‘Shadow’ technology needs a Shadow Architect

shadow_mangleShadow IT‘ is a term used to describe information systems and solutions built and used inside organisations without explicit organisational approval.  Cloud services, mobility and ‘Bring Your Own Device’ are driving an explosion in Shadow IT.  Shadow IT, like shadow finance and shadow economy suggests noncompliance and illegality.  Unlike the black market, shadow technology notionally unleashes immediate benefits but harbours a latent potential to damage its host.  Quantifying the risk, and getting sufficient attention to do something about it, is the issue.

Technology departments have tried to ‘reign in’ these rogues using the frameworks and processes of Enterprise Architecture, without much success.  One reason for the partial failure is that Enterprise Architects have a propensity to focus on risk management, standards compliance and centralised governance. This narrow ‘old-school’ focus locks them to the core, not the edge of the business where innovation happens. Meanwhile, the business units, driven by digital demand and unaided by their IT counterparts, have initiated their own innovation platforms.  That’s the line taken by Dean Gardiner from Dell Australia in his paper at the Australian Enterprise Architecture Conference (Sydney, October 2015).

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Review: Turning Over Turnover: Thinking Systemically about Worker Retention in Texas’ Child Protective Services

Child protection

For a method that purports to tackle real-world problems, practical examples of systems thinking in action are elusive. Refreshing, then, to read a special edition of the Cornell Policy Review on systems thinking, which presents accounts of the systems thinking craft in a readable and digestible form.  In the interests of better policy, Cornell Institute for Public Affairs Fellow Harrison Speck makes some headway in understanding the question of why child protection case workers in Texas do not always stay long in their jobs (paper and video).

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How do you penetrate the Systems Thinking morass?

morass

Systems thinking is on to something.  There’s something there.  It harbors truths that conventional business and organisational perspectives miss. It is easy to get this impression from the volumes of social media, literature and management debate it continues to sustain after three decades.  But systems thinking as a discipline or body of knowledge does not make it easy to get to those insights and truths.  Ways to penetrate the systems thinking morass are neither obvious or accessible.

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Designing in the post-consumer age

Christmas is coming, again.  Last year, Australians reportedly spent $A32B at an average of $A1,200 per person during the silly season.  Nearly twenty million of these gifts with a value of around $A1B were unwanted and were sold, re-gifted, stored or dumped.  For myself, a distinctive marker of post-consumerism came when a ten year-old family member declared a few weeks out from Christmas that he didn’t know what to ask for this year because he couldn’t think of anything he particularly wanted. It seems that between Christmas, birthdays, special days and rewards for good behavior the number of buying opportunities outstrips some family member’s needs or even desires.  So it seems we are now living in an age of post-consumerism, even for ten year-olds.  We are beyond some western models of growth, in uncharted territory.

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Can Systems Thinking help to solve problems like people smuggling?

Children overbaord.

Children overboard.

Political, social and economic problems amenable to the application of ‘systems thinking‘ are all around us. Take the Australian Prime Minister’s latest solution to the seemingly insoluble ‘boat people’ dilemma.  ‘Boat people’ are refugees fleeing central or south east Asia who make their way to Indonesia, purchase passage from a ‘people smuggler’ to Australia on a leaky boat, only to find that the tub starts to take water somewhere near Christmas Island. What typically plays out next is a media-driven frenzy of political posturing and talk-back vitriol, while the Australian Navy scoops up the survivors and deposits them in a remote detention centre.

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‘Business-IT Alignment’ is history… long live ‘Business-IT symbiosis’

It is time we started talking about IT and business in terms of co-dependency, not alignment.

Symbiosis in nature’s design.

It is time we started talking about IT and business in terms of symbiosis, not alignment.

Over at Doug Newdick’s blog a discussion is running on the overuse of the word ‘alignment’ by enterprise architects.  Chasing alignment, he says, simply ensures that what people are doing in the name of enterprise architecture does not undermine the higher level business objectives.  While not violating business objectives is clearly non-negotiable, it should not be the main game for architects.  If it is, the architecture will likely undershoot its potential by a significant distance.

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The new patriotism of making

Craftsmanship, quality, integrity, locality, and the importance of ‘the story’.

When times are tough, the tough get making. So claimed none other than Clint Eastwood in his Superbowl half-time pitch for Chrysler. In a voice so gravelly it sounds like a cracked gearbox that lost its last drop of oil 100 miles back, Eastwood parables the Detroit story — once great, KO’d by globalism and cheap offshore labour, now revived after transfusions of foreign (Italian) money and a new US consumer patriotism fueled by signs of life in Motown’s once mighty corpse.

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