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Enterprise Architecture Brainstorming:  Innovation Zones

Thursday, June 12, 2014

9:00 AM

The HUB 332

On Leap Forward Day, Thursday, June 12th from 9:00 to noon at The HUB, room 332, you can join Jim Phelps, Director of Enterprise Architecture and Strategy and help him brainstorm ideas around creating Innovation Zones here at The UW.  We will work to define what “Innovation Zones” mean to us here at UW:

      • What is the right size and space for each zone?
      • What do we need to standardize to make the zones useful and easy to leverage?
      • How can we capture the great ideas that come from these zones?   
      • We will also define and identify the EA “Bricks” that need to exist for easy innovation (and integration).
      • Come help me think about and build out the innovative ideas for supporting innovation at UW.



Innovation Zone - working definition for the day

Innovation zones enable users (innovators) to easily step in and try new ideas with a minimum of friction and cost.

Foundation to the Discussion: Gartner Pace Layers 

Gartner, Inc. (,  uses Pace Layers to describe best practices in managing an enterprise architecture (see Figure 1: Adapted Gartner Pace Layer Diagram).  In Pace Layers, the Systems of Record layer exposes enterprise data, services and capabilities to the layers above.  Gartner defines Systems of Record as systems “that support core transaction processing and manage the organization's critical master data.”   The architectural goal for systems of record is to focus on efficiency and operational reliability while exposing data and services  to the rest of the enterprise in standard ways.  Systems of Record have very slow pace of change.

The Systems of Differentiation layer includes systems where strategic investments are focused and that require continual adaptation.  These systems are critical to keeping the enterprise competitive and aligned with current market changes.  They are linked to the Systems of Record through standardized integration services that expose data, services and processes to the layers above.

Above these two layers, is the Innovation Layer.   This layer has the highest rate of change.  You want to make many small investments into research projects to discover great ideas and learn lessons.  The only guaranteed deliverables from the Innovation Layer are lessons-learned and great ideas.

Note:  There was an amendment to the Pace Layer Diagram during the conversation.  The group added Systems of Desperation - that is System of Record or Differentiation that get built out in the peripheries because the central systems have failed to provide the functionality needed.

Innovation Layer - Opportunity but not Promises

One key idea of the morning's session was that Innovation leads to great ideas and lessons-learned from failures not new things in production by some due date.   If you say, "I want to do this innovation thing and I need to have it up and in production by July 1" then you are not doing innovation, you are doing an implementation project for either a System of Record or a System of Differentiation.

Innovation is an opportunity to explore and try out ideas.   It is a way of failing fast and learning along the way.  If you have a successful innovation cycle, then you may leave with a great idea for a System of Record or Differentiation.  The next step is to write a business case or proposal to move your great idea into one of the other layers.

Innovation is an opportunity to try out your ideas and see what works and what doesn't work.  Innovation is not a promise that they thing you create will be deployed in the enterprise.   

Innovation Zones - Outcomes of the Discussion

Core Needs for Innovation and Innovation Zones

  • There needs to be an active program to change the culture towards one of innovation where time spent innovating is seen as valuable and failure is an accepted outcome.
  • Each Innovation Zone needs a Sponsor (someone who owns the zone and manages the selection, funding, operation processes) and a Champion (someone who sells the value of engaging with the zone).
  • Innovation Zones need Innovation Brokers who help you get started and navigate the processes.
  • Innovation Zones need to be able to easily connect with domain experts 
  • There needs to be collaboration support for each zone (between innovators, the process, domain and subject matter experts, support people, etc).
  • There needs to be clear user evaluation, review and acceptance criteria and processes.
  • Expectations must be very clearly defined
  • Release time and unstructured time are needed for innovation cycles
  • A cost structure and payback notion for engaging and using innovation resources needs to be established
  • We will need a recognition system for innovators and those who support them
  • There will need to be seed resources and a clear proposal processes to help people engage with the zones.

Next Steps

  • Build a framework that describes how Sponsors and Innovators will run and engage with the innovation zones.  Get buy-in on the framework.
  • Do outreach with the University at large to get buy-in and align resources.
  • Work with business and campus leaders to socialize the idea and framework
  • Develop a system to capture outcomes and lessons-learned from all the various innovation efforts.   (Possibly use User-Voice or IdeaScale as a starting point)
  • Categorize our existing projects into the Pace Layers.  Correct those that are in the wrong layer.
  • Look for external case studies to see how to scale "this" (ed: effort ,the zones?)
  • Form a group to work on developing Innovation Zones at UW.  Set SMART Goals etc.
  • Clarify the existing decision making structures and governance processes in relationship to this effort.  Align these efforts especially around resources and approval processes.

R vs. K in Innovation

R vs. K Selection in Reproductive Biology

There is a principle in biology that you can divide reproductive strategy for species into one of two types:  R vs. K.  

R-type reproduction is based on having a lot of offspring and hoping some survive.  R=Reproduce a lot of offspring.  Examples of R-type creatures are fish that cast their eggs into a stream or ocean, insects and rabbits.  

K-type reproduction is based on have very few offspring but providing protection and care until they are self-sufficient.  Humans and elephants are K-type.  K=caring (karing?) for your offspring.

R vs. K Type Innovators

One idea that came out of the session was the idea that we would have to support both R vs. K type innovators.  

R-Type innovators would be happy to try new ideas and have them fail and just try again.  They understand that innovation is mostly lessons-learned from failures and that a lesson-learned or new knowledge is a good outcome.

K-Type innovators will have an idea that they really love and want to succeed.  They would help and support through-out the process and maybe coaching and mentoring on the innovation cycle.  We would also have to work with them to capture the lesson-learned and show that it also has great value.

R of the Enterprise vs. K of the Innovator

The enterprise as a whole has an R-Type view of innovation.  That is, it would like to generate a lot of ideas knowing that only a few really great ideas will survive and get funded or moved forward.

This R-Type for the enterprise is in (possible) conflict with the more K-Type attitude of the innovators themselves.  Each of whom will see their ideas as great and worthy of moving forward.

This R vs. K conflict between the enterprise view and the innovator view means that expectations and outcomes will need to be clearly defined and communicated.

R and K and Clarity

Clear expectations, decision making processes, and value metrics will be needed so that everyone understands the innovation landscape and all will view that the decisions and outcomes are fair. Understanding the conflicting R vs. K attitudes and supporting both the R-Types and K-Types will be critical to keeping people engaged and willing to spend time an effort on innovation.

Innovation Is:  What does Innovation mean to you highlights:

Innovation is:

  • Personal - thinking about how I change and innovate in my personal thoughts and life
  • It is about taking risks, failure
  • It needs an outside view - the view of others helps drive innovation
  • It is creative, interesting, exciting
  • It is enabling users to try new things.  Empowering people.
  • Constellation of great ideas coming together
  • "Ah-ha" moments
  • Readiness and openness to change - you have to be willing to do a new thing in a new way
  • It is a not-thinking problem - something that happens in quiet time like gardening
  • Taking time to think
  • Being willing to try something different
  • Innovation forces change upon me
  • Three types:  Breakthrough (big disruptive change), Evolution (shift towards something better), Orthogonal (using something in a new way)
  • Picking one of the many possible solutions - finding the one that will catch fire
  • Rethinking old things in new ways - trying out new ways
  • Creativity
  • No-rules, putting out ideas, no fear of failing
  • About relationships - understanding people, environment, culture, needs
  • Need to apply the idea not just have the idea.  Innovation is making the idea take form.  Needs resources and support to make it happen.

Innovation Zones: Discussion Points

The Laundry List of Questions Raised.  How do we:

  • Capture the lessons-learned
  • Transfer out of the Innovation Layer into the other layers
  • Balance ambition with constraints (resource constraints, political constraints, etc)
  • Integrate innovation into the governance
  • Build trust with innovators that we will catch their bright ideas and lessons learned and do something with them
  • Get Subject Matter Experts to the table?
  • Recognize people and their ideas?
  • Nurture people and their ideas across the lifecycle of innovation (see the "R vs. K in Innovation" sidebar)
  • Support the "K" of innovators in the "R" environment of innovation (really, see the "R vs. K in Innovation" sidebar)
  • Find those who (whose work) should enter the innovation zones
  • Make the political and other issues clear to the innovators (e.g. That is a really cool idea but it will never fly with Faculty Governance)
  • Balance cool ideas with burning issue solutions (e.g. really neat to have vs. really need to have)

Action oriented items:

  • Find the different sponsors for each innovation zone
  • Develop a program to drive culture change - Its okay to fail just do it quickly
  • Develop a framework for Sponsors and Champions to help them develop and manage their zones
  • We have to balance work across all the Pace Layers
  • Do we need a new language especially around what "pilot" means?
  • We need fair cost accounting.



  • Gartner Publications: “How to Get Started With a Pace-Layered Application Strategy”, Jim Shepherd, 28 March 2011, G00211245
  • Gartner Publications: "Accelerating Innovation by Adopting a Pace-Layered Application Strategy", Yvonne Genovese, 09 January 2012, G00230228
  • Forrester Research Publications: "Use A Zone Architecture Model To Encourage Business Innovation An Empowered Report: Supporting Business Innovators", Jeff Scott et al, January 13, 2011
  • Forrester Research Publications: "Architect For Extreme Uncertainty",  Clay Richardson and Brian Hopkins, April 28, 2014