Blog Series – Where should I start with my EA?

Play 1 – Anchoring on Applications, Bringing in Business Elements

When someone takes Essential, our Enterprise Architecture Management Tool, we are often asked where we would recommend that they start with their EA.  Being Enterprise Architect’s, our answer usually starts with “It depends…….”!!  But in truth, it really does depend.  The two key factors that need to be considered are; where are the biggest ‘fires’ in the organisation, i.e. what is everyone concerned about/shouting about, and what information  can you get hold of quickly?

The first thing to understand is who your key stakeholder is and what is keeping them awake at night.  If you can provide information that will support the decision analysis around this area, then that is a great start.  The second is to understand the information and data you will need to capture in order to enable this – if you can utilise data you already have access to, wherever and however that is held, then you can respond really quickly, in a matter of weeks.

In this series of blogs, we’re going to look at common scenarios that we encounter and the initial steps we recommend.

The scenario we encounter most frequently is the organisation that has grown organically with a federated approach or through mergers and acquisitions.  In both cases we often find that there is a push for application rationalisation to provide efficiencies through both cost saving and speeding up IT’s ability to respond to the business needs.  However, this is often hindered by the lack of visibility of IT assets across the organisation and how they support the business.

Below are condensed extracts from our EA Playbook that describe how to manage this scenario and to achieve a positive outcome.  The playbook assumes you have a target state defined for your IT estate, so you know where you are going, and against which you can anchor your work.

Before you start, the key things to note here are the pre-requisites to starting the play; it is imperative that you have the support of a senior leader and that they communicate to the IT Teams, and also that you have access to a friendly business contact with excellent knowledge of the business.  Once you can corral the data to produce an application list with the links to the business overlaid, you should expect to be able to engage both the CIO and the business leaders in conversations about exactly where efficiency opportunities exist.  By presenting your architecture models in a non-technical way that can engage senior leaders, they will be able to see clearly where there is duplication and understand why application X costs them more and why application Y slows them down.  Identifying the ‘low hanging fruit’ in terms of cost savings can provide a springboard for moving forward in allowing IT to become a true partner with whom the business want to engage to meet their strategic business goals.

The approach we’d suggest is:

  • Publish an up to date application catalogue
  • Engage the CIO by using the application catalogue as an anchor to create an application reference model and then identify duplication within the application estate from a capability perspective
  • Engage with your business contact to overlay the business view and identify potential duplication from a business perspective. Start with one business area and complete that first as a demonstrator
  • Bring in costs for those areas of interest, i.e. where there is application duplication
  • Start to understand complexity of integration for those high priority candidate applications

Some of the key Essential views that support this approach are:

Business Application Footprint  (See live view demo here)
Key business architecture view showing how applications map to business capabilities, with TOM and capability differentiation.

Application Reference Model  (See live view demo here)
Shows Application Capabilities and Services, with Applications mapped.  Highlights duplication across application services.

Application Rationalisation Analysis  (See live view demo here)
Displays opportunities for rationalisation across applications and application services, with various filters for specific criteria.

Business Process Family Summary  (See live view demo here)
Shows all the business processes contained in a process family, including performing organisations and applications used.  Highlights where there are non-standard processes and different supporting applications used across the organisation, supporting the identification of opportunities to re-engineer and automate processes.

We’ll be publishing extracts covering different scenarios on a monthly basis.  If you’d like further details on the scenarios or playbooks please contact us here.

Are open source EA tools as good as commercial tools?

One of our users/advocates this week pointed us at the FAQ of one of the commercial EA Tools where they state that free and open source EA Tools are only useful for rudimentary EA requirements, whereas commercial tools, like theirs, are much more advanced.  It struck us that this is either a poorly informed organisation, unaware of the competition, or lazy writing by someone who does not understand much about open source.  We normally ignore the competitors and let them worry about us, but in this case, we do feel it is important to respond to something that is clearly misleading.

They state that only commercial tools can provide business outcomes and decision-making insights through a central shared repository, an integrated set of views covering strategy, business, applications, information and technology, to provide the insights necessary to optimise, rationalise and transform.

There is, however, nothing in that statement that can’t be delivered by Essential Open Source – a free EA tool.  Far from supporting only ‘rudimentary’ EA requirements, Essential Open Source is, in fact, a very sophisticated EA Tool that is focused on providing decision support and “what if” analysis to EAs and CxOs.  In addition, Essential has a world leading, ontology-based meta model and has been designed to be exceptionally flexible – the meta model can be extended in minutes and new views can be created in hours by users.

The only areas where Essential Open Source falls short is that it is not Cloud based, it has to be hosted on site, and it has basic user permissions.  Enter Essential Cloud, the low-cost Essential Cloud solution that is, as the name suggests, cloud based and includes full user security permissions across both data entry and the viewer.  Oh, and did I mention it covers unlimited users.

I’m inclined to think the traditional EA Tool vendors, with their high costs and inflexible models, are trying to muddy the waters with this kind of article.  Have a look at what Essential has to offer and make your own decision.

Essential Key Points:

  • Over 120 out of the box views – have a look at the Technology Product Selector, the Application Rationalisation Analysis and the IT Asset Dashboard as just a few examples where the traditional commercial tools can’t compete
  • A free launchpad to get you started, with a simple data capture mechanism, to allow the population of 20 key foundational views across business, application and technology
  • Open Source or Cloud – Docker coming soon
  • Low Cost
  • Flexible
  • Built by architects for architects

6.2 Release

We’ve release Essential Architecture Manager 6.2 which is a minor upgrade to the Essential Viewer and the Essential Meta Model.

We’ve aligned the names of core views with their repository definitions and fixed a couple of minor view bugs.  The major change is the addition of costs_for_element and revenues_for_element against all classes, which allows you to put cost and revenues against anything, opening up the potential for a number of cost views to be created.

For Cloud users – this is available in your update folder.

For Open Source Users visit our downloads page

Essential Launchpad V2

The Essential Launchpad has been very well received by our community and so we have taken the opportunity to extend it into the technology layer and populate a couple of new views that we think are key.

The IT Asset Dashboard gives a high-level view across an organisation from the business, through the application layer and right down to technologies used, highlighting use, duplication and legacy risk.

The Application Footprint Comparison view allows you to compare the footprint of two application across your business, so you can see which services are provided by which applications in support of business capabilities.

The standard technology catalogues and summaries are also populated across the technology layer.

There are some additional worksheets in the spreadsheet and an EUP (Essential Update Pack) to apply.  Just contact us here if you are interested and we will send you a zip file that contains everything you need.


Repository Data Management

We’ve released a new set of views to labs that help you manage the quality and completeness of data in your repository.  This is a key requirement in understanding where there are gaps and issues with the data you’ve entered that will affect the accuracy of the views provided by Essential.  You can see and play around with the views in the demo viewer under the Repository Data Management Portal, and if you want to apply them to your own repository you can download them from labs.  The views are accurate, but the usability may need some tweaking – comments welcome and do let us know if you find any bugs.

The views are:

Data Completeness

Shows the completeness of slots in a given class.  This is really useful if, for instance, you wanted to understand which processes support given business capabilities, you need to have completed the realises business capability slot in your processes – this view will quickly show the % completed for the class and for which processes it is not completed.

(Note – you need to switch off the tabs before you move to the next tab – blame the developer, I’m sure that’ll change when it leaves labs!)

Data Duplication Dashboard

Shows the level of duplication for the key classes across your repository.  You can change the sensitivity to highlight similarities that may be duplicates.  You can dive into the detail by clicking on the number of one of the key classes or by selecting a class from the Class Data Duplication view.

We have also released a Design Authority support view to labs.  This allows project and change teams to record the applications and/or technology products they are using and the principles they are complying with, and issues a pass or waiver required result.  This is designed to allow projects to self-govern where allowed to speed decisions and reduce unnecessary meeting time, you can see this in the Enterprise Architect Portal in the demo viewer.

Again, any suggestions or comments very welcome! These are in labs, so if you find bugs, please do let us know.

View Documentation

In response to popular demand we’ve started to create videos to demonstrate how to populate the views.  We’re working through the most popular views, ignoring those where there is an existing view manual as, although not quite as elegant as the videos, documentation does exist.  We’ve created a video and a meta model diagram for each – most will be demonstrated in Essential Cloud, with some on Essential Open Source, but please note that as the meta model and views are shared they can be used interchangeably.  The videos can be found here.

It may take a little while to do them all as there are over 120 now, however, if you would like us to prioritise a particular view, just let us know and we will push it up the list.

Enterprise Architecture Firm of the Year 2018

We are delighted to announce that, for the second year running, EAS has won top place in Corporate Live Wires’ Innovation & Excellence Awards.  Following on from receiving the award for Innovation in Enterprise Architecture 2017, this year we have been named as Enterprise Architecture Firm of the Year 2018 based on Essential and our consulting work around it.

The Innovation & Excellence Awards are judged by a panel of industry experts following nominations from the wider community.  The Essential Project, the world’s most popular open-source EA Tool, is now available as SaaS through Essential Cloud.  EAS, Essential’s founders, are all practising architects and we continue to extend and improve Essential by listening to our clients and our community and reacting to their needs.  We were first to exploit the connection between the information required for EA and GDPR and launch a GDPR support pack, bringing massive benefits to both the Compliance and EA Teams within an organisation.

We are continuing to develop Essential to support our customers and our community; look out for our innovative data capture and maintenance solution which will ease the burden of data management and revolutionise EA!

Essential Version 6.1.1 Released

Essential v6.1.1 is now available from the downloads section of the website.

We’ve promoted some of the views that we’ve been trying out in the labs, including the NIST mapping and a couple of Business Capability to Technology views.  We’ve also enhanced some of the OOtB views, such as the Business Process Model, the Business Capability Model and the Technology Platform Model.  Meta Model extensions include a new class of ‘Business Process Family’ to make it easier to model and analyse standard and non-standard processes.

Full details of all the changes can be found in the release notes.

Essential Cloud in General Availability

We are delighted to announce that Essential Cloud is now in General Availability

We’d like to thank all the clients that gave their feedback, allowing us to enhance Essential Cloud over the last six months.  We’ve updated the user interface, adding a journey history and improving collaboration capabilities through updated notifications, and we’ve extended the integration capabilities.  Importantly, we’ve had lots of positive feedback and no major issues, so we’re confident that Essential Cloud will prove to be as stable as Essential Open Source has been for the last eight years.

Find out more here

Essential Labs

The team behind Essential are all practising architects and during our client engagements we are always having ideas on new views or improvements to existing views that can provide additional benefit.  We thought we’d make our labs available to our users so you can see what’s in development and make use of the updates immediately.

Often all (or if not all then most) of the data is already present in a repository, so these updates are really quick and easy to deploy and start using.  Feel free to download and use them with your own data if they look like they will help you.

Currently we have a new NIST compliance view, with a view loader, that enables you to monitor your NIST controls and assessments and some small updates to the Principles and Business Capability views.

The only thing we ask is that you tell us if you have suggestions for improvements or find any bugs.