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.

The EUs Gift to Enterprise Architects

Interesting article from John – ‘The EUs gift to Enterprise Architects‘ – discusses how EAs can make best use of the data that GDPR is forcing organisations to collect and keep updated, to increase credibility and value to the business.  Essential’s GDPR Monitoring pack uses this information to provide GDPR support, but also harnesses this data to allow analysis of more traditional EA fare, such as APM, Data Management and so on.  See a demo here, and our ‘5 Steps to Effective GDPR Monitoring‘ blog here.


5 Steps to Effective GDPR Monitoring

Wherever you are on your GDPR journey, the 5 steps detailed below must be completed and can provide a useful checklist for progress.  This is based on several years’ experience we’ve had supporting the PII data requirements of global organisations.

  1. Assemble a Cross Business Team
    A successful GDPR initiative needs a number of different roles from across the Business and IT including, but not limited to, the following:
Role Purpose
Compliance The compliance team are responsible for defining the scope of the GDPR data for an organisation and also the allowed usages for GDPR data, i.e. defining the legal basis for use across the organisation. Compliance are also responsible for analysing the information returned and ensuring that remediation is put in place.
GDPR Coordinator The GDPR coordinator is responsible for ensuring that each business unit provides the detail of the data they process, the purpose and the applications used.  They should brief Business Units, coordinate and QA the information returned and manage queries.
Business Units The Business Units are responsible for providing the detail of the data they process, the purpose and the applications used for their business area, accurately and completely.
IT The IT teams are responsible for providing the detail of the applications and systems they are responsible for, accurately and completely.
Project Manager Create plan, coordinate resources, manage dates and deliverables and provide senior management reporting.
Analyst The analyst is responsible for analysing and modelling the data received from IT and the Business Units, for example, ensuring there are no duplicates, and providing this to compliance in a format that they can utilise to manage GDPR.
  1. Define the Data in Scope for GDPR and Define the Allowed Data Uses
    The data that is in scope for GDPR will vary from industry to industry, and organisation to organisation and each organisation must, therefore, define the data in scope for them. They must also define the data that is allowed to be used for each business purpose and whether or not consent is required.  We would recommend doing this before the fact-finding exercise as it provides a structure and minimises the possibility of duplication and data gaps.
  2. Get the Business Teams to Provide detailed GDPR Data
    The Business Teams will need to provide the data on their processes, purpose, data and applications used. Additionally, IT will need to provide information on the data held in databases, where the databases are stored and located and the security surrounding both the applications and the underlying technology.  There will need to be a standard means of capturing this detail to ensure consistency, so make sure the business have clarity on what they are doing – utilise your Data in Scope for this.  Once this data is provided, a central team should QA and analyse the data to ensure it provides an overall view of the business situation regarding GDPR.
  3. Gap Analysis and Action Plan
    A gap analysis and action plan should be created to work towards GDPR compliance. An ongoing process should be created to ensure this is an on-going exercise that continually demonstrates compliance.  Engage both the business and the IT teams in defining this process.
  4. Report to the Regulator
    The regulator will need to see evidence that you are on top of the new regulations; you will need to demonstrate that you have assessed your organisation against the new regulations, that you understand where you are compliant and that you have a plan in place to rectify any issues. They will also want you to demonstrate that you have a plan in place to manage GDPR as on-going commitment within your organisation, i.e. people, processes, technology, changes.

EAS have formed a partnership with UST Global and released the Essential GDPR pack, which enables organisations to understand their GDPR compliance adherence and risk from both a business and an IT perspective.  The objective of the tool is to demonstrate to both your CEO and the Regulator that the GDPR position is understood and under control; this is achieved through a series of interactive dashboards and detailed views that can be viewed online or printed out to suit the needs of both key stakeholders.

Our feedback indicates that whilst organisations have assembled teams and started data capture, many are proposing to manage GDPR compliance in a series of spreadsheets.  It is our experience that this is not sustainable; with such a large and constantly changing data set it is almost impossible to collect and structure the data in such a way as to answer all the regulators questions whilst keeping pace with change.  A GDPR tool with a comprehensive meta model, repository and adaptable viewer, allied to a very structured data capture process, makes this task achievable and, in fact, allows the data captured to be used to support other initiatives such as data management, application portfolio management and so on, enabling organisations to make use of the data that must be captured for GDPR.

EAS, in partnership with UST Global, can accelerate your GDPR initiative by bringing our combined experience and the Essential GDPR pack to:

  • Work with you to create a detailed plan to help you gear your organisation’s GDPR initiative for success, including the roles and responsibilities required across the business.
  • Work with your Compliance Team, or external organisations such as solicitors, to accelerate your initiative by providing quick starts based on our experience of the scope of GDPR data applicable to your organisation, and a business model that will aid understanding of allowed data usage.
  • Provide a set of pre-defined Questionnaires and Online Forms that direct the capture and analysis of the business and IT data required from your organisation.  Work with you to create a process to keep this data up to date.
  • UST Global, our partner, provides an automated data discovery tool that finds GDPR data in your databases and document stores, covering both structured and unstructured data such as PDFs. The results can be automatically loaded into Essential GDPR to supplement the manual data discovery carried out by business and IT teams to enable greater accuracy and accelerate the process.  The UST tool can also support the “Right to be Forgotten’ requirement, highlighting all the instances where a person exists across your organisation.
  • Essential GDPR provides powerful dashboards and visualisations to your GDPR data, allowing you to proactively manage your GDPR compliance and demonstrate to both your CEO and the Regulator that you are in control of your GDPR exposure, highlighting where you are compliant, where you have issues and where your risks lie.
  • Allow you to utilise the data that you have collected for GDPR to provide additional benefits across your organisation, such as identification of rationalisation opportunities, etc.

Find out more about the Essential GDPR pack or contact us.


EA Tools vs Modelling Tools

We’ve had a few questions recently about why Essential doesn’t provide a greater ability to draw pictures, which is part of the broader question regarding the difference between EA tools and Modelling tools.  Essential is primarily an EA tool and so is focused on supporting the objectives of CxOs and EAs/Chief Architects, with some support for Solution Architects; Diagram-driven, solution modelling tools, however, are focused on supporting Solution Architects in their design work, but do not provide visualisations that can support the key requirements of the EAs/Chief Architects or the CxO’s objectives.  Beyond an overall all systems wiring diagram to show complexity (and used for effect), it’s difficult to think of many more Visio-type diagrams you’d put in front of an CxO.

We’ve drawn up a slide that explains the objectives of the different roles and how Essential can support each, and we’ve also taken the opportunity to update the demo viewer to show the support for the different roles, so there is now a CxO portal, an EA portal and a Solution Architects portal*.

EA Tools vs Modelling Tools

We are aware that many organisations want a tool that supports all three roles and so we are working on the ability to import and export from Visio, which will extend Essential’s reach.  Added to this is Essential’s ability to support an organisation beyond the scope of just IT, for example with our GDPR or Strategic Resource Optimisation pack, and Essential provides an organisational support tool that is unique in its field.

Just one final point, we noted Mega’s press release on 3/10/2017, ‘MEGA is First EA Vendor with Unique GDPR Solution’.  That’s not strictly true, as the Essential GDPR Solution was launched on 28/7/2017!  And to be honest we’ve had clients using our PII solution, the foundation for GDPR, since 2013, something none of the other EA tools did.  If you want to see a proven GDPR tool, give us a call or drop us an e-mail.

*The Essential Viewer can be configured directly in Essential, so organisations can easily create and configure multiple portals to suit their needs.  Essential Cloud also gives the ability to control access to views, and even redact specific data in views, by role or individual.


Essential GDPR Launched

Our GDPR pack is now ready for use.  Unique in the marketplace, it supports business questions such as ‘do I have a legal basis for using this data?’ and ‘have I captured the client’s consent?’ as well as technical access and security questions, such as ‘where is my data most at risk?’.  Most other tools are focused on one or other end of this spectrum.  High level dashboards show where the GDPR compliance issues exist, and drill down capabilities allow you to hone in on the exact process, application or technology that is the cause of the risk.

We have partnered with UST to, optionally, incorporate the use of their ground-breaking data discovery tool which can identify structured and unstructured GDPR data in databases and document stores across the organisation. This not only eases the burden of data capture but also provides an invaluable cross-check of information provided through more traditional means.

A sample of the dashboards are shown below, or you can read further information, access the GDPR demo viewer, or sign up  here.

The Essential Project: An explanation for those new to Essential

Know Your Organisation, Make Informed Decisions

The strategic decisions any executive makes for their organisation defines how successful they are.  Get the decisions right and you are a hero, get them wrong and your credibility takes a hit, and in the worst case it costs you your job.  In the ideal world, we’d have perfect information and be able to make perfect decisions, however, in reality we don’t have that situation.  The challenge is how we can reduce the chances of making bad decisions by having access to better information, and this is where the Essential Project comes into play.

Essential is an ontology based tool with a structured meta-model that collates information about your organisation through facts and relationships between those facts, and then renders the output in visualisations.  For example, you can collate disparate information about your business capabilities, business processes, applications, and let Essential make sense of it and show you where you have inefficiencies.  As you begin to overlay more information you can get increased oversight of of your business, for example if we overlay databases, location and data classifications on top of the information in the first example, we can now understand our data privacy position.  Importantly, it’s all data driven, so you can push the data capture out to the people who know their portion of the organisation and let Essential join it all up – the support people know the servers, their locations and what applications run on them, the application teams know what databases their applications use, the business teams know their processes and which application they use, and so on.  We don’t rely on one person knowing the end to end, or having to join it all up.

For the architects, they can move away from data collation and now focus the majority of their time on the much more interesting job of identifying opportunities, inefficiencies, etc. and knowing that the basis for their recommendations is valid.  

For the executive, they now have access to the information that allows them to make those informed decisions, removing the element of guesswork that executives typically have to use when determining strategy.  Questions such as ‘What is the impact if I outsource this part of the business?’, ‘Where can I make savings if I acquire Company X?’, ‘Where do operational inefficiencies exist?’, ‘Am I compliant with regulatory needs?’, become answerable based on fact rather than assumption.  For the teams working on behalf of the executives, they have the tool and structures to allow them to deliver real value and gain the insight that their senior management are looking for from them. 

Data Lens

You may have noticed from our site that the Data Lens is in beta.  It’s a lens that we’ve developed because we’ve been continually told that people don’t have control of their data.

In our EA consulting, we have seen:

  • Organisations that were unwittingly reporting incorrect MI figures because data was inaccurate or incomplete
  • Projects that intended to master and duplicate data that already existed in the organisation
  • Inconsistency in what people thought certain data was
  • Differing views on where data was sourced from
  • Projects repeating the same data collection work, asking the same questions again

The Data Lens looks to address this by bringing transparency and coherence to your data estate.  It is aimed at supporting the demands of people wanting to use data, such as:

  • Data Lake or Analytics efforts, which need to know information such as where data is sourced from, what terms are used for the same data, e.g. client and customer, how good the data is in terms of quality and completeness, etc.
  • Platform projects need to know where data masters exist, where data flows, how data is transformed, etc.
  • Any data rationalisation project needs to know where master sources of data exist, where duplication exists and how data is used.
  • Plus, Data Scientists need to understand the sources of data available for their analysis

The lens addresses these needs by providing a number of views and tools.

The Data Definition views provide data definitions, summaries and dynamically produced data models.

The Data Architecture Analysis views are geared towards you understanding sources of data, data flows, where duplication exists, etc.

Data Management is where the lens excels.  You are able to understand data quality across a number of criteria and see sources of data.  The Quality Dashboard shows the quality of the key data required to support your strategic objectives and business capabilities, and also the initiatives impacting that data.  This allows you to identify where your data initiatives may need to be focused to improve your business data output and enable your strategy.  The Data Quality Analysis page lets you pick the data you need and it then shows you where to source it from, plus the quality, completeness and accuracy of that data. This is really useful if you are using the data for other purposes, e.g. MI reporting or analytics. The data dashboard provides and summary view of your data which you can drill down into.

We see the Data Lens acting as the bridge between the tools that are more focused on the physical data layer, and which typically meet the needs of the technical teams but not the business users or the data scientists.  Equally, where you have conceptual data in a tool, the lens can act as the bridge to the physical data, removing the gap between the conceptual and physical layers, bringing context and meaning to the data.

The lens is currently in beta but we are allowing organisations to register an interest and we would love to get any feedback on the lens.

Essential View Loaders

We’ve come across a number of Essential users who have said they’d rather not spend time writing the import specifications to import data and anything to speed the import of lots of data to get the out-of-the box views working quicker would be helpful. In response, we’ve created some view loaders that will populate key elements of the views. This means that you can focus on gathering the data required and then just run the importer to load the data into your repository.

We’ve priced the loaders at a point that is low, so you won’t need to blow the budget on them, and we will be using the revenue to fund the Essential Project work. We’re intending to build more view loaders in the coming weeks and months, and would welcome feedback on which views you’d like us to prioritise. We’re also due a new dot release of Essential soon, which has some meta model changes and some updated views that we’ll be offering view loaders alongside.

We’re working some other things at the moment, although if you keep an eye on the site you can probably work out what, but more about that in the next few months.