19 May 2010

Semantic Web - What's the future hold?

I came across the video below which looks at the concept of the semantic web, describes the semantic web and then looks at some of the human factors around the semantic web - looking at the question - "should there be an ontology?" There are the purist who think of course there will be an ontology and then there are the pragmatic folks who believe the relationships may be more "scruffy" where there is a blending of structured ontology and more "personalised" ontologies.

While this video looks at this issue from a "global" web community, the same types of dynamics can be seen across an enterprise. There are people who believe everything can be neatly categorised and that the relationships between the data and categories can be mapped in a manner that will provide a tidy, clear, precise depiction of the enterprise and all the entities within it. It seems to me to be human nature to try and put everything inside boxes, but we don't all see the same boxes or the same connections between the boxes. In order for information to be to be found in a user-friendly manner, the search parameters need to match the individual user's construct of the world, which may have similarities with the majority of other users but is also likely to have differences. How then do we make the vast amounts of information being produced by the enterprise easily discoverable? A structured ontology may provide a starting point but how do we get down to the user-based view of the world?

I'm not sure how is the web going likely to grow from it's manually integrated information paradigm of today. While new technology will cause some level of change, a major influence is the way people interact with the web and make use of the technology already available. People have a knack for finding work-arounds and coming up with interesting ways of using tools. What does the future hold?

Web 3.0 from Kate Ray on Vimeo.

04 May 2010

EA to facilitate change

This Enterprise Architecture Gartner report states:
"Decisions may be heavily influenced by a business context and the organisation’s business landscape, people and politics, future state vision and experience. Regardless of the approach, EA must facilitate change. The key is to create, not the perfect or elegant architecture for the moment, but the most adaptable architecture for the future"
Which in my opinion is a great goal for EA - to facilitate change, to be adaptable and not to get into a vicious circle of defining an architecture down to the nth degree. This links back to a question of when do you know you've done enough? I don't think the answer lies in the question of when is enough enough, but rather in being more aware of how the products from EA are being used and adapting the EA work to assist the business in planning change. I have often seen great initial deliverables that have helped the business down a journey. But these first successes are followed by a split where the EA team goes off based on that outcome to try and create the elegant architecture and the business trots off in another direction to work on the organisational change management and when this happens EA loses its relevance.

I do wonder if some of this is due to short sighted EA consultancies looking to stay engaged with the ICT-side of the house, because in most organisations this is the organisation that has bought off on at least exploring the EA path. This easier path to a longer engagement results in spending time creating products that may not be relevant at the end of the day. As 10cc wrote:

"Art for arts sake, Money for gods sake
Money talks so listen to it, Money talks to me
Anyone can understand it, Money can’t be beat oh no
When you get down, down to the root
Don’t give a damn don’t give a hoot
Still gotta keep makin the loot"
This type of thinking may end up with people losing patience with EA efforts and considering them irrelevant. EA really needs to bridge ICT with other business support organisations and business operations to show relevance to all. By being engaged with all aspects of the business, in other words 'the enterprise', and being flexible in your EA approach based upon where the business is exploring change, EA will show value by being able to facilitate that business change.