trying to solve, you flex and move with that. You don't need to do everything from A to Z if it doesn't apply. Do what applies, help the business to see what they need to accomplish, make sure you have long, good conversations, you listen to them, help them really to solve the problem. In the end, you've gained their trust, you give them facts that will help them make a fact-based decision, and they will then invite you back to the table for bigger, grander opportunities.
As you might expect, one of the largest problems you run into is people saying, "You're in my sandbox. I already do that. Why are you here? How are you going to be any different than what we've done?"One thing that was surprising for me when I did take this position, I did not realize they had tried enterprise architecture previously twice at VF Corporation, and I found that after I arrived. "Not a problem," I said, "I'm a go-getter. It doesn't mater who many times you've tried this, you've got the right person in here and we'll make this work this time."Some of the challenges was, "You're in my sandbox. Why are you here?" Also, with even the fellow technical architects, they are used to managing that relationship with the business, and when someone who's coming in is actually trying to now step in and get ahead of their conversations, from a project perspective, they feel like they're losing some of that traction with the business, and so you have to be very cognizant of not only you establishing a practice within a corporation and with the business, but also with your fellow practitioners so that they understand why and how you can help them.That was one of the biggest challenges, and how I overcame that was really involving them in the engagement at the right time, listening to the problems they were having and giving them the opportunity to participate in that engagement, give their voice, and realize that by having business architecture available to them, they would actually be more informed by the time it got to them for a project. They weren't trying to do business-level work when it came to doing an IT implementation.
We do and we don't. There are people titled with enterprise architecture, but nobody really do enterprise architecture. What you'll find is most of those titled enterprise architecture are infrastructure architects. Because infrastructure is one of those things that automatically go across your organization, they've always thought of themself as enterprise architect, but they never really had that full-fledged role from a business perspective where they actually talk to the business about business opportunities, goals, objectives, strategies. What are my business capabilities? Everything was straight to a technology solution, technology roadmap.By having business architecture there, we were able to let them know that we can step in front of that, take some of that workload off of them because they felt overworked at times too, couldn't really service the business at the level that they wanted to. By having us step in and help inform them better about what the business was trying to long term, not just per project, they have now started recognizing the need for us. I don't really care about titles. They can be called enterprise architects all day long. As long long as we know our roles and how we work together, that's really that matters to me.
I think two things come to mind. First of all, staffing. Being that it's a new practice, it's basically me as well as a consultant helping me. We are actually at that point now where we have more requests than the two of us can fund and manage the workload on, so one of the first things I would want to do is be able to grow that. I'd love to have the ability to have at least a mid-level business architect that knows, has some experience in that space to help and share the workload for those engagements so we don't have to say no or we don't have to move as slow. I'd love to look at opportunities bringing on junior business architects, utilizing interns. I think it's a great opportunity to expose people outside of the organization to what business architecture is, as well as a long-term view of how I might actually get additional business architects that I've worked with, kind of tested the waters with, and so that would be my first thing.My second thing would be to move us out of IT. Now, I would prefer that, but I don't let that hinder me, and that's what I really want to stress to people is that no matter where you're organized at, you can make it work as long as you've got the right leadership support and you focus it from a business perspective, but ultimately I'd love to be closer to the strategy team, innovation teams, because we can go hand-in-hand and move forward from there.
I'll take the first part of that about what business architecture community can do as a whole. You have the Junior Achievement programs. What a great opportunity to get into the schools, get into those schools at an early age and mentor children, mentor young adults as they're coming into high school and opening their minds to the abilities of what it takes to be a business architect because it's so new as a discipline, but at the same time I think the thinking, the critical thinking skills, the problem solving skills, the system design thinking, I think it exists out there.There are people who are maybe technical minded, but are more social. That's an interesting part because not always are you in an IT world. You need to have that social skill, that soft skill. Soft skills are critical. I think we should partner more with the colleges, I think with junior colleges. I think we should partner with the high schools, the Junior Achievement programs. Get the word out of what it means. If nothing else, just go on the day that says here's what a business architect is. Describe it and get them all energized by it.From preparing students, whether it be in high school or be in college for business architecture, internships I think is the number one way to do that. We need to get heavily involved with the internship programs. A lot of companies have those. If you don't; we don't have a very strong one at VF, and I'm helping to establish that; get out there. Get the word out. Look for good talent. It's a great way for them to test the waters as well as the company to test the waters. It's long-term vision for getting resources into the company. I would ask those candidates that might want to be in the business architecture to look at the big picture, to think about strategy, to have the skills around system thinking. How do things work?Causal models or causal thinking, cause and effect. It's amazing. You think of that mostly in a science perspective and more hard science, maybe biology and chemistry, but there's always a cause and effect even in the real world. Having that kind of perspective is really helpful. Not being afraid to ask questions and discover the unknown and be innovative, those would be some of the things I think they should focus on. If we had an actual business architecture degree plan, wow, wouldn't that be really nice? Let's start here and at least start focusing on some of the classes they can take to help broaden their mind and their understanding of how business works.
I have been doing this since 2007, and that was pre-BA Guild existence. I can tell you that first year was a struggle, was difficult, because trying to find anybody who could agree on what business architecture was was extremely difficult and painful. When you're trying to win over people in your organization and you say, "This is what business architecture is," and they go out and Google it, they will do that on you, and they come back and say, "Well, I see that it looks like this," or "I see it looks like that," you're challenged. It's hard to say no to.When the Business Architecture Guild and organizations like OMG and ISX started getting set up and started partnering together, and I think [FEPO 00:00:48] was one of them, just working together really to bring the different disciplines together, has given it some leverage in companies, and you see it change. You saw it initially in IT. You see more and more of that moving to the business, which is I think where we should be positioned,As far as the future, one of the things I'd like to see most is that kind of the integration of causal modelling, the cause and effect, system thinking, because I think there's too many times that we don't understand cause and effect, or the business doesn't. They automatically assume if A occurs, B's going to occur. What they don't realize is there's a lot more involved in that. There's a lot more implications in that, and that doing A and B combined may actually do quite the reverse of what they think will happen. That really helps empower the business architects to challenge that thinking through fact-based and challenging the assumptions of the business and helps arm them with the right information to make the better decisions.
That's a good point. I think we, as practitioners, being business architects, process engineers, because I worked at a company where all the process engineers were called business architects. That was a challenge to get people to understand the difference between a business architect and a process engineer. They are related disciplines, they help one another, support one another, but they have different roles, different responsibilities, different skill sets. If we all, as a community of practitioners, could come together and actually agree on what we do, how we work together, agree on terminology, that alone, just agreeing on terminology, agreeing on our roles and deliverables, I think it adds some concreteness. When someone goes out and challenges you, at least there's something out there that's supporting it.I go back to colleges, it's just amazing how many times not having a certification or a degree, a Bachelor's in business architecture, doesn't help us because there have been disciplines in the past that once they got a degree plan, some college degree that this was a certified degree plan, that it was worth its weight, that must be solid in the organization, must be solid in the industry. I think that is one of the biggest things is getting that established as a real practice in the terminology.
I guess the only thing I would share is, I've been involved with the BA Guild now, for 3 years. It's been very helpful in having a book of knowledge to get to. I think we need to keep challenging ourselves to move forward, to make it easy and simple. Some of that is something we're doing now, with around the case studies. I think it's critical that we get more case studies out there, broaden our case study perspective. If you look at the BA Guild, there's a reason why it goes through a financial perspective. That's because that was the industry that really clung to business architecture first, but when you're trying to persuade people in your organization that this is relevant to what they need to do, you need to have case studies that prove their point of view.You got to have things from retail, from fashion, from manufacturing, from health care, which I think that's where we're going, but I think, sometimes it's difficult, because you have to overcome your own case study. You have to either make it up from scratch, or you just hope that you can piecemeal some pieces together. I'd like to see them do that. I think the certification program has been awesome. That adds some credibility. Don't have a degree plan, but at least the certification is adding credibility, I think, to the discipline as an industry. I think those would be the two biggest things.
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