Friday, October 31, 2008

From Enterprise Architecture, through Collaboration Oriented Architectures, to Customer Centric Architecture!

Many IT Enterprise Architects, are still struggling to achieve their ultimate peak, which they have determined to be the optimisation and complete integration of the Enterprise. Historically they have determined that their primary focus is optimising the benefit of usng IT to their total Enterprise (represented by the Green shape), the integration and productivity benefits accruing from connecting a few organisations within an Enterprise as the second priority (the orange colour). Leaving the optimisation of single organisations as the third priority (Light Blue). This is often hard as each internal organisation sets more store by the value that IT can bring to their own organisation, than considering the optimal usage of IT across the Enterprise. This results in a large amount of wasted effort as each internal function battles for the resources to maximise the benefits of IT for themselves.

Even more unfortunate is the fact that this internally focussed and selfish optimisation approach results in barriers to collaboration between Enterprises. The recently published Collaboration Oriented Architecture framework from the Open Group highlights key steps to take reduce the friction between Enterprises, while minimising the risks to the Enterprises and their Customers.

However, even this refined collaboration oriented approach still does not resolve the key issues and opportunities for the most important constituents of all Enterprises: their Customers! Customers are impacted most badly by architectural approaches that do not hold them at the centre.

The new Yellow layer in the diagram above signifies a new Customer Centric layer. Architects who understand the importance of this new layer will be scrambling to drop their Enterprise or Collaboration titles and adopt the attitudes and title of a Customer Centric Architect. Now we have to start thinking about what exactly that means, we could do well by starting to think about how Identity and Access Management systems optimised to meet the needs of individual Enterprises might be architected with the Customer in the forefront of all our minds.

There is a lot to do to change our architecture mindsets. We need to stop thinking internally of our own Enterprises and change to think FIRST of our Customers. It was hard enough trying to achieve Enterprise Architecture, one can only imagine the difficulties that will be encountered on this journey. However the benefits are even more legion than those which drove us to strive for Enterprise Architecture. Now all we have to do is to persuade the internal functions why this makes more sense than focussing on their special needs. Perhaps it will be easier to persuade them to give up their own gains, if it is the Customer that wins rather than a colleague in another department/organisation!?

However it won't be that easy to accomplish as the legacy systems are all facing the wrong way, akin to each organisation or function in an Enterprise having its clothes on inside out! Perhaps the challenge of changing this state of affairs should not be imagined, as the resulting vision of Enterprises in varying states of undress will not be not pretty. But imagine it we must, happily we have pointers and emerging tools and services. The tenets are similar to those espoused in the Jericho Forum COA, the benefits will however be more profound. Additionaly, SOA, the Cloud, Mobilisation, Web 2.0 (The Social Web) and in the future Web 3.0 (The Semantic Web) are all emerging at the right time. With these tools Enterprises will be at least able to consider the transformation, assuming of course they have Customer Centric Architects that get it, and internal functions that are willing to take their "clothes" off! Perhaps that is the real result of Consumerisation, not just of the devices and services, but of whole Enterprises! Now that is a nice thing to imagine!

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