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What’s important to you to advance your career?

This post is for my students and those that I’ve mentored. If you find this relevant, then. Welcome. If not, then ignore.

We have all been caught in two things in the past ten years or so. One is the rush to be certified in one thing or another. Because that’s what employers seem to want. The other is the need to try and “predict” what will be “popular” to be “certified ” in, in the next few years.

Let me share something with you. 

Most of the certification that seems to have been popular has been vendor driven. That is, you get certified in your ability to understand and to use a particular vendors product or service. Why? Because the vendors have realized that certification serves two purpose. One is to make loyalty to vendor rather to your employer or industry the prime concern. The other is to avoid you being “smart” or “capable” enough to work in a multi vendor, or a non vendor environment. Is it wrong? No. Because the vendors purpose is to do just that. 

Is it wrong for you to play the game? Morally, I can’t say much, as it’s a very subjective thing. But I will say that it’s necessary for the short term “point in time and space” need. If you do not take care of your own medium and long term needs, who will?

Today’s world is ever changing.  You get certified in a product or service, what’s the catch? There is always a version number. Being certified in say, Xxx version 9, means that very soon, you will need to get certified in Xxx version 10. And it goes on.  

Do you feel tired?

You see many of your IT friends moving to other completely different fields. Why?

The only reason you are not is because you feel trapped. There is no way out without any risk. Or you are one of the few who are genuinely IT in the blood. Which is OK.

For the rest of us, it’s getting to be really tiring, to keep up with the constant change. 

What’s the solution?

Get to see the reality. Technolgy is to serve a purpose. A business purpose. Ultimately a life purpose. What is that?

I’m not going to go into the life purpose in this post. But the business purpose is what matters. If you are able to see, and to communicate your ability to see, and to work with, the connect (or lack of connect ) between IT implementation and business needs. And the way to address this disconnect, is it not a better long term long term investment to educate yourself in this area?

I’ve been doing exactly this for the past thirty years. And I’m convinced that this is the right thing. The ability to connect IT and business needs have been a very big need since I first got involved in IT, and that still remains an essential need. This tells me that if the need has been there so long, it is a permanent necessity in all organizations. For as long as I can remember and foresee. 

Why is EA becoming a focus of large organizations? It’s  been there for 30 years but why the urgency now? It’s because there is a recognition finally, that “point in time and space” solutions are a necessary stop gap measure. But the fire fighting initiatives, while necessary to keep alive, must be supplement with efforts to make make the organization strong enough so that the fire fighting will be significantly reduced. 

This is very important.  

So I’ll explain again.

If you feel that the only solution to stay away from strokes and heart attacks is to take drugs, and do not do the long term activities of exercise and proper diet, then you will forever be dependent on drugs. At great cost in money and in life style. You will be forever be restricted in the strategies and directions of your life. So it with organizations.

In terms of your own career. I’ll be the first to admit that neither you nor I have any idea what the future will be like in five years time. What are the hot things?

 Take things as they come. But I can tell you what I’ve learned over the past 40 years. The thinking and analytical skills are getting more important and rare. While everybody is getting certified in all sorts of things. (I’m not against certification. After all my own business is largely based on that). Ask yourself. How many people do you know who has been “certified” in all kinds of things (I have a student who has 23 certificates) and who admit that they have no idea about the practical use of those subject matter? 

Everybody I’ve talked to lament the lack of thinking skills. Among other skills like soft skills. But nobody has a solution.

I can tell you what the solution is and why it’s so difficult. Nobody likes to think. Thinking is hard work. It really is very very hard work. Many people don’t know this because their minds had always directed them away from thinking activities. Having a thought arise in your head. Or having an “answer” to a question posed, is only a split second of mental activity. Imagine thinking about an issue non stop for an entries day. Or a week or a month or a lifetime. 

Pause for a while. 

Do you expect to be “told” all the steps to take to address a particular issue? Do you expect pretty PowerPoint slides to lay down step by step “how to” for everything you may encounter?

Did you stop to think what that means? That means what you learn is something that anyone with the same PowerPoint slides can also be “informed”.

So, where is your competitive advantage?

I don’t apologize  for this long text so far, but by now, I think you get the message. If not, my apologies and you can stop reading this post.

You need some skill that is essential. And  that you yourself have added value to.

This makes the critical difference.

You are unique. 

Nobody can be you. 

But you need a framework, to help you to put your uniqueness in the context of your organization. Or Any other organization.  

That is the  secret I am sharing with you.

The only way you are going to make yourself unique in a way that is going to be usefully recognizable to potential bosses and clients is if you have a commonly accepted framework to put your unique skills in context.

The Zachman Framework it the one and only thing to do so.

I discovered the Zachman Framework some 20 years ago. It was considered novel, and whacky, ahead of its time then. Today, it’s truth is obvious. 

I do not have any exclusivity to it. But I’m sharing it with you. 

The framework is a “natural law of enterprises”. As such,  it transcends time and space ( as methodologies do). 

And John Zahman, the origmiator, is able to explain it in a way that none of us can. This much I share with you. Beware those who have read a paper and then put themselves in a position of expert. Especially those who then tell you they have a better idea. There are many in our environment. I has a conversation with a very old friend who said the it was “too difficult” for him to understand, and so, he came up with his own version that was simpler. Hello, you yourself can’t understand, and you are expert to modify it?

Join me in attending the presentation by John Zachman himself.

You will experience something you will treasure for the rest of your career and your life. I’ve used the Zachman Framwework in both my personal as well as my professional life. And I’m convinced it’s a valuable  thing for everybody to learn. 

Did I listen to John Zachman once to draw this conclusion? I have listened to John maybe ten times. And each time I’ve learned something.

Join me this November if you’re in Malaysia.

find out at

Warfare and business is not the same

It is unfortunately that business has seen a parallel with warfare. It makes good reading and seems compelling to relate books like Suntzu etc to apply to Busimess. However there is a disconnect here. War is a matter of life and death. It is where you have to kill or be killed. But it is not the same. There is no way in business that you can commit murder physically in business and get away with it.
I’m writing this to try to get it across that business and warfare are not exactly the same. When you treat it the same, you are committing a grave error.

 If you look at the text of Suntze or or Clauswitz, re warfare and apply it to business, you are committing a grave error. Even if you look at Suntze, he advocated the idea of a righteous war. 

Which part of business is righteous?

That in itself tell us a lot. Do you mean that the maximizing of profits at all cost is righteous?

You can, and do, in many cases, attempt to come up with some statement on the righteousness of your corporation trying to “kill” the competition. How much water does that hold?

Only with your sales staff. But after all that’s said and done, how much is that effective as far as the general public is concerned? 

To make it effective, your message has to vilify the competition. And that’s being done. Like, for example, the “evil Chinese who make fake eggs and disrespect copyright”. But looking at history, again it holds little water. The Chinese invented paper, the compass, Etc. So, is it “wrong” to make use of these things without paying some sort of royalty as rights to use the ideas? It then boils down to whosoever had “registered” the patent in the first place. 

Is the first registration then the morally right way determine ownership? Like the attempt to register the patent for Patna Rice, something the Indian people have been using for ages?
Back to my argument re warfare and business. 

It is a grave error in application, to use war as the model for business. It is not the same. Trying to make it the same has been the cause of many of the problems we are seeing in the world, where big corporations are literally killing the competition, big and small.
I’m not advocating some sort of utopia, where there’s peace on earth and goodwill to men, without any conflict. What I’m advocating is that there’s some recognition of the fact that there is competition. And that a planned economy ala the old Soviet System does not work. 

I am not of the calibre, but someone out there is. To come up with a manifesto(?) of,what works in a free economy that is not based on pure dog eat dog. Dog eat dog works only if the dogs are of the same size and power. That’s not what we are seeing today. The danger is the big dogs will kill all the small dogs, and then set upon each other. That’s not good for the rest of us.


This has been posted on blog on 18 oct2015.

Know who you are talking to

Eg on a restaurant, you shouldn’t ask a staff or a waiter to give you a discount when asking for the bill. It is beyond their powers unless they are giving away their commissions ( if there is).
Only on a family run restaurant if you are talking to the boss or owners should you do so.
It applies at the corporate scene as well
You only ask the questions to the right people.

This was posted on Simonseow.Com on 18 October 2015.

Beliefs always based on our own experiences

This may be sensitive to some, who have strong religious conviction. To be honest, I’m fully convinced of an intelligence in full control over our fates. The difference with most people, may be. I’m not convinced that we, or certain anointed leaders, are privy to the grand plan.
The picture is taken tonight, in the restaurant to like to eat at. Semi open air.
The picture shows a very typical little shrine set up on the ground of a Chinese house/business.
You can see that the “deity” whatever it is, has been given human attributes. Like there’s a set of steps to let the deity ascend or descend from the shrine.
You may laugh. But think about it. Does your own religious tradition have such beliefs I’ll bet it has. Like a jealous or an avenging God. Or a loving God. Or all rolled into one.
I cannot claim to be wiser than anyone and to be given wisdom beyond the average believer. All I see is that there is very little difference between Faith’s on the area of adopting human attributes to the worshiped deity.

What is it so difficult to “train” analyst ?

This question often raises the issue of nature versus nurture again.

Are analysts born or are they made (trained).

We can’t deny that ones genes does have (or should have?) some effect. But that gets us nowhere if we are looking for ways to make improvements in the quality of our analysts.

What do you think are the critical skills needed? Why it difficult to inculcate those skills?

I’ll return to this topic soon, after you have some time to mull over this issue.

Normal and medical condition

How many of us are “normal”? As in statistical definition (as many measures benchmarks are set. Often semi arbitrarily?).
Has any of us found a shoe or a trouser that fits perfectly?
We have been conned by mass manufacturers to “accept” what is normal. Some clothing manufacturers go to the extent of having only even numbered sizes.
This should give us an inkling into the trick played out in mass “medicine”. Much more so than in clothes. There is a lot more natural deviations in our bodies.

Yet the trend to measure the range of levels beyond which medical intervention is needed is increasing. Either buy my drugs or submit to an operation in the hospital operation theatre.

High blood pressure? cholesterol levels? Sugar levels?
Undoubtedly there are danger levels. But it has to vary between individuals. But this tailoring for individuals is not part of mainstream medicine. Perhaps one day it will be. When our systems measurements are taken frequently from the time of birth.
And then it raises other questions of confidentiality (as if it exists in the modern world ) and of mass manipulation on a far wider scale than now.
It’s a grim view. But that’s the way it is.

Caveat Emptor.

Destiny – what is it?

Fate? Luck?
There are many other words that people associate with the word destiny. They differ in the emotional and attitude we take towards the subject matter.

Destiny has a hint of greatness in it. Rather than “luck” or “fate” which is more passive. Destiny implies great effort as well. If it’s my destiny to be “Ruler of the Universe”, or “The Best Carpenter in the World”, then it pushes me to actively work towards that goal that I believe is my destiny.

It also implies that fate and luck might intervene to make it happen or not happen.

First posted in on Monday 28 June 2015

Version numbers and extreme dangers in misuse of the term

There is a lot of confusion about the desirable attributes of things and of ideas.

With things, computers, gadgets or software, there is a good reason for wanting to acquire the “latest” or at least a recent version. Manufacturers often drop support for versions deemed too  old to support, and you want the benefits of latest features, or simply to be part of the in-crowd. Even with methodologies, with the procedures and steps to accomplish a task, we can have different approaches to tackle the job.

However, when we are talking about ideas and our knowledge of the natural world, then it makes no sense to refer to versions. How many versions of truth are there?

I am prompted to write this because a self-proclaimed EA expert, has launched what he calls “version 2 of Enterprise Architecture (EA)”. This is based on the completely erroneous claim that version 1 was only about technology while the “new” version 2 is about business and technology. At worst, the claim is an absolute lie, and at best a gross misunderstanding of EA (understandable since his title was software architect in a previous role). It is like saying that there is now a second version of the periodic table – the list of all the elements in the world, the stable foundation of all of the material sciences.

The very meaning of EA is a descriptive representation of the entire enterprise viewed as a holistic system, with defined and interconnected parts. This will necessarily include the business parts as well as the technology parts of the organization or enterprise. So, it is like calling a set of four wheels a version 1 car, and the complete car the version 2 car.
A quick look at the book “Finding Out More” by Simon Seow  (published in 2000) and the Zachman Framework (ref will lead you to the same conclusion.

TOGAF, by the Open Group is iterating through it’s 9th version, and it’s still work-in-progress. So who is right?

Zachman is right, and the Open Group is right. Architecture is architecture. And construction work is construction work. The Zachman Framework is a mechanism for arranging the complete set of elements used to build, maintain and modify enterprises. TOGAF is a methodology that is used to do the building. A methodology must necessarily have versions, because management preferences and technology will change over time, leading to changes in the process of building /making things including enterprises. But the architecture framework, as a reference point,  should never change. (except for fine tuning of the words used in terminology or the symbol/notation used). Hence the Zachman framework rows and columns have been consistent over the years.
Engineering work changes. The science behind the engineering work should not change. Unless of course the science used was wrong in the first place, and this likely explains why so many enterprises are drowning in their enterprise architecture efforts.

Simon Seow 17 June 2015

Alias or 又名

Many overseas Chinese, and increasingly, some of those in China as well, have a westernized name that they adopt in their teenage or adult life. (Some, like my grandchildren were given a name that contains both western as well as Chinese name words in their officials names, so it’s not an alias in the strict sense).

Although you can say that alias and aka ( also known as) are different in that an alias is often found in official documents bearing the persons name, while aka is not mentioned, I will leave that discussion to the academics.

So, a person can be called “Li Shi Kiang” and also have a yòumíng 又名, of Lexus Li. Or maybe yet another yòumíng as “Li the invincible”.

Giant emergency button

Is this cost cutting?
There’s a cardboard cutout of uniformed personnel and a giant panic button nearby.
Is it due to budget cuts? Put the life size cut outs to show the unformed personnel are still around and you just have to press the button to summon help.
Tongue on cheek.
It’s actually the immigration department.