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.

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.

Essential Cloud – Available Now

Today marks a step change in the life of The Essential Project as we move to Public Preview of Essential Cloud, the final step before General Release. A cloud offering has been at the top of the Essential Community request list for some time and we have combined the best of the Essential Project with a cloud based service to provide additional enterprise capabilities. As well as all the benefits of Essential Open Source, Essential Cloud offers a comprehensive security interface covering both the instances in the repository and the viewer, a user-friendly, browser-based data capture interface extended to include tablet and mobile access, an enhanced viewer environment and single sign-on support via SAML. As this is a cloud service, technical support is automatically included as are platform updates, to ensure that you can keep up with the latest Essential developments with none of the hassle.

In line with our focus on value, Essential Cloud will be a low-cost option, with an annual subscription covering access to both the modeller and the viewer for unlimited users. We are not utilising a seat-based license model as the feedback from the Essential Community and our clients is that the key to an effective architecture initiative, one that provides value to the business, is to enable the users to own and update key aspects of the architecture, i.e. those areas that do not require modelling expertise, such as dates, ownership, governance models and so on. This spreads the load of keeping organisational information up to date and enables architects to focus on business value rather than being distracted with managing routine updates. A seat-based license model does not fit with this approach as the costs quickly become prohibitive; we would rather an organisation’s investment in EA is used to build out their architecture than pay for licenses.

To support this new model further, we are working with our user groups to design new data capture mechanisms that will provide business users with easy access and enable them to update information without having to understand the detail of the meta model or architecture modelling techniques. We already have some early prototypes, and we see this as an important way of enabling EA to continue to provide value to the business.

This is an exciting step in the broadening of the Essential platform, but we do want to assure you that we remain fully committed to Essential Open Source. This will continue to evolve in parallel with Essential Cloud and, crucially, the meta model will remain shared so both platforms will benefit from all advancements as well as the ability to move easily between Cloud and Open Source. Going forward we see the Essential Community consisting of both Open Source and Cloud users. We greatly value the contribution made by the community and we will continue to look to them to help us evolve the Essential proposition to ensure it remains at the forefront of knowledge driven decision support.

We have created an overview video showing Essential Cloud’s capabilities and we will also be holding a series of Webex’s where we will provide a demonstration of Essential Cloud and hold a Q&A session.

If you are interested in the Webex or Public Preview sign up here.

The Public Preview benefits are, of course, in addition to the existing benefits that are provided across both Essential Cloud and Open source:

  • Over 100 out of the box views focused on analysis, road mapping and decision making
  • Ontology based meta model for an entire organisation, with the ability to support other EA Frameworks
  • Import and export of data via unique excel import utility, with fast start view loaders, and APIs to integrate with existing data sources
  • Access to business focused lenses providing dedicated support for key areas such as Application Portfolio Management, Data Management, Strategic Resource Optimisation

If you are new to Essential then, Essential Cloud aside, one of our most exciting recent developments is the addition of add-on business focused lenses.

The lenses have been in our mind since 2010 when Jon Carter wrote a blog titled ‘Welcome to the View Store’, suggesting the concept of an app store for Essential. We were staggered by the interest and up take of Essential and so our early focus was on developing the tool functionality, but now we have made our earlier vision a reality.  Our business outcome focused lenses consist of a series of dashboards and views that respond to specific business problems, supported by everything you need to light up the views – data capture spreadsheets, import specifications, process documentation and videos.

The lenses have provided an ideal means for us to partner with organisations outside of the usual EA arena, allowing us to extend the use of Essential to cover different aspects of an organisation. For example, we have partnered with a strategic resource specialist to create a strategic resource optimisation lens which enables organisations to ensure they have the right staffing resources in place to meet the future demands of the business, such as the skills to enable digital business expansion. We have a couple of packs on offer now: Application Portfolio Management and Strategic Resource Management, and we will be expanding the offering shortly to include Data Management, and then, over time, we plan to move into many additional areas such as M&A, Outsourcing Support, Financial Regulations, etc.

We also have a set of low-cost View Loaders that provide the templates to do bulk data capture into Essential Cloud or Open Source. So, if you want to get bulk data into Essential quickly, the loaders can speed this up.

If you would like to develop your own pack to put on the view store, or talk to us about an idea for joint development of a pack, please contact us.

IRM UK EA Conference – Outsourcing and EA

I presented a session on Outsourcing and EA at the IRM EA conference last week; specifically how, as Enterprise Architects, we are in a prime position to ensure that outsourcing deals are both created and run effectively as we are in the unique position of having the knowledge and understanding of both the business and IT across the entire enterprise.  We likened EA’s to the Spartans in the battle of Thermopylae who held off an army of (allegedly) a million men for seven days with only 300 warriors – primarily because they understood and had a map of the landscape.  (Unfortunately they were betrayed and slaughtered after a week – hopefully the analogy doesn’t stretch that far!).

Research by both Gartner and AT Kearney suggests that around 1/3rd of outsource initiatives fail.  We discussed how use of our architecture knowledge and artefacts can mitigate the risks of failure and how EA can be used to bring greater success.  We touched on our work to help organisations use EA and Essential together to reduce the outsource transition time (from idea to completed transition to a new provider) from a typical 18-24 months to 6-9 months, which addresses a key concern raised by the FCA.  We showed some examples of how Essential has been used to support such initiatives across a number of organisations.

The conference itself was very interesting and it seems to me that EA is really coming of age – there were many talks showing how EA is used in organisations to provide real and concrete benefit to senior managers.

If you would like a copy of the presentation then drop me an e-mail at the info at e-asolutions.com address.

Surf’s up! Essential catches the Forrester Wave™

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.

The Clash between Enterprise Architecture and Project Management

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.

Version 3.0 – it’s here!

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.

The Essential Roadmap

We’ve been kinda quiet on this blog since the summer, not because we all took the autumn off, but because we’ve been working feverishly behind the scenes reviewing the Essential roadmap and preparing a major new release which we are planning to make available early in 2012.

We will be releasing Essential Architecture Manager v3, which includes new versions of the meta model, the software platform and the viewer as well as updated training modules – I did say we’d been busy!

The roadmap below gives you a taster of what is in v3 and what we are planning beyond this (click on the roadmap to view a larger image):-

There’s a lot of new and, we think, exciting stuff in here.  We will include full details when we release it, but to whet your appetite ………….

The Strategy Management area has been completely overhauled to provide support for defining and managing Architecture States (current and future – by layer or strategic project as required) and for defining and managing architectural roadmaps, with milestones and timelines, to demonstrate how the organisation will move from one architectural state to another with supporting Strategic Plans.  In addition the Change Management area has been updated to allow change programmes, projects and activities to be defined which detail the strategic plans that will deliver the roadmap transitions.

An example Roadmap view:-

Information quality and security are key to any organisation and, due to much demand, we have enhanced both areas.  Data Standards Management now provides the ability to manage Data Quality across the organisation, whilst Security Management allows an organisation to define its Security Architecture and its relationship to the resources in the organisation.  In addition to the usual application of these areas, we have been able to resolve other issues for organisations, such as providing the required regulatory views for movement of data across country borders, with a long term solution that is quick and easy to implement by simply adding to the information artefacts already captured.

Some example Data Management and Security views:-

There are also a number of other smaller additions to the meta model which provide benefit across the repository as a whole, for example, Data Governance (a peer of Data Standards Management in Data Management); Taxonomy (enabling user-defined classifications to be applied to any element); Geography (for including geographical location information with elements such as Site) and Synonym (for any element in the model).

We are always looking at how we can provide more benefit and we have developed a new and innovative solution to help organisations get information into the repository as quickly and efficiently as possible, in support of our view that capturing the data is the means to the end (views/reports/analysis of the information) rather than the end itself.  We have developed a Spreadsheet Export and Import facility which allows the user to define a spreadsheet from within Essential, incorporating a series of worksheets and including data from the existing repository if required.  This is then exported to excel and allows almost anyone within the organisation to capture the required information by simply filling in the spreadsheet; no modelling knowledge is required for this task.  The information in the spreadsheet is then imported directly into Essential, populating the repository and creating the required links and relationships between the captured artefacts.  This is not only quick,  it also allows the data capture to be completed by more and cheaper resources; the person with the EA knowledge is then freed up to concentrate on the important tasks.

We’ve be using this in beta for a few months,and it is proving hugely effective at capturing large amounts of quality data quickly.

 

All the existing training modules have been updated to take account of v3 and new modules have been created for the new areas, all of which are now readily available.

Finally, you have probably noticed from the screenshots that we also have a brand new Essential Viewer. We’ve taken the time to think about what users, especially business users, really want from the reports  and have created a look and feel that’s clean, friendly and focused. It also features active filters to show or hide elements on a page which we think are a great way to simplify the content on a page without building a whole new view. There are also some less obvious but powerful features such as dynamic linking. We’ve always been proud of the ability to navigate the architecture – moving up, down and across to discover more about your organisation – but previously each link only ever went to one place. In future, any link on a page can be configured to access any number of relevant views. For example, clicking on a Data Subject can take you to a Data Subject Summary, a Data Subject to Role matrix, a Data Subject to Application Matrix, etc. There’s nothing to learn, no training required, you click on a link and click where you want to go. It’s powerful and effortless.  For those who develop their own views, you can easily take advantage of this with just a few extra lines in your code. We’ve also developed a whole new CSS framework for Essential Viewer that helps you build great looking views for you organisation quickly. Finally, we know how important it is for these tools to feel like part of your own organisation and we have provided the ability to re-brand the viewer. You can add your own logos, colour schemes, fonts and portal name. This kind of branding used to take a lot of effort but now can be achieved extremely quickly. And of course, you can use the new viewer on your iPad or iPhone…

As always, these changes are driven by our clients and community, as are the next Essential developments.  We are always keen to hear your views and suggestions, please feel free to comment.

 

Essential Affiliate Training Course

EAS, sponsors of the Essential project, recently held its first Essential training course for people looking to become affiliates of EAS, specialising in Essential. The delegates were from a wide range of geographical locations and so web based training seemed like the obvious format, to allow everyone to attend without incurring prohibitive travel and accommodation fees. There was some concern over the format as, although we’ve completed many different class room based courses and webinars over the years, we have not been involved in a full five day web based training course, either as presenters or delegates. We decided to split the five day course over a three week period as we had a gut feeling that five days of online training on the trot could prove difficult in terms of concentration and focus. I’m pleased to say that this format worked well and that the course was a resounding success!

Delegates commented that the web based format did not actually seem very different to being in a classroom. The sound was clear and the screen sharing not only allowed delegates to see the presenters screen for slides and demo’s, but also allowed them to share their own screen when completing exercises, if there were things they wanted to discuss or point out. They also found that it was just as easy to ask questions or have a discussion during the web training as it is in a classroom. As a trainer it did at times feel a bit odd – rather like you are talking to yourself! However, the course is designed to be interactive, with discussion points and exercises, so there wasn’t much time of just trainer talk, which is crucial in any training environment, but especially over the web!

The course covered all layers of the architecture and meta model, with the focus being on understanding the details of the meta model, our interpretation of EA and how we use Essential to support that. There is a lot of material and concepts to cover in a relatively short time, and so the delegates were pushed quite hard. They found that the split of the course over three weeks not only helped with their geographic location and availability, but it also proved extremely useful as it gave the time to fully digest the materials and contextualise the content to their own individual situations before moving on.

The feedback was very positive, both in terms of the quality of the training and also relating to the attendees views of Essential. The affiliates (as they are now) found that the course brought Essential to life and they were very impressed with its capabilities, particularly in the new information layer – which will be released shortly.

We are now advertising for our next Affiliate training course, which should take place in June/July and will again be web based. If you are interested we’d love to hear from you.

Of course training is not just for affiliates. If you are an organisation that has been using Essential, or if you’re new to it, you might find that a little training goes a long way in helping you and your team get up to speed with Essential and push your architecture efforts forward at a faster pace. If you are interested in receiving information on Essential training, please complete the Training Enquiry form.

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