The head of IT for the Marriott Hotel chain has called on suppliers to help users model an enterprise architecture that can respond to change in today?s competitive environment.
At the fifth annual Gartner Enterprise Systems conference in Chicago this week, Barry Shuler, Marriott?s vice president of information resources and planning, attested that, while the techniques were already available to undertake such modelling, it was necessary to code most of the models by by hand.
Companies need object oriented methods and advanced planning tools because existing process and data modelling tools were too simplified and just watered down results, he claimed.
?Behaviour in the enterprise is influenced by structure, which is always changing, and if I can model my structure with all its complexity and dynamics, I can change the structure," he argued.
"This means I can simulate changes on my computer using the enterprise architecture models I?ve developed, I can tweak the models, rerun them and see the impact of the change on the business,? he explained.
He continued: ?This is not science fiction. There are the techniques out there to do it, but there aren?t any tools. We need integrated models of business and behaviour so we can model changes that are likely to occur in the infrastructure. I hope tools evolve in line with the techniques because the human brain can?t manage and track all this by itself.?
He added that the Marriott hotel chain had spent the past two years modelling its own organisation. This involved describing all the component parts of the business including people, machines, policies and procedures, how they interrelated and how that changed over time.
Each element was then defined as an object, ?because object orientation is pretty close to the real world?, and given its place in a high level enterprise design model.
Shuler explained the rationale: ?When you think of the future, there?s not a way to predict what enterprise factors are down the line. The best you can do is estimate external changes. This technique means you can test for that and architect your business and processes to test for an optimum response.?
If users were not able to go down this path, he recommended that they come up with a series of 'candidate' enterprise architectures that they could keep in the bank, and when things changed, pull one out and use it.
?It?s not ideal because you have to retrofit, but it?s better than things are now because it enables you to test hypothesis. If you don?t, you?re just looking to the future with your fingers crossed,? he concluded.
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