Aligning the Ducks

Ducks. Aligned Ducks.

If big challenges don’t scare you; and
If you like to eat elephants one bite at a time; and
If you want to know what we do for who and why; and
If you want to be part of solutions that contribute real and enduring value;
Then Enterprise Architecture and New Business Architecture is right for you.
— Gary Doucet

The keynote speaker at the annual Architecture Conference organised by the Danish government, and held in Ã…rhus on 2-3 April, is Gary Doucet, Chief Architect of the Canadian Federal Government. He reports to the federal CIO in the Treasury Board Secretariat. Last week, I caught Gary in between his snow shoveling exercises the other day, and conducted an interview with him. It has now been cleared, so here goes:

Why don’t you start by telling us about what is going on in general in government in Canada?
“There is always a lot going on in the government. We are constantly working to improve the effectiveness and efficiencies in delivering quality programs and services to Canadians.”

What are the priorities?
“The Government of Canada is working to improve accountability through transparency, enhancing the collective ability to manage and reallocate resources, improving the quality and reliability of information to support decision making, and its management practices as well as streamlining its processes, policies and administrative functions. We are doing this through a number of initiatives, such as:

  • the Federal Accountability Act, which brought forward specific measures to help strengthen accountability and oversight in government operations;
  • the Corporate Administrative Shared Services Initiative, which helps us identify opportunities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of corporate administrative processes such as finance, HR and material management and services government-wide;
  • IT-Shared Service Organization, whose mission is to be the Government of Canada’s centre of excellence for the delivery of IT infrastructure solutions to federal institutions. They have the mission to consolidate the IT infrastructure of the Government of Canada (current emphasis is on data centres, desktop and network services);
  • a Policy Suite Renewal initiative which is an effort to streamline our policies, standards and guidelines while at the same time clarifying responsibilities and accountabilities within government;
  • an Expenditure Management System Renewal which is an effort to streamline our budget and management processes to ensure our focus is on maximized results for resources expended. Better outcomes for our investment dollar; and
  • the Management Accountability Framework which sets out the Treasury Board’s expectations of public service managers, especially deputy heads, for good public service management measure the management performance of government organizations”.

The Federal Government of Canada is indeed busy it sounds! How do you get everything to work together?
“Getting things to work together in such a diverse array of initiatives is not easy. For our part, we’re starting to introduce some of our EA tools to support these initiatives as well as our improve existing management practices. In particular we are rolling out GSRM (Governments of Canada Strategic Reference Model) and BTEP (Business Transformation Enablement Program) where and when it makes sense.”

Tell us more about GSRM and BTEP, please.
“BTEP is essentially a collection of best practices knitted together around a common structure and language for the business of government. That common language is GSRM, which is a public-sector-business-driven model that was developed by municipalities years ago. Some of these municipalities (like Peel and the City of Winnipeg) used it (called MRM – Municipal (Services) Reference Model) to better understand their expenditures and results. It allowed cities to compare their results to each other. It allowed a better understanding between investment and outcome. Years later, provinces began to leverage the model, adding their unique features to handle the services of provincial governments. Calling their model PSRM – Public Service Reference Model. The province of Ontario was a leader in this space. About 5 years ago we started work to extend the model for the federal government. The model was missing a few elements, national defense as one example, but the basic constructs were the same. It was at this time that the idea that a method based on the reference models took hold.”

To many, GSRM may be seen as strange words and fancy talk. Is that really required?
“Think about the bridge you drive home on last night. As a user, you care about certain things, where is it, how many lanes, is it slippery when wet, and generally how it looks. You trust that people with engineering and architecture degrees built it safely. When those people get together, they will talk about the bridge using terms from the fields of Civil Engineering (e.g. Static’s and Dynamics) and they will talk about coefficients of elasticity, tensile strength of steel, etc. The argument I make is that Business is complicated, like a bridge. It takes real science to architect and engineer it. Precision around the language of business design is necessary the same way it is necessary for the bridge. Within this context, GSRM and BTEP were first written for the architect community of practice, not the end users. Moving forward, as EA matures as a recognized best practice, increasingly we are seeing the executive and business owner groups look to common consistent program, service, information, technology and organization design, guided by best practices – like those embodied with EA.”

Why would the CIO care?
“For years, CIO’s as a profession have been working on capturing business in order to build systems. Capture Business — Design Systems. To do this, the profession has come up with tools and methods to help with the process of capturing the business in order to build systems. These tools are pretty powerful. Then, something strange happened. Somebody, somewhere made the leap from: ‘Capture Business — Design Systems’ to ‘Capture Business — Design Business’. These methods and tools became business capable and business centric. That is, the common languages we are discussing today would be used not for the sake of building some IT solution; instead, we do it simply to design better business. Answering questions like: what do we do, why do we do it, who benefits, and how much does that outcome cost. This idea is not all new but there are things that make it different. The models, tools, forms, etc of this new approach form a type of ‘science’. It is holistic. It is powerful. This advancement might be seen as the pivotal change in Business – IT relationship. But it also – and more importantly – a vital tool for business designs.”

So what is the vision?
“How about this as a vision: Business/Program/Service experts plan and design their programs, services, processes and clearly identify outputs, outcomes, target groups, etc. using a set of tools and methods they are experts with. Their processes are detailed, their job descriptions are synchronized with the processes, citizens can understand their services and how other services within link to what they see. Business experts do all of this. Then one day, the business people decide the want to automate something and need to adjust an IT enabled part of the business. Instead of relying on the interview process, the IT people pick up the designs (from a tool they also know). That which was previously gathered in an interview is now already there because the business experts needed it there to design their processes, services, etc. That’s simply the business being better able to deal with IT folks. The real interesting challenge is business people speaking to business people. It is a common occurrence to have programs looks at clients in completely different ways. When we start projects with multiple jurisdictions we see even more challenges for interconnections. That is why GSRM is critical; it forces each player to look at the business through a different set of terms and within a rigorous common reference model and structure. But after a few exercises, the participants will begin to see connections they never knew were there. The BTEP method helps get through this initial hump. It is like many other strategic planning methods, the difference is that BTEP uses a common language and very strong structure.”

Is this really happening?
“Well, let me tell you a real story. I attended a meeting where Ken Cochrane (our CIO) was asked his opinion about the technology required to resolve this huge business issue involving billions of dollars of program delivery. Ken was asked to talk about recommended solution approaches. The conversation revolved around technology, managing large technology projects, service oriented architecture, ERPs, data centres, software, etc. Then it was time for Ken to speak. For the next hour we talked about business requirements, business design principles, service design, service standards, outcomes and designs with well understood recipients. We talked about business design and processes. Yes, we would help, but we would help by asking our business ‘scientists’ to work with the business owners. We would NOT address business questions with technology answers.”

Gary calls this stuff ‘Business Architecture’ to indicate how it is similar to how one might architect the bridge.

So in concluding the interview, Gary says, “We must start to address these bigger issues. It starts, I believe, in understanding your business. Like a builder understands a bridge, not how a driver understands a bridge.”

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