Ken Orr
Fellow and Senior Consultant

Ken Orr is a Fellow of the Cutter Business Technology Council and a Senior Consultant with Cutter Consortium's Data Insight & Social BI, Business Technology Strategies, and Business & Enterprise Architecture practices. He is also a regular speaker at Cutter Summits and symposia.

Mr. Orr is an internationally recognized expert on enterprise architecture, data warehousing, knowledge management, software engineering, business process reengineering, and technology transfer. He is the Founder and Principal Researcher of The Ken Orr Institute, a business technology research organization. Previously, Mr. Orr was CIO of the State of Kansas Department of Administration, and an Affiliate Professor and Director of the Center for the Innovative Application of Technology with the School of Technology and Information Management at Washington University (St. Louis). Mr. Orr has more than 30 years of experience in research, analysis, design, project management, technology planning and management consulting. His clients have included such organizations as the states of California, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, and Washington, the city of Chicago, the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, FAA, IBM, DEC, Detroit Edison, Xerox, Olivetti (Italy), Philip Morris, Pacific Bell (SBC), Bellcore (Telcordia), Burlington-Santa Fe Railroad, Kellwood Corporation, Phoenix International (Canada), and many others.

Mr. Orr has written three books, Structured Systems Development, Structured Requirements Definition, and The One Minute Methodology and is the author of dozens of articles on advanced software development, technology management, and human communication.

Mr. Orr was one of the principal developers of both DSSD (Warnier-Orr) Methodology and Business Enterprise Architecting Modeling (BEAM). He is a leading researcher in the development of automated tools for enterprise architecture, requirements engineering, database design, program generation, business requirements, and multi-platform prototyping. Mr. Orr’s techniques and Warnier-Orr diagrams have been used by thousands of analysts and developers.

Mr. Orr is a frequent speaker at conferences throughout the world. He has been a featured speaker at major technical and management conferences in England, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Denmark, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Uruguay, Singapore, and Japan.

Currently, Mr. Orr is working with organizations around the world in the areas of enterprise business process reengineering, accelerated systems development, data warehousing, and advanced methodologies. He can be reached at

An interview with Ken Orr

Q: What issues are your clients struggling with?

Almost everyone has the same set of problems -- you're constantly being driven to do more with a lot less, and the technology keeps shifting beneath you. The companies I work with are trying to find a path through this mess. In many cases, they have a large number of old systems, a bunch of new ones, and a growing number of options for updating or integrating them; they're constantly searching for the right mix.

Everyone wants to be on the leading edge of technology, but most companies don't manage new technologies that well. They know that they should be able to do all these great new things, and they'll periodically trot out their technology folks for visiting firemen and financial analysts, but they're not really comfortable with what it takes to make new technology truly productive. It's an issue of how to get the IT folks talking to management. I have a lot of clients where there's a significant cultural divide between the young technology folks and the older, conservative management team.

Q: What do you recommend to these companies?

One of the solutions is better planning. People aren't doing as good a job in planning as they did a decade or two ago. There are two main reasons for this: (1) they feel they don't have time to plan, and (2) things are so uncertain. The companies that are doing the best job with technology are those that can afford to do some real planning and have done so. Even though many people like to think otherwise, some level of planning is key to getting the most out of technology.

Many companies have downsized to the point where they don't have individuals who perform technology analysis any more. They have to depend on vendors and/or analyst services to tell them where things are going. And if they haven't spent time planning, it's difficult to put what the vendors and analysts are recommending into context. CIOs are constantly being bombarded by statements like "Here's a new technology, and the industry is going to adopt this by 2002 with a probability of 63%." So what? What does that mean to my organization?

Q: Who should be involved in the planning?

You need two kinds of people. First, people who have a history of making money with technology. Sometimes these are young people who have grown up with the newer technology, sometimes it's simply an individual who is particularly innovative. I'm not talking about people who are using the hottest or the newest technology; I'm talking about people who are effective at understanding and using technology for business advantage.

Second, you need someone on the business side who has a strategic feel for the business you're in. We talk all the time about aligning IT with business, but it's more than just alignment (how do you support business operations with technical operations); it's also about impacting the business -- how you filter in new ideas about using technology in ways that change the business.

Fifteen or 20 years ago, it wasn't as difficult to figure out how to align things. You had five or ten years to figure out how to support the business, because the business wasn't changing that fast. Today, things are often happening in a six-month or one-year timeframe, so you have to keep aligning as you go along. Not very many people know how to do that well. I think the key to it is collaborative (active) prototyping. I've been reading Michael Schrage's Serious Play [with Tom Peters, Harvard Business School Press, 1999], in which he talks about role playing and prototyping. When people prototype something, they think about it differently. Instead of going into it with the idea that we know where we're going, we have the idea that we're going to learn where we're going as we build it.

Q: On what areas should the planning concentrate?

We need to learn to apply the same thought processes to technology that we apply to everything else. Typically, most of the money on a project is spent toward the end -- regardless of whether you're building a manufacturing facility or a software application. But if you look at when people commit to spending that money -- it all happens up front. Almost all the big, bad decisions are made early. There's a tendency to want to rush to judgement on projects. For example, if you start a project by assigning the deadline and the budget, you're dead in the water before you begin.

It comes back to planning. Planning is not much fun, so people don't want to do it. But you have to do it, and you must do it fast enough so that people stay interested. However, I've learned that you usually have more time than you think. You don't have to do everything at light speed, even though it may feel that way.

Up Close with Ken Orr

"In the absence of a (serious) long-term plan, short-term demands will always drive out long-term needs. "

— Ken Orr,
"Enterprise Architecture: Time, Scope, Risk, and Knowledge Management"


Industry: Banking

Client Profile: Large, national bank and financial services organization.

Project Focus: Enterprise Architecture Training

Like many organizations, this bank is faced with a shortage of skilled architects. To make matters worse, many current architects are nearing retirement age. To address these issues, Cutter developed a 6-part, custom training program to cover all aspects of EA, both in the industry and in this particular organization. More »

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