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.

Essential Launchpad V2

The Essential Launchpad has been very well received by our community and so we have taken the opportunity to extend it into the technology layer and populate a couple of new views that we think are key.

The IT Asset Dashboard gives a high-level view across an organisation from the business, through the application layer and right down to technologies used, highlighting use, duplication and legacy risk.

The Application Footprint Comparison view allows you to compare the footprint of two application across your business, so you can see which services are provided by which applications in support of business capabilities.

The standard technology catalogues and summaries are also populated across the technology layer.

There are some additional worksheets in the spreadsheet and an EUP (Essential Update Pack) to apply.  Just contact us here if you are interested and we will send you a zip file that contains everything you need.

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.

View Documentation

In response to popular demand we’ve started to create videos to demonstrate how to populate the views.  We’re working through the most popular views, ignoring those where there is an existing view manual as, although not quite as elegant as the videos, documentation does exist.  We’ve created a video and a meta model diagram for each – most will be demonstrated in Essential Cloud, with some on Essential Open Source, but please note that as the meta model and views are shared they can be used interchangeably.  The videos can be found here.

It may take a little while to do them all as there are over 120 now, however, if you would like us to prioritise a particular view, just let us know and we will push it up the list.

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.

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.


Welcome to the ‘View Store’

Our approach to Views in Essential Architecture Manager is the same as Apple’s approach to apps for the iPhone / iPad. Essential Viewer provides a platform for you to easily assemble the views that you need.

It occurred to me recently that our approach to Essential Viewer, and the Views in particular, is just like what Apple have done with the iPhone / iPad and the Apps.

Where Apple were particularly disruptive in the smart-phone market was their approach to the Apps. Yes, they provided a number of useful Apps with the iPhone, but by providing a platform for people to create their own Apps backed by the App Store where these Apps can be shared, they totally changed the game of what it was to be a smart-phone.

In contrast, the established manufacturers had been creating smart-phones and all the ‘apps’ that you might want for them and it was difficult (compared to iPhone) to get additional applications for your phone. Even with Symbian-based devices, which of course is an open-source mobile device platform, it appeared to be harder for people to create their own applications, when we compare those to the sheer volume of 3rd party Apps that are available for iPhone.

Clearly Apple had the benefit of many years of early-adopter hindsight as to what does and what does not work on smart phones. However, I think that when they combined the open (if somewhat governed) platform with the infrastructure to easily acquire Apps and an innovative approach to what it was to be an App, then it all came together. Most Apps are very focussed on specific tasks and can therefore be small, easy to develop and easy to maintain and so if the App doesn’t do what someone needs, rather than extend it and bloat, they create a new App that just does that new function.

This is very analogous to the approach that we have taken with the Essential Viewer and the Views. I’m not sure that describing the Viewer as a toolkit (as I did until recently!) does it justice. The Viewer is a platform that enables focussed, often small and lightweight, Views to be rapidly assembled to meet the specific requirements that you have for presenting analysis, decision support, insights etc. about your architecture in a way that is clear and makes sense to your stakeholders.

Typically, we find that ‘architects’ Views do not make the impact you would expect on business users. We need different Views for different stakeholders.

Like Apple’s approach with the Apps (compared to the established manufacturers), rather than try to build and deliver all the Views that our Community could possibly want, The Essential Project provides the platform for you to assemble your own Views using standard web-development tools of your choice, based on HTML and XML/XSL.

Of course, we will continue to produce Views that will be included in the growing suite that is bundled with the Essential Viewer. But, we don’t want to be holding any one back in terms of their View requirements! One of the founding principles of The Essential Project is that it’s about providing capability.

Continuing the iPhone App analogy, we want the Community area of the Essential Project website to be the ‘View Store’. We’ve had some great contributions on the software components side and the goal is that members of the Essential Community can share, contribute and download new Views via this website.

We’re always looking at how we can improve the Viewer platform to make it easier to assemble views. We are increasingly finding that we’re creating little template components that do specific tasks (e.g. render the name of an element when given its Instance ID) and I think that such View components would also be very valuable when shared in the ‘View Store’.

So, if the Views are Apps, the Essential Viewer is an iPhone or iPad, then the Essential Project Community website is the App Store.

Happy View building!

Do I have to use Tomcat to use Essential?

The Essential Project takes advantage of a number of free, open-source components, including Apache Tomcat. However, do you have to use Tomcat to use Essential Architecture Manager?

This is a question that we realise potential users of the Essential Project tools are asking. In particular when the architecture team has spent many years trying to get to grips with technology diversity, it can be somewhat embarrassing – or even not an option – to have to go off-piste to use an enterprise architecture management tool!

The simple answer to this question is, however, “no”.

You do not have to use Apache Tomcat to use Essential Architecture Manager.

From the outset, we designed the Essential Architecture Manager software so that it can run on any platform – both operating system and application server – to provide as much flexibility in the prerequisites as possible. This means that Essential can fit into as many existing technology architectures as possible, taking advantage of existing technology platforms wherever possible.

The same question can be posed to the choice of relational database software for multi-user installations. Again, as we can see from the software architecture model, where a range of JDBC-compliant databases can be used, Essential can fit into your existing technology architecture, taking advantage of your standard database platform.

Essential Architecture Manager Software Architecture
Essential Architecture Manager Software Architecture

If I don’t have to use Apache Tomcat, what else can I use?

You can use any Java Servlet engine or J2EE application server as the runtime platform for Essential Viewer, which is packaged as a standard Java WAR file. This gives you the freedom to deploy and run Essential Viewer on a range of application servers such as Oracle AS, IBM WebSphere or JBoss.

Since the Essential Project is a free, open-source toolset, we have focussed on application servers and database platforms that are also available free and open-source. The available documentation covers these free platforms as we find that most of our users – certainly the initial stages of using Essential – use these platforms. However, in the spirit of open-source and applying this to our documentation we would welcome any documentation contributions from users who have experience to share about deploying the Essential Viewer WAR to alternative Java application servers.

What about the installer?

The Essential Project takes advantage of a number of other open-source toolkits and the installation process involves adding plugins or components to these other open source tools, e.g. Protege and Tomcat. The first releases of Essential did not include an automated installer but we provided detailed documentation for the installation process – including troubleshooting – and this documentation is applicable to other Java application servers.

In order to make the installation process as simple as possible, the automated installer checks the locations of the Protege and Application Server that you specify to help ensure that the Essential components are being installed in the correct places. Although the installer does not assume that Tomcat is being used (despite the messages on the installer windows!), it does assume that the target application server holds its web applications in a folder called ‘webapps’ – which is what Tomcat does.

This means that if the installer cannot find a folder called webapps in the location that you’ve specified for the Application Server, the installer will not proceed.

It is not really practical to cover all the variations of Application Server deployment approaches, so currently a work-around for anyone who is not using Tomcat is to create a ‘webapps’ folder in your Application Server and install the Essential Viewer WAR to there.

Perhaps the other approach is to relax the error-checking in the installer and allow the Essential Viewer WAR to be installed to any folder on the target environment? This places more responsibility on the user of the installer to install the WAR to the correct location but also provides them with more flexibility.

Either way, if you have any problems installing any of the Essential Project components, please contact us. Free support is always available through the forums.

I would be very interested to hear any views on the how to strike this balance in the installer.

Getting the Graphical Views

Modelling in Essential Architecture Manager is focused on capturing knowledge rather than drawing diagrams. However, graphical views can bring a lot of value. Here, we explore new graphical capabilities of EAM.

A couple of months ago, in my blog article ‘Where have all the graphical models gone?‘ I described our approach to capturing knowledge about the enterprise using the forms in Protege rather than drawing diagrams. However, as the saying goes, a picture speaks a thousand words, so I would now like to highlight some new graphical features that are now available in Essential Architecture Manager and to explore some more of the background to our approach to capturing knowledge.

In Essential Architecture Manager, many of the elements that we capture are modelled so that they have a Definition of what the element is. This is then elaborated by an Architecture that describes how that element is composed. A useful way to think about this is that we black-box every element. The Definition is what we see on the outside of the box. We can still use that element in the overall model even if we know nothing more about how it works or how it is composed. However, if we do know more about the element – or we find out the details later on – we can then open the black-box and describe the Architecture, which tells us how the element is composed or how it works.

In fact, the Definition-Architecture approach means that we can define multiple architectures for an element. e.g. an Application Service or Application Provider can have both a Static Architecture and a Dynamic Architecture. It’s certainly more manageable to be able to separate these.

The Definitions are very naturally captured using the standard forms in Protege. We need to capture textual descriptions, relate the element directly to other elements in the model and so on. All of which is very productive, quick and straight-forward using the forms. This is why much of the input in Essential is form based.

In contrast, the Architectures add a contextual dimension to the relationships and dependencies that we are capturing between elements. We quickly found that the basic forms made this rather complex. Fortunately, the GraphWidget of Protege makes capturing Architectures much more straight-forward and we use this graphical tool in combination with the basic widgets for the capturing the Architecture.

The diagrams that are produced to capture these Architectures are focused on utility. Visually, they are basic and agnostic to any particular notation. However, whilst recognising that these diagrams may not be something you would hang on the wall, it would still be very useful to have these diagrams appear in the relevant analysis reports of Essential Viewer. This would be in addition to, not instead of, producing views in specific notations or other ‘graphical reports’.

To provide this capability, we have just released an update to the Essential Widgets and Essential Viewer that takes a snapshot of each architecture diagram during the repository publishing process. These snapshots are then presented in the relevant reports, such as Business Process Definition, Application Module Summary, Technology Product Details and so on. The update makes it very easy to bring in a relevant architecture diagram to any custom report. These updates to Viewer and Widgets have been packed into the latest version (1.3) of Essential Architecture Manager and all are available now to download.

But that’s not the end of the story for getting graphical views of your architecture model. Within the Protege environment, there is the Jambalaya SVG tab that provides a wealth of graphical reporting capabilities. Although we have been focusing on reporting within the Viewer environment – to open the analysis and view of the architecture to as wide an audience as possible in the organisation – there could be some value in sharing Jamabalaya reports with the community.

I would also like to draw your attention to Clint Cooper’s recent contribution – the Visio Export Tool. This produces a rendering either of selected areas or of the whole repository in Microsoft Visio. The resulting Visio file provides a readily-shared, graphical view of the model that can be easily manipulated to provide the view that you need to share with the wider audience in your organisation. Many thanks to Clint for sharing this with the rest of the Essential Project Community.

Although we take a forms-based approach to capturing the knowledge about the elements in the enterprise, there are a range of options for producing graphical views of this knowledge. From the snapshots of the architecture capture diagrams, clickable SVG diagrams to the Visio exports, there are now a range of options for getting the graphical view of your architecture that you need.