OK so this blog won’t go down well with everyone. I ought to apologize, but I think I will hold my apology for now, and see how the comments go.
In a nutshell, I met with yet another vendor that had a great metadata modeling/semantic discovery tool. It was a cool demo full of gadgets and gizmos, just a little short of business context. Technically the vendors’ toolset was pretty cool. It seemed it could “discover” where data resides, and extract and represent a taxonomy for what information assets exist “out there”. Cool. The problem is, unless there is a problem that business wants to solve, this cool technology will be just that – cool (and the vendor will be poor).
However, this particular vendor briefing made something very clear to me. The vendor showed me a cool slide that showed the major disconnect between traditional enterprise/information architects and business users. This cool technology vendor accidentally (I think) brought into contrast a major issue in IT.
Business users case about transactions – it is what they user to measure success. It is the data that feeds their financial systems and drives their operational KPIs. This data is the most granular in terms of “enterprise taxonomy”- it is the base level master data. It is what turns those business users on. IT however, specifically the EA and IA among us, generally tend to talk from the top down, that is, from conceptual perspectives of business models and objects, that eventually relate to products and customers that persist in financial transactions. This gap is why so much of what classic EA/IA resides in a blue folder on the shelf at so many organizations.
The most insidious part of this situation? The EA/IA had the right idea, but what they lacked was the means to embed what they do/delivered into day-to-day operations. EA/IA needs to be connected and its results transparent. It is the transparency that most interests me. That is because what EA/IA types create is what (business) data stewards need to use as guardrails. But the funny thing is that most EA/IA types (and supporting vendors) focus on technology, and not business.
The results of effective EA/IA should be business consumable! This might seem counter intuitive. Most “architects” focus on standards and assume IT use the standards to make decisions. I think the work of EA/IA goes much further that that. That role helps determine the framework in which goals and objectives are sought. As such, this is not “off line” or “used by IT” but should be transparency behind every important business decision.
I think this might sound like heresy. Some EA types might agree – but most just don’t know how to do what I suggest!
And this is where my favorite hot topic for 2012 comes forward. The secret, for me, is captured in the “13 minutes of work a week your (business) data steward should be working on”. Information stewardship needs to be a business process where IT’s involvement, most critical, is transparent to the business user. That means no dialog about metadata management (though it is needed); no talk about business rules management (tough it is mandatory); and no talk about workflow and BPM (though it is required).
Until and if IT and its partnering vendors “get it”, and design solutions to support “13 minutes a week” of work in a transparent manner, business won’t be satisfied (and vendors, like the one I talked to this week), won’t be anything other than a cool, boutique vendor.