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A Skeleton Architecture for a Sustainable Auxiliary Specialty Department
 

A Skeleton Architecture for a Sustainable Auxiliary Specialty Department

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An "Auxiliary Specialty Department" provides non-essential support to the core business through capabilities requiring specialized expertise. Sustaining such a department has a number of inherent ...

An "Auxiliary Specialty Department" provides non-essential support to the core business through capabilities requiring specialized expertise. Sustaining such a department has a number of inherent difficulties, chief among them being higher staff attrition rates. Here, a skeleton architecture proposed to address these difficulties.

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    A Skeleton Architecture for a Sustainable Auxiliary Specialty Department A Skeleton Architecture for a Sustainable Auxiliary Specialty Department Presentation Transcript

    • Jeremy Chen
      A Skeleton Architecture for a Sustainable Auxiliary Specialty Department
    • Preamble
      An “Auxiliary Specialty Department” (ASD)
      provides non-essential support to the core business
      through capabilities requiring specialized expertise.
      As a result, such departments are
      often limited in size relative to the parent firm,
      strongly knowledge and skill driven, and
      has to continually justify its relevance to the firm.
      Limitations in size, in turn, would result in
      limited internal advancement, and thus
      possibly frequent staff turnover (unless the working environment is especially attractive), a central difficulty of maintaining an effective ASD.
    • Preamble
      Given its nature and limitations, the following goals are desirable.
      Sustainability: unless the department’s specialty becomes obsolete, its capabilities should be maintained (and continually upgraded) for it to continue providing useful support
      Growth: that is, in terms of scope of expertise, capabilities and efficiency in execution
      This presentation presents a proposal for a skeleton architecture of an ASD geared towards achieving these goals in the face of the aforementioned conditions.
      Members of an ASD might, in addition, have the objective of making their specialty part of the core business, and in doing so, raise their status within the organization as experts of a core domain, and throw off the limitations inherent in ASDs.
    • A Knowledge-Oriented “Skeleton Architecture”
      Engagement with Core Business Expertise
      ASD
      Knowledge Base
      Staff
      Supporting Solutions
      Core Business Domain Knowledge
      Intra-department Sharing
      Specialty Knowledge
      Operational Skills
      New Hires
      Attrition
      Developments in Specialty Field
      Alumni
      In a short course on systems architecting I attended previously, my class was told, in no uncertain terms, that a Power Point slide with a diagram on it (complete with icons, labels and arrows) does not comprise an “architecture”. In presenting the skeleton of an architecture, I claim to not be ignoring the principle he so emphatically proclaimed.
    • Staff Turnover and its Impact on Capabilities
      An ASD’s capabilities resides almost completely within the knowledge and skills of staff.
      The loss of a team member equates to the loss of ready capability
      As a hedge against loss of capabilities due to staff attrition,
      specialty knowledge,
      how it applies to the core business and
      how to apply it in the form of solutions
      should be captured in a knowledge base and be regularly shared within the department.
    • Sustaining and Growing Capabilities
      In an ASD, a knowledge base may serve to
      Be a constant presence containing the fruits of the department’s experience and learning
      Enable new and existing staff to, given relevant backgrounds, pick up knowledge and skills under a reasonable learning curve
      Be the foundation upon which the ASD and its capabilities may be rebuilt after the loss of key staff
      Be a rising low-water mark representing growth in base-line expertise
      An effective knowledge base should
      Capture relevant information in appropriate detail
      Provide a body of (circumstance-based) precedent of the department’s operations
      Be regularly and diligently updated
    • Sustaining and Growing Capabilities
      Regular internal sharing sessions may also serve to
      Broaden the skill bases of individuals, enabling greater ease in deploying staff to tasks
      Increase understanding among staff of each other’s sub-specialties
      Clarify knowledge, enabling high quality knowledge base updates
      Cultivate an atmosphere of learning
      Other “capability” items displayed in the “Architecture” diagram:
      Keeping up to date with (relevant) developments in the specialty field
      Regular engagement with the core business to increase core business domain knowledge
    • Closing Remarks
      In conjunction with this knowledge-oriented architecture, one might consider regularly scheduling the following activities:
      Individual acquisition of knowledge and its operationalization
      Codification of knowledge (especially operationalized knowledge)
      Knowledge sharing
      Meetings with core-business experts to build domain knowledge and identify opportunities to add value
      Internal strategic planning for capability development
      In summary, the proposed architecture sustains and grows departmental capabilities by continually building on a knowledge base upon which (new) staff may “boot-strap” their individual capabilities.
    • Closing Remarks
      As it is in the nature of ASDs to have higher staff attrition rates, and noting that a good ASD will develop highly competent staff that will be in demand elsewhere, it is my position that
      Staff in an ASD who are unable to progress further in the parent organization should be aided in finding good jobs in the field
      Alumni should be recognized for their contributions
      Alumni should be, where possible, engaged