SASSY Architecture 2

I shared previously a short description of what is SASSY Architecture and a more detailed deck here. This is a shorter but more recent deck from my talk at the IRMUK EA Conference in 2019.

(if the slidedeck doesn’t appear, you may need to refresh)

Linked Data uptake

Linked Data is a universal approach for naming, shaping, and giving meaning to data using open standards. It was meant to be the second big information revolution after the World Wide Web. It was supposed to complement the web of documents with the web of data so that humans and machines can use the Internet as if it is a single database while enjoying the benefits of decentralisation1This is the balance between autonomy and cohesion – essential for any socio-technical system..

Today, we have 1495 linked open datasets on the web, according to the LOD cloud collection. Some among them, like Uniprot and Wikidata, are really big in volume, usage, and impact. But that number also means that today, 15 years after the advent of Linked Data, LOD datasets are less than 0.005% of all publicly known datasets. And even if we add to that the growing amount of structured data encoded as JSON-LD and RDFa in the HTML, most published data is still unavailable in a self-descriptive format and is not linked.

That’s in the open web. Inside enterprises, we keep wasting billions attempting to integrate data and pay the accumulated technical debt, only to find ourselves with new creditors. We bridge silos with bridges that turn into new silos, ever more expensive. The use of new technologies makes the new solutions appear different, which helps us forget that similar approaches in the past failed to bring lasting improvement. We keep developing information systems that are not open to changes. Now, we build digital twins, still using hyper-local identifiers, so they are more like lifeless dolls.

Linked Enterprise Data can reduce that waste and dissolve many of the problems of the mainstream (and new-stream!) approaches by simply creating self-descriptive enterprise knowledge graphs, decoupled from the applications, not relying on them to interpret the data, not having a rigid structure based on historical requirements but open to accommodate whatever comes next.

Yet, Linked Enterprise Data, just like Linked Open Data, is still marginal.

Why is that so? And what can be done about it?

I believe there are five reasons for that. I explained them in my talk at the ENDORSE conference, the recording of which you’ll find near the end of this article. I was curious how Linked Data professionals would rate them and also what I have missed out on. So I made a small survey. My aim wasn’t to gather a huge sample but rather to have the opinion of the qualified minority. And indeed, most respondents had over seven years of experience with Linked Data and semantic technologies. Here’s how my findings got ranked from one to five:

Continue reading

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    This is the balance between autonomy and cohesion – essential for any socio-technical system.

Essential Balances, Huizen, 2019

Metaphorum was established in 2003 as an NGO to develop Stafford Beer’s legacy and has organized a series of management cybernetics conferences and workshops over the years.

I attended three Metaphorum conferences so far.

In Hull, 2015, I shared ideas on how some of the findings of the enactive school of cognitive science can enrich the Viable System Model (VSM). Only about 8 minutes of the talk were recorded but the full Prezi and a PDF export of the frames are available.

The next Metaphorum event I attended was in Düsseldorf, 2018. The conference theme was Re-designing Freedom which was also embodied in the conference design, emphasizing different forms of self-organization1For example, this was the first Metaphorum conference to use BarCamp. and held at the premises of a company proud with their agile work hacks.

At both conferences, I tried to point to a promising new area of research. In Hull, it was towards enactivism as a rich source to draw from and fill some of the gaps in the VSM. In Düsseldorf, my invitation was to travel to another uncharted territory. There I tried to put and start answering the question “What can Social Systems Theory bring to the VSM?” You can check out the slides here.

The last day of the conference was a short hacked version of team synthegrity that worked pretty well. My topic was “Burst the VSM bubble” and in the following year, I demonstrated one way to do that.

The 2019 conference took place in Huizen, a beautiful village in The Netherlands, not far from Amsterdam. I decided, instead of delivering a typical management cybernetics talk, to present the Essential Balances.

Management cybernetics has its models and language. They are valuable when discussing with peers and for the advancement of the discipline. Yet, they limit the accessibility of the wider audience to these ideas. What’s more, they limit the spread of the mindset and skills needed for understanding and working with organizational complexity. There is no need to put off people with transducers, amplifiers, attenuators and algedonic alerts. Even using the word “system” is unnecessary. But the first essential balance, the one influenced by the VSM, does not differ only in avoiding the cybernetic jargon. It offers an observer-centric, non-mechanistic way of dealing with organizations, and – importantly – doing so without models and prescriptions.

The next Metaphorum conference is now open for registration. It’s planned for June this year.

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    For example, this was the first Metaphorum conference to use BarCamp.

Productive Organisational Paradoxes

It is often said that organisations are full of paradoxes. But this refers to contradictions and tensions. It is understood as something that needs to be taken care of. When organisations are looked at as social systems, however, it becomes clear that they are only possible because of paradoxes, and particularly paradoxes of self-reference. Understanding how these paradoxes create and maintain organisations is an important skill for practitioners trying to make sense of what’s going on and improve it. The basic generative organisational paradox is that of decisions. It brings new light not only on decision patterns and dependencies, but also on understanding the nature of objectives, power, and relations with clients.

Here are the recording and slides from my talk at the SCiO open day in London in January 2019.

Most of this story, but told gently, is in Chapter 5 of Essential Balances.

What can Social Systems Theory bring to the VSM?

In 2015, when the Metaphorum was in Hull, I tried to kick off a discussion about potential contributions from cognitive science, and particularly from the Enactive school. I shared some insights and hinted at other possibilities. This year the Metaphorum conference was in Germany for the first time. It was organised by Mark Lambertz and hosted by Sipgate in Düsseldorf. I saw in the fact that the Metaphorum was in Germany a good opportunity to suggest another combination, this time with the Social Systems Theory of Niklas Luhmann.

These are the slides from my talk and here you can also watch them with all animations.

Related posts:

The Mind Of Enterprise

Redrawing the Viable System Model diagram

Productive Paradoxes in Projects

SASSY Architecture

SASSY Architecture

SASSY Architecture is a practice of combining two seemingly incompatible worldviews. The first one is based on non-contradiction and supports the vision for an ACE enterprise (Agile, Coherent, Efficient), through 3E enterprise descriptions (Expressive, Extensible, Executable), achieving “3 for the price of 1”: Enterprise Architecture, Governance, and Data Integration.

The second is based on self-reference and is a way of seeing enterprises as topologies of paradoxical decisions. Such a way of thinking helps deconstruct constraints to unleash innovation, reveal hidden dependencies in the decisions network, and avoid patterns of decisions limiting future options.

As a short overview, here are the slides from my talk at the Enterprise Architecture Summer School in Copenhagen last week.

Continue reading

Productive Paradoxes in Projects

When I started this blog in 2011, I wanted it to be a place for undistracted reading. The initial theme was not much busier than this one. I didn’t go that far, but you still don’t see categories, tag clouds, and my Twitter feed. Only recently have I added sharing buttons and started putting more images, and because I am keeping it minimal, you might have been reading this blog for some time without knowing about its tagline, as it is simply not visible in the blog. But it’s been there, and when the blog appears in search results, you can see it.

The theme of paradoxes appeared only a few times, for example, in  From Distinction to Value and Back and previously in Language and Meta-Language for EA. I haven’t focused on it in a post so far. It was even more difficult to start talking about it to an audience of project managers. First, claiming that projects are produced and full of paradoxes might appear a bit radical. Second, project managers are solution-oriented people, while in paradoxes, there is nothing to solve. There is a problem there, but its solution is a problem itself, the solution of which is the initial problem. Third, talking about paradoxes is one thing, but convincing others that understanding them is useful is another. Continue reading

The Mind Of Enterprise

I should have shared this presentation in November 2015 but anyway, better late than never. Here it is as static slides…

… and if your browser allows, you can play the original:

There is also a video, but due to a technical problem, only the first few minutes were recorded.

Language and meta-language for Enterprise Architecture

That was the topic of a talk I gave in October 2014 at an Enterprise Architecture event in London.

Most of the slides are available as PDF slidedeck on Slideshare.

They probably don’t tell the story by themselves and I’m not going to help them here unless this post provokes a discussion. What I’ll do instead is a clarification about the title. “Language” refers to the means of describing organisations. They could be different. Given the current state of maturity, I have found those based on description logic to be very useful. What I meant by the “current state of maturity” is that a method in its theoretical development, application, the technologies supporting it and the experience with their application justifies investments in utilising them and helping in their further development. Although I find such a language clearly superior to the alternatives in use, that doesn’t mean there are no issues and that there are no approaches showing convincing solutions to those issues. However, the practice with the latter or with the available tools doesn’t give me enough reason to stand behind them. The situation with the “meta-language” is similar but let’s first clarify why I call it that.

Metalanguage is commonly defined as language about language. If that was the meaning I intended, it would have that type of relation to the language. What I’m writing here could have been referred to as a mixture of another meta- and a meta-meta-language. It wasn’t the meaning I intended. But to clarify the intended meaning of “meta”, I need to first clarify “language”.

I have found that there is a need to describe properly the “objects” that people in organisations are concerned with and how they relate to each other. It could be some way of representing physical things such as buildings, documents and servers or abstract concepts such as services, processes and capabilities. And although it relates also to abstract things, I sometimes call it “language for the substance”.

Organisations are autonomous and adaptive systems, continuously maintained by their interaction with their niche, the latter being brought forth from the background, by that very interaction. While a language such as the one proposed can be useful to understand the components of an organisation, it doesn’t help much in understanding the dynamics and viability. The language for the substance cannot be used to talk about the form. That’s why there is a need, maybe temporarily until we find a better solution and probably a single language, to have another language and that other language I called meta-language in the presentation.

As this is a language for the form, I keep looking for ways to utilise some proposals, one of the most fascinating being George Spencer-Brown’s Laws of Form (this post includes a brief introduction). Papers like this one of Dirk Baecker give me hope that it is possible. Until then, for the purposes of Enterprise Architecture, I find the Viable System Model, with the whole body of knowledge and practice associated with it, as the most pragmatic meta-language.

More on Requisite Inefficiency

The “slides” supporting my talk on Requisite Inefficiency a couple of months ago have been on Slideshare since then, but I haven’t had the time to share them here. Which I do now.

The various manifestations of Requisite Inefficiency in both organisms and organisations can be understood by observing the maintenance of balances between homeostasis and heterostasis (as in the adaptive immune systems), exploration and exploitation (foraging of ants or curiosity-driven vs market-driver research) as well as various types of redundancy or shift of function. The latter can be elastic, as it is in degeneracy, or plastic, as it is in exaptation.
Having an underutilised structure/function that is capable of providing the deficit of variety to the utilised structures of a system in order to match the complexity of an external stimulus, or that can be adapted in a sufficiently short time to do so, is a prerequisite for survival.

Reasoning with Taskless BPMN

Was it Lisbon that attracted me so much or the word Cybernetics in the sub-title or the promise of Alberto Manuel that it would be a different BPM conference? May be all three and more. As it happened, the conference was very well organised and indeed different. The charm of Lisbon was amplified by the nice weather, much appreciated after the long winter. As to Cybernetics, it remained mainly in the sub-title but that’s good enough if it would make more people go beyond the Wikipedia articles and other easily digestible summaries.

My presentation was about using task-free BPMN which I believe, and the results so far confirm, can have serious benefits for modelling of both pre-defined processes and those with some level of uncertainty. In addition, there is an elegant data-centric way to execute such processes using reasoners. Enterprise Architecture (EA) descriptions can be improved if done with explicit semantics. Currently, EA descriptions are isolated from the operational data and neither the former is linked with what happens, nor the latter get timely updates from the strategy. More on this in another post. Here’s the slidedeck1You can watch on YouTube the slides with animations (no voice-over) and a 7 min compilation of the talk.: