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.

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.

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.

It’s our First Birthday!

It has been one year since we launched Essential.  We are delighted with the success of the project to date and thought we would share some of our successes with you, our Community.

To date there have been almost 3,000 downloads of the tool, with a steady monthly rate of approximately 240 downloads per month!  We released an update pack in November, which has been downloaded over 250 times, so we know that some, but not all of you, are keeping track of the updates.  The website receives over 2,500 visits each month, and approximately 600 of these are active users, those that visit on a regular basis.  We take this to mean that we have approximately 600 organisations that are using Essential Architecture Manager as their tool of choice, which we think is a real endorsement of not only the tool, but our free, open source approach.

Hopefully you will be aware that we have not been idle in our first year, and, at the request of you, the community, we have issued five updates via the ECP (Essential Community Process).  Most of these support modelling in the Business Layer, which gives us an indication of where most use is being made of Essential:-

  • ECP1 – Capturing License Models
  • ECP2 – Capturing Organisation Policy and Compliance
  • ECP3 – Links to External References
  • ECP4 – Strategy Management
  • ECP5 – Skills Modelling in the Business Layer

In addition to the ECP’s, we released a number of updates to make Essential easier to use, some initiated by us and some, again, by you the community:-

  • Essential Installer – a wizard based installer that simplifies the installation process, performing all the unpacking and installation of the Essential Project software components for both stand-alone and multi-user installations
  • Essential Integration Tab – an easy to use means of providing source-data import and integration capabilities.
  • Graphical Models in Reports – version 1.3 included snapshots of the graphical models defined in the Protégé modelling environment to be published to the Essential Viewer
  • Demo Video
  • Sample Repositories
  • Pictorial Representation of the Meta Model

Another exciting development for us was receiving our first contributions from the Community; a Visio Export Tool, Import Scripts and an Enhancement to the Essential Viewer.  We hope that these will be the start of many more contributions over the next year as input from the Community grows.  And on a related note, it’s exciting to see that members of the Community have created and are sharing a patch for Protégé to make it work with Oracle as the database backend.

We are delighted that, after just one year, Essential appears to be making a real contribution to the life of many Enterprise Architects in many organisations, from large global corporations, government agencies and education establishments to smaller local companies, as evidenced by discussions on the forums and direct communications we have received.

Our aim for the next year is to continue to grow the Essential Project Community, to encourage you, the community members, to actively participate in discussions and debates surrounding the tool and Enterprise Architecture in general, and to enhance Essential Architecture Manager driven by your needs.

If you feel you have anything to contribute, be it software for the tool, advice about your use of Essential, successes and failures or information regarding EA in general, please make these available to all in the Community via the forums or blogs.

The Essential Community Process (ECP)

We have a number of enhancements to the Essential Project currently going through the Essential Community Process, so we thought it would be worth a quick re-visit of the process and the enhancements we are working on.

We are keen that enhancements to Essential are in line with what is required by the community, and that these include enhancements both requested and contributed by the community.

The Essential Project Team will provide governance of the Essential Project Tools and co-ordinate requests for enhancements, taking other similar requests into account before designing and delivering them.

Likewise, contributions of completed components, e.g. a new analysis report or meta model extension, can be shared by contributors through the Essential Project website. When a meta model extension is received, the Team will produce the update pack to make it simple for other community members to introduce the extension to their Essential installation.

We feel that requests for additional capabilities (modelling, reporting or software extensions) should be developed with the community to make sure that as many different perspectives on the same requirement are considered. The ECP has been designed to bring a sense of order to how the contribution process works.


What is the ECP?

The Essential Community Process (or ECP) is about capturing requirements and reviewing the proposed solution with as wide a group as possible. Although in many cases (especially in the early stages of the Project) the Essential Project Team will be the ones developing the solution, the process does not assume this – it could be any member of the community.

The process can be iterative and will operate as follows:
•    Request
•    Discuss and gather further requirements from community
•    Design proposed solution
•    Circulate to the community for defined period of time
•    Implement
•    Test within the community
•    Review tests and approve
•    Release update

Clearly there’s a balance to strike between taking a controlled approach and the time it takes to produce the answer to the request, and we will ensure that the time taken is proportionate to the scope and complexity of the requirement being met (in some cases, perhaps only days).

We have already completed an extension to allow capture of software licenses (ECP – 1) using this process, which is available as a candidate release for download via the Share option in Community.

We have another two extensions currently in progress:-
•    ECP – 2 – to provide a capability for capturing and modelling Organisational Policies and Compliance
and
•    ECP 3 – which is split into two parts – ECP 3.1 and ECP 3.2  and introduces the capability to capture references to external documentation for any element in the repository.

If you have any thoughts on requirements that you have in these areas, or any other suggestions for enhancements, please let us know by taking part in the Essential Project Enhancements and Extensions forum.

1,000 downloads achieved!

The 1,000th download of The Essential Project was achieved a couple of weeks ago, just 4 months after launch!

Reaching the 1,000 downloads so quickly has confirmed that there is a huge demand for a new breed of enterprise architecture tool, and we believe that the free, open source licensing approach we’ve taken is at the forefront of this demand, enabling SME’s as well as large global organisations to reap the benefits of enterprise architecture.

We’re also delighted in the continuing growth of the Essential Project Community, with members hailing from all over the globe and from any number of market sectors, ranging from Academia and Government Agencies to Financial Services and Healthcare.  Judging by the diverse nature of the community forum discussions, use of the tool is also wide ranging: from supporting initiatives focused on managing application and technology architecture to more business and information architecture focused activities.

Our hope on launch was that the website would grow to provide a community where ideas, successes and failures could be shared, both in the use of and extensions to The Essential Project and on Enterprise Architecture in general.  The figures to date would suggest that this is beginning to happen, and we thank you all for your interest in the project and hope that the site and the tools are proving useful to you.

As always, we welcome any help people are willing to offer to further discussions/requirements on the Essential Project forums, or with developing the Essential Project meta-model and enterprise architecture management tools.

Training in the Essential Project

We’ve been asked several times about training.  Obviously training can cover a broad range of topics.  In considering what type of training we might offer, we have thought about what would be useful to the people that are using, or will be using, the Essential Architecture Manager and tried to stick to our aim of offering things that are effective and add value.

We don’t think we should offer training that covers best practices in Enterprise Architecture or modelling techniques, but short courses, with a hands-on practical approach, that show how to use the Essential Project tools to achieve specific business goals, with clear value.  We’ve had a quick brainstorm of ideas based on what people have asked for and where we see Essential delivering value in the current economic climate.  The courses we think would be of use are:-
1.    Business Operating Model Planning and Control
2.    Application Portfolio Management
3.    Technology Infrastructure Management
4.    Managing Project Architecture Dependencies within Programmes
5.    Strategic Enterprise Architecture Definition and Transition Planning
6.    Essential Viewer Custom Report Development
7.    Essential Architecture Manager Administration

We think these would be 1 or 2 day courses, with a clear business case for each course to help justify the training costs.

We are keen to gauge interest in training, both in the types of courses that we have identified and also in the delivery method and location.  Are the courses the right ones or are there others we should be looking to deliver?  What would be useful?  If you think we’ve got it wrong or can give us more details on your views, please feel free to add a comment to this blog.

Thanks in advance for taking the time to do this.

Developing The Essential Project Through Community

One of the main hopes we had for the project when we launched was that the community of Essential users would become part of the development process for the project. In this blog, I explain how you can contribute.

Developing The Essential Project Through Community

It’s only been just over a month since we launched the Essential Project and we’re very pleased and excited in the response. One of the main hopes we had for the project when we launched was that the community of Essential users would become part of the development process for the project. Already we’ve had some some very interesting requests, through the forums, for things that we haven’t encountered before but can handle through small extensions to the Essential Meta Model and Essential Viewer reports.

Why Contribute?

As the Essential Project tools are open-source, anyone is free to make any extensions that they require. We are very keen that as many extensions as possible are put back into the Project and shared with the community – to help make sure that the Essential Project has the coverage that is required.

By contributing your extensions and enhancements back to the Project, it not only drives the Project forward but means that any extensions that you need will be brought into and managed by the Project as it moves forward.

How will this work?

Obviously, we will need some sense of order to how the contribution process works. The Essential Project Team provide governance of the Essential Meta Model and co-ordinate requests for enhancements, taking other similar requests into account before designing and delivering them. Likewise, contributions of completed components, e.g. a new analysis report or meta model extension, can be shared by contributors through the Essential Project website. When a meta model extension is received, the Team will produce the update pack to make it simple for other community members to introduce the extension to their Essential installation.

However, we are really keen that requests for additional capabilities (modelling, reporting or software extensions) are developed with the community to make sure that as many different perspectives on the same requirement are considered. To make this work, we would like to operate a process in the spirit of the approach taken for the Java Community Process and run this via the forums, in the Enhancements and Suggestions forum.

What is the process?

The main thrust of the process – called the Essential Community Process (or ECP) is about capturing requirements and reviewing the proposed solution with as wide a group as possible. Although in many cases (especially in the early stages of the Project) the Essential Project Team will be the ones developing the solution, the process does not assume this  – it could be any member of the community.

The process can be iterative and will operate as follows:

  • Request
  • Discuss and gather further requirements from community
  • Design proposed solution
  • Circulate to the community for defined period of time
  • Implement
  • Test within the community
  • Review tests and approve
  • Release update

Responsive

Clearly there’s a balance to strike between taking a controlled approach and the time it takes to produce the answer to the request. However, I think that we should be able to run the process such that the time taken is proportionate to the scope and complexity of the requirement being met (in some cases, perhaps only days). The important thing is to open up the gathering of requirements, design and testing activities to the community while making sure that the results fit in with the overall Essential Meta Model, can be taken forward and are easily shared.

We’re already looking at how we should capture software (or any other) licensing models and instances of these models, and we’d like to know more about requirements for organisation policy and compliance. If you have any thoughts on any requirements that you have in these areas, please let us know by taking part in this forum.