Supporting social complexity in collaborative enterprises

by Philip Boxer
Richard’s presentation at the UNICOM Enterprise Architecture Forum was on Next Generation Enterprise Architecture (EA).  In it he distinguished two agendas:

  1. Simplify and Unify systems to align them with the business, and
  2. Differentiate and Integrate systems to help manage complexity.

In the first case the drive is towards a single unified system supporting the enterprise, while with the second it is towards differentiated systems brought together under a central authority as a system-of-systems.

He then introduced a third agenda in which the forms of integration could themselves be differentiated, enabling systems to be brought together in varieties of ways forming different systems-of-systems.  This third agenda he associated with enterprises that were having to form collaborative alliances with other enterprises, working within business ecosystems [1] to meet multi-sided demands [2].

My own presentation on supporting social complexity in collaborative enterprises addressed this third agenda. It described multi-sidedness and gave a number of case examples, including e-Government and Healthcare.  It made the point that with this third agenda, the architecture of the enterprise was not longer the primary concern.  Rather it was understanding the variety of ways in which the social complexity of collaborations created value for the customer, and therefore how, from the perspective of the supplier, platform architectures needed to be able to capture indirect value.[3]

Footnotes
[1] A business ecosystem is made up of numbers of operationally and managerially independent suppliers and customers interacting with each other in support of many different kinds of demand (e.g. the suppliers of the products, applications and services clustering around customers’ uses of Apple’s iPhone platform).
[2] A one-sided demand is one for which supplier can define its product or service in a way that is independent of the context within which it is used by the customer (e.g. the demands met by a retail outlet).  A multi-sided demand is one for which this is not possible, so that the supplier must take account of how the customer uses its product or service in combination with other products and services (e.g. the multiple interacting services involved in treating a complex medical condition).
[3] A platform architecture is the means by which East-West accountability can be delivered, providing a way of managing the tension between rings and wedges.


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