Sustaining Requisite Agility requires Platform Architectures

by Philip Boxer

The presentation describing this pathway within the 3rd epoch domain explores how are edge roles to be supported by platform architectures?

For an organisation to be dynamically responsive, it must have the requisite agility to sustain concurrent networked collaborations at its edges. This requires an approach to organisation that can sustain development across the whole range of its activities in a way that is itself aligned to its edges, platform architectures capable of supporting the resultant variety of value-creating responses, and an approach to securing returns on investment that values impact on structural agility per se.

How are we to think about the demands placed on an organisation when the tempo of demand exceeds the tempo of alignment?  There is something to be learnt here from the military having to respond to an accelerating tempo of threat, in which they distinguish between eight different lines of development of an organisation in order to be able to respond effectively.  The result is a diagnostic framework in terms of which the ability of an organisation to be effects-driven in its responses may be evaluated.

In taking power to the edge of an organisation, the effectiveness of an effects-based response is driven by a situational understanding rooted in what is going on (wigo) in the context giving rise to the perceived demand (or threat). Any response will be constrained by the existing capabilities of the organisation, but before any consideration of what might be effective, a fundamental limitation will be created by the ontological scaffolding in terms of which the situation is itself defined and understood. This scaffolding defines a domain of relevance that will both shape and be shaped by a double ‘V’ cycle driven by the desired effects. 

The evaluation of any response will need to consider the cohesion cost of its orchestration and synchronization, the value of the response lying in its cohesion cost being less that the indirect benefits it creates. An evaluation will also need to consider the design assumptions built into any supporting systems, since these too may constrain the responses possible to the extent of rendering effects-based responses impossible other than at very great cost. These evaluations again constitute a double challenge for the organisation as a whole.

Looking closely at what needs supporting, three independent axes emerge along which it must be possible to make structural choices determining functional capabilities, non-functional constraints, and the forms of dynamic alignment necessary to creating cohesion. In effect, each dynamic alignment constitutes a value proposition, so that supporting systems must be able to support multiple propositions concurrently spanning a range of different kinds of response at the edges of the organisation.

Valuing any investment must therefore be against the full variety of client situations in which the organisation wishes to generate effects. The changing probabilities of situations arising across this range make real option methods of valuation necessary. Real option methods in turn mean relating the full variety of client situations to the structural characteristics of the supporting systems and their ontological adequacy. First, this means using a rings and wedges model for describing how the tension between scale/scope and alignment is to be held in relation to any given form of cohesion.  Second, this means placing wedge processes within the context of both clients’ effects ladders and also the underlying ecosystem providing the products and services needing to be aligned. The resultant layering of contexts is referred to as a stratification.

Stratified analyses of the ecosystem supporting a variety of client situations with their effects ladders show us how demand on primary (origination), secondary (derivation) and tertiary (delivery and customization) industry sectors is derived from the knowledge-based sectors aligning or attending to clients’ needs (quaternary) and/or making services cohere around them (quinary).  A number of different examples show how competition within industries push them towards being driven from the knowledge-based sectors.

It remains, then, for an organisation to evaluate the ontological adequacy and stratification of its ability to align itself to an anticipated variety of effects in client situations, defining a requisite agility. Modeling its triple articulation along the three independent axes provides the organisation with a framework within which to identify structural gaps in the stratified layers (i.e. ontological inadequacies) and to perform real option analyses of investment opportunities. These analyses use Monte-Carlo simulations to evaluate the consequences of different probability-weightings across the anticipated variety of client situations. Thinking about the demands placed on an organisation when the tempo of demand exceeds the tempo of alignment therefore means managing multiple entangled dialogues at its edges, in order to define the variety of networked collaborations needing to be supported.  It also means providing supporting systems that are ontologically adequate and capable of the requisite agility for supporting the concurrency of those collaborations.

2 Replies to “Sustaining Requisite Agility requires Platform Architectures”

  1. Hi Philip – I believe your work is closest I have ever seen to an ontologically rigorous demand-based structure of work similar to the one that I have developed over 25 years in software development. I would love to compare notes and also to discuss the psychological underpinnings of your work.

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