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.

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

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.

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 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.

Strategy Management and Enterprise Architecture

We have noticed that many organisations are currently looking to their EA to support their strategy management, whether that be business and IT or just IT focused.  This is quite a shift for some organisations in moving EA up the stack and out of project or domain focused architecture to one that provides a broader, higher level view.

Our Strategy Management release is, therefore, very timely.  It has been in development for some time and was the focus of ECP 4, we would like to acknowledge and thank the community for their contributions to the release.   We have been using it at one of our global clients for some time and it is, therefore, released with us knowing that it actually works in real life situations – in a global organisation that has distributed businesses with differing regional and organisational objectives. 

A very brief overview of the key elements in this release is given below, but for full details see the release documentation:-

  • Architecture States – represent the different states of your architecture.  Sometimes these are referred to as ‘current state’ and ‘future state’, but we think it is best to avoid these terms as your current state is always evolving and will eventually (one would hope!) become your future state, which makes everything somewhat confusing.  In our opinion it is better to actually refer to the state you are in (politely of course!) and the state you want to be in, including the steps in between.  So, an example of the type of naming we would suggest is ‘manual invoicing’, then ‘automated payment – UK’, followed by ‘automated invoicing – UK ’ and finally ‘fully automated invoicing’ , which allow you to understand exactly what each architecture state is referring to. 
    An architecture state can relate to one or all of the layers of the architecture, and this will depend on the type of project that is being transitioned. 
    We would expect there to be many of these very specific architecture states that reflect different areas of focus, rather than having a very few states that represent the entire EA at specific points in time.  We think the idea of lots of ‘smaller’, more specific architecture states is very powerful for managing the complexity of the progression of the architecture; break it into manageable chunks that deal with specific programmes or areas of interest and use lots of specific, focussed roadmaps rather than having one unwieldy uber roadmap.  However, if that is what you need to manage the transition of your EA then you can, of course, do just that! 
  • Roadmap Model – is the pictorial representation showing how the architecture(s) will transition between the various different states, which are shown as roadmap milestones on the model.  A timeline for this transitioning can also be included in the model.
  • Strategic Plans – hold the detail of how the organisation plans to transition from one state to another and are implemented by Projects, which can be grouped into Programmes.  Strategic Plans also hold the detail of what Issues are being addressed and Objectives are being met by the implementation of the Strategic Plans. 

There are a number of standard views released with the pack, but in true Essential spirit we expect users to develop their own views to meet the needs of their organisation.  The type of views we envisage being used are, for example, a view that maps Projects to Issues and Objectives, so you can see which projects support which Objectives and resolve which Issues.  This can be useful in allocating resources to the areas providing most benefit to the organisation. 

We feel that this is a key area of EA, and additionally it is one that is, or should be, the focus of many organisations at the moment as they move forward following the recession.  Using EA to assist with the strategy management within an organisation is really where the big pay back from EA can start to be seen.  Of course, all the underlying activities and effort are also crucial and can provide benefits on a project or region or domain basis, but using EA to support strategy management is the activity that can provide the overall view of where the organisation is now, where it wants to be, the plans it has for moving there and, crucially, can be used to ensure the organisation actually gets there.  It can do this by analysing information and then providing the insights, as stakeholder specific views, that highlight potential pitfalls and areas of opportunity and allowing these to be used to aid decision making and ensure the strategic plans are achieved.

We are always keen to hear your views, please let us know if you have any comments.

Why are you giving Essential away free?

This question commonly pops up when we discuss Essential, either with our community, analysts or people in the EA business generally.  I think, in many cases, the underlying question is ‘is Essential any good if you are giving it away for free?’.  Well, based upon our experience in applying it as well as feedback from customers and Essential Project community members, we think so, but I still think it is worth explaining our rationale.

Essential began life as something we needed to support us in our early client engagements back in 2000/2001.  Initially we created a meta model to support our EA work and either implemented it in client’s existing tools or, where there was no tool, we tried implementing it using UML (Rational Rose).   We found that often, although better than PowerPoint or Excel which tends to end up as shelf ware, neither of these implementation approaches really gave our clients what they needed and so we looked to develop our own tool, around 2006. 

We were still not thinking of developing a tool as a commercial offering, we simply wanted something that would make our lives as EA consultants easier.  We also felt strongly that the true value of an EA repository was beyond purely documentation.  We wanted something to allow us to interrogate the EA ‘knowledge’, to allow us to make the valuable insights that make EA essential to an organisation, and this didn’t exist at that time in most EA tools – and especially not in organisations that had no tool at all!  Luckily for us, we stumbled upon Protégé, an ontology editor and knowledge-based framework developed by Stanford University (many thanks go out to them by the way), whilst actually looking at a different area of EA capability, and found that this met our needs completely, saving us much time and, I’m guessing, considerable heartache! 

So, Essential was born and it has served us well in many client engagements.  In fact we often found ourselves implementing it alongside traditional EA tools where the client had a need that the incumbent tool could not support without considerable time and money, but that Essential could support quite easily.  Also, when engagements came to an end, most organisations were able to keep Essential up and running to continue to provide value, be it a consolidated view of applications and their links to processes, or as a simple technology standards catalogue etc.  During this time we enhanced the tool and came to realise that, without really planning to, we had developed an EA tool that was not only easy to use and reliable, but that took a different approach to most other EA tools, moving away from the traditional documentation based approach to a more leading edge knowledge representation approach which suited our needs and the needs of our clients.

It was at this time that we came up with the idea of launching Essential as a free, open source EA tool for a number of reasons:-

  • The objective of Essential was never really to directly compete with commercial EA tools.
  • We had seen the value of it in our own engagements and we could see that others would find it equally useful, especially organisations that:-
    • were at the beginning of their EA journey and could not cost justify the expense of a commercial tool
    • did not yet understand the requirements of a tool, but that had a lot of information that they could capture that would provide vital decision support if only they could interrogate it.
    • were unlikely to ever have the budget to cost justify the licensing fees associated with commercial EA tools, but that could definitely benefit from the decision support it offers.
  • We felt that there was an opportunity to develop the tool (requirements and actual software contributions) in collaboration with a broader EA community.  
  • There were no English-language open source tools available at that time.

But obviously EAS is a business, we didn’t do this solely to benefit the EA community!  The commercial opportunity for us was in providing services that would help organisations take full advantage of the tool (EA capability development) as well as raising our profile to the general EA community and potential customers.  

So, to summarise, we couldn’t find a tool to meet our needs, so we developed our own based on our principles and philosophy towards EA (taking what we believed to be an novel approach) and launched it as a free, open source tool.
As a result we hope to:

  • Aid those that may not yet, or ever, be in a position to justify buying a commercial EA tool
  • Give the EA Community the opportunity to contribute their requirements, and extensions (if they so desire)
  • Not just tell, but show everyone what EAS as an organisation is all about

Review of 2010

It’s the end of the first full year of operation for Essential and ‘every day and in every way, it’s getting better and better’ – sorry, couldn’t resist a bit of plagiarism from the Pink Panther film I watched last night!

Back to the review of 2010…..

For Essential, 2010 built on the success of 2009 with almost 3,500 downloads of the toolkit, some 17,500 unique visitors from across a wide range of geographic locations from the UK and Europe across the US and Canada to Australia and India, really a worldwide reach.  The total number of times the toolkit has been downloaded since launch is now around the 6,000 mark.  We are delighted that the community is now really starting to take off; with around 1200 members we are beginning to see an active forum with ideas and suggestions as well as queries, and members starting to post answers to queries from other members, which is great.  Essential has also been noticed by all the major analyst firms with positive written reviews and mentions at various conferences, again, all good news.

Away from Essential, and looking at EA in general, the year has been a mixed one.  Obviously the recession had taken its toll on budgets and whilst some forward thinking organisations were looking to their EA teams to lead the way into the future, others had followed the more traditional route of cuts. However, although it looked like 2010 might just be the year of the recovery – the squeezing of government spend, particularly across Europe, will surely have a significant effect on the public sector and their EA initiatives.  This is possibly one of the reasons that Essential has been so successful, organisations around the world are really needing to make the most of the budget they have available and a decent, free tool is too good an opportunity to ignore.

In the more general world of Enterprise Architecture we have noticed a number of areas being discussed, perhaps more than others.  In terms of activities, there have been two that have been mentioned many times, one looking at application portfolio rationalisation and cost savings and one looking at the role of business architecture in EA.

The first is always a popular route in for an organisation new to EA – display some decent cost savings in a short time period and you will get people’s attention and, hopefully, the buy-in and visibility to move onwards and upwards with your EA; especially applicable in these times.

The second, music to my ears!  As a business architect I have long been frustrated by the IT tag that EA has had and the prominence of the application and technology layers.  It has always been my belief that the business has to be an integral part of the EA and so I was delighted to see so much discussion at conferences and in blogs and discussion threads about the importance of business capabilities, understanding the business strategy and ensuring this is linked into the EA.  This has to be a good thing and I will be happy when all EA teams are sitting under the CIO and not the CTO – although I accept this may not be in 2011?

Looking at EA trends, it has been suggested that specific frameworks will become less important as organisations become more fluid.  That is not to say that EA does not need structure, just that there will be less reliance on being aligned to one particular framework.  We also noticed that TOGAF seems to be rising in prominence since the launch of TOGAF9, partly, I suspect, as it focuses more on the business than the previous versions – although it is still not business focused enough in my opinion…

In terms of tools, there was much discussion about a ‘new generation of tools’ that would support more mature EA objectives such as strategic planning, IT road mapping and risk management.  This would be a move away from the objective of some of the current tools, which is simply to provide documentation support.  There was also some discussion about the use of ontology’s in EA Tools.  Both of these are areas of particular interest to us.  We think we have the most advanced use of an EA ontology in an available tool at present – and thanks to all those who have championed us in various blogs! From our perspective, the main value of an EA tool is not purely in modelling but of being able to interrogate the information that has been captured in the model to aid decision-making.

All in all an interesting year, and one that leaves us looking forward to 2011 when we have a number of exiting events planned.  Our first training course will take place in January, to enlarge the EAS network of Essential trained affiliates, and we have two major releases planned.  Firstly the Strategy Management piece has just been released in late December and secondly a complete update to the information and data layer is nearing completion and will be released early in the New Year.  Keep your eye on the site for these as they move the capabilities of Essential Architecture Manager on a good deal.  And finally an apology for all those that signed up for the webinar last year, we had to move this down our list of priorities as we simply ran out of available bandwidth to complete it in time.  We hope to be able to pick this up in 2011 once the training and the release of the update packs are completed.

All that’s left to say is thank you all for your support, have a very Happy Christmas and we look forward to collaborating with you in 2011!

Essential Webinar Poll

We are considering our next steps for The Essential Toolkit, for example which extensions and upgrades should we concentrate on, and also for The Essential Project, for example should we concentrate on providing training, and if so in what form, community involvement etc.  We thought that a webinar might be a good idea to allow us to get the views from the community rather than us trying to best guest what is required.

Sometime ago we published a roadmap showing the key areas of development for Essential and our current idea of the requirements within each, however, it is not the intention to use this as a detailed plan, rather as an area where ideas and requirements are logged.  We would like the community to be key in adding to the requirements and setting the priorities for completion.  We have already completed a number of these, but we would now like your feedback in adding to the requirements and then prioritising them.

We are in the process of defining an accreditation process, the intention being to make it easier for users who want some external support to ensure that they are getting it from a source that has Essential expertise.  However, it has always been in our plans to offer some form of training on Essential and, again, we would love your feedback on the kind of training you would find useful.  For example, should the training address a specific architecture capability, such as ‘how to use Essential to manage the complexity and cost efficiency of my application portfolio’ or ‘How to use Essential to define my strategic IT architecture and create a transition plan’?  Or should we concentrate on a particular architecture layer, for example, giving a detailed understanding of the application architecture layer?   How would you like to receive the training, for example, onsite or offsite training courses, downloadable training packs, webinar courses etc?  There are numerous options and we want to ensure that we deliver what most suits your needs.

Additionally, we would love to hear what you have been using Essential for over the last year.  Your successes and also the issues and problems you have encountered, and we think an Essential Project webinar would be a great opportunity to do this.  We’re not looking for specific installation or technical issues, but a view of where Essential is providing value and areas that we need to concentrate on to ensure that it continues to add value in the coming years.  To that end, in addition to us presenting our roadmap and training thoughts, it would be great if a number of community members would be willing to speak about how they are using Essential, successes they have had and issues they have encountered, as well as any updates/extensions that they would like to see to make their lives easier.

For now, what we would really like to know is whether an Essential webinar would be of interest to you, whether you would like to attend such an event and whether you would be prepared to share your experiences with us and the community.  If you could spend a few seconds completing the poll on the left of the homepage it would be much appreciated.