Delivery Documentaries are a behind the scenes look at how our Enterprise Architects (EAs) in the field perform Value Realization activities for customers. The documentaries are raw and real, and the purpose is to share what actually happens on the ground. They are always a learning opportunity, and we hope that over time we can help bridge the state of the art with the state of the practice, and continue to move the ball forward.
What happens when a company considers strategies for enabling future business transformation by focusing on the business organization as a whole, rather than just the IT organization and practices? Let’s see…
This is a Delivery Documentary of an engagement led by the Microsoft Enterprise Strategy Program (ESP), which provides services to help customers realize the most value from their technology investments. In this engagement, an Enterprise Architect helped the company examine possible strategies for its future approach to business transformation with information and technology.
Rather than focusing on a particular IT solution, this engagement was more about integrating technology into business strategy. As such, the analyses addressed the business organization as a whole instead of just the IT organization and practices.
How It Started
A consultant for the company connected me to an executive within the business. The executive was interested in a holistic analysis of problems facing the business (and the industry as a whole).
Initial Research and Company Background
The consultant and I researched the industry. We found that in the domain of the company’s business, the following issues are currently affecting production, and those affects are increasing:
- External factors: Increasing regulations, governance, and compliance issues. Resources are also becoming more difficult to access, increasingly complex, and technology-dependent.
- Internal factors: Especially changes in the workforce. Most workers at the business fall into two groups: experienced workers approaching retirement, and inexperienced workers who have started in recent years or are just starting. The business faces a significant risk that the experienced workers will not be available long enough to pass their knowledge to the relatively inexperienced workers, and significant amount of information could be lost.
Defining the Scope and Assembling a Team
The consultant and I discussed some possible approaches to help solve challenges around meeting resource demands. We considered analyzing the business processes and overhauling them according to “Lean” methodology, but we decided that this approach would take too long. We considered treating the issue as a knowledge management problem or a workflow improvement problem, but both approaches were too small in scope to address the problem effectively.
We finally decided to target our analysis on all of the processes associated with obtaining resources, and by examining the value chain. We planned to gain a holistic view of these processes, taking the following factors into account:
- Who are the agents or actors in the processes?
- What are the skills and competencies of the people involved?
- What are the processes? Are those processes standardized across all of company’s locations?
- What assets do the processes require?
- Are there existing information models that support these processes? How are they used?
- How does the culture of the organization impact the way people work?
Our goal in this analysis was to produce a roadmap that Contoso can use over time to create the technology, functionality, and information that to support the needed business capability. Contoso already had implemented a number of solutions for providing workers with information they needed to do their jobs; however, these solutions did not share information and workers had to access multiple applications during tasks. A holistic approach would be more efficient.
We planned to center our analysis on models of the business, generating and revising those models based on meetings with workers involved in core processes. We wanted to develop models that would be sophisticated enough to simulate the business processes and operations. We would then be able to:
- Identify the core processes to automate.
- Identify points in the processes where appropriate guidance (such as organizational wisdom or business rules) could be provided to the workers automatically.
- Identify ways to efficiently manage and interpret the huge volume of telemetry and other data generated during normal operations.
At this point, the following additional resources joined the team:
- A user experience expert, to help understand the motivations (both business and personal) of the workers involved.
- A second Microsoft Architect, who was also an expert in analyzing business interactions and business processes.
The team members helped write the vision document for the next phase of work. They also planned out the workshops that we needed to hold with the staff.
Kickoff for the Main Analysis
We met with business leaders at the company to explain our approach, which would use information gathered from the workers themselves to model the current business environment and processes. Based on these models, we would be able to recommend changes that would help close the capability gap through leveraging the appropriate technology.
To gather the information, we held a series of workshops that were designed based on our previous experiences with such engagements.
Our goals for the workshops were to:
- Understand the business needs of Contoso.
- Understand how the workers currently conduct business.
The workshops themselves focused on learning about the workers: who they were, what they did, why and how they did it, and who they worked with. We asked for their goals and the problems that they commonly dealt with, separating personal and business issues.
We also asked them to rank these issues. We approached these sessions from both the user experience and business architecture points of view. Our user experience and business architecture experts helped refine and facilitate the workshops so that both areas could be addressed in a single, continuous session.
Analyzing Data and Revising Models
We worked with Contoso staff to create preliminary models based on industry research, benchmarks, knowledge management and search theory, and so forth. We were able to start expanding and revising the models as we obtained specific information from the workers themselves.
We applied statistical techniques to the ranked goals and problems; the results provided insight into priorities. We also defined a taxonomy that the team could use to describe the data and results.
In general, we looked for patterns in the workers’ responses, issues and priorities that were common to both the junior and senior workers, and areas in which the groups differed. We noted the impacts of the worker’s environments, perspectives, and variations in data handling.
We modeled Contoso’s organizational maturity with respect to its workers, business, knowledge, and the ways in which information was used and distributed. This model was particularly important for Contoso because the business processes were not written down, but instead were embedded in the organizational culture.
Using this information, we produced an agent-based process model for engineering processes using personas and meaningful scenarios. Contoso outlined the scenarios of interest.
Finally, we identified a set of themes based on the workshop data, defined changes that Contoso could make that would yield measureable benefits, and mapped dependencies and relationships among those benefits. We mapped the themes and benefits into a model focused on capability.
We presented our results and recommendations to several different sets of stakeholders, from engineers to executives. We adapted our presentations to the audience. Where appropriate, we used formats that the company used internally.
We organized our findings into three deliverables:
- Scenario analysis, including the personas and processes involved.
- Map of the capabilities that required enhancement, based on the business processes and required information.
- Recommended changes, including changes to processes and competencies to develop in the workers. These changes would shorten the time needed to become an expert—to turn an inexperienced worker into an experienced worker. We also recommended that Contoso use an iterative process: make the changes in small steps, checking the impacts and planning future changes as it goes.