Just a quick note to say I’m presenting at the IRM UK EA conference this week. If you’re attending it would be great to catch up and we can share what we’re up to.
At a demo recently we were asked how Essential fits alongside data visualisation tools such as QlikView and Tableau. Visualisation and BI environments are hot topics at the moment, with a lot of commentary appearing about them, so we thought we should share our view of how we see Essential playing in this field.
In simple terms, we see the split being between the quantative and qualitative view. The quantative view gives you the numbers that tells you where your issues are and the qualitative view then gives you the information behind the numbers that allow you make informed decisions to resolve the issues.
The data visualisation tools’ key strength are in addressing the quantitative data requirements, so they are great at taking data and transforming it into meaningful statistics that can be used to formulate facts and uncover patterns in data. If I have questions about how many interfaces there are between my applications, how many meet the SLAs, how many move client data etc., the BI visualisation tools are perfect. Tableau will even provide some rudimentary views of connections.
On the other hand, whilst we do provide some quantitative views with Essential, its real strength is at the other end of the spectrum in providing the qualitative information. So, if you want to understand the underlying reasons behind the data relationships then Essential can provide the insight and detail to explain why and how things are as they are. For example, whilst the quantitative information tells you how many interfaces you have, it doesn’t tell you how those interfaces relate, what they are responsible for, what they eventually impact, etc. Essential will give you the view to show, for example, which are your critical interfaces – which applications and processes fail if a specific feed fails etc. This information is less about statistics and more about knowledge.
Between the two types of tool you can get a powerful view of your IT environment, but you need to know where to get best value from each and, of course, understand your requirements as Essential can be a source for the quantitative as well as the qualitative in some cases.
The increasing use of social business collaboration technologies such as Yammer and Jive is opening up opportunities within organisations to leverage the internal people network for knowledge. If I have a problem then I can ask the organisation if anyone has the answer, and quite often a conversation starts on the topic in question. If you listen to the words of CIOs at conferences, these technologies are starting to add value and are opening up the communication channels within organisations to allow and enhance knowledge sharing. However, whilst these technologies are working well in lots of companies, it is important to understand that they are only part of the solution.
The social tools are great for exploiting the people network, it’s surprising what people in the organisation do know if you ask them; we saw a recent example where a document was received in Mandarin and the office didn’t know who could speak Mandarin. Within 10 minutes of posting ‘Does anyone understand Mandarin’ on the collaboration tool they had five Mandarin speakers identify themselves. A request for information on Yammer in one organisation, following the Heartbleed security issue, identified previously unknown areas of exposure in the global business. So there is clear value to be gained from these collaboration tools, however, the challenge is what to do with this data once it is made visible. How do we leverage it in the future without asking the same questions again or having to search archives? How do we make sure that when people leave the organisation, the knowledge stays? How do we make the information succinct and accessible? This is where tools such as Essential come into play by providing a mechanism for capturing and integrating that knowledge in a structured way for future use. Tools such as Essential become the library for the information that the collaboration tools expose. By being clear on exactly what you want to store in the tools (don’t try and boil the ocean) and putting in processes for capturing the knowledge, you can marry the social business with more structured knowledge integration tools.
So, don’t just assume that social business collaboration tools are the answer to your knowledge problems; they are only part of the solution. It’s when you tie in tools such as Essential that you are on to something very powerful, as depicted below:-
The Financial Conduct Authority, the UK financial services authority, last month published a review of outsourcing and its concerns in the asset management industry – http://www.fca.org.uk/static/documents/thematic-reviews/tr13-10.pdf.
The sentiment expressed in the paper probably applies to any company that is considering outsourcing or already has outsourced aspects of their business, primarily that there has to be a plan B in place in case things go wrong and the outsourcer fails. Essential can play a crucial role here, by underpinning the relationship between the client and the outsourcer effectively and by mitigating some of the risks around loss of knowledge internally. This is something EAS, the sponsors and developers of Essential, are currently working on with some clients and where Essential has become a key component.
The drivers behind using Essential have been to ensure that clients are not tied tightly into an outsource relationship which cannot quickly be reversed out of. The key objectives are to:
- Ensure there is an exit strategy should it be required (in line with the recent FCA demands)
- Mitigate against the loss of knowledge in the event of a failure in the relationship
- Reduce the dependency on the outsourcer for knowledge retention – they may have their own knowledge tools but they may not be willing to share them
- Retain the organisation’s intellectual capital (IC) – the outsourcer will create IC as part of the relationship, but it is important for the customer to retain that IC – ultimately it is still the customer’s architecture
If you are considering outsourcing, then Essential may be an answer for you. In line with the FCA requirement, Essential acts as a knowledge base, ensuring that you retain control of your own information, in an accessible, controlled structure, and so reducing reliance on a third party.
If you have any questions on this then discuss it on the forum or get in touch.
Enterprise Architecture Solutions Ltd (EAS), sole sponsor of the Essential Project and developer of the Essential Architecture Manager software, has been identified by Forrester Research as one of the ten most significant providers of enterprise architecture management suites (EAMS). In this year’s Forrester Wave™ covering EAMS, the research firm has reported extensively on those selected software providers based on their breadth of EA coverage (business/technology orientation and strategy/projects focus), as well as on their ability to serve four common EA objectives:
- Manage cost and complexity
- Ensure high-quality and efficient business solutions
- Set technology strategy, innovate and govern
- Business/IT planning and alignment
Based on a thorough evaluation of the Essential Architecture Manager Version 4, Forrester rated EAS as a “strong performer”, which they define as being able to demonstrate strong functionality in supporting most or all EA objectives.
For further information please contact Forrester Research Inc., and request the report entitled “The Forrester Wave™: EA Management Suites”, Q2 2013.
The Essential Project team are thrilled to be included in the latest Forrester Wave™. We have long believed that the Essential Architecture Manager offers a compelling EA solution for all sizes and types of organisation, but inclusion in the Forrester Wave™ is a great reflection on the maturity of our offering. We have some powerful innovations planned for 2013, so rest assured that we are not resting on our laurels.
Finally, we would like to say thank you to the international Essential Community for helping us to evolve and shape the Essential software platform.
Most organisations experience tensions between the central enterprise architecture team and the solution architects assigned to projects. While the enterprise architects are keen to assure the integrity of the overall business operating model and its IT support, project managers and architects are motivated by the need to deliver local solutions in line with agreed project budgets and schedules. When these interests conflict, the project managers often win the day. This is because change projects draw upon strong business support, while the enterprise architects are seen as serving a worthy but less tangible cause. The predictable result is a proliferation of incompatible solutions.
We have observed several practices used by companies to address these conflicts of interest:
- Provide strong governance mechanisms
An organization’s enterprise architecture should be derived directly from its business and IT strategies. Governance mechanisms with executive-level support should be set up to ensure that the business change portfolio is aligned with these strategies and the architecture. Effective governance will ensure that enterprise-level architectural principles are developed and observed. It should also provide an escalation process for handling challenges to these principles.
- Keep the enterprise architecture up to date
Regular updating of enterprise architecture models and standards is needed to reflect changes in business strategy or in available technology options. A common criticism of enterprise architects is that they focus on the re-use of existing IT assets at the expense of new technologies or innovative uses of IT. We know of one company that counters this by linking its enterprise architects with centres of excellence in areas such as portal development. When change projects draw upon the expertise of these centres, the solutions they present already conform to the organisation’s architectural principles. In another company the enterprise architects form ‘skunkworks’ teams for evaluating new technologies, and project team staff are then co-opted into these teams. In this way, the enterprise architecture function is seen as being at the forefront of innovation.
- Build enterprise architecture into the change management process
A powerful way of avoiding conflicts is to integrate enterprise architecture into the project delivery process. This starts by involving enterprise architects in the formative stages of any new change project well before any decisions on solutions have been made. The enterprise architects can then guide the selection process to encourage use of standard offerings. During the course of the project they can help resolve design problems and facilitate discussions of issues concerning the operating model with the business – they will thus be seen to add value, rather than impede progress. Moving staff between development projects and the enterprise architecture team can also create greater awareness of the broader architectural context.
- Help project teams document their solutions
Even the best run systems development shops struggle to ensure that projects are adequately documented. By providing projects with standard ways of recording the metadata that spans business and IT capabilities, the enterprise architecture function can reinforce the necessary disciplines. Note that the Essential Architecture Manager enables such metadata to be easily recorded by non-specialist project staff in a standard way. This means that much of the routine metadata capture process can be handed off to the projects, thus providing more time for the skilled enterprise architects to concentrate on the more challenging modelling and analysis tasks.
- Establish sanctions for non-conformance
Some organisations have established sanctions on change projects that fail to conform to enterprise architecture standards. In one case, divergent projects are required to plan and budget for subsequent remediation remedies. In another company the financial consequences of non-conformance are notified to the corporate CFO, who then adds the resulting amounts to the contributions that business units are required to deliver on a quarterly basis. Such sanctions can be effective, but we believe that for the most part positive reinforcement measures will work best.
Finding the right approach for your particular organisation can help build credibility and success for your EA initiative. Whilst the tension between EA and Project Management is inevitable, we have shown that it is something that can be managed and even leveraged to deliver a positive outcome for your organisation.
First of all I would like to wish all our Essential users a happy and prosperous 2013!
Everyone on the Essential Project Team is very excited about the forthcoming year and the plans that we have for adding to and improving Essential and the services we offer around it – but that is for another blog or maybe another section of the website – for now I wanted to talk about Business Architecture.
We’ve noticed a lot of discussion regarding business architecture at the moment, both in blogs and discussions and also in the traffic we see to the Essential Project; over the last two months five of our top ten page visits were to tutorials related to business architecture and the business architecture tutorial home page had three times as many visits as the application and technology tutorial home page and six times as many visits as the Info and data tutorials home page. Another interesting point is that this almost exactly mirrors the introduction to a blog I wrote 3 years ago, substituting business architecture for business capability modelling.
So there is evidently a huge desire within the EA community to focus on business architecture, which I think is great as EA isn’t really EA without the BA. It is imperative to understand the objectives, drivers and principles of your business if you are to be effective in your EA efforts. Without these, and the ability to demonstrate to your stakeholders how all your initiatives – IT or not – are supporting the business objectives and drivers, you are missing the potential to make a real difference to your organisation.
I think there are two important strands here. The first is in actually supporting key business stakeholders by providing them with specific targeted information which allows them to make informed decisions in a timely and effective manner. The nature of the information required will vary from stakeholder to stakeholder and organisation to organisation. The key, as an architect, is in understanding these needs and understanding the analysis that needs to be undertaken to inform the decision, thus understanding what information to give to your stakeholder. The second is in communicating how effective the business architecture, and ultimately the enterprise architecture, is in supporting the business using key performance metrics.
We are seeing many more of our clients bring activities that may have once been viewed as pertinent only to the application and technology layers into the business layer. Recent projects have involved us working with clients who are looking to understand, measure and report on the maturity of their business capabilities, benchmarking them against industry standards and internally desired maturity measures. We are also working with clients that want to identify standard processes that support business capabilities and to measure and report on their implementation and exceptions.
Another trend we have noticed is that EA Teams are becoming more aware of the need to communicate their success in supporting the business to key stakeholders, with an increase in the number of EA Teams that want to measure and report on the effectiveness of their operation providing, for example, quarterly dashboards tracking progress against strategic objectives.
Essential Architecture Manager has a large number of views that support the business architecture out of the box, from Business Reference Models that allow you to navigate through the layers of your reference model to understand the underlying architectures, to the Business Objective/Project Footprint that shows the footprint of current change against the business objectives defined, overlaid onto the capability model, to Business Roadmaps which show the progression of the architecture from the current to the future state. In addition, as the meta model is extensive, we have been able to quickly and easily create client specific dashboards enabling EA Teams to effectively report their progress.
We would be really interested in feedback from any members of the community outlining their current initiatives in the Business Architecture layer so we can further develop Essential and ensure that it continues to support the requirements of the community.
At a recent conference run by the Enterprise Architecture Specialist Group of the British Computer Society (BCS), a panel of the speakers was asked how a newly constituted EA unit could best establish its credibility. The question came from a member of the audience who had recently taken charge of such a unit, and who was keenly aware of the dangers of being regarded by the rest of the IT function as a superfluous, “ivory tower” operation.
This concern resonated with the Essential Project Team’s experience. All too often we hear of cases where newly-formed enterprise architecture teams, with the best of intentions, have spent months documenting business processes, information, applications and technologies at an unnecessarily fine level of detail. Given this, it is hardly surprising when they find themselves disbanded as a result of ill-considered cost cutting initiatives.The BCS conference panel’s responses all boiled down to three simple imperatives that we think are appropriate not only for newly formed EA units, but also for well-established ones:
Keep it simple!
Make it relevant!
Deliver timely value!
Every organization has issues that keep senior people awake at night, and enterprise architecture can often provide the means to address these. Sometimes the opportunities lie purely in the IT domain. An example of this was a media company with a complex IT landscape that was faced with an urgent need to reduce costs. Capturing the basic information on the firm’s applications and technology platforms and producing the relevant EA reports enabled a small task force within ten weeks to identify $30m of savings through elimination of duplicate applications and redundant technologies. More often the opportunities are business-related, and these are the ones that generally win the most brownie points for the EA unit. Several years ago the merger of two chemical companies looked to be a marriage made in heaven from a traditional due diligence perspective. However, a rapidly conducted, high level view of the business architecture of the two firms revealed fundamental incompatibilities between their respective operating models. This caused a re-think of the viability of the deal. A more recent example is that of a pharmaceutical company whose legal department had an urgent need to track the movement of certain critical information across national boundaries. In all these cases, the EA function responded quickly by capturing sufficient information to meet the requirement.
The Essential Metamodel and the Essential Architecture Manager have been designed in such a way that cases like this can be handled with minimal administrative effort. And the captured information can of course be retained for other uses after the crises have passed.
There have been a couple of blogs recently about the imminent release of Essential Architecture Manager Version 3.0, and I am pleased to announce that it has arrived!
We think that Essential Architecture Manager v3.0 represents a significant move forward for Essential, encompassing not only a number of significant enhancements and additions to the meta-model but also a new and improved Viewer, with 100 out-of-the-box views and an updated development framework to make it easier to add new views, plus some key enhancements to the platform itself.
New tutorials and videos will follow, plus an upgrade pack for existing users – these won’t be long but in the meantime please take a look around the site at the information on version 3, which includes an overview article, release notes and some example screenshots of views.
We have added a new forum topic for Version 3, not only to capture any bugs and issues but also for queries and questions and any feedback you have. Please make use of the forums, as your feedback is crucial to the on-going development of the Essential toolset.
Following on from Sarah’s last blog that announced what’s coming, I wanted to let you know that we’re in the final stages of packaging Version 3 of Essential Architecture Manager.
The big focus in this version is a complete overhaul of Essential Viewer to make it more easily customised in terms of look and feel – e.g. to tailor it to your intranet styling, improve performance, error handling and to make it simpler to control.
However, version 3 introduces a much extended and improved meta model – based on our own practical experience of using Essential in the real world and of course the contributions of the Essential Project Community. Many of the ECPs that we have been running have now been enhanced and included in the version 3 baseline meta model.
How do we upgrade to version 3?
We’re really excited about the power that version 3 provides but how do we upgrade all those users who have already been enjoying earlier versions?
Upgrading Essential Viewer is quite straightforward as it is delivered as a WAR package. Obviously, any custom Views that have been created will need to be migrated but it is easy to deploy the Version 3 Viewer alongside existing version 2 instances as we transition any custom views.
Migrating the meta model is a little more complex but we have created a number of tools to help make this consistent and more straightforward.
Protege manages the meta model and the model via the Classes and Instances, respectively. These are managed separately (e.g. the PONT and PINS files) as are the form configurations which control the layout, widgets, labels and tool-tips.
This is generally a good thing but it means that the safest and most consistent way to make automated changes to the repository is via the Protege API and doing so means that all the checks and balances that the GUI applies can also be exploited. This also means that we (and you) can make changes and enhancements very easily via the Protege GUI and then encode those as a script of API calls that can be applied to any repository. In layman’s terms, this means we can build upgrade packs to help ease the migration.
We are currently in the process of completing the upgrade pack that will take existing repositories based on v1.2 of the meta model to version 3 and this will be released soon after the Essential Architecture Manager version 3 is launched.
Preparing to upgrade
The idea and intention of the upgrade packs is that they will gracefully upgrade any existing repository. Any extensions that you might have made to the baseline meta model, e.g. additional slots / attributes on a class, additional classes will be preserved as part of the upgrade.
We always recommend that you take an ‘extend’ approach to any customisations or additional features that you might want. Changes to the names or purpose of an out-of-the-box slot – or changing the name of a class may be lost or have unexpected results. If you’ve lost track of what you might have changed, it might be worth comparing your repository to the version 3 baseline repository using the ‘diff’ function of the “Prompt Tab” in Protege.
Many of the forms have had a re-layout to improve the user interface – and in particular to move slots that we have deprecated (served notice of retirement) to the bottom of the form.
Where possible, we have tried to migrate the forms sympathetically but given that one of the powers of Protege is that it is very easy to customise the form layout, we cannot really make any safe assumptions about what a form might look like. There will be cases where the upgrade ‘resets’ the layout to the version 3 baseline form. If you have made changes, you will need to review the layout of such forms – especially if you have additional slots on the class.
It is common to find that you are working in specific areas of the model (rather than the whole model) for particular modelling activities and this means that reviewing the form layouts can be done on an ‘as required’ basis.
How do apply the update packs?
I have described how the update packs take the form of scripts that drive the Protege API but how do we apply them? Protege does not have a plugin for managing this sort of programmatic update of the classes, instances and forms.
Currently, we provide packs as Python scripts that are executed in the “Script Console Tab” that is provided in the standard Protege install. We have tried to package this up as simply as possible, but this is still a bit technical and requires some care when running the scripts.
To improve and simplify this process, we are developing a new Protege Tab Plugin to make updating the repository more like updating your iPhone or iPad!
We’ve seen how the use of the installer has (generally) simplified the install process and we want to provide the same capability for adding new packs of classes – and importantly instances (e.g. standard enumerations) to the repository. So, this plugin will have applications beyond just upgrading the meta model.
Options for migrating to Version 3
Are there any options for how to migrate your existing Essential repository to the version 3 platform? It is possible to make use of the Essential Integration Tab and import an XML snapshot of your repository (the same snapshot that Essential Viewer uses) into an empty version 3 baseline repository. I have used this approach myself to migrate one of our demo repositories before applying further update packs.
However, if you have made any changes to the meta model, this may not be straight-forward and the instance migration packs would still need to be applied.
For this reason, I would recommend using the upgrade pack to apply all the changes required to your existing repository, classes and instances. As with any toolset like this, you should take a backup (using the Protege Project->Archive capability) of your repository before starting to apply the upgrade. And of course, the Essential Project Team will be happy to help with any tricky migrations, perhaps due to some customisations, and the option of commercial support is always available.
Version 3 has so much that is new and improved, that we’re sure that this will be an Essential Upgrade! 😉