Last month, I discussed the rapid change environment that most organizations are experiencing today, and why our traditional systems development methods no longer work if we look only at the operational business processes in the enterprise This month, we see that these processes typically reflect the needs of the past; they rarely address the rapid changes needed for the future. We will see how enterprise architecture and associated methods assist with business transformation enablement.
To appreciate what still needs to be achieved, in earlier columns I discussed the concepts behind Adam Smith's book, Wealth of Nations, published in 1776. This book was the basis for the evolution of the industrial age enterprise. Its direction was correct for that age, but its influence is still being felt in the information age enterprises of the 21 st century.
Most automated processes today assume that the technologies of the past still apply. The manual processes that they automate required paper-based forms that were mailed or later faxed. Therefore, their automated counterparts are based on forms that are also printed to be mailed or faxed. Upon receipt at their destination, the data in these forms is manually reentered into relevant systems with manual work, extra staffing to do that reentry, delays, errors and large associated costs.
The problem is that automated systems that assume inter-communication with printed forms and manual reentry over weeks and days do not work well when asked to inter-communicate with electronic forms that bypass the need for manual reentry - and that complete in minutes or seconds across the Internet. What is the reason for this? Today we have 21 st century enterprises that utilize 21 st century technologies, yet most enterprises today still use 18 th century nonintegrated business processes!
Associated with the new focus of systems development methods, we see how enterprises have evolved to where they are today. Most organizations have adopted the manual processes of the past and automated them with little or no change. They have not embraced the potential offered by enterprise architecture for business transformation enablement.
I have discussed the concepts of enterprise architecture in past columns. When enterprise architecture is used not only by the IT department, but also by business managers, it results in business transformation enablement.
These enterprises transform their 18 th century processes into 21 st century reusable processes that are implemented once, yet shared by all that need them. Instead of needing to keep data up to date in every stovepipe system where that data exists redundantly, these new processes use integrated data that - once changed - is immediately available to all parts of the enterprise that share the data.
Previously, enterprise architecture projects required many years before any benefits or systems could be delivered. The methods that are being used today with enterprise architecture for business transformation enablement now deliver priority reusable processes into production in three-month increments. 1
In earlier columns, I discussed the problems associated with the manual coding methods that we have traditionally used. The technologies that are used to achieve rapid enterprise architecture delivery are based on Web services and service-oriented architectures (SOA) that automatically generate executable XML-based code in business process management languages.
In summary, our systems development methods have served us well thus far, but we have now reached a point where we should focus more on the strategic plans set for the future. We should no longer only address the operational processes we still use today that reflect the plans set for the past.
This leads us to the following key principles for business transformation enablement:
- We must design for tomorrow based not just on operational processes still used today. We need to design for tomorrow using data, activities and processes based on the strategic plans defined for tomorrow.
- Our systems must be tailored for the environment of the Internet - which represents our present and our future - so that enterprises can respond in seconds or minutes, not in days or weeks.
- Our systems must be designed and built so they can accommodate rapid change if they are to be able to support the rapid pace of change that enterprises are experiencing today and tomorrow.
This can be achieved using SOA with XML-based executable business process management languages that are automatically generated from workflow models and process models.
1. "The Zachman Enterprise Architecture" by Stan Locke provides further detail on enterprise architecture. This article may be found at http://www.ies.aust.com/~visible/papers/ZEA-Locke.pdf.
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