I had a chance to talk with John Morton, advisor to the Federation of Enterprise Architecture Professional Organizations (FEAPO)

John Morton
John Morton

and director on the Global Industry Council (GIC), which is part of the International Professional Practice Partnership (IP3). John brings a rich history of success and experience to his roles including currently as CEO of CPM and a founder to 3 technology start-ups.

As chair of the Global Industry Council 2020 Skills Assessment Report, John will discuss key findings from the report at the upcoming International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP), World Computer Congress (WCC) 2015 in South Korea. The IFIP, established in 1960 has a reach extending to over 90 countries through official ICT member organizations, affiliates, technical committees and working groups. For example, in Canada, CIPS is Canada’s representative and in the US, ACM.

At the WCC, future directions and challenges in technology jobs and meeting the needs of digitally disrupted world will be the focus in his keynote presentation.

John shared these thoughts in advance of the WCC:

“Big Data is not just about data management and analytics, but also about psychology and peoples’ motivations, environmental and geographical impacts, ecology, governance and social responsibility. Social Media, the Internet of Things and greater interconnectedness between systems are massively increasing the flood of data available in real-time, offering new insights and intelligence for organisations with the ability to analyse it. Some of the patterns and insights we obtain are unexpected. This requires a different way of thinking and engineering systems, and a willingness to consider changing our behaviour when the data contradicts what we’ve always thought to be right. Even long-established procedures for requirements gathering – which is fundamental to any technology project – are changing and becoming more complex because of the amount of uncertainty we are dealing with on a daily basis. However, the benefits for those that get it right can be huge, as seen in the case of Levi Strauss, which used Big Data to tailor new jeans for different markets, resulting in a seven to eight per cent lead over its competitors. The predicted loss of up to 43 per cent of existing jobs by 2030 due to automation and robotics, along with anticipated strong growth in demand for ICT professionals, will radically change the workforce landscape. We must begin now to prepare for a future in which ICT professionals play very different roles than they do today.”

Enterprise Architecture

Ibaraki: What is enterprise architecture to you?
Morton: Enterprise architecture isn’t about ICT, it is a broader and more complex discipline, and to me it has some unique management methods that are making enterprise architecture its own discipline.

Ibaraki: Can you provide an example of how that works in practice?
Morton: The example, allegedly , is that from Jack Welch when he took over GE. He couldn’t fathom the complexities and the challenges of the different business units, he couldn’t understand the relationship and co-dependency and he required a different thinking, otherwise GE was doomed. He also had the politics and egos of many business directors and leaders who all wished their division success. Where was Jack going to lay his bets?

His solution was to get a team together, who would take a structured, systematic approach to assessing the situation, understand the commercial market place, consider the need for investment, the uniqueness of products and services and the future direction of technology, as well as the environment. Jack gave them a goal, a clear and courageous goal that was itself simple, and yet drove Jack’s vision–“Go and create a business plan for a company that would put GE out of Business!”.

Now whether this is corporate lore or whether it actually happened this way or not, it is how I see enterprise architecture delivering value.

Ibaraki: Enterprise architecture is about technical skills isn’t it?
Morton: Enterprise architecture may have the need for technical skills, however it is more than that. It is about a way of thinking, synergising, handling conflicting and competing ideas and “making them simple, but no simpler than they need to be” (paraphrasing A. Einstein).

A challenge in the industry is that the term of enterprise architecture is misunderstood. To some it is about doing the same thing that they have always done, however on an enterprise scale.

There is a need to educate the industry about what an enterprise architect does. Today we look to builders who may come and build our house. However they do not build everything for our house, and they have little control over the sanitation, water electric or gas mains. They also are directed in building the house as they are dictated to by the position of the roads and governed by the local laws and restrictions to adhere to such things as the “building line”.  To create this house we have architecture plans that take account of these factors for our house. These the builder follows.

Ibaraki: What skills do you need to be an enterprise architect?
Morton: The enterprise architect needs to have higher level skills, they need to understand the context of the enterprise and you need to be pragmatic.

Higher level skills: When I was young I learned to program in Java, C and python, and once I had learned these techniques I became a programmer knowing different ways to do things even in new languages as I was versed in the principles of programming.

So too is the principle of design and creating design and process patterns.

In architecture we learn to architect and understand the dependencies between the different types of architecture business, applications, information technology and security (BAIT+S).

Enterprise architects are versed in the individual architectures and understand the relationship and dependencies between the different architectures. I believe this alignment and understanding how one architecture impacts and changes another architecture is a key capability for an enterprise architect.

They also understand the limits of an architecture the points at which the architecture touches physics or the limits of the natural world.

Ibaraki: So how do you train and educate an enterprise architect?
Morton: Like any profession there are methods and techniques that are used by the enterprise architect. These are to some extent management techniques, presentation techniques underpinned by structured and systematic disciplines that bridge the gap between what people perceive a business is and what a business actually does.

It also requires people that are trained to look inside and outside the business. They need to be creative in their approach overall and they need to not make assumptions, but trial and test. 

Overall they also need to be psychologists. Practical enterprise architecture requires people who understand people who appreciate their motivations, can galvanize the passionate and visionary to create plans, road maps and architectures that deliver what is possible.


Ibaraki: Some reports have over 60 million now using Windows 10 and the cross device capabilities and ease of use are a boost to productivity. What are your thoughts on this and impact of Windows 10 to enterprises and organizations?
Morton: The key opportunity I see for Windows 10 in organizations, is to move away from the wider variety of different Windows operating systems and provide a concise platform that reduces internal costs in administering, managing and securing a variety of desktop and laptop platforms. A consistent familiar work environment provides opportunities for staff to move between different departments to develop their careers with greater ease, as the tools, capabilities and facilities remain familiar, letting individuals to be more business focused.

Ibaraki: I recently was invited to speak at the United Nations and I was struck by the proliferation of Surface Pro users. Do you have any thoughts on the Surface?
Morton: To me Surface isn’t a hardware form factor, it’s an experience. The Surface today appears to be meeting the current demand for tablet devices, and certainly meets office environment needs. I am not sure that we are there yet, or ever will be. The success of Surface creates a demand for more. Let me explain. We have had work devices and handheld devices for some 30+ years and we continue to evolve and make them simpler and easier to use, to interconnect, to interoperate, be lighter, be more secure and robust. However, we sit at the beginning of  huge changes in our environment, the Internet of Things, wearable devices, robotics, driverless vehicles, blending work communities with home communities, with friends, with career communities, etc. This is all very challenging. Today Surface helps with all of these aspects, however as we (people) see what it can do, we will demand more and more, so can it keep apace?

Ibaraki: Microsoft and their research arm are providing technologies for enterprises and SMBs. The advances in Azure have them strengthening their lead. Your views on the cloud?
Morton: The cloud capabilities have provided a fantastic tool for SME to take advantage of enterprise scale applications with minimum investment cost. Supporting all types of organizations in taking advantage of new processes that they need to include within their company.  The backing that Microsoft Azure provides is one of reputation as there are considerable worries about the security, reliability, and availability of cloud-based systems.

For larger organizations cloud provide an easy way to experiment, by trial and by developing new products and services without the incumbent costs of “changing the existing lean IT production systems”.  Some organizations already see the use of cloud as the de facto for their development and test environments. Allowing development projects to be scaled and decommissioned quickly without the incumbent capital costs.  

I wonder whether we should add that I am an international standards organisation committee member looking at industrial data for manufacturing process and management information?

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