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Business Architecture – Your Ticket to Valued ‘Fast-Track’ Delivery

No doubt there are some of you, who having read the words value-led ‘fast-track’ delivery in the title, are thinking……what? Going down a route involving business architecture and business blueprinting sounds like a recipe for the exact opposite result!

We would like to take this opportunity to convince you that it can be otherwise. We certainly will be the first to admit that getting involved with one of the well known business architecture frameworks (not mentioning any names), either proprietary or public, can sometimes result in overbearing bureaucracy, analysis-paralysis and interminable delays in getting to delivery of anything (apart from paperwork of course) never mind benefits.

However, the operative word here is ‘can’. It does not have to be this way, and although we too are leery of using the well known frameworks (which is why we have created our own), it is not because they don’t have their merits and can’t be powerful and useful in the ‘right’ hands.

Ahhhh…….now we are getting to the crux of this point……useful in the ‘right’ hands. It is probably obvious that many things that are useful in the ‘right’ hands can be much less so in the ‘wrong’ ones. This is certainly VERY true of business architecture frameworks.

We would define the ‘right’ hands as being people who are clear that the end-game is about improved business results as measured by customer satisfaction, revenue, etc. Importantly, this needs further qualification by saying that they also need to understand that this must be delivered in the nearer-term as well as in the medium to longer-term. And that a solution that will serve a business well is not necessarily always going to be the most elegant, complete or thorough one!

Very commonly time-to-market is more important than building an ‘ideal’ solution! We would define the ‘wrong’ hands as anyone who does not really ‘get’ or practice in accordance with the above definition of the ‘right’ hands. And there are many of them out there. This can be due to a number of different reasons, including:

 

  • They are young and inexperienced and don’t critically question methodologies.
  • They are experienced in ‘technical’ matters only and don’t really appreciate the business drivers……and are frequently not good with people anyway.
  • They understand business needs to a point but prefer being ‘clever’ about the technical stuff…..it is their domain and often their only real source of influence.
  • They are ‘status quo’ types who will not risk straying away from conventional wisdom…..in the belief they can thus also avoid any blame for delivery failures.
  • They have their own agenda for being obtuse (you fill in the motive).

 

Obviously the above list could be extended with more and different combinations, but for our purposes the point is adequately made.

People who can’t or won’t interpret and use a method or technique ‘intelligently’ are often responsible for its failure to deliver the desired results. It is rarely the fault of the method or technique itself unless it has been inappropriately selected for use in the problem space. Which again more often than not usually goes back to the ‘wrong’ hands point!

So now that we have a picture of the people side of the equation, i.e. the ‘right’ versus the ‘wrong’ hands, how do the ‘right’ hands use a method or technique differently from the ‘wrong’ hands such that a value-led ‘fast-track’ delivery is achieved. After all, they are the same methods and techniques, so what is the difference in their use that accounts for this difference in results?

Well, a lot of the difference in the results achieved through the ‘right’ hands is down to the experiences, attitudes and values that those people bring to the table.

We have already mentioned some of them, but let’s just gather those and other key points together here. The differences in the use of methods and techniques that often count most in any value-led ‘fast-track’ delivery approach include:

 

  • Always insisting on a clear starting point in terms of scope, business critical deadlines or imperatives, priorities, goals, constraints, assumptions, staffing, etc. Start off as you mean to go on….or don’t start.
  • Never forgetting that the end-game is about improved business results as measured by customer satisfaction, revenue, etc.
  • Understanding that nearer-term results must almost always be part of the delivery plan. Medium to longer-term outcomes are fine, but the business must also be able to survive and succeed in the interim.
  • Realising good enough ’80/20′ solutions are usually better than 100% ‘ideal’ solutions. Particularly in fast-moving sectors where the goal posts shift regularly.
  • Having the insight to realise that much of what any organisation does has been done elsewhere before. Therefore looking for opportunities to re-use relatively standardised solutions based on widely accepted good practice, rather than re-inventing them, makes good sense for non-core or low differentiating areas.
  • Grasping that the executive leadership must broadly understand (i.e. not the details) and buy into their role (e.g. sponsorship, prioritisation, decision taking) in making the change initiative a success and communicating with them regularly there-after.
  • Seeing every methodology or technique as a guidemap, and realising that every step is there for a purpose, but also that NOT every step need be carried out every time. And further, that the degree to which a step is carried out often can and should vary with circumstances on a case-by-case basis.
  • Knowing that the trade-off being made for the relative certainly that flows from a slavish adherence to carrying out every step exhaustively is that time and costs are being pushed up and that benefits are being deferred or even lost.
  • Also knowing that the increased risk associated with a less slavish approach can be largely offset by substituting experience and judgment into the team in place of extensive analysis. After all most things have been done before elsewhere so it can often just be a question of involving the ‘right’ people.
  • Understanding that more detailed plans, gantt charts and WBSs do not necessarily translate into better outcomes. Control is a good thing, but over-control is not…..so detailed planning beyond a reasonable time horizon and telling people how to do a thing, instead of just telling them what needs doing, is usually counter-productive.
  • Appreciating that every case is unique in that the risk / reward trade-off between relative certainty (i.e. via extensive analysis) and speed (i.e. via good judgement and previous experience) will vary with circumstances and must be called accordingly.
  • Experience of the paradox that more time often does not deliver a better result as per the axiom “the work expands to fill the time available”. Shorter, more intensive work, which concentrates minds and builds critical momentum, can often deliver the best results…..even if the process of getting there is a bit messier and more chaotic.

 

We know that the above list is quite varied and can be a lot to absorb, and possibly understand, if you are new to trying to ‘fast-track’ business transformation initiatives. We also appreciate that the experienced reader will not find anything new or revolutionary in the list and may indeed wish to add a few favourite pointers of their own.

However, we also know from our own experiences that whilst not comprehensive, it covers the majority of really key points related to the value-led fast-tracking of an initiative. But by way of emphasis…..of particular importance to successful value-led ‘fast-track’ delivery is the point about substituting experience and judgment for extensive analysis. It just stands to reason if you get the ‘right’ people involved early on the rest will flow more easily in consequence!

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