Managing Director, act! Consulting
The latest Open Group member spotlight focuses on Klaus Niemann, Managing Director of act! Consulting which has been a member of The Open Group since April 2004.
1. How long have you been involved with The Open Group?
My company, act! Consulting, became a member in April 2004 after attending The Open Group conference in Brussels.
2. What spawned your personal involvement in the organization?
I have worked in IT architecture since 1983. In 2001, my company began focusing on the field of enterprise architecture management, so we started to look around for organizations we could share our experiences and work with.
I believe that sharing experiences with others works best if you invest something from your own side and return feedback from others, and I am able to do this through presenting at Open Group conferences. In fact, act! will be attending this year’s event in Munich, where I will give a presentation on creating a successful EA practice.
3. Why did act! Consulting become a member of The Open Group and what does its involvement look like?
act! is involved with the Architecture Forum and TOGAF working groups. We started to work with The Open Group because we were looking for a forum of experienced enterprise architects working in an international environment. We hoped to share our own experience with those architects, but also to receive feedback from other experienced architects to present new ideas on enterprise architecture. We also hoped to use the forum as a catalyst to produce new ideas and innovative approaches.
In 2002, we decided to focus on enterprise architecture as our primary business segment. At that time, most of the companies in Germany didn’t have an EA unit. A survey done by a colleague in the Netherlands showed Germany was one of the European countries where EA practices were not very well developed. But we felt that EA was an important topic at the time, so we decided to utilize our own experience and to further develop the practice through international knowledge exchange.
We started an Architecture Management Day, which is a series of events that develops the idea of enterprise architecture within the market – but we knew we needed help from outside of Germany to have the opportunity to leverage our ideas with other experts in the field. We decided to work within The Open Group and some other organizations to find experienced people to evaluate our ideas and to check whether those ideas would fit the needs of broader, more experienced enterprises.
The evolution of EA in Germany has been dramatic - it’s quite an amazing story. We started with only a few pilot projects and a few people willing to invest in EA. Since then, there has been a huge increase in EA activity in the market, with many large organizations starting to set up their EA practice, and a number of publications and books being written on the previously unheard of topic.
4. How has membership in The Open Group benefited you, your organization and the industry at large?
Personally, I’ve gotten a lot of very helpful feedback from colleagues and had good discussions at the conferences I’ve visited, especially the conversations I’ve had in response to my presentations. This gives me the opportunity to discuss new and innovative topics within enterprise architecture.
Since EA is an emerging topic in the German market, and act! specializes in EA, we needed to develop a team of experienced architects over the last couple of years. We have been able to leverage The Open Group’s resources—the website, TOGAF, the conferences—to develop our team and train new people. In fact, five of our staff members recently became TOGAF certified.
The methodology also helps guide younger, less experienced employees by familiarizing them with EA methodology and best practices, which we need in order to develop our consulting practice.
Organizations benefit from membership by sharing experiences with other people in the industry. This ultimately helps develop the idea and discipline of enterprise architecture management within the market. I feel that EA is still a young discipline with only a few standards and best practices that have been implemented within the community. Looking at EA from a global perspective, the maturity of the discipline is very heterogeneous and varies from country to country. Membership within The Open Group helps to gain a global perspective on EA and to standardize EA in a global environment.
5. What are your hobbies?
I like to learn new things about different countries and cultures, so I travel a lot with my wife and three kids. After the July 2007 Open Group conference in Austin, my family and I flew to Costa Rica and spent a few weeks visiting the jungle and volcanoes. But my favorite travel destinations are the deserts of the world. I have traveled through the Sahara several times and have seen almost all of the American deserts.
6. What books are you currently reading?
In preparation for the second edition of my book on enterprise architecture, I am currently reading books and articles on enterprise architecture, IT Governance and business IT alignment. In my free time, I enjoy reading literature on social issues. I really enjoyed “The World Is Flat” by Thomas Friedman.
7. Any last thoughts?
There is more to The Open Group than its work in enterprise architecture. The most important thing is that it is a community of very open-minded people. A real community of engaged staff and colleagues—not only a group where people are interested in the same thing, meet twice or three times a year and have discussions.
New members usually find their home at The Open Group very quickly. It’s kind of a family that we have here.