Strategy- and business driven operational development is in the heart of organization’s governance and management. Operational development supports organization’s mission, vision and strategy execution by developing business-driven capabilities to produce services and products to customers. Operational development is tightly linked with organization’s management and governance, as well as with strategy- and business development work (Azevedo et al. 2015a, Azevedo et al. 2015b, Aldea et al. 2013). Operational development links organization’s strategy- and business models to operations (Iacob et al 2012b, Ahlemann et al. 2012). This research covers all of these enterprise transformation related development activities from strategy development to actual change activities and to operations.
Operational development can be supported by frameworks. There are several frameworks available, each of which covers only certain aspects of operational development. But there is no overall holistic framework that covers all the aspects from strategy development to operations (Guenther & Middeke 2014). The missing link between distinct development frameworks makes the overall landscape of frameworks fragmented group of unrelated frameworks and methods.
The main objective of this research is to compose a meta-framework, which combines and complements the most relevant existing frameworks and methods into one. This meta-framework assists management and business developers of an organization in practice to better govern and execute their strategies to daily business operations. In addition to meta-framework, this research composes a metamodel that consists all the business relevant concepts and their relations. Both the meta-framework and the metamodel can be used as foundation for a design model for an operational development and visualization tool. This visualization tool assists organization to utilize the meta-framework and metamodel in practice, by providing easy and simple approach for operational development.
Keywords: operational development, frameworks, metamodels, methods, tools, strategy development, strategy planning, strategy execution, governance, capability-based planning, organizational development, business development, business transformation, process development, management, portfolio management, program management, project management, service management, agile methods, service operations, service integrations, multi-sourcing, system thinking, system theory, complexity theory, user experience, storytelling, gamification, collaboration, collaboration tools.
Operational development is the most important activity for management of an organization, as it drives strategy-driven business transformation change activities to operations. Operational development supports organization’s mission, vision and strategy execution to provide organization’s services and products to customers. Operational development is strategy- and business-driven. All the transformational and operational activities within an organization should be derived from strategic goals. These goals are then turned to requirements of business capabilities. All the underlying structural and behavioral building blocks of the organization such as processes, organization units, IT systems and -services should be supporting those business capabilities. Operational development links strategies to execution, business to IT and operations.
The challenge is to manage and govern all the aspects of business transformations from strategies to operations (Lee et al. 2014). To enable this operational development there is a need for comprehensive meta-framework and related metamodel, as well as for easy visualization tool that simplifies all the development activities and communication (Davidsen 2015). These meta-framework, metamodel and visualization tool support operational development by providing relevant information with appropriate level of details for different roles of stakeholders (Davidsen 2015; Moody 2009). This assists business decision makers to do right things in right way in continuously changing business conditions.
The main research questions are as follows:
- (RQ1) how to construct a collaborative layer on top of the frameworks – a “framework of the frameworks” – which combines and complements all the existing frameworks and methods into one, comprehensive framework that supports operational development – from ideas to production? This kind of holistic, generic and pragmatic “meta-framework” relates all the relevant frameworks and methods into coherent abstraction layer.
- (RQ2) what are the concepts of the meta-framework? How to construct a generic “meta-metamodel” with harmonized terminology, that consists of a) concepts that are common to the most relevant meta-models behind the existing frameworks and b) concepts that are missing links between the distinct meta-models and c) concepts that may occur to support organization dynamics in changing business environment.
- (RQ3) which development method(s) can be utilized with the meta-framework? How to formulate a generic development method, that combines all the appropriate best practices from relevant established methods (such as TOGAF ADM, Lean and agile, Capability-Based Planning) with new approaches (such as Service-Based Approach).
- (RQ4) how to construct a design model for an operational development and visualization tool that supports the “meta-framework”, “meta-metamodel” and generic development method in practice? This kind of visualization tool can be utilized end2end operational development of an organization, from strategy and business development to operations. Tool supported development method can be used for overall development to provide comprehensive insight into enterprise level design, as well as use cases such as IT-service life-cycle management and portfolio management.
In addition to those main research questions there are other interesting and valuable questions that are covered in this research such as: a) what size of business get the most benefits and value from systematic operational development that is supported by holistic meta-framework, metamodel, generic development method and visualization tool, b) how operational development supported with holistic meta-framework, metamodel, generic method and visualization tool can support digital transformation (a.k.a. digitalization), innovations and generation of new business?
An organization is a complex, chaotic system, which is under constant change triggered by both internal and external driving forces. Without governance, organization is internally continuously fragmenting: entropy never ends, but increases in more accelerated speed. To keep the organization in the desired course of action according to its strategies, management and business developers can benefit from guidance and tools that assist operational development.
There are several frameworks, methods and tools available, each of which covers only certain aspects of operational development. Most of the frameworks and methods have specialized approach that cover only narrow or limited scope. In addition, many of those frameworks are quite complicated and too “academic” by nature. Most of the available tools are special-purpose tools only.
There is no overall holistic framework that covers all the aspects from strategy development to operations (Guenther & Middeke 2014). This research introduces all the most relevant frameworks and methods, and their positions and roles in operational development. The main objective of this research is to compose a meta-framework, which combines and complements the existing frameworks and methods into one, “framework of the frameworks”. This meta-framework assists management and business developers of an organization to better govern and execute their strategies to daily business operations. The primary target of this meta-framework is to provide a holistic, practical and comprehensive approach for operational development.
The meta-framework gives high level structuralized abstraction of organization’s behavior and structure. This provides a) overall insight to all the diverse aspects of organization, b) information of each and every building block and how they relate with each other and c) guidance to management and business developers to focus on essential development areas and targets. This enables the organization to develop its operational capabilities to more efficient and cost-effective to produce more value.
The meta-framework can be expressed as a metamodel, which contains all the structural and behavioral concepts and their relationships. The metamodel is constructed in this research by combining more specialized, existing metamodels into one coherent “metamodel of the metamodels”. This metamodel, in contrast to meta-framework, can be utilized for more systematic development purposes such as model-driven operational development. The metamodel is more specific and accurate in identifying all the building blocks of an organization that has certain business relevance. The metamodel supports the meta-framework: they cover the same organizational landscape, but in different abstraction levels. The meta-framework and the metamodel together assist management and business developers to govern and manage the complexity and constant change related to organization and its operational environment.
The meta-framework, the metamodel and the generic method can also be utilized for practical and systematic development purposes such as model-driven operational development. The metamodel can be used as a core data model for an operational development tool. The fourth construct in this research, in addition to meta-framework, metamodel and method, is a design model of an operational development tool. Such a tool can be used for operational development in practice, as it is based on the meta-framework and the metamodel that are constructed in this research. The operational development tool can be used for a) design purposes, b) governance and management purposes and c) operational purposes.
The visual operational development tool utilizes all the applicable information and concepts based on meta-framework and metamodel. The tool also utilizes all the available information from different sources such as other tools and systems that are used in the organization. The tool interoperates with other tools, so that there is correct information in one place in right format: whether in visualized form or other format such as text, tables or matrices. The tool can be implemented with modern web-based responsive technologies to provide the most optimal user-experience. The user interface of the tool may utilize modern visualization techniques and concepts like gamification, narrative story-telling visualization mechanisms, to make the tool easier and more attractive to use for business people. The visualization symbols of the tool can be switched by the user from one set of symbols to another, e.g. from standard notation such as ArchiMate to custom symbols. This can help communication between different people in the organization, as there can be provided easier visualizations with lesser details or more detailed visualizations – depending on the viewpoints. Tool’s data storage layer can be implemented with the latest database technologies such as “no-sql” databases to enable smooth integrations with other systems, flexible data formats for example. The tool can be made available with diverse channels such as mobile devices, and the tool platform can be provided as a cloud service, Software as a Service (SaaS).
The main advantage of the tool is to enable an overall insight to all the business relevant information with all the possible dependencies. This kind of tool can be used for various operational development purposes such as portfolio management. It is also possible to perform analysis such as impact analysis. As such, this tool can be used as a main operational development tool in the organization in practice.
There are couple of alternative approaches how the user interface of the visualization tool can be implemented. These alternatives are covered more detailed in this research. One of the approaches of the functionality of the tool is related to layered principle, analogous to map solutions. User interface provides layered views, each of which contains elements and their relations with different granularity. Each element can have multiple properties a.k.a. attributes. The number of properties is not limited by the tool itself. All the elements are related to the concepts in the metamodel behind. Some of the layers, “surfaces”, consists of general, high granularity elements and their relations. Some of the layers consists of more detailed elements and their relations. The user can navigate between layers: from more general layers to more detailed layers, with more specific elements and their relations, and vice versa. The visualization tool animates the user movements from layer to another with smooth animation, analogous e.g. to Google Maps application user experience for example.
Another example of user interface functionality is visualization approach that is based on “3D like” user experience, in which elements are like dots in the space or planetary “atmosphere”. The user can move in the 3D view to any direction. When the user wants to drill-in into a specific element or layer, he or she zooms into another layer. The visualization tool animates all the user movements. This kind of 3D effect can be implemented in various ways.
The user experience is important aspect of the tool. The user interface has to be implemented as attractive as possible with modern, responsive web user interface technologies. There should be readiness for mobility and different usage scenarios. There are lot of already invented principles and mechanisms available that can be utilized. Many features like visual icons and symbols of elements, or number of allowed attributes can be managed via configuration.
The visualization tool can be used for operational development by the business people and architects of the organization. This tool takes advantage of all the relevant frameworks and provide an easy and simple way to manage and govern the overall development of the organization. The visualization tool supports all the strategy- and business planning activities, and all the related change activities for required business transformations. The tool enables more agile way for operational development, which is important e.g. for digital transformations. The tool supports to develop the organization as a “system” according to “system thinking” approach (Kasser & Mackley 2008). The tool itself doesn’t restrict the target area: it can be basically any system. The tool can be used for other purposes than for organizational development, though it is the primary utilization scenario for the tool.
There is also business case for comprehensive operational development tool, which can be used as a master end2end planning – covering aspects from strategy planning via architecture design to service operations. There is no such a product genre. Instead, there exist products for specific purposes such as IT Service Management (ITSM), Configuration Management Systems (CMS) or -databases (CMDB), Enterprise Architecture Management (EAM) and Enterprise Architecture modelling tools etc. But there is no product or platform that can be used as a master planning tool for operational development in an organization, which integrates with other specialized systems and provides business user-friendly interface and innovative holistic approach for operational development.
The user interface of the visualization tool provides a customizable dashboard of the business. All the relevant aspects and building blocks can be provided via the dashboard, from which the user can navigate into details. This dashboard is the control panel of the organization. It can be used both communication and design purposes. The tool provides APIs and utilizes APIs from other systems such as ITSM and CMDB. These APIs can be used for integration purposes such as retrieving near real time information when necessary. Users are authorized based on the roles of the visual tool application.
The visualization tool is based on meta-framework and metamodels. Those are the foundation for operational development. The visualization tool is the add-on product sketch, which may be an innovative business case for some software company or for a startup.
3 Grounds for topic selection
Rationales for this research topic are as follows: 1) there are (too) many frameworks and methods available, but there is no comprehensive meta-framework, 2) there are many distinct meta-models, each of which containing only subset of business relevant concepts, a comprehensive meta-model is required, 3) there are several tools suitable for operational development, but there is a room for comprehensive and “business user friendly” tool. A new innovative tool with innovative approach can have its potentiality.
There are lot research covering frameworks, but there is not much research covering meta-framework or meta-model in the meaning as introduced in this research plan. Research covering meta-framework can be interesting, advantageous and valuable in both academic and business perspectives.
4 Theoretical Foundation For Research
Operational development is important topic which necessity cannot be overrated to organizations in today’s volatile business conditions. Organizations should be agile, time to market is at high priority, business environments change more and more quickly, there are new opportunities for new business models and innovations as new emerging technologies and concepts arise with speed of never before: Cloud services, Big data, Internet of (every)thing, business analytics, machine learning etc. Organizations are faced with complexity, both internally and externally. The bigger the organization is, the more there is need for operational development and related frameworks.
Conceptually operational development is in the heart of organization’s governance and management. Though, this area is lacking of comprehensive, all-in-one framework. There is neither all-round method for all-purpose guidance nor extensive metamodel covering all the necessary concepts and foundations. But instead, there exists plenty of frameworks, methods and standards such as (in unordered list) EFQM, ISO 9000, ISO 27000, Lean, Six Sigma, Balanced Scorecards, Business Model Canvas, Business Motivation Model, Business Reference Model, BiSL, Value Stream Mapping, Capability-based Planning, Resource-Based View (RBV), COBIT, TOGAF, COSO ERM, SABSA, MSP, PRINCE2, PMBOK, ITIL, SIAM, IT4IT, Spice, SAFe, DevOps, Agile, Scrum, Kanban, etc. The list is not complete at all, but it gives the idea: there are several frameworks, methods and reference architectures available, each of which have their own approach and advantages. There are also disadvantages like learning curve and narrow or limited scope.
Questions that arise are as follows: Why do all those frameworks and methods exist? What are their features? What are their value propositions? What are their concrete benefits? What is the value add organizations get when using them? What size of organization gets the most benefits of them? Do we need them all – or do we need them at all? Which of them to use and why? Are they overlapping? Are they competitors or complementary to each other? Are they easy to adopt, or do we need certified people to implement those? Is there some generic, universal aspects or concepts that are common to most of the frameworks or the metamodels? What are the missing links between the frameworks and the metamodels? It is presumable that the core foundation of concepts can be found from distinct metamodels, but all of those concepts cannot be found in any single metamodel completely.
All of the above mentioned frameworks and methods are specialized in particular aspects only, and most of them are quite esoteric and academic by nature. Some of them may tend to provide an overall insight to all what is important. Some of them may consolidated and some convergence may exists in the future. But this far there is no single one, clear, understandable all-round framework that is simple enough, which really makes things easy for all the stakeholders that are involved in operational development in an organization.
The challenge is: could there be a comprehensive but enough simple way for operational development of an organization? The main research objective can be derived from the main research question: construction of single high-level meta-framework that gets the best out from the other frameworks and adds missing parts to complement “gray areas” of the big picture. Such a meta-framework could be easier to learn and use, and thus faster and more efficient instrument for organization to achieve business-driven outcomes and results.
In the spectrum of operational development approaches, there are some promising candidates for being a collaborative framework such as COBIT or TOGAF. One of the newest standard for IT service life-cycle and operations management is IT4IT (IT4IT 2015). IT4IT complements many other frameworks and methods such as COBIT, TOGAF and ITIL, and utilizes ArchiMate-notation for architecture modelling purposes. IT4IT is promising standard for to be a comprehensive framework for operations: it contains reference architecture and operational model. But IT4IT lacks of strategy and business architecture level aspects.
TOGAF framework is aligned with Enterprise Architecture (EA) concept, which have had its momentum in last few years. TOGAF can be utilized with other frameworks such as COBIT, PRINCE2 and ITIL (Greefhorst 2013, Gama et al. 2015). Enterprise Architecture is important, which is intuitively understandable, but it is interpreted to be too much IT-specific. ArchiMate (ArchiMate 2013) Enterprise Architecture modelling notation is the most promising and continuously evolving standard for practical operational development purposes. ArchiMate and TOGAF can be nicely integrated and used together (Iacob et al. 2012a), and ArchiMate can be utilized with ITIL (Vicente 2013). ArchiMate is supported by many EA-tools (Roth et al. 2014), and there exists a model exchange standard (ArchiMate 2015a) for switching ArchiMate models between the tools. However, ArchiMate is relatively difficult to use and understand even though its metamodel can be visualized with custom symbols – other than those that are introduced in ArchiMate specification. Business decision makers cannot be expected to understand formal modelling notations. There should be simpler and more visualized expressions for business decision makers and particularly for management level. Despite the fact that Enterprise Architecture and ArchiMate are struggling with criticism, they comprise remarkable potentiality. Enterprise Architecture Management (EAM) is good candidate for being in the middle of the operational development, as a catalyst of business transformations. The TOGAF Architecture Development Method can be adapted for many cases and for diverse usage scenarios. However, EAM practices has to be extended and connected to other more specialized practices, mainly related to strategy development and business development. Effectively this means that Enterprise Architecture models should be extended e.g. with strategy and business models. In addition, operational development tools such as EAM- and modelling tools have to evolve to provide more “business user friendly” user experience via modern and innovative interfaces.
What is the benefit of developing the Enterprise Architecture (EA) – is an absurd question. EA is not a separate, distinct discipline – it is the organization itself. EA cannot be separated from the organization, because EA is the behavior and structure of the organization. However, business people often tend to think that EA is something that is related to IT development, not the business- or strategy development. Quite often EA is understood as too complex and too difficult to understand, and too academic to be enough pragmatic to be executed as a continuous practice. So there should be simpler and easier development approach. A solution could be a visual web-enabled tool that provides simplicity for identifying relevant concepts and their relations, as introduced in this research. This tool-supported approach can make all the important aspects easier to understand and more simple to use and manage. All the important but complex frameworks, methods and metamodels can be hidden behind user friendly visualization, which makes operational development easier.
5 Objectives, Methods And Potential Data
The main research objective is to construct a meta-framework that can be used on top of the other frameworks. This meta-framework can be used for assisting management, business decision makers and developers to govern, manage operational development of the organization. In addition to that, secondary research objective is to construct a meta-metamodel that consists all the relevant concepts concerning the operational development. These concepts can be for example anything from strategic goals to services and processes. Another research objective is to construct a design model for an operational development tool. This design model is to be feasible foundation for actual implementation of an operational design tool. This design model may contain some innovative aspects, as it consists of different abstraction layers, each of which related to operational development. This kind of operational development tool is practical application, which concretizes how meta-framework and metamodel can be utilized in practice. However, the meta-framework and the metamodel are advantageous as such.
Research method is constructive, as the main objectives are predefined constructions. Research first analyses major frameworks more detailed and other supporting frameworks more briefly. The former group consists of frameworks, methods or reference architectures that have wider scope or higher significance, whereas the latter group consists of frameworks, methods or reference architectures of narrower scope or significance. The scope and significance may correlate. After covering frameworks, research analyses meta-models and operational development tools.
6 Scientific And Societal Novelty Value
Operational development is constantly important topic for organizations. It can be even related to Finland’s government aims for digitalization step. Digitalization, innovation creation, new business models such as cloud-services are in the core of operational development. Frameworks are created to assists organizations in their operational development, so the topic of this research is valuable and advantageous, and has noteworthy business relevance.
The meta-framework, that is to be constructed in this research, provides valuable approach for simplified operational development. Construction of the meta-framework requires that all the major frameworks are to be analyzed in detailed level in this research, so that a synthesis can be formulated. As such, this research contains cross-cutting overview to operational development frameworks, which provides valuable information for organizations that in operational development.
The metamodel is also advantageous for those who are involved or interested in operational development. The metamodel supports the meta-framework by providing a foundation of business relevant concepts and their relations. This kind of metamodel enables more systematical and analytical approach to operational development. The metamodel also enables that a design model for the development tool can be constructed.
The meta-framework, the meta-metamodel and the design model for a development tool altogether provide practical approach to operational development of the organization.
(This is composed from the original research plan draft version “Operational Development of Organizations – Frameworks, Methods and Tools in Practice” dated 12th Sep 2015, by Eero Hosiaisluoma.)
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