Women in Architecture Spotlight – Dr. Michelle Supper

Featured in this week’s spotlight is Dr. Michelle Supper, EMEA Enterprise Architecture Advisor of ServiceNow.

Michelle is the creator of the Guided Architecture methodology, and leader of the ServiceNow Enterprise Architecture Forum on LinkedIn.

She is a PhD Astrophysicist and a certified system, business, and enterprise architect with a perceptive, pragmatic approach. Michelle has the skills and experience to resolve complex problems, determine future states, and recover stalled projects. She has been the architect of several major defence systems, and helped businesses and government departments to improve and transform their operations.

We reached out to Michelle to get her perspective as an architect, and her thoughts on several key questions.

Question: How did you get your start in the industry?

Answer: As a schoolgirl in 1995, I entered an international essay competition and won a spectacular prize:  I was asked to represent the United Kingdom at the Global Information Infrastructure Junior Summit in Tokyo. For four days, I debated the future of the Internet with forty other children similarly chosen from twelve countries. The Chairman of the Summit Mr. Junkyo (Jack) Fujieda, and the Chairman of Sega, Mr. Isao Okawa, then shared our ideas at the G7 Industrial Roundtable discussions, where they were used to guide the development of the Internet.

Fast forward to 2008. I was writing up my PhD thesis, and had just secured my first graduate job, as an aerospace engineer, when an email arrived out of the blue saying that Jack was in London to attend The Open Group conference.

Jack invited me to join him at the conference and welcomed me to the world of enterprise architecture. He explained the method and its benefits from first principles, and introduced me to some of the finest EAs in the world. He told me that he hoped I would become an enterprise architect and, most importantly, expressed his confidence that I could do it.

Six months later, I was designing the radar for an experimental unmanned air vehicle. The engineering team met regularly to report on the development of the airframe and the various subsystems, but I soon noticed that progress had stalled. I suggested to the project manager that we bring in an enterprise architect to help us to get moving again. She replied, “We don’t have one, you do it.”

I had my opening. So, I taught myself MoDAF, found a spare license for IBM System Architect, and quickly put together a full set of requirements and artefacts, getting the £125M defence project back on track. It turns out Jack was right; I took to Architecture like a duck to water, and I haven’t looked back since.

Q: What is your current responsibility and what is your typical day like?

A: The core of my work is providing pre-sales EA advice to customers who are planning or undergoing major digital transformation, helping to tailor solutions using the Now Platform that meet their needs, and enabling them to realise value as soon as possible. I also act as an internal consultant for my colleagues, and provide coaching, support and expertise in methods and standards whenever required. In addition, I have a responsibility to communicate the services of the EA Team, and the benefits of using EA as an approach, to the wider world. I achieve this by presenting podcasts and webinars; presenting EA roundtable events around EMEA, and managing the ServiceNow EA Forum on LinkedIn.

Q: What do you like most about your job?

A: I love that ServiceNow has given me the opportunity to be a thought leader in EA.

To help to mature and formalize our EA capability, I created an approach called ‘Guided Architecture’. This light-touch, highly efficient and effective EA method has now been globally adopted, and I’ve trained ninety Enterprise and Platform architects across ServiceNow, with more to come soon.

Through ServiceNow, I’ve also continued my association with The Open Group, with whom in the last thirteen years I have contributed to two Books, eight Standards, and several Guides and White Papers. ServiceNow supports both my attendance at The Open Group events, and my participation in the IT4IT Forum, where I co-chair the Guidance Committee.  It is a privilege to develop and share EA best practice with the world and to solve my customers’ trickiest problems, and a joy to be part of a dynamic company in a fantastic team of talented individuals.

Q: What trends in architecture are you looking out for the rest of 2023 and 2024?

A: The Covid pandemic has had a profound effect on society, with more people working from home than ever before. We are also seeing financial pressure, with food and energy prices pushing inflation skywards. These drivers are pushing larger organisations to virtualize their operations, and to reduce costs as far as possible.

I would like to see an increase in the use of tools that automate information gathering for enterprise architecture; for example, ServiceNow’s Discovery, Service Mapping, and CMDB which can be integrated directly to an EA repository tool to keep it populated and up-to-date.

Once they have an EA model with near real-time accuracy, an enterprise would be able use it to optimize their operations. I would recommend value stream analysis to do this, as it would enable the enterprise to take out cost by rationalizing applications and processes; improve service delivery by moving workflows to the cloud and automating them as far as possible; and increase agility by simplifying their entire IT and service landscape while aligning it to their business needs.

Q: What is one thing we can do to support or increase the women in architecture?

A: Despite advances in equality in recent years, society continues to push the narrative that math, IT, science, and engineering are exclusively for boys. Remember this when you encounter a woman working in technology; she has had to fight against the tide for the best part of two decades to get to where she is. As a physicist and an architect, I am used to being the only woman in the room; at a typical EA conference, women still make up less than 10% of the attendees.

If a woman you manage, mentor, or coach has an interest in or affinity for EA, then please do what you can to enable her to attend enterprise architecture conferences. That way, she can learn the craft of EA from presentations and case studies, and truly become part of the EA community.