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Tuesday, 03 May 2016 02:15

Collaborative Evolution

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"Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success." 

- Henry Ford


Ten years ago, Gartner published the Emerging Technology Hype Cycle Report, and identified “collective intelligence” as a technology that would have “the greatest impact” on business over the following decade. Now in 2016, a convergence of technologies has conspired to create a miasma of complexity so engulfing that there is no alternative but to adapt to it. Old responses to new norms are inadequate. So how is this challenge to be addressed to retain existing market share and build on achieved success?

 

A recent article “Let Go of What Made Your Company Great” in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) discussing organisational response states that “the appropriate solution to employ depends on the magnitude of the challenge and how much of the organization is affected by the challenge”.


The very organisational structures that sufficed to create success in the past now present the greatest risk to adaptive organisational response to the complexity challenge. The HBR goes on to demonstrate with business examples, that letting go of entrenched thinking requires bringing “the organizational reflex circuitry out of auto-pilot.” A survey on business agility recently reported that almost fifty percent of survey participants blamed opposition based company culture or philosophy for agile failures.

 

In “Collective Intelligence in Teams and Organizations” a paper by lead author Anita Williams Woolley from MIT, the team explores the ingredients required for the development of collective intelligence and describes collective intelligence as including “a group’s capability to collaborate and coordinate effectively” stating “this is often much more important for group performance than individual ability alone”.


Agile encourages enhanced communication, sharing of information and collaboration. A report in Forbes from 2015 by Steve Denning discusses how “Agile, Scrum and Lean arose as a deliberate response to the problems of hierarchical bureaucracy that is still pervasive in organizations today: falling rates of return on assets and on invested capital, a dispirited workforce, a decline in competitiveness and widespread disruption of existing business models.” In hierarchical models subordinates report upwardly to the bosses. In horizontal agile structures the team focusses on the customer and as Peter Drucker has stated, the single goal of a business is to create a customer.


The collaborative behaviour between self organising, cross functional teams has recognised similarities in swarm intelligence or stigmergy, the stimulation effect that individual effort has in guiding the work of co-workers and the behaviour that creates the shared outcome.

 

Through the agile software development methodology, the evolution of requirements and solutions supported by the collaboration activity patterns of agile teams is similar to those exhibited in stimergy. Team members are stimulated by the performance that they have achieved and they are also stigmergically stimulated by their environment which, apart from collaboration enabling technologies also includes management support.


Organizational theorist Ikujiro Nonaka suggests that innovation comes from serendipity. Knowledge is not created by information processing, but by “tapping the tacit and often highly subjective insights, intuitions, and hunches of individual employees and making those insights available for testing and use by the company as a whole". He adds “The key to this process is personal commitment, the employees’ sense of identity with the enterprise and its mission.”


Silos are the nemesis of serendipity. Different team members and stakeholders must be able to input information that is relevant to their roles and activities and that is useful to the other members of shared projects. This implies the necessity to capture this information in a model that is available to all team members overcoming their geographical limitation.


The emergence of new ideas, or innovation, through collaboration, has been commented on extensively. A single idea can lead to breakthroughs and competitive advantage and the idea of one person can be used by many others who can make small refinements or improvements to the idea or spark completely new ideas. These in turn become the normal as creativity destroys long accepted convention.


Collaboration is becoming a new enterprise standard. In the face of the challenges being presented by market uncertainty, successful transition to the most effective use of strategic information technology, is a priority for many organisations. Collaboration enables the enterprise to leverage the strengths of all its parts and by harnessing creative energy and increasing the chances of success, while reducing or eliminating process overlap and resource redundancy. The shared awareness of issues promoted through collaboration encourages trust and builds confidence in group stakeholders and synergises the collective response to problem resolution.


The mutual dependency of collaborative culture and Agile approaches, is essential for successful project delivery, which is ultimately decided by the customer. Whether the organisation is large or small, has not yet adopted Agile or is Agile progressive, a handful of factors are critical to success.


Flexible Planning
In a business environment where innovative disruption is encouraged and fail fast is the short term goal, it is essential that situational change gets a nimble response and to that end, flexibility must be built into planning. The World Development Report 2013 published by the World Bank notes that creative destruction is the mainstay of economic growth. A plan is essential but it is not indispensable and ought to be replaceable when a better idea presents itself. Adaptive schedule planning identifies milestones, but, maintains a flexible approach to get to them, while making allowances for the milestones to change.

 

Evolutionary Development
The evolutionary development approach is iterative and is accepted practice for Agile software development. Agile development principles are different. Change is accepted and expected and because Agile software developers accept change as a constant, they choose to work in this way. A central tenet of agile teams is that it is okay to fail and to try another method. Collaboration unites individual efforts enabling the team to accomplish goals. Failure is foundational to these efforts, as it provides opportunities for teams to review and re-organise strategies.

 

The Global Innovation Index (GII) has established itself as a leading reference on innovation and in 2015 published the eighth report titled “Effective Innovation Policies for Development”. This report stated that “Innovative enterprises are shown to be economically more successful than firms that rely on tried and true processes and approaches.” Agile processes embrace change, which translates as the customer’s competitive advantage.


Early Delivery
Early delivery is seen as a leading measure of progress and depends on several factors. Frequent releases of working software, to ensure shorter feedback cycles which in turn facilitate collaboration with customers. This development cycle also encourages discussion which reveals the status of development, uncovers problems and identifies ways of implementing solutions, while supporting learning and development of an understanding of the function of the system.

 

As implied earlier, higher revenue from stepped delivery is supported by Agile development philosophy which also promotes a culture of ‘perpetual beta’ or early and frequent releases. This high frequency iteration allows the customer to provide valuable feedback on a regular basis.


Continuous Improvement
Process improvement underpinned the successful growth of Toyota from its small company genesis to a global auto industry leader, over a relatively short period. Also known as Kaizen, continuous improvement, a lean based manufacturing approach, systematically seeks to achieve incremental changes in processes, in order to improve efficiency and quality.


Embracing Change
When change is viewed as an asset within an organisation, survivability and competitiveness are supported and the process of evolving to a future state is a cultural constant for such organizations. In the past, stability was seen as a positive attribute within an organisation and was the bulwark against change, which if possible was to be averted.

 

Today that strategy has been obliterated. Agile is the adaptability and responsiveness to change that is essential to successfully compete in the new competitive landscape. The iterative approach of customer driven Agile development teams, while reducing the size of the changes related to a software release, also increases the change frequency. Agile processes embrace change, which translates as the customer’s competitive advantage.

Published in Sparx Insights
Thursday, 21 January 2016 01:48

The Agile Business Analyst

“It's not the technology that's scary; it's what it does to the relations between people that's scary”

- Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Everything Changing:

We are all aware that we are living in a period of unprecedented disruption where everything that we thought as being the status quo, business as usual, is changing rapidly.  Technology ‘disrupts existing markets and value networks, displacing established market leaders and alliances’.  Popular examples are Uber which is challenging the taxi industry model. Then there is AirBnB challenging the accommodation industry model and 3D printing which is challenging the manufacturing model.  

However, in a recent interview Jay Scanlan and Paul Wilmot from McKinsey, posit that unlike a pure play disrupter such as Uber, “our incumbent organizations and our incumbent clients have a broader range of concerns that they need to address. And they have a broader range of customer needs and consumer demands that they want to fulfill.”

Unlike start ups, incumbent organizations hold valuable assets like people, finance and data, etc. Scanlan and Wilmot pose the question as to how incumbents will strategically use these assets to defend themselves against aggressive competition, as digital disrupts their industry.

 

agile cycle 300pxAgile... The New Norm:

In the face of this change, the adoption of Agile approaches to project management is growing.  It is expected that in 2016 the US Federal Government General Services Administration will solicit bids for a number of major agile projects.  This follows the piloting of agile projects last year by 18F, an agile development consulting arm, within General Services Administration.

A recent survey of development and IT professionals, shows that Agile is now the norm. The majority of development teams and projects now embrace the methodology, while pure waterfall approaches are in the minority. The study conducted by HP in 2014 consisted of an online survey of 601 software developers and IT professionals  representing over 600 organisations,  where 400 + described themselves as “pure agile”.

According to Gartner “Digital business will require application leaders to explore development outside of traditional IT and to ensure fast-paced incremental releases in order to be competitive.”  Just as digital transformation is changing role of application leaders such as the CIO, so too it is impacting the role of the Business Analyst (BA) in the private and public sectors.

 

The Agile Business Analyst:

The BA has traditionally embraced the rapids of change much like a canoeist. Using the IIBA Body of Knowledge (BABOK) as both their map and compass, they engage the volatility and uncertainty of change. With an innate capability they navigate successful transits, piloting by their experience and understanding of the different currents and hazards.  

Agile presents great opportunity for the BA.  In the process of connecting people and engendering understanding, improving product quality and increasing customer satisfaction, they have the potential to play many roles, to become the consultant.

A key finding of the HP survey was that the majority of participants agreed that “the primary motivators for Agile adoption are associated with improving team collaboration and increasing software quality and customer satisfaction.”

Becoming increasingly involved in Agile projects and addressing the growth in the variety of concerns of the stakeholder (the Customer) will require that the BA leverage the use of Agile tools.  This technology will enable the BA to help their clients find ways to make Agile work for them.


BABOK  3.0 Reference Model - an Agile Approach:

babok mindmap shotRecently, through a collaboration agreement between International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) and Sparx Systems, a BABOK 3.0 Reference Model has been developed in Enterprise Architect.

This Reference Model provides case studies covering every knowledge area, task and technique in the BABOK Guide. Each case study contains hundreds of examples utilizing diagrams, matrices, charts, documents, and a plethora of tools.  This functionality with many others is combined with the power of Enterprise Architect.

The Reference Model links the BABOK 3.0 to a rich and complete User Guide that provides help and guidance with every aspect of using Enterprise Architect.  Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect is the control center supporting real time collaborative Enterprise Architecture planning, building, testing, deployment and communication across all domains and stakeholders.


Enterprise Agile Adoption:

As the constraints of the traditional enterprise architecture approach are replaced by the force of digital convergence and transformation, executives seek agile enterprise architecture approaches and technologies that are fit for purpose.  The tools deployed to manage that architecture are critical to the success of digital transformation.

Detailed descriptions in the Reference Model will teach the Business Analysts how to use the tool to complete tasks and perform techniques including process modeling and requirements management. Videos, slideshows and white papers add to the rich set of guidance that will help BA's become an Agile Business Analyst assisting organizations to become more purposeful in how they choose to adopt Agile.

Seeking customer feedback and quickly improving the product, fuels the success of many disruptive technologies.  This is the approach of Sparx Systems to the ongoing development of Enterprise Architect. As Sparx Systems CEO, Geoff Sparks notes, “Agile development provides a shared and flexible team experience through complete transparency, iterative development and constant feedback - it has been the essential design goal of Enterprise Architect for over a decade and it will remain just as valid today.”

 

Additional Information:

Published in Sparx Insights