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

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.

 

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.

Business Capabilities

We have been struck recently by the volume of articles and blogs regarding Business Capability modelling, many seemingly of the view that this is a new concept that will resolve the old business IT alignment issue.

Whilst we don’t concur with the view that the concept of business capabilities is either new or capable of resolving the alignment issue alone, we are in agreement that business capability modelling is a key aspect of the business architecture.

We view business capabilities as the ‘services’ that the business offers or requires.  In Essential, these capabilities are modelled in the Business Conceptual layer and represent what the business does (or needs to do) in order to fulfil its objectives and responsibilities.

A business capability is at a higher level than a business process.  It represents a conceptual service that a group of processes and people, supported by the relevant application, information and underlying technology, will perform.  The capability represents the what, whereas the process, people and technology represent the how.  Business Capabilities can themselves be broken down into supporting capabilities, if this is useful.

Defining your business capabilities is extremely useful as it allows you to take a step back and focus on the key elements of your organisation.  You can avoid getting bogged down in the details of ‘how’ things happen and concentrate on ‘what’ does (or needs to) happen.  Once you have done this it is possible to identify your key capabilities, for example, the ones that will differentiate your business and you can use this information to ensure that you focus on the areas of importance in your business, whether this is in defining new projects or ensuring business as usual delivers appropriately.

You will find that your business capabilities are relatively static because you are defining the ‘what’ which rarely changes whereas, for example, your business processes will constantly be evolving as the ‘how’ things are done changes all the time with the advancement of technology and of customer demand.  A very obvious example is retail – twenty years ago the internet did not exist so there were no online sales channels; but the capabilities of a retail channel have not altered, Sales, Fulfilment and Billing are still capabilities, however the process of ‘how’ they sell, dispatch and take payment has altered dramatically.

In reviewing our tutorials we noticed that we already have tutorials on Capturing the Business Value Chain (a subset of the capabilities) and Business Process Modelling, but we don’t have a tutorial that focuses solely on business capability modelling.  In view of the current interest we aim to address this gap as soon as we can and a new tutorial will be available shortly.