Value-trees in enterprise-architecture

Over on the Enterprise Architecture list on LinkedIn, Bala Somasundaram asked about the concept of value-trees as a means of tracking compliance to enterprise values, and thence as a means for validating the value of enterprise architecture.

Value-trees are a key theme in the model I’ve used for describing the service-oriented enterprise. More specifically, they are the trails of ‘pervasive services’ that ensure compliance to enterprise values. In effect, they are the vertical, management-oriented analogue of the horizontal value-chains of the enterprise. But whilst the value-chains traverse through a single layer of the enterprise – the operations or service-delivery layer – the value-trees, must, by definition, pervade every part of the enterprise, from top to bottom, from abstract strategy to each individual process-step, each line of code. To give one example, we know from painful experience that quality-based themes such privacy or security or business-continuity cannot be patched on as afterthought once the design is complete: to make it work, we must include them right from the start. A key aspect of the value-tree is the trail of relationships and requirements that devolves downward from the enterprise values, and upward as confirmation that the value-requirements have been met.

In short, value-trees are the means by which the so-called ‘non-functional’ requirements are made functional in a business sense.

For the most simplistic example, assume that the only value in the enterprise is profit. (I did say it was a simplistic example. 🙂 ) A suite of principles devolve from this value: for example, that the outcomes of value-chain processes shall be measured in monetary terms; that costs of all activities shall likewise be measured in monetary terms (hence Activity Based Costing, for example); and that verifiable mechanisms shall be used to contrast these two sets of measurements, to derive a measurement of the value in its specified terms – i.e. profit, in this example. To do this, we’ll need to aggregate (‘roll up’) all the outcomes and costs; and for management purposes, we’ll probably need to be able to disaggregate (‘drill down’) through the business-units and groups and clusters, all the way back down to individual activities. The connections and transforms for aggregation and disaggregation are the branches for the value-tree.

A classic PDCA (plan, do, check, act) approach to quality-management – i.e. management of the value-tree – means that the tree itself needs to be supported by four distinct types of activities:

  • develop awareness of the value itself, and of the need to monitor the value
  • develop capability to enhance monitoring of and improvement against the value
  • measure compliance of activities against the value
  • verify and audit to monitor and enhance compliance and continual improvement

(Note that some of these may be required to be kept separate, by law or other regulation – for example, financial reporting versus financial audit.)

Next, extend the example to a slightly more realistic set of values. This leads us to something like Balanced Scorecard, which defines enterprise value in terms of four distinct themes: together with the existing financial measures as above, we add perspectives for Customer, Internal Business Processes, and Learning and Growth. Each of these themes has its own value-tree. (One reason why Balanced Scorecard implementations sometimes fail to give the desired results is that the value-trees don’t reach down far enough into the enterprise: if we take a service-oriented view of the enterprise, every activity has a ‘customer’, has its own ‘internal business processes’, and its own capability and need for ‘learning and growth’.)

To extend this further, each of the ‘-ilities’ trails of ‘non-functional’ requirements implies a root-value – for example:

  • quality (in terms of the delivered business services or products)
  • security (in all its multitudinous variations)
  • privacy
  • trust and reputation
  • health and safety
  • environment and waste-management
  • transparency and ethics
  • efficiency and effectiveness

As described well in TOGAF, each of those themes devolves outward via a set of principles, which ultimately need to link to everything. But on its own, a principle does nothing: it must be applied in practice (hence the importance of governance), and needs to be testable – and that testability must likewise ultimately link down to everything. (Testability isn’t described as such in TOGAF’s definition for the structure of principles, but is described well in Volere, the requirements-modelling process recommended in TOGAF.) The requirement-trees are the means by which the ‘develop awareness’ of the value-trees devolves downward; the tests in those requirements form part of how ‘monitor compliance’ of the value-trees rolls upward.

So a value-tree consists of the following:

  • explicit value or ‘theme’, as topmost anchor for the respective tree
  • principles that express and describe the value in practical terms (upper branches of the requirements-tree)
  • requirements and tests, all the way down to the finest-granularities (both goal-oriented [end-point] and mission-oriented [continual / continuing])
  • measurements, with tree of transforms and identifiers for roll-up and drill-down
  • support-processes (‘pervasive-services’) for ‘develop awareness’, ‘develop capability’, ‘monitor compliance’ and ‘verify’

Each tree is fairly straightforward in itself: the complications arise from the fact that many of them will present conflicting requirements (e.g. security versus trust, safety versus efficiency). Because of this, there needs to be a tree of relative priorities, some of which may be imposed from ‘outside’ (e.g. legal requirement for priority of health and safety before profit). Ideally, there needs to be one single ‘master-value’ which acts as the ultimate arbiter for priorities – hence the importance of an unchanging enterprise vision.

Better stop there for now: but as usual, comments/suggestions would be most welcome!

3 Comments on “Value-trees in enterprise-architecture

  1. Hi Anusheel

    Yup – well, you have a mention now, don’t you? 🙂 (And my apologies, I should have replied to you about your work on requirements-trees some time back – kind of distracted at the moment avoiding writing a book that needs to completed by mid next week… 🙁 )

    This discussion here about value-trees is much the same kind point as I was making about your requirements-trees: each trail is an identifiable and (mostly) hierarchical tree, but it’s separate from the management hierarchy-tree, and separate from yet interweaving with the equivalent trees from all the other value-themes. There are trees, but it’s definitely not a single tree. That’s why it’s so complex.

    Best wishes, anyway – and thanks for joining in with this.

  2. Hi Tom,

    I think all trees are connected. In fact in the example I gave on the thread in response to Andrey’s comment, I showed business motivation model capture as tree that links down to IT tree (RCL’s current scope). Similarly all other trees can be connected.


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