Troux Worldwide Conference: Day 2 Highlights

I had another great day at the second day of the Troux Worldwide Conference and I’d like to run through some of the highlights. I’m going to try to be a little bit briefer then yesterday so I’m not going to give you a breakdown of all the sessions, just some of the things that really jumped out at me.  One of the first things I’d like to talk about is a presentation given by Craig Dalton. He spoke about the playbook for Enterprise Portfolio Management success. I think one of the things that was really interesting was that he opened with a little bit of a discussion around how you go from answering questions to sustainable business value. This is interesting because so much of the conversation was about the ability for Troux customers to get to value in rapid fashion and get these huge return on investment numbers but I think there’s less focus on how you sustain it over time.  He answered the question of how do you get that year over year value that you really want to have as an organization.  Now that’s not to discount all of the discussion that centers around ROI and that rapid path to value because it really is so impressive. That is what has driven an incredible growth for Troux as a technology company but I think it It’s a great point. So I thought it was great perspective since so many of the other presentations focused on the big bang they got in the beginning and not on how they continued to sustain that value. So in the discussion on sustainability he made a point that the tools are only a part of the journey. People, process, technology, information, and experience are a part of the journey towards that sustainable business value and can’t be discounted.

Dalton continued his talk with advice on how to ensure that you capture your lessons learned along the way, that you grow from the mistakes that you make, and that the mistakes that you make are going to be inevitable.  He also said that answering important questions is something that they stress a lot, which if you’ve been around Troux folks, they constantly talk about ensuring that you’re answering questions. The distinction he made was to make sure that they’re making interesting and important questions to the business, not just to you. I thought was a very fair statement and one that we tend to forget sometimes.

His next point he stressed was mentioned several times in talks yesterday and that was ensuring that you only get the data you need and not allow yourself to get sidetracked by gathering interesting information. Once you go in and ascertain the questions that you’re going to answer for very specific stakeholders you can’t get sidetracked in that journey because there’s so much effort that goes into getting the data. I know I touched on this point in several instances from the presentations from yesterday but it’s something that I think is worth mentioning again. Since it literally came up in almost every presentation made that you make sure that you maintain that sort of laser focus it clearly needed to be drilled home.

One of the other interesting points that Greg made was that it’s important to embed yourself in existing value producing processes so that you can understand where the organization might get value from. When talking about this he mentioned a little about TOGAF and some of the other things that are out there and used in organizations. He discussed how to map yourself into those processes to ensure that you are helping to provide value from something that is already producing value for your organization because it just makes it easier for you to obtain success.  Now the last thing I want to highlight from that session was that it also contained my favorite slide from probably the whole conference which was a huge picture of Yoda with the slogan, “Do or do not, there is not try.”  He went on to say that you absolutely have to tie yourself to some of the key processes in your organization or you’re simply not going to be successful. I just want to highlight a few of these that he touched on which are: annual budgeting and planning, technical standards management and procurement, project investment planning, and governance.  He said that those are some of the critical pillars that you have to be able  to support as an EA organization and as you implement your tooling strategy if you want to maintain your business relevance.

Another great presentation was put together by Sherry Jordan, who is the Enterprise Architecture Portfolio Manager for Cummins, Inc. She focused on some fairly specific areas and talked a little bit about a specific series of reports and processes her and her team had put together to address risk within the organization.  I really liked it because oftentimes presentations at conferences like these are given by executives and there’s not very much in the way of deep dives into the actual implementations. So this was little bit different presentation and I really enjoyed it.

One of the things she called out was the overlap as you go in and you’re pulling together your data and doing some categorization. One of the really important highlights that you can bubble up is this overlap between obsolete technology and mission critical applications and that is what incredibly important in determining risk within your portfolio.  Then she went on to explain and took us on a sort of walk through a series of the reporting efforts that have been done to highlight this and to support the process for developing plans to address risk within the portfolio. She broke these down into three bullet points

  • Building out a triage report that talks about the specific impact of projects
  • Which technologies don’t adhere to standards
  • What the architectural risk is that’s being presented

For bullet one she talked about having an architectural review board report that carried some of the most important features and a recommended course of action for the project. For the second bullet, she made a statement about the impact of the applications in technologies. For the last bullet, she highlights the use of out of compliance technologies. A lot of this reporting is designed so you really understand the risk you have around key technologies and applications. Part of that is so you can review something later so you can understand why something may have happened and part of that is so that you can do lessons learned. One of the biggest things she mentioned was about having these packaged information intake and review mechanisms is that it can press project review times and allow them to get to value faster. You can use them to push things through.  For example things that used to take weeks, take days, and things that used to take months, takes weeks. So it was a really interesting walk through the specific reports and analytics they use to understand risk within the portfolio and to move projects through that portfolio. In a way, that ensures that al the parties at the table understand what the risk is and that they’re able to go back afterwards and diagnose where something may have gone awry if it does or understands their successes as well. So I thought it was really good.

Another great presentation was done by Mark Bodman who was formerly of Dell.  Specifically, he’s also been a Troux employee and now he an Enterprise Architect for Hewlett-Packard. He opened with a great history of both Troux the tool, enterprise architecture in general, and then a kind of glimpse in the future about how big data was going to impact how enterprise architecture shops work.  He talked about dynamic models and models as queries. It was a really great sort of end to end where presentation about where this whole EA thing got started and where it is headed and I really enjoyed it.

He then talked about some of the business cases for EA, which I also really enjoyed. He talked about M&A investitures, as a underutilized business case, data center transformation, and then app portfolio reduction, which is fairly common use case. Now I don’t want to go into too much detail on each of those but I thought the M&A one was really interesting. He highlighted some organizations that use Troux around their M&A practices like Cisco as an example.  He talked about how as you enter into a merger you know you’ve got company A that has people, processes, applications, and technologies; and then you have company b that’s got people processes, applications, and technologies. When you merge all that you’ve got two xs of all of those and a lot of the value that’s expected by management out of those mergers and acquisitions comes from that addition of some of the capabilities of each company. It theoretically should create this greater and more valuable whole while you consolidate the back end functions in terms of people, processes, technologies, and applications that are now redundant. Problem is that you’ll never get to the full value that you expected if you’re unable to get there. Obviously the more rapidly you can get to a rationalized technology and application portfolio and identify those redundancies, the quicker you’re going to be able to get the value that you expected to get from marrying the unique capabilities of one company with another.  So it was erally an interesting and exciting talk around that area.

With regard to the data center transformation, he focused in on the fact that it’s a multi-year journey and there are some very critical issues that you need to look at. They include

  • Timing
  • Capacity
  • The function of the things that are being supported within the data center
  • Architecture
  • Dependencies

Those five bullet points are things that are critical to understanding how to move forward.  Finally application portfolio cost reduction which is something that Troux has absolutely nailed. He talked about just how simplistic the idea is. When you look at the capabilities of the organization, you put the applications into those types of buckets, and it very rapidly highlights where you have overlap and redundancy. Even though it’s a very simple idea it’s one that most organizations when they carry forward, they find out that there’s an enormous amount of value that can be captured. By simply looking at that picture of, “hey here are the business capabilities that I have and here are all the different applications that I have supporting them,” and beginning that rationalization process is something that is incredibly eye opening for organizations that come into it.  Then he highlighted that as you go through that process you need to be careful that you focus on or understand the difference between count and cost. You have to be very careful with how you do definitions for your capabilities for potential gotchas.

The final presentation that I want to touch on, and I’m not going to be able to give it justice because I have to get to the airport, is Peter Chorlton’s. He closed out the event and he talked about the top five things that you have to do as part of your EA engagement and it was a really good and very concise. He talked about understanding where you have to start and ensuring that you identify your sponsorship.  From there you need to understand if there is something that’s specific for them that you need to work forward from or if there is a specific interest or pain point for them. I think the point there is that you have to get to value rapidly but it has to be value that’s understood by people in the organization that are helping to support the effort, That’s all part of being able to make yourself
sustainable. You know you’ll have lots of opportunities to answer questions that are important to you but you have to start by answering questions that are important to the people that are writing the checks for your effort. So on some level I think it’s kind of an obvious point but I think it’s one that people miss as they get carried away by all the things they can do.

His second point is that it’s important to engage the business. Now we hear this all the time but again there’s nothing that I’m telling you in this presentation that you haven’t heard before or that you don’t know. It’s about being disciplined about sticking to those few very important things so again, he talked about how important it is to engage the business aspect in order to ensure that you are successful. His third point was identifying organizational resistance. This point was touched on by a lot of other speakers over the course of the conference about ensuring that you do a good job managing your communications. You should have designed communication so that people understand where change is coming from. You also need understand that no matter how much you believe in your efforts, how great what you’re doing may be for the organization at large, that you’re always going to have pockets of organization resistance. Having developed an approach to identifying and addressing those issues is critical to your final success.

Finally point four is familiar to everyone who has been reading these posts of mine, and that is getting the data. Once again it seems obvious but he talks about people consistently underestimating how much effort it takes to get that data in. It’s important at the outset, as an organization, that you keep the scope small enough on a project at the beginning to enable yourself to get all the data you’re going to need to answer the questions. This also helps to not underestimate how hard it’s going to be and make sure that you have your sponsorship lined up to go out. It also helps to work with members of the organizations and executives to ensure that you have access to things that can help you get that data in.

Then finally there is point five which was around sustaining value.  He talked about ensuring that your decision making processes changes along with the information that you have available to support those decisions.  So he talks about sustaining success depending on enterprise portfolio management becoming a management discipline, which was a great point because as I mentioned earlier so much of the Troux story is centered around answering those initial questions. If you want to have a sustainable practice though, you need to change the way the organization makes decisions over time.  So again I wish I could spend more time but I do need to get to the airport and there’s almost no way to capture all the value that I feel like I got from my short visit to Austin.  So I hope to see you all next year and I really enjoyed it.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

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