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Jean Gehring, President Federation of Enterprise Architecture Professional Organizations

This week, Stephen Ibaraki has an exclusive interview with Jean Gehring.

Jean GehringA recognized technology leader and President of the Federation of Enterprise Architecture Professional Organizations (FEAPO), Jean is known as a coalition builder and proven leader in identifying and implementing innovative technology solutions.

A Senior Director at Smart 360, she oversees the company's global product stream. Her 25-year career in technology incorporates both board experience and leading enterprise architecture, governance, application and IT portfolio management organizations. During this time there, she led teams responsible for architecture, software product development, web technologies and IT operations.

The capsule summary of her role is to develop and provide technology tools and services for Enterprise Architecture to better manage the technology used to power corporate and supply chain solutions.

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


Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic

:00:26: Can you describe your journey from an early age up to your current role and the milestones and valuable lessons that continue to shape your vision, goals and execution style?
"....My day job is being Senior Director of Smart360, a global, enterprise architecture software firm where I'm responsible for strategic direction and service solutions and I am also a member of their board. My volunteer job (which actually takes up more time), is President of the Federation of Enterprise Architecture Professionals Organizations (FEAPO)....I attribute most of my ideas to being at the right place at the right time and having some very benevolent people to inspire me along the way. So I'd classify my career path as being conventionally progressive with a scattering of entrepreneurial opportunities. I started in Project Management, moved to Program and Product Management and then worked my way up progressively in technology leadership roles from Director, to VP to CIO. Retired and then came back. The main lessons I've learned are that while being heads down has its place, it's equally critical to look up and reflect on the bigger picture and see how things are going, to envision the 'end goal', consider alternative strategies and to ask the hard questions to create solutions, to innovate, and to build and lead teams more effectively...."

:04:03: What inspired you to get into the technical side and what can you say to inspire other women to get into this field?
"....I would attribute that to product management. I became a subject matter expert in portfolio management (specifically product portfolio management) and governance, so I backed into it through software skills.....If you're a good problem-solver, good in structure and have a good math aptitude, the transference of taking your soft skills and hard skills and merging this into technology I think is great. I think more and more women are in technology, however I think there is a significant gap in the academic sector that doesn't encourage women, even at the high school level. They don't know how to engage girls and women to get them into technology and get them passionate about it...."

:07:54: What is your history and the value proposition of enterprise architecture?
"....I'm very passionate about enterprise architecture. I've led and consulted to EA organizations since 2008, but I've been immersed in the profession since the early 90's. In almost all of my roles, I've had some facet of architecture going on and spent a disparate amount of time explaining what EA is and its value proposition. Companies are relying on an excellence in EA to help them manage complex business environments, improve performance, reduce risk and costs and to stay competitive. I always look at EA as an umbrella discipline and that covers both business and IT...."

:10:38: Can you extend the last question to FEAPO?
"....The architect's role has become multi-faceted and spans the breadth of IT and to a large degree, the business concerns as well. Companies are shifting their technology decisions in accordance with their priorities as a business. The alignment between the business and architecture has become essential and architecture stands at the center of most major IT decisions. As companies around the world begin to define and mature their Enterprise Architecture functions, the need exists to establish universal competencies and consistent career paths for people in EA.....The mission of FEAPO is pretty simple. FEAPO was developed as a worldwide association of professional organizations that all came together to provide a forum to standardize and professionalize and advance the discipline...."

:13:05: What are the goals with regards to FEAPO?
"....To facilitate programs that meet the needs of our 20+ global membership organizations in advancing the field of EA through research, education, and services, and to engage relevant information with companies and academia on EA....To ensure sustainable operational growth without losing sight of our FEAPO mission...."

:14:10: What are the goals for Smart360?
"....Not unlike FEAPO's goals, Smart360 needs to meet our customer's needs by developing EA Management software that's easy to use, fosters collaboration, and quickly and efficiently helps them perform their multi-faceted functions that EA's are chartered with. Additionally, we need to maintain our innovative lead in the EAM market space and grow the company without losing sight of our company vision...."

:15:31: You've already somewhat described your role, but can you expand on what you hope to achieve?
"....Ensure the company vision is keeping pace with our product direction and continue to advise, craft and deliver service solutions to key customers...."

:16:01: How large is Smart360 and what are these service regions for the company? Are they global or regional?
"....Smart360 is a small company and we have a growth plan and stick very tight to that. We run very, very lean. The company is based out of Munich, Germany (where all of our developers are). The CEO and most of the administrative and consulting staff are here...."

:18:14: Do you work with ISACA that much and COBIT and so on?
"....We do. We try to support most frameworks out there. It was designed by architects for architects so all stakeholders can certainly use it. It's got very robust visualizations, but its flexibility lends it for all kinds of frameworks...."

:19:26: Can you describe some major projects you are working on, the problems and solutions?
"....I recently completed an interesting architecture analysis for a company challenged by several failed attempts to replace their home-grown CRM functions with MS CRM Dynamics. The project enabled the customer to see its current state IT landscape, identify application complexity and plan a low risk migration reducing their application portfolio by 40 percent and eliminating related costs. So that was really interesting and was kind of a one-off for us. We typically don't get involved with a project like that. We usually get involved with customers that actually own the tool....I'm currently helping some customers use our product on building out technology optimization roadmaps and conduct capability portfolio analysis...."

:23:46: What do you see as some of the major challenges faced by your business and your proposed solutions?
"....Whatever is going on in the world drives our roadmap. We run very lean and we are very, very fortunate to have smart customers. They are in all different maturity levels in their EA organization, but they are all pretty smart and they stay engaged with us and that helps us to understand what EAs are asked to deliver, and I think it also gives us a leg up on the competitors (although we don't seem to be a very competitive company our focus is more on our customers). So each of the challenges I spoke about earlier, they really do translate to real world use cases that our product team and I work to resolve. We are focused on applicability, usability and cost...."

:25:08: Do you have anything more to discuss, for example your revenue stream etc.?
"....Our revenue stream comes directly from customers and the sale of the software. We do services, (what I call our knowledge transfer services). This means our product must demonstrate the ability to support real work demands across the entire EA value stream. We built a fully flexible metamodel, intuitive interface and navigation, the ability to easily customize and add attributes to domain data and relationships plus very robust visualizations, reports and dashboards. Even though I've gone into other positions at other companies, I've still stayed very involved in this product just because I'm very passionate about giving EA a toolkit that is usable and works and is flexible enough to meet all these multi-faceted needs that are thrown at it...."

:28:25: From my understanding, you were the first product to support mobile devices?
"....I'm really proud that we were the first EAMS product to support mobile devices. If you're in a meeting with stakeholders, it's very impressive to pull up visualizations pertinent to the topic and address issues right there...."

:32:36: Can you give added useful lessons and tips for each of these areas: board experience, enterprise architecture, governance, application and IT portfolio management and software product development. To start, can you talk about board experience?
"....I've served on both corporate and non-profit boards and I am asked, quite often by women, how do I get there?....So I have some tips (I don't know if they are that valid or not but they have worked for me and a few of my colleagues who I've helped get on boards....First, know your company's policy on taking board roles. Know if you are allowed to serve on a board and if so, which ones and is there a company approval process....Second, understand your motivations to be a board member. To join a board, in particular a non-profit, you need to have an affiliation with the sector in which the organization operates. Have a passion or interest in its purpose, be able to commit the time and being present is what is required to be a valuable board member....Third, understand board directors' duties. Do some research; understand what the generic duties would be and be aware of the liabilities and responsibilities of a director....Fourth, consider your transferable skills. Be clear about the value you bring to a board. Map the skill set you've used in your career to your board roles....Fifth, create a good board ready resume and pitch. A board resume is not the same as a professional career resume. It needs to be very concise and summarize your transferable and professional skills and the value you bring........Sixth, communicate - let others know of your board ambitions. Most board appointments are still often made on the basis of a recommendation...."

:40:12: Can you speak about enterprise architecture?
"....FEAPO collaborated with several global professional organizations to develop 'The Guide to Careers in Enterprise Architecture'. This first edition, which hopefully will go to press by year-end, provides an overview of the various architectural roles commonly recognized in organizations. The document does not describe what an enterprise architect does, but rather what skills they are expected to have and how to hire and develop them...."

:42:42: Can you speak about governance?
"....Governance is a foundational discipline and unfortunately in most EA organizations, it's an afterthought. For IT organizations to deliver full investment value IT must be fully aligned to business capabilities, strategies, and direction. Governance (in my opinion), is the mechanism to identify, monitor and manage those technical risks and demonstrate regulatory compliance. Governance frameworks don't have to be complex, they can be fairly lightweight, but they need to be focused on what really needs to be governed...."

:44:37: Can you speak about application and IT portfolio management?
"....Simply put, these are two different but inter-dependent lifecycles. When you talk about application portfolio management (APM), you are talking about something that enables you to holistically manage your application portfolio. You can pinpoint which applications you need, which ones you don't, and how to safely remove redundant applications. APM has its own lifecycle, however it's very interdependent with IT portfolio management (ITPM), which enables you to holistically align IT with business goals by prioritizing IT initiatives or projects as an investment as you would a financial portfolio. Like most ideas in IT, both sound great in concept, but are often functionally located in different organizations (different silos) and therefore tough to execute...."

:49:14: Can you speak about software product development?
"....That was my entry point into the world of technology outside of Project Management. I've been criticized for this statement but I think software is just a tool for solving domain problems. Developers who are also good architects create good products. I think most good developers have one leg in architecture and one leg in development. I think to be a good developer you need some key qualities:....Understand the domains, architecture and design....Keep an open mind and don't get pigeonholed by a methodology or language. Understand how things work in the front end (UI), the back end, the data store, the OS, any virtualization layers, the hardware, the network, and the data center....Learn multiple programming paradigms....Learn your stack on the deepest levels before you decide to reinvent the wheel. The same goes for the languages....Have good soft skills. Have the ability to communicate clearly with your team, admit when you don't know something and emotionally detach from your code.....Have good productivity skills....Complement and enhance programming skills by branching out - learn about your users, the industry and about your business...."

:53:56: You have many interests, are there other things outside of EA that are your passion?
"....I like to read a lot and eat a lot and I like good wine...."

:59:12: From your extensive speaking, travels, and work, can you share some stories (perhaps amusing, surprising, unexpected, or amazing)?
"....I was very young in my speaking career and was asked to speak at a very large technology conference in Paris. I had never been to Paris and had never spoken to such a large group so I was totally intimidated by the prestigious colleagues I was sharing the stage with. The date was March 21, 2003. I had taken a taxi from the hotel to go to the presentation and after a few miles the driver turned to me and asked if I was an American. I replied yes and could he hurry since I was very late for an important meeting. The driver pulled the taxi over to a median in the middle of a traffic circle and loudly requested that I get out of his cab. Most of this was in French so it was very hard to interpret. He said President Bush declared war on Iraq and to call him for a ride! I got out and stood in the middle of a roundabout for about twenty minutes trying to flag another car. Fortunately, a woman with a car full of children and groceries pulled over and waved me in and I showed her the address on my card and she took me to the event. That was the scariest thing that could have happened to me, but in hindsight it was pretty funny. I am speaking at the Open Group Conference in Paris again on the 24th. Let's hope I don't get the same taxi driver!...."

:01:03:15: Jean, with your demanding schedule, we are indeed fortunate to have you come in to do this interview. Thank you for sharing your deep experiences with our audience.