Thursday, 18 March 2010

Beyond the Enterprise

In public sector organisations, I still see architecture efforts being focussed inwards on making the IT shop more effective rather than outwards to serving the public service goals. While reducing costs is laudable, looking at the broader picture in the government/public sector may reap more benefits through common design and implementation. Some obvious examples spring to mind:
  • Shared data-centres and infrastructure - the physical components of "IT"
  • Shared software stack - a managed selection of components on which particular applications can be built
  • Shared business services - eg HR, communications, 
These ideas seem attractive but getting sufficient momentum to make effective enterprises at lower cost has been hard. How can we do better?
  • 'Benevolent' dictatorship
  • Build it, and they will come
  • Present idea and everyone will see it your way
"Yeah right" but there is an alternative that could be born from the efforts of enterprise architecture professionals to architect the enterprise. If, as the Enterprise Architect, you start from the Business Operating Model of your enterprise, there is a fairly obvious set of divisions that can be made:
  • Things that are common to any organisation (accounting, hr, property management ...)
  • Things that are done because the enterprise is part of central government or simply in the public sector. (Budget cycles, freedom of information, working with elected bodies ...)
  • Things that are peculiar to the sector of government the enterprise is working in (education , health, transport ...). All governments seem to sprout specialist agencies in addition to the main portfolio departments/ministries.
  • Things that service the relationship of government to sector. For example a common health record is a service across public, private medical services and the individual clients of those services.
  • Things that are special to the enterprise - (delivering welfare payments, certifying standards met...)

Part of any strategic review by Enterprise architects in the public sector should be to separate the business goals/functions/processes into the broad categories above. Original thoughts and planning can be reserved for the last class. Items falling into the other sort bins are candidates for shared or common services.

Common to any organisation
Rationalise to standards of business practice
Work with "all of government" enterprise architects for strategic direction and implementation roadmap for common solution from readily available components.
Common within government organisations
Work with "all of government" enterprise architects for strategic direction and implementation roadmap.
Sector of government
Work with "sector government" enterprise architects for strategic direction and implementation roadmap.
Sector business services
Note there is not a  common 'head' organisation here. A sector is more of a federation of providers and consumers of services.
Ring fence these services for formal definition.
Establish lead provider for these within sector.

Special to this enterprise
Internally-focussed business process improvement.
Look for business functions that can be generalised (generic application processing rather than application for dog licence)

That is just looking at the business operations ... technology follows! In all cases when considering the technology components, solution architects should be directed towards common services and common behaviours. This is important even for business functions and processes that may be regarded as one-off.

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