This: an exploratory game for service-oriented EA

For a while now I’ve been brewing a kind of ‘exploratory game’ for enterprise-architecture, with the somewhat uninventive title of This.

It’s based on the same service-oriented view of the enterprise as Enterprise Canvas – in fact we would typically use the game as part of modelling some aspect of the enterprise with Enterprise Canvas, usually with the ‘simplified notation‘. We can also use it in conjunction with the Enterprise Canvas service-viability assessment described in an earlier post.

[To keep things short, I’ll assume that you’re already familiar with the models and mappings I’ve used in my work, particularly Enterprise Canvas and its layers of abstraction (‘extended-Zachman layering’), service-content checklist (‘single-row extended-Zachman’) and mapping between Business Model Canvas and the Enterprise Canvas core; the market-model / market-cycle; and the Five Element model, particularly its variants that focus on service-flow content. If not, all but the last of these – and their graphics – are described in that post on the service-viability checklist; for the service-flow content-model, see the posts ‘Not quite VPEC-T‘ and ‘More on ‘Not-quite VPEC-T’‘.]

The aim of the game is simply to elicit whatever information we need about the context, and model it as required as we go.

We elicit that information by asking questions about the current item in focus, which is always called ‘This‘. Some of the questions enquire for more about This; others ask us about how This relates to other items; and some questions invite us to move the focus to another item, a new This.

In most cases, the questions can be asked in almost any order: I envisaged them being printed on a deck of cards, each question accompanied by an explanatory diagram or other descriptive information. We could pick the cards at random – “choose a card, any card!” – or work in a more structured way: it’s up to us.

We use much the same ‘Start Anywhere’ principle to choose where to start. Since in Enterprise Canvas we assert that everything is or represents a service, and everything is connected in some way to everything else, it actually doesn’t matter where we start: we can pick any item that seems appropriate, anywhere within the enterprise, at any level of granularity or abstraction. It can be a Service, a Product (proto-Service) or a Flow (Service as movement) or whatever – it doesn’t matter.

So, pick an item; any item. Think of it for now as a service, or representing a service. In that basic Enterprise Canvas notation, place it on the table, scribble it on the back of the napkin, scrawl it on the wall, or draw it on the screen:

For now, this is our current focus, our current centre of attention – our ‘This‘. And until we explicitly move our attention elsewhere, all of our questions relate to this This.

For any question that points to a ‘Who’, optionally create a new entity to represent that person or group, again described as a service. Optionally, move the focus to this new entity, as the new ‘This’.

A few scene-setting questions we need to ask first:

  • What is This? – give it a name (or just call it This)
  • What type of description will we use for This? – applicable layer of abstraction (selected layer constrains some of the questions and the details within the questions)
  • What categories apply to This? – if categorisable, those categories may point to other questions about This

All of the other questions can apply in almost any order, though as we’ll see, some of them tend to cluster into groups that make more sense together.

Any question that includes a [*], [^] or [v] marker allows us the option to change our current ‘This’ to an item pointed to by the question. (An [*] marker indicates that any new item would usually be at the same level of abstraction; an [^] marker for a new item one or more levels up; and a [v] marker for one or more levels down.) That other item now becomes our new current ‘This’; typically we would re-start with the initial scene-setting questions on this new ‘This’, and continue onward from there.

Some questions about value, and relation to enterprise vision and values:

  • What is the purpose of This? [^] (what drives This?) – vision and values
  • What is the larger picture for This? [^] – abstraction
  • What is the business-meaning of This? – where it fits in the big-picture
  • What is done by This? [*] – value-creation
  • What is the value of This? [*] – value-proposition
  • Who would value This? [*] – value-connection to customer-segments, also connection to suppliers, engaged non-customers

(From these we might place Vision and Value entities onto the workspace, or sketch out a model of the overall enterprise and market.)

Another set of questions help to link a business-model from Business Model Canvas into this part of the architecture, via the cross-map between Business Model Canvas and the core Enterprise Canvas partitioning:

  • Who or what uses This? [*] – service-consumers
  • What connects with This? [*] – preliminary view of relationships/flows – expand with Supplier, Customer, Partner, flows etc
  • Who or what supplies to This? [*] – service-providers, suppliers
  • What delivers This? [*] – customer-channels, also supplier-channels
  • Who or what works with This? [*] – partners
  • What is used in This? [*] – key-resources – include asset-types as per service-content checklist
  • What happens in This? – key-activities
  • What are the processes within This? – use BPMN etc (an alternate way of asking about activities)
  • How do we talk with others about This? – customer/supplier relations
  • What are the costs of This? – cost-structure (what kinds of cost)
  • What are the returns from This? – revenue streams (what kinds of value-returned?)

A set of questions based on the service-content checklist:

  • What items are used or referenced in This? – assets in service-content checklist
  • What are the functions of This? – functions in service-content checklist – links to asset-types used or referenced
  • What are the places of This? – locations in service-content checklist – includes asset-types for schemas (plus location in Time as abstract)
  • What skills and capabilities are needed for This? – capabilities in service-content checklist – includes asset-type, skill-level; also note skill-level limits to machine, IT, human
  • What events drive This? – events in service-content checklist – includes asset-type
  • What decisions guide This? – decisions/reasons in service-content checklist – includes skill-/complexity-level
  • What standards, laws and regulations apply to This? – externally-imposed rules
  • What principles and business-rules apply to This? – internally-imposed rules

Some questions about flows between ‘This’ and other items:

  • What’s the transaction-lifecycle for This? – apply Market Cycle sequence
  • What are the flows for This? – apply (original) VPEC-T for flow

(In Enterprise Canvas, we might model these as flow-relationships between Services, optionally with Exchange entities along the flow-relation.)

Some related questions on service-metrics and quality:

  • How do we measure This? – metrics, service-level agreements
  • What information do we need about This? – qualitatives, often in parallel with performance-metrics; also coordination-info, event-info
  • What is success for This? – linkage between metrics and values
  • How is quality assured for This? [*] – linkage to validation-services (create awareness, enhance capability, apply in practice, verify)

Some questions that link to the ‘guidance services’ in Enterprise Canvas:

  • How do we manage This? [*] – links to direction-services (mainly ‘Run the Business’)
  • Who or what defines strategy for This? [*] – links to direction-services (mainly ‘Change the Business’ or ‘Develop the Business’)
  • How do we change This? [*] – links to direction- and coordination-services (mainly ‘Change the Business’ in each)
  • What is the change-strategy for This? – links to coordination-services for change-strategy (mainly ‘Develop the Business’)
  • Who or what coordinates This? [*] – links to run-time coordination-services (‘Run the Business’)

Two questions address the Investor and Beneficiary relationships modelled in Enterprise Canvas:

  • Who invests in This? [*] – investors (what forms of value?) – always crosslink with Beneficiaries to check balance
  • Who benefits from This? [*] – beneficiaries (what forms of value?) – always crosslink with Investors to check balance

Some questions about responsibilities and stakeholders:

  • What leadership is needed for This? – leadership as per Five-Element (5+5+1)
  • Who is responsible for This? [*] – apply RACI
  • Who knows about This? [*] – designer, developer, archivist, documentation-keeper, subject-matter expert (SME), supernode etc
  • Who are the stakeholders for This? [* ]- extend out into the organisation, and further outward to the market and extended-enterprise
  • Who might be anti-clients for This? [*] – ‘inherent anti-clients’ (e.g. environmentalists vs oil-industry), ‘betrayal anti-clients’ (identify risks that might lead to sense of ‘betrayal’)

Some questions about composition, decomposition and implementation:

  • What is another variant of This? [*] – info about siblings or alternate paths
  • What are the components of This? [*] – decomposition into sub-services
  • How do we implement This? [v] – implementation-detail, sub-services etc

Some questions that use the SCORE method for strategy/tactics review:

  • What are the strengths of This? – SCORE assessment – crosslink to Challenges, also risks, opportunities, effectiveness
  • What are the challenges for This? – SCORE assessment – always crosslink to Strengths, also risks / opportunities / effectiveness
  • What are the risks for This? – include ‘normal’ risks plus kurtosis-risks; always crosslink to opportunities, plus strengths / challenges / effectiveness
  • What are the opportunities for This? – include ‘normal’ opportunities plus ‘Black Swan’ / ‘Blue Ocean’ opportunities; always crosslink to risks, plus strengths / challenges / effectiveness
  • How do we enhance the effectiveness of This? – sub-questions on Efficient, Reliable, Elegant, Appropriate, Integrated

Some questions around requirements, conflicts and dependencies:

  • What is the pain around This? – describe the pain-points that underpin requirements for change
  • What are the requirements for This? – describe the requirements (functional and qualitative), the authorities for those requirements, etc (e.g. as per Volere requirements-template)
  • What conflicts with This? [*]- list other services or requirements, and the nature of the conflict
  • What depends on This? [*] – list the dependent services or other items, and the nature of the dependency

Some questions around the lifecycle of the item itself:

  • What is the history of This? – describe past versions, past uses (outline an as-was to as-is)
  • What is the future for This? – outline intended future versions, uses etc (develop an as-is to to-be)
  • What is the lifecycle for This? – what creates, reads or references, updates, deletes or disposes of this? (or, optionally, the lifecycle IN This – the lifecycle of whatever this service acts on, i.e. a CRUD usage-lifecycle)

And finally (for now), some questions that focus on narrative-knowledge and the narrative aspects of enterprise-architecture and service-design:

  • Tell me a story about This?
  • What is a use-case for This?
  • What is a scenario for This?
  • What is a customer-journey that uses This?

(Typically we would record those stories in freeform format, perhaps as an audio- or video-recording attached to the item-entity within the toolset.)

Obviously there are many, many other questions we could ask in the same way – though remember that part of the aim here is to support modelling with Enterprise Canvas. The key theme throughout is that it’s about creating engagement in the architecture – this isn’t done solely by people with an ‘architect’ job-title, but anyone at all, in a form and format that is usable by just by anyone, even in the midst of their everyday work.

More later on how we could apply this in practice – but any comments for now on the basic idea?

2 Comments on “This: an exploratory game for service-oriented EA

    • Thanks, Johanna!

      Next, how could I make this more useful for you in your work? How would you apply this? What challenges – particularly around getting people to engage, I imagine – would this help with?

      Further comments? 🙂

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