Using Enterprise Architecture Principles to Enact Change
Part of the Oracle Experiences in Enterprise Architecture article series
Published October 2012
Enterprise architects not only help companies marry new technologies with existing applications, but they also establish roadmaps for embracing change in the future. Organizations faced with massive change are also tasked with mitigating their risk during periods of transformation, and enterprise architecture principles can help them maintain a focus on business results that is often vital as a key motivator for enterprisewide change.
This article features two Oracle customers who shared their stories at the 2012 Oracle Executive Edge Summit. We’ll review how they managed to enact large-scale transformations within their IT organizations using the guiding principles of enterprise architecture (EA), with a focus on how these CIOs worked to change the mindset of their staff members to build a better future for their companies.
The Oregon public health system is composed of federal, state, and local agencies, along with private organizations and other diverse partners. Within this group, the Oregon Health Authority is at the forefront of lowering and containing costs, improving quality, and increasing access to healthcare to improve the lifelong health of Oregonians. The Oregon Department of Human Services, on the other hand, is tasked with helping Oregonians achieve overall well-being and independence through programs designed to address issues such as hunger, adult and child protective services, adoption, and domestic violence.
When Carolyn Lawson joined the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Human Services as CIO of both organizations, IT was a shared service between the two departments. Drowning in work and severely short-staffed, the IT team was almost universally disliked at the time. On top of the deflated sense of morale among her troops, Lawson also walked into her new role with a mandate for change—Oregon was slated to be one of the first states to implement a Health Insurance Exchange as a part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly called Obamacare, an overwhelming task that would fall to her team in the near future.
“When I joined, everyone had their heads down just trying to put fires out,” Lawson explains. “On a good day, people were hiding in their cubicles, hoping to maintain their existing relationships and applications. But we had some major projects looming, so I knew we needed to change the tenor of the conversations taking place around the office so we could focus on improving and evolving in the future.”
To inspire her staff to become more innovative and embrace a certain level of risk-taking, Lawson sought to return the staff’s focus to the two organizations served. It was no longer about technology—the conversation shifted to a discussion about how good enterprise architecture can drive business processes, improve individual functions, and better serve the organizations’ end users at the same time.
Lawson knew that fully shifting the team’s focus would require some in-house expertise, so she asked the staff if anyone would be interested in enterprise architecture training from Oracle. “I told them it was going to be painful, and that it was going to stretch their abilities and require long hours for which they wouldn’t be compensated. But, I also told them, it was an opportunity to change the world.”
In the end, her staff of more than 300 people sent in 27 resumes for just a handful of spots in the class. Lawson screened the applications through an extensive interview process that included a case study and an enterprise architecture role-play scenario. It was during this process that Lawson found they had an extraordinary pool of talented and motivated people. As a result, she fought to give the training to everyone who showed an interest and a passion for enterprise architecture.
“This rigorous, boot-camp–style class became a game-changer for our organization,” says Lawson. “Suddenly, we had this group of peers who had worked and sweat together, learning the same language, and they began to talk about things from a business perspective. They began exploring what we could do differently to enact the higher level of change we needed. It was a reboot for the organization.”
Today, the IT group that was universally disliked when Lawson arrived is now considered a vital component of both organizations’ success. IT is deferred to for business conversations, allowing a better sense of collaboration with business units than they ever enjoyed before. By breaking down the silos in which they had individually worked before, the team became free to tackle some of the bigger problems and projects on the horizon, as chronicled in this Profit magazine article. As Lawson says, “We created a commonality in what people were working on together, and, as a result, we are invited into those important discussions now that enterprise is aligned with business architecture.”
Praxair is a global Fortune 300 company that supplies atmospheric, process, and specialty gases; high-performance coatings; and related services and technologies. With 26,000 employees and active in more than 50 countries, the company is focused on making the planet more productive by helping customers become more profitable, efficient, and environmentally friendly.
CIO Marc Franciosa joined Praxair several years ago with a mandate to examine how best to facilitate transformation within the organization, which grew up with a federated set of businesses based on homegrown systems. The business units didn’t talk to one another, and their systems weren’t compatible. “We were in our 30th year of service at the time, and yet nothing was relational,” he says. “We wanted to look at how the landscape was changing and how we could improve the way we talk to customers, move products within a given geography, and perform other key operations.”
Before Franciosa undertook his enterprise architecture overhaul, sharing information at Praxair meant e-mailing Excel documents around from group to group. “This caused a whole host of problems concerning data quality, and it was incredibly inefficient,” he says. “Instead, we wanted to streamline these important aspects of our business and make sure all of us were on the same page, especially when it came to customer interaction and managing our distribution chain.”
Franciosa and his team focused on how each individual business tracked products, communicated with customers, and maintained data in all of its various processes. By analyzing this information, Franciosa realized they had a big opportunity for change.
“I wanted to track how the different groups did things and when we had opportunities to streamline our processes by using the same best practices,” he says. “It was a big opportunity to restructure, and in looking at individual business processes, we could work around the limitations of traditional IT to really examine the business implications of these initiatives.”
With this philosophy of focusing on the business implications behind process transformation, Franciosa and his IT staff set out to change the mindset of the organization to facilitate a transition from a federated architecture to that of an overarching enterprise architecture. They used EA strategies such as the Oracle Enterprise Architecture Framework to develop business cases that helped the organization evolve from regional technology stacks to a scalable cloud platform. In this manner, the entire organization has shifted from a reactionary position to one of foresight and planning.
“The focus on the business cases behind the changes has helped with adoption,” Franciosa concludes. “We aren’t out there trying to sell our wares anymore. The new outlook has been embraced by the staff, and we can now articulate the benefit of using our systems very clearly, which encourages other groups to get on board.”
Each of these companies approached their large-scale transformations in a different way, but in the end they both agreed that they had to change the conversations taking place within their organizations to facilitate smooth transitions toward better processes.
Whether it was Carolyn Lawson’s emphasis on serving the end user or Marc Franciosa’s constant focus on the business implications of change, both panelists demonstrated that shifting employees’ focus toward achieving the expected business value of each project was vital to their success.
David Baum is a freelance business writer and marketing consultant with 25 years of experience covering the high-tech industry.