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Chat with Elizabeth Southerlan, Global Expert on Strategy, EA, Transformation, Operations Improvement

This week, Stephen Ibaraki has an exclusive interview with Elizabeth Southerlan.

Elizabeth SoutherlanElizabeth Southerlan works as an Associate for strategy and management consulting firm Oliver Wyman; she is based out of the firm's New York City office. Elizabeth has worked in-depth with major retail and healthcare institutions in North America, on engagements in a range of areas including corporate strategy, enterprise transformation, analytic capability and enablement and operations improvement. Prior to joining Oliver Wyman, she worked as a management consultant for Accenture where she specialized in healthcare transformation. Elizabeth has dedicated her consulting career to enabling strategic transformation for both retail and health organizations by designing and implementing efficient and effective technology and operational solutions.

She holds a BS in Industrial Engineering from The Pennsylvania State University and a MS in Engineering and Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; while at MIT, Elizabeth received the System Design and Management Award for Leadership, Innovation, and Systems Thinking. Her masters' thesis, titled "Using Enterprise Architecting to investigate a complex, multilevel enterprise and create a framework for Enterprise Transformation," provides a descriptive account of how she used Enterprise Architecting to research and investigate the current state of PTSD treatment within the US military and propose a framework to support transformation of the complex enterprise.

To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link

The latest blog on the interview can be found in the IT Managers Connection (IMC) forum where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.


Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic

:00:28: Can you talk about some of the milestones in your career and then some useful best practices, lessons, and tips that you feel will help the audience?
"....Having that maturity as an Industrial Engineer and then as a Systems Thinker to truly see that trade-off between being efficient and effective as being very helpful, and I would advise anyone in Systems or Enterprise Architecture to look at that. From a broader standpoint (taking a step back and looking at my career in general), it's important to fine tune your strengths and improve upon your weaknesses (to a point)....Over the last couple of years, in consulting and while I was in my grad school program, I cannot overstate the importance of mentorship and role models. From a sponsorship perspective and getting to the levels in my career that I wanted to attain, but also on a personal perspective, there is just sanity-checking — making sure I know what's going on and being able to relate to someone on a more human level than corporate level...."

:03:30: What are the top challenges you have faced and your solutions to the challenges that you feel will be beneficial to the audience?
"....Getting into the healthcare consulting field was a challenge for me....Now that I'm in the healthcare consulting field another challenge is convincing those in the medical field that collecting data and performing analytics is valuable. I think in the field in general there is a shift which is positive towards the idea of using IT and Information Systems to better enable higher value care; however, not everyone is convinced of that and I think that is a challenge that we're facing....My final challenge (and this is just speaking to the women in the audience), is being a younger woman in my profession....I've been able to overcome that by constantly making it a point to put in the extra time to be dependable and reliable and to make my output also dependable and reliable...."

:07:20: Iíve been doing these interviews since the 1980s and I know in interviewing really prominent, very successful women in the past, they've experienced overt bias which then transformed into unconscious bias. Do you still see overt bias?
"....I wouldn't say it is overt bias, I would say that I feel that it is necessary to put a little more effort into proving myself from the get-go and that might be something I have kept with me since my undergrad when I was (one of) 10 (females) of 100 and then in my Master's program where I was 7 of 70. There is the idea that you may have unfairly been given the opportunity based on your gender or age or your experience or whatnot. I think there's that feeling of wanting to prove to others that wasn't the case...."

:08:42: What are your long term goals from a career and personal standpoint?
"....I would say my goal is to continue with consulting and impact the world that way...."

:09:38: Provide a useful lesson on corporate strategy?
"....I think it's important for our corporations and organizations to look for ways to leverage and perfect these trends to solve core business issues, as opposed to investing a lot of resources in these trends themselves. So not necessarily becoming an expert on Big Data, but how you can use Big Data to understand your consumers and provide them with higher value...."

:11:28: What are practical tips on enterprise transformation?
"....It is important to understand who is leading the transformation, who is involved and who is affected....To begin to transform an enterprise it is very important to understand the current state of your enterprise from each of these perspectives and in both a qualitative and quantitative way as much as possible. When you know the current state, it's much easier to understand what you may want the future state to look like and what the pathways or possible ways to get to the end state are...."

:12:58: You are one of the leading authorities in this area so how can the audience implement analytic capability and enablement?
"....Obviously thought needs to be given to the type and architecture of the information systems that are being installed, but what I think is equally if not more important are the governance principles and at times, specific processes that are instilled within an organization. Data governance and guiding principles around this governance and also processes that direct and empower those involved with the collecting, interpreting, reporting and reacting to this data are extremely important...."

:14:20: What are your most useful processes for operations improvement?
"....From an industrial engineering standpoint and many other standpoints, the process and value stream mapping (something I've recently been using), is a hassle map which maps out where a customer or consumer may come across different pain points within a process....It is extremely important to spend time at all levels within the organization....Developing tools that allow you to easily capture insight from these interviews and then slice and dice them in ways that provide you the ability to look at them the way that the organization views its operations is extremely valuable...."

:16:07: In all the work that you do, let's mine your expertise and share that with the audience. What are the most useful tools and resources that you use?
"....I would say the most recent tool that I've been using (and I think you'll find this with most strategy assessments), are the interviews. Truly understanding where the organization thinks it is versus where it might be, also an understanding of what the rest of the competitors within the industry might look like is something that consultants have the ability to do because they are able to benchmark many companies within an industry and then outside of an industry against each other. I also know that hassle mapping is a process or practice that is extremely important and really communicative to the audience. "

:17:56: What are the challenges with Enterprise Architecture (EA) and where has it failed?
"....To provide a little more scrutiny around Enterprise Architecting in general where it might have had some challenges is that it is hard to capture all of the elements of a current state. While I don't necessarily know a solution for this, to understand the architecture of an enterprise and to set it up for transformation it's important to have as much information as possible. I think until we can really apply more quantitative values to each of these views that I've mentioned like the infrastructure, processes, the organization, it's hard to translate the value of knowing this information without making it a little bit more quantitative. I think that might be an area that might be improved upon within Enterprise Architecting. I don't think it's a failure that can't be fixed, but I think it's a challenge...."

:20:01: In your profile you mentioned you worked on a project with the US military, can you profile how you got involved or determined what you did?
"....The overall relationship with the military or the military health system is a much bigger project than what I contributed to in my thesis. The end goal was to transform the entire military health system and where I came in was to help understand the current state of a very small portion of the health system, which was a Marine and Naval base, and try to create a framework using Enterprise Architecting tools that can set up for a larger transformation...."

:24:44: How do you see EA evolving and what will it look like in 5 years??
"....Going back to the qualitative versus quantitative I think that the more Enterprise Architecting is used in parallel with how the many industries become advanced in working with unstructured data will be extremely helpful. I would say that Enterprise Architecting in the next five years will become more quantitatively operational, so that they're able to take a lot of the information that we gather around organization information knowledge processes and use it in a way that is a little more structured....I also think that translating the principles that are in use to design the IT architecture for an organization can be translated to other parts of the organization, especially during transformation...."

:26:10: There is this organization that was founded a few years ago, the Federation for Enterprise Architecture Professional Organizations, (FEAPO). Do you see the value of having such an organization?
"....I think FEAPO serves as a great foundation to highlight and share the value that Enterprise Architecting can offer to industry from the perspective of IT, the perspective of processes, from strategy and from an entire Enterprise transformation tool through its diverse channels and connections...."

:27:19: Can you describe some areas of controversy in the areas that you work?
"....I work in healthcare and right now there are particular controversies that surround the healthcare industry in the United States. One is that of legislation....the other is how are we going to fix the healthcare regardless of legislation....More so than a controversy, there's a challenge in how to effectively transform the industry from a fee-for-service to fee-for-value standpoint....Practical examples of the systems thinking being carried out in healthcare, the Oliver Wyman Healthcare Innovation Center has some great examples there. See:"

:29:58: How do you see the evolution of EA as a recognized profession on par with accounting, medicine and law with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, personal responsibility, public accountability, quality assurance and recognized credentials? [See and the Global Industry Council,]
"....From an IT perspective I don't think Enterprise Architecting is far off from having a similar recognition. However from a systems or corporate transformation perspective I think we have a long way to go before systems thinking can be demonstrated and articulated through the idea of Architecture Enterprise, the value still needs to be demonstrated and disseminated and the story still needs to be told in a larger way...."

:31:08: Elizabeth, from your extensive speaking, travels, and work, please share some stories (perhaps something amusing, surprising, unexpected, amazing).
"....I have really enjoyed spending time with my husband and travelling to different parts of the world. I recommend to anyone that if you have the opportunity to work abroad or live abroad....just do it. It has really changed the way that I see the world...."

:33:47: Elizabeth, if you were conducting this interview, what questions would you ask, and then what would be your answers?
"....'What industries are currently benefiting most from Enterprise Architecting?'....'Which industries have the potential to benefit more from Enterprise Architecting?'....'How can the value of Enterprise Architecting be demonstrated and communicated to leaders in all of these industries, not just healthcare?'...."

:36:57: Elizabeth, with your demanding schedules, we are indeed fortunate to have you come in to do this interview. Thank you for sharing your deep experiences with our audience.