Friday, April 1, 2011

Mission Alignment: A Responsibility of the Enterprise Architect

Mission Alignment and VOI
Mission Alignment is the process of aligning the organization's enterprise architecture with the organization's mission to ensure the organization's investments in processes and infrastructure most optimally enable and support the organization's mission and vision.  Having define mission alignment, nearly all organizations of more than 3 to 9 people do a lousy job mission alignment, aligning their investments with their goals for two reasons, private or hidden agendas and difficulty in benefit measurement.

Private Agendas
As was shown in the Biosphere experiment, once an organization increases in size beyond 2 to 4 people, private and hidden agendas, including vying to be the "Big Dog", envy, and greed come into play; as with most species of animals.  Consequently, most managers have a vested interest in not managing the organization's investments.  By this I mean, not actually measuring the value produced by the investments in terms of how well the investment aligns with the organization's mission; instead, they informally measure how much more their own fiefdom has increased, how much advantage it has given the function that they direct, and so on.  In fact, many bonus pools are based on metrics like these; so there is little incentive for managers to want to align their hidden agendas with the organization's mission and great incentive not to enable any measurements of real alignment.

Benefit Measurements
Likewise, measuring the benefits of an investment is difficult for two reasons.  First, measuring the benefits of a particular investment may not fit well if, like financial analysts, financial engineers, and others of this ilk, financial metrics are the only way to measure value?  A good example was given in an article in National Defense, (March 2011), p. 35.
When you buy a pickup truck and you ask the potential buyer, "what do you intend to do with it?" They'll have an idea, but they won't be able to fathom what you're able to do with it...That's what you're buying--the capability. (emphasis mine)
While finance engineers may be able translate some of the capability into monetary terms, the majority is latent in the capability; until it is required.  For example, the United States chose to build their Interstate system to last 50 years.  Even with mostly reactive maintenance and upgrades, the highways have, for the most part, lasted at least 50 years, but still people are surprised when the highways have started to come apart at the seams, literally.  The reason is that if there is a problem with a section of concrete, the road crews patch it or pave it over with asphalt.  When water seeps in and traffic hits it hard, the patches simply come apart; which means job security for the road fixer union members and broken axles, poor gas mileage, and many flats for the motoring public (the rest of us).  The political decision-makers (together with their finance engineering advisers) would rather support new programs for which they can gain credit, than invest in something as mundane as infrastructure--again, because there is no easy way, "financially" to measure the benefits of a transformation of the architecture.

Second, unless there is an opportunity to measure the change in production capability both before and after the implementation of a new investment, how can the improved effectiveness be measured?  Generally, once a transformation is complete, the team moves onto the next transformation activity.  What is missing is a "Organizational (or Business) Activity Monitoring and Management" process, which is one the component processes of Mission Alignment.  It is based on the premise that "you can't manage what you can't measure".

Still the question is "What is the measurable benefit of a reliable electrical grid?"  Apparently, nothing according to finance engineering--until the grid fails and a major manufacturing plant stops operation.  There are many attributes of the infrastructure that are not measured and therefore not managed, but which always seem to come into sharp focus when the processes of the organization's are stressed.  These include: increased Production Capability, reliability, agility, and surge capacity.
Measuring the benefits of an investment should include Value On Investment (VOI) in terms of increased production capability (including more effective performance in achieving the organization's mission, more reliable, less expensive per unit), even if the capability is not immediately used.  Additionally, VOI would include metrics for agility and dependability.

The Roll and Responsibilities of the Enterprise Architect
In my post entitled "System Architect and Enterprise Architect", I outlined the responsibilities of the Systems Engineer, the System Architect, and the Enterprise Architect.  The two key responsibilities of the Enterprise Architect are:
  1. Support for organization's Mission Alignment Process--The organization's decision process to optimize the investments to enable and support the organization's vision and mission and,
  2. Support of organization's Governance and Policy Management Processes--The organization's processes to optimize the organization's policies and standards to enable and support the organization's vision and mission.  I discussed governance and policy management this in a post entitled Standards: a Mission of Government and Governenance.
Requirements for an effective Enterprise Architect:
The Enterprise Architect has impossible responsibilities, because to the issues discussed above, unless three conditions are met.
  1. CEO backing - The Enterprise Architect requires the authority, at least equivalent to the CFO, to meet either of the two responsibilities.  Frequently, achieving the long-term mission of the organization will conflict with increasing short-term ROI.  Like good military leaders, CEOs may have to trade "space for time", that is, "long-term" ability to achieve the organization's vision and mission for short-term ROI.  Additionally, the CEO must allow the Enterprise Architect two or three (three month iterations) through the mission alignment process (the Mission and Architecture Driven Investment decision process).  The reason is that this will get adequate time to calibrate the benefits metrics, go through the learning curve for the processes, and to implement the Asset and Enterprise Architecture Repository.
  2. Good Systems Engineering,System Architecture, and Enterprise Architecture processes are required. A good mission alignment process (and governance process) will not ensure effective and cost efficient implementations of the investments--only good Systems Engineering and System Architectures will do that.
  3. Finally, the implementation  of an Asset and Enterprise Architecture Repository is required to enable measuring both the "as is" (before and after a transformation) and the potential "to be" functional systems (see my post "Initially Implementing Asset and Enterprise Architecture process and an AEAR").
For details on the activities of the Mission Alignment Process, see my post The OODA Loop in Mission Alignment Activities. Also see my post Process Effectiveness Versus Finance Engineering for more details on benefits measurement.

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