Do you need to create an As-Is State?

by | August 22, 2010

I just saw a post by Adrian Grigoriu responding to Gartner’s Philip Allega’s post Applying EA to Your Life .  Within the post about how EA might be able to help plan our lives, Philip then brings up an regular EA debate “Do you start with the Current State?”  Actually, Philip says don’t do it.

If you have started your EA program and your first activity is to document the current state, STOP NOW. Refocus your team on analysis of the business strategy and development of the future state architecture.

Current-state analysis done first limits your ability to see future possibilities.  Developing future state first will constrain the level of detail required for current state.

I have a problem with Philip’s directive on stopping work on EA Current State. When introducing EA approaches to an organization, especially if you are doing this as an internal initiative, you MUST demonstrate a clear understanding of the issues and challenges to your senior sponsors.  No one will invite you to make comment or participate in strategic planning activities if your own house is not in order (or at least you have a plan in place). As you will see later in the post, creating our current state was essential to build our future state.

Adrian’s response is much more in line of how we delivered out our EA practice.  In particular, Adrian’s point about establishing a future state is exactly right.  You must understand the economics and practicalities of building the future and this is done by understanding the current state.

I hope this piece of advice was not meant to be taken literally. Imagine going to your CIO or senior manager telling him  that you have to stop the current state documentation work, now.

The target architecture cannot be established based on Vision alone. It is not practical or economically viable to start from tabula rasa each and every time you implement a new strategy. Competitors would be delighted though.

In 2007, we took our EA discipline and practices and used them as a basis for building a Technology Plan for our organization.  Here was the approach we took in order to get buy-in from our senior executive.  We had made attempts at strategic technology plans in the past but nothing of this magnitude or disciplined approach.  We call this diagram our “plan on a page”:

Here was our approach was to build the plan approved by our Senior Executive team:

  1. As Is State
  2. Environmental Scan
  3. Strategic Planning Assumptions
  4. Vision
  5. To Be State
  6. Roadmap
  7. Resources
  8. Guiding Principles

So why build the As Is State first in the context of building our plan:

  • Input to gap analysis
  • Common basis of information for the planning team
  • Establish baseline metrics – this is a key success factor for measuring and demonstrating an EA approach
  • Useful for benchmarking
  • Foundation for future iterations of the Plan

As with any EA practice, you have to tailor your methodology to your organization.  For us, building an As-Is State was a must have and it worked.  Our planning is an annual event with a three year window.  We established IT Governance and have aligned our technology investments to support the strategic plan of our institution.

6 thoughts on “Do you need to create an As-Is State?

  1. Chris Curran

    Thanks Leo. I agree that doing current state baselining FIRST can be limiting, but you have to do it. Doing it in parallel with future state design or even after would work well.


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  3. Michael Jessopp

    I think the trick to capturing the As Is is the amount of effort that you put in – there is a law of diminishing returns at work here. My rule of thumb is to capture just “enough” to allow you to understand where you are in order to move forward. I wouldn’t advocate dumping the As Is altogether.

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  5. Philip Allega

    I’ve posted this on my blog response, but wanted to share it with you here as well.

    Thanks, Leo. I apologize for not getting back quickly, but I was out of the office for some time.

    We are discussing the order of activities, here. I see that you did the current first. We won’t ever know how much that impeded your vision of the future, as the findings from the study I posted suggest all humans inherently do when doing the current state first. If you are not aware of many of the issues and challenges with your current state before you begin an EA exercise, you’re probably not the best person to engage in the EA program. If you are, you don’t need to spend needless hours documenting issues that may not be relevant to the future state gap. Deb Weiss noted:

    The minute any EA team starts the accept that they are responsible for documenting the current state then they are on a slippery slide down to oblivion

    She also noted that:

    Their role is to collect the current state information that is a reflection of the future state being defined.

    If you do the future first, you have a guide that tells you what parts of the current state are of interest in understanding so that you may propose projects to close the gap. If you spent time working upon documenting your EPP system and the challenges that will help your reach your goals are dealing with your CRM system, then you’ve wasted time.

    I do agree with your quote:

    When introducing EA approaches to an organization, especially if you are doing this as an internal initiative, you MUST demonstrate a clear understanding of the issues and challenges to your senior sponsors.

    Indeed, doing your due diligence by understanding the future state and focusing upon only those portions of each EA viewpoint that’s relevant to undertand so that your can propose gap closure projects focuses your time and energy and demonstrates that you understand the challenges.

    I will concede that you may have had credibility issues that required a deeper foundational knowledge of your current state before you began. However, my experience, and that of my colleagues at Gartner, is that we have observed too many never-ending, directionless, current state inventory and analysis paralysis efforts. Why? Because they had no future state to guide them concerning what was important in the current state to document.

    Perhaps you were intuitively lucky to only work on those things in your current state relevant to the future.
    Perhaps you did not introduce any bias into what’s achievable in the future, based upon your concerns with the current.

    If so, you were very lucky indeed. For your next udate, consider the impact if you changed your approach to:

    1. Environmental Scan
    2. Strategic Planning Assumptions
    3, Vision
    4. Guiding Principles
    5. To Be State
    6. As Is State
    7. Roadmap
    8. Resources

    I think you’ll find this exercise to be liberating and focused upon only those parts of the current state relevant to your gap analysis that serves as input to your roadmap and resource allocation discussions.


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