EA in China – three views

Better write up some of my notes and memories from the TOGAF Hong Kong conference before I forget them!

Like every TOGAF conference there were some of the same ‘usual suspects’ (including me, of course! 🙂 ) with their current version of the same developing themes for enterprise-architecture – such cloud-computing, security, TOGAF itself, and (in my case) expanding out beyond IT. But what made this conference special for me was the unique Chinese perspective on what has historically been a somewhat Anglo and technology-driven construct.

This difference in perspective was highlighted especially in presentations that came from three contrasting aspects of Chinese business: a large software-development and training house, a major university, and the Chinese arm of a large US-based multinational.

(Another long post, so continues after the ‘More’ link…)

Kingdee International
The first was in a plenary session, “Enterprise Architecture supporting the Chinese Management Model”, by Robert Xu, chairman and chief-architect for Kingdee International. This was noteworthy for two reasons:

  • an almost complete absence of any reference to IT – instead almost all about management and business-architecture
  • balancing Western-style best-practice (Drucker, Deming, AQPC, EA etc) against long-standing national principles

Xu described what he called the ‘Chinese Management Model’, a central core at the intersection of:

  • Chinese Management Philosophy
  • Modern Management Science
  • Successful Management Practice

The ‘Chinese Management Philosophy’ in turn drew from four distinct traditions, which Xu described as:

  • Confucius emphasises the moral strength
  • Taoism emphasises the forces of Nature [balance and complementarity]
  • Buddhism emphasises the power of Consciousness [big-picture, respect, and self-responsibility]
  • ‘Eight Glory, Eight Disgrace’ [present-day aphorisms proposed by President Hu Jintao – summary and somewhat ironic commentary here]

In Cynefin terms, the ‘Chinese Management Philosophy’ would provide good anchors in the ‘Simple’ (rule-based) domain, and – assuming appropriate experience to make use of those principles – also good anchors in the ‘Chaotic’ (principle-based) domain. The ‘Modern Management Science’ and ‘Successful Management Practice’, much of it drawn from Western theorists and practitioners – would provide good anchors in the ‘Complicated’ (analytic) domain. What seems to be missing, though, is anything to work with the ‘Complex’ (heuristic) domain, such as in the near-turbulent business environment that’s all too common now. Principles seem to be offered as a substitute for true systems-thinking in that domain, which is probably an improvement on misapplied analytics, but it still doesn’t work well: principles too easily become empty ‘wisdoms’ unless there is already a solid grounding in everyday practice. From the discussions at the conference and elsewhere, there did seem to be a fair bit of evidence of that kind of failing in Chinese business: a specifically Chinese version of the classic Western disconnect between IT and ‘the business’. Interesting, but odd – a real opportunity for whole-of-enterprise architecture, perhaps?

Beijing University
Next was “Introduction of CIO Program in Peking University” by Professor Yao Le (see BDRIT.org). Professor Yao seems to be at the forefront of academic programmes for CIOs in China, with very high-level support from government. Some interesting statistics, though:

  • percentage of CIOs who had already known of some form of EA prior to the course: <40%
  • percentage of CIOs who had already implemented some form of EA: 0%
  • percentage of CIOs who intended to implement EA soon after the course: >45%
  • percentage of CIOs who think EA should be the CIO’s core capability: >80%

Key concerns for CIOs were most often about management-type issues:

  • “level of management”: 41%
  • “awareness of executives”: 38%
  • “capability of employees”: 36%
  • “organizational system problem”: 34%

The classic technical concerns so typical of Western ‘enterprise’-architecture were much further down in priority for these CIOs:

  • “integration of applications”: 30%
  • “data chaos”: 20%
  • “products and technology”: 6%

But again there was this same strong contrast drawn between the putative views of West and East:

  • ‘Western Learning’ (represented by TOGAF crop-circles) vs ‘Sinology’ (represented by Yin/Yang symbol)
  • ‘Knowledge’ vs ‘Wisdom’
  • ‘Sense’ vs ‘Sensibility’ (i.e. ‘feeling’?)

Professor Yao described these only briefly before turning to a fairly straightforward view of how TOGAF would be used in BPM, SOA and ‘the usual suspects’ of IT-oriented architectures. ‘Sinology’ was not really explained as a term: probably the main theme that came out of the conversation was a need for overall balance, and for a longer-term view. Likewise another largely-unexplained term in this presentation, ‘informatization’ – as a counterpart to ‘industrialization’ – which seems to mean a much stronger engagement of information and measurement in industrial processes, on the same general lines as Six Sigma and the like.

Overall, there seems to be a lot happening on the academic front here: Allen Brown of Open Group and Jason Uppal of Canadian EA consultancy/trainer QRS are among those who’ve been involved with this over the past few years. An interesting case of Watch This Space for enterprise-architects, I guess?

HP China
I’d been hoping to see some usage of other classic Chinese frameworks such as Wu Xing (Five Elements), which I’ve used in some of my own high-level enterprise-architectures. No-one discussed Five Elements directly – apparently they’re viewed as somewhat archaic and outmoded, which I think is an unfortunate mistake – but the presentation “Enterprise-Architecture Enabled Business Lifecycle Management”, by Yong Gong, from HP China’s Best Shore Application Services unit, did come close with a five-stage model of the business-lifecycle. His stages, cross-mapped to the Wu Xing and the Tuckman Group Dynamics project-lifecycle, are as follows:

  • Start-up  (Wu Xing ‘Wood’; Tuckman ‘Forming’)
  • Emerging (‘Fire’; ‘Storming’)
  • Established (‘Earth’; ‘Norming’)
  • Expanding (‘Metal’; ‘Performing’)
  • Exit (‘Water’; ‘Adjourning’ / ‘Mourning’)

Yong Gong did a brilliant job of explaining the different emphases for a TOGAF-style enterprise-architecture in each of those for the business-lifecycle. For example, in the ‘Established’ stage (which in effect is where most organisations start using TOGAF), the emphasis is on efficiency, on removing “information islands” and integrating multiple IT platforms; whereas in the next stage, ‘Expanding’, there would be much more emphasis on governance and on ensuring alignment with and support for the ongoing changes in business-strategy.

Mapping this more closely to the traditional Five Elements also brings up some other themes that weren’t so evident in the presentation. One is that the second stage, ‘Emerging’, is also one in which there needs to be much more emphasis on the human side of systems – because if we don’t tackle that in our architecture, what we risk later is a fiery out-of-control version of Tuckman’s ‘Storming’ phase. Another is that in the final ‘Exit’ stage of the lifecycle, the cross-linkages in a good whole-of-enterprise architecture model can help to identify re-usable or recoverable assets – particularly non-physical assets such as information or business-relations, which may not be listed in conventional asset-registers.

From my perspective it was also good that Yong Gong stressed the importance of looking beyond just IT for the architecture, and using EA to ‘glue’ with the business in a pragmatic, principled way. The TOGAF ADM remains probably the best available method for architecture, but the way we use it needs to change not only with the maturity of architecture within the enterprise, but with the lifecycle-stage of the enterprise as well.

Although this was only a single set of snapshots from a single conference, it does give an interesting perspective on how culture can change the way we view and do architecture. Would be well worth exploring in more depth, and with yet other cultures, to see what can be learnt and re-used from each.

8 Comments on “EA in China – three views

    • Thanks Jorgen – agree entirely. Open Group are there, so to speak – given Allen Brown’s presentations to Professor Yao’s course in Beijing – but what interests me is how the whole-of-enterprise view that I’ve been pushing (and that Open Group is _slowly_ beginning to accept) aligns with classic Chinese models such as Wu Xing (‘Five Elements’).

  1. Especially interested in the Yong Gong piece. I’m in the TOGAF Prelim Phase at the health care provider we corresponded about. I’m doing a similar mapping of the ADM to PMI – those insights will be useful.

  2. @Tom G
    Hi Tom, your blog:
    “but what interests me is how the whole-of-enterprise view that I’ve been pushing (and that Open Group is _slowly_ beginning to accept)”

    You make this look like you are the key promoter of holistic EA in TOG and that folks are turning around to your views.

    Len Fehskens, Dave van Gelder, Harry Hendrix, Jos van Oosten, myself and others were key drivers over many years to successfully move TOG members and conference attendees to consider EA as a holistic concept, through many controversial discussions. I did not witness your participation in these discussions, and wonder why you make the public statement that Open Group members are coming around to your view.

    Best regards Walter

  3. Hi Walter

    I do take your point, but please do note that nowhere have I said that “the whole-of-enterprise view that I’ve been pushing” is the only such view available? I am well aware that others such as yourself, Len, Dave and Jos have done similar work in parallel to mine, and I have often commented on that fact – as you know.

    It is definitely true that many Open Group members are “slowly beginning to accept” the necessity for a whole-of-enterprise approach to EA, and many of those are publicly acknowledging their usage of my models and methods for this. And it probably is true that I may be the only person related to the Open Group who has documented all of this in detailed, practical form that has been fully proven and tested in live architectural practice.

    So I do apologise, but I really cannot see what you’re objecting to in the comment you referenced. Please expand, perhaps?

    Many thanks – tom g.

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