Enterprise Architecture Firm of the Year 2019

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

The Innovation & Excellence Awards are judged by a panel of industry experts following nominations from the wider community.  The Essential Project is available as Essential Cloud, Essential Cloud for Docker and Essential Open Source, providing options for organisations of all shapes and sizes from Global Corporates through NGOs, Governments and Universities.  Essential is a sophisticated Enterprise Architecture Management tool, a leader in its class at a sensible price!  The tool enables IT to be a real business partner by giving EAs and CxOs the information they need to Reduce Cost, Increase Efficiency, Reduce Risk and Deliver Strategy through beautiful, interactive visualisations covering road mapping, what-if analysis and decision support.

We continue to develop Essential to support our customers and our community, who are very happy with Essential:

“Essential is a great tool to model enterprise architecture. It offers flexibility and amazing visualisation of EA.”

“We can see our suggestions influencing the product roadmap”

“Overall, we have been very happy with the solution and would recommended it”

“Vendor has been a pleasure to work with, very engaged with our objectives and how to exploit the product to achieve them”

To find out more visit our Website or look at our Demo Viewer.

Blog Series – Where should I start with my EA?

Play 2 – Anchor on Applications, Link to Technology, Bring in Business Elements

In the second of our series of blogs looking at common scenarios we encounter in organisations that are looking to start their EA, we are focusing on organisations that have detail about the IT estate, applications and technologies, but no real link up to the business – the why?

In this scenario, we often find that the drivers are risk reduction or efficiency, but these are hampered by a lack of visibility of the business needs, i.e. what the priority risk areas actually are.  We also find that because IT have been focused on managing their estate in some isolation of the business, there is a lack of visibility of their worth in the business, so building visibility and, therefore, credibility is also often a requirement.

Below are condensed extracts from our EA Playbook that describe how to manage this scenario to achieve a positive outcome.  The playbook assumes you have some form of  target state defined for your architecture, 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 the initiative to the IT Teams who will need to provide information, and also that you have access to a friendly business contact with excellent knowledge of the business.  Also, ensure that you have access to the detail captured about the IT estate, be that in spreadsheets, on SharePoint, in CMDBs, etc.  Capturing the detail about the IT estate in Essential allows understanding of the impacts across the different domains, and enables presentation in a non-technical way that can highlight the risks and opportunities to the business, promoting engagement with senior business leaders and collaboration across business and IT teams.

The approach we’d suggest is:

  • Publish the up to date application catalogue so it is available to all
  • Create reference models for applications and technologies linked to the products used to provide the services
  • Engage the CIO by using the reference models to identify application and technology product duplication and opportunities to rationalise
  • Engage with your business contact to overlay the business perspective and  to identify potential duplication and risk from a business perspective. Start with one business area and complete that first as a demonstrator
  • Engage IT Support to demonstrate the impact of technology failure on the business, i.e. if this service is unavailable, then these parts of the business will have problems

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

IT Asset Dashboard

Demonstrates duplication and legacy risk across your portfolio, covering Business, Application and Technology Reference Models

Application Rationalisation Analysis

Displays opportunities for rationalisation across applications and application services, with various filters for specific criteria.

Application Technology Strategy Alignment

Performs an analysis of a given application to evaluate its technology architecture against agreed technology product standards.

Business Process Family Summary

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 playbook please contact us here.

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

GDPR – New Capabilities for Ongoing Management

Now we have all captured our GDPR data, the next two major questions are:

  1. How do I understand where changes in my organisation impact my GDPR position?
  2. How do I provide the regulator with the data needed for reporting?

Unsurprisingly, being architects, we thought about these issues during the development of the Essential GDPR solution and have the answers immediately to hand!

  1. How do I understand how changes in my organisation impact my GDPR position?
    Use the Essential GDPR PIA (Data Protection Impact Assessment) view to analyse the impact of change on new or existing applications and processes. The view will identify where you need to seek advice from your legal team regarding the data you are processing.
  2. How do I provide the regulator with the data needed for reporting?

The FCA have provided a spreadsheet template that they will require organisations to complete and return to them.  At 30 columns wide, with detail required to a data object level for each process, this will be quite some undertaking – even if you have captured all the data required – and we are seeing thousands of rows at some of our clients.  Essential GDPR allows you to export your GDPR data directly into the spreadsheet and download a completed copy.  Essential GDPR captures and completed two-thirds of the key data required, saving considerable time and allowing a speedy response to the FCA.

View a demo of  Essential GDPR or contact us to arrange a demo.

 

Why Organisations are Moving to Essential

In the past couple of months, we’ve had an increasing number of enquiries and sign ups from clients that are moving to Essential from other, well known, tools.  At least a couple have reported spending in the £m’s over the first year to 18 months with the result that they are only able to report simple lists of things!  They are frustrated by the inflexibility and high costs and have selected Essential not only because of its low-cost base, but also because they see how it enables them to support the CxO and succeed in their own role.

The most common reasons they give us for switching to Essential are:

  • Meta Model Limitations – many clients have been sold the ‘benefits’ of a simple meta model, however, once they have captured any amount of data the realisation hits that this just limits what they are able to understand about their organisation. They are genuinely impressed by the depth of Essential’s meta model and the rigour and thought that has gone into its development – allowing detailed understanding with minimum data.  Equally, they find the ability to extend the meta model in minutes refreshing, advising that in many tools this is perceived as a major development.
  • Technical Views – clients have found that the views are not suitable for conveying the architecture analysis and decisions to CxOs, meaning time must be spent creating high level presentations for CxO meetings. They feel the Essential views allow them to speak both up and down the organisational hierarchy, engaging the CXOs and the wider teams directly.
  • Reporting Limitations – clients report that they were sold on the idea of flexible reporting and visualisation but often find that actually these are limited in substance and measurable benefit, as well as being extremely time consuming and costly to alter or add to. They tell us they love the look and feel of the Essential views as much as the real benefits they bring to them in their role; and the fact that they can easily alter, amend and create new views using the Essential framework after a day’s training or less is a real plus.
  • EA Support – Despite promises during the sales process, they have found other tools unable to really support their day to day architecture work. In Essential, they like the decision support given by views such as Design Authority, Principles Compliance, NIST, Application Comparison, Business Application Footprint to name a few.  They also like the views aimed at senior management that enable them to demonstrate and explain their decisions, such as Business Strategy Footprint, IT Asset Dashboard and so on.
  • Practising Architects – they like the fact that we, in EAS, are all practising architects; we understand the power of a strong, flexible meta-model; we base our view design on our experiences of taking on roles such as Chief Architects and Lead Architects in client organisations; we understand their issues and how best to resolve them – whether using Essential or not!

Coupled with the fact that Essential is a fraction of the price of most commercial tools, the switch seems obvious.

Interestingly, we recently saw an infographic from Gartner – ‘Can your EA Tool do that?’

If you’ve seen Essential I think you’ll agree it ticks all the boxes!  If not, click here to see some videos explaining how Essential can support you or a demo of the Essential Viewer.

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.


Essential Launchpad

To help organisations quick start their data capture in Essential we’ve created the Essential Launchpad – a free and easy method to capture the data required to populate some of the key foundational views in Essential.

The focus is on allowing you to gain an understanding of the business landscape, how your applications support the business, and the application deployments.   We’ve provided the spreadsheets and import specs to build a base architecture with a number of the key views working.  You can use this as the basis for populating the other views in Essential.  Keep an eye on our videos page as we are constantly adding more ‘how to’s’ and will be providing some more meta model diagrams to help you get views working, most of which are anchored off the data captured in the Essential Launchpad

To see screenshots of the views that are populated and to register to receive the Essential Launchpad FREE, see here.

 

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.