Tag Archives: Open Group

Digging a hole with Enterprise Architecture #entarchs

Some Sunday morning rambling & a couple of old Dilbert cartoons which may be pertinent & should at least be a amusing…


So, you know the scenario. You’re in there with the senior management team & they want an answer to the question: why should we invest in this thing called Enterprise Architecture?

& the answer is: I dunno; or, you tell me; or maybe, you shouldn’t.

Because they are, of course, asking the wrong question. They should be saying: how do we improve our customer experience? Or, how do we reduce the cost of procurement? Or, how do we decide what we could target as shared services? Or…a thousand other critical business questions. To any or all of which EA may be part of the answer.

But you’ve been invited along to a meeting to explain why they need EA. So you’ve come to the wrong meeting.

& because they’re asking the wrong question, you’ll probably have to give them the wrong answer.

& you can’t directly tell them they’re asking the wrong question. Well, go for it if you feel like it. After all, they’re only senior management…

There’s a lot of discussion in EA circles about how exactly do we sell EA to senior management? & the answer is, of course, you don’t.

You don’t sell someone a spade if they don’t know they need to dig a hole. At least, I hope not – don’t want to be in the snake oil business. So senior management need to know what problems EA will solve, or what new opportunities EA can open up – they need to see what bigger better hole they can dig (themselves into?) with this shiny new implement (maybe not the best analogy, then, but you have to start somewhere).

So EA isn’t always the answer – it depends on the question, & you have to make sure the right questions are being asked then you can make sure you have the right answers.

So in that meeting, you need to get them to ask the right questions – ‘I dunno’ may be a pretty good first answer – followed by, you tell me what you need to do, & then I’ll tell you if EA can help you do it. Or, maybe not…because…

If you’re an Enterprise Architect, you might think EA is always the answer, or at least part of it – & I agree, you’re probably right. But the best way to test a hypothesis is to assume that you’re wrong – & maybe the customer doesn’t really need to dig a hole, at least, not until they’ve chopped down that tree. Great thing about EA is, it’s more like a Swiss Army knife than an axe or a spade – but if the customer only wants to dig that hole or chop down that tree, some kind of multitool might seem like overkill. So, find that hole that needs digging, use EA to help it get dug, & then…



UCISA Enterprise Architecture Community of Practice Start Up Meeting

2nd May 2013: a group convened at Liverpool John Moores University to discuss the setting up of a UCISA Enterprise Architecture Community of Practice (EACP).

Following work by Luke Taylor & the UCISA-CISG, & commissioned by the UCISA Executive, the objective of the meeting: to baseline where we were up to with EA, and work out how this Community of Practice thing was going to operate, as it’s a bit of a new departure for UCISA & those previously involved in the JISC EA Practice Group. Representatives from 8 institutions, JISC InfoNet & the Open Group, and facilitated by Richard Chapman, of Richard Chapman Consulting.

This is a picture of where we started:


I’m not going to do a blow by blow account of the day, as that will come out in due course, but just wanted to highlight a few things that were key or of interest for me.

  • Baselining EA. Various people were not surprisingly at various stages, although there were common themes: how to keep up momentum, how to convince the business, how to get resources. Participants were asked to come up with ‘twEAts’ (140 characters about EA on a postit – thank you David Rose of the Open Group for that one, bit close to our great Prime Minister’s comments about what too many tweets make…). These got quite zen-like in parts – particularly this offering from Patrick O’Reilly/Bolton: ‘the curate has a fresh egg, but no eggcup, spoon and is waiting for a chance to eat’. I thought we might have invented Zen EA – but then discovered this: ‘Zen and The Art of Enterprise Architecture (Open Group Conference Newport Beach 2013)’ – although I may be being a little unfair, having not viewed it in detail, at 83 slides, some of dazzling complexity, I’m not sure this is in the spirit of Zen, or even EA…
  • Building a Community of Practice. Lots of interesting discussion on this, which will be rolled up in a wiki & considered further – but for me, the main issue was around leadership. The key objective of the EACP is to become self-sustaining – to not need a leader, or a Chair, or single person or even small group who keep it all going – leading to the usual leaders/followers scenario. Seems like a kind of variation on situational leadership – the idea that there is no one best leadership style, but that leadership is adaptive to the situation – which in some situations may mean following. So perhaps we have situational leadership & followership as well. For the EACP I would envisage a scenario where individuals would either lead or follow depending on the situation – which I think is what I’ve just said. Or to sum up, ‘We are all leaders now’.

Which is about all for the moment – the EACP is a work in progress & progress on this first day was excellent, we have actions, ideas for how to work, deadlines & all manner of good stuff, including the all important hash tag (#UCISA_EA) – so thanks to all the participants & also Richard Chapman for his great facilitation, kept us almost both on time & under control!

Also worth a look at Dave Berry from Edinburgh’s post on the same event.

& here’s a picture of where we finished:


JISC FSD Launch – Barriers & Possibilities for flexible & shared ICT service provision

Launch event held at the Grafton on Tottenham Court Road, 2nd October.

Very good attendance/range of participants. Following are my usual random comments, hopefully of interest…

& must mention great early comment from David Rose/the Open Group – if EA needs a burning platform to focus activity on, are the EA practitioners firemen or arsonists?

Key points (for me) from Strategic Technologies Group presentations on Maturity & Readiness Towards FSD

  • Oxford. Clear commitment to SOA; barriers identified as organisation, vendors, VAT. Key work in area of student systems: currently using the Oracle Student System which is being desupported by Oracle in 2013. Unlike LJMU, where we are moving to Oracle Peoplesoft Campus Solutions as the natural follow on to OSS, they have taken the view that at the moment they want to avoid moving to another big monolithic system, plus they find the available alternative student systems ‘uninspiring’. Currently planning an incremental replacement of OSS based on a service approach – one concern is whether  OSS will enable/support SOA/FSD. This looks to me like a valid & creative approach – albeit also very ambitious.
  • Imperial College. Looking at the use of EA as a strategic planning aid – can’t argue with that, very much the approach we’re  taking, seeing the ‘as is’ and ‘to be’ modelling as a very powerful way of developing strategy. Also referenced importance of Governance. Barriers: vendors, organisation, (lack of) governance
  • Thames Valley University. Intelligent Decision Support in HE (IDS-HE). Project on reporting on student retention issues & making interventions. Collecting data sources, data integration, data mining, student intervention. Not sure what this has got to do with FSD quite yet, although good project – probably lies in aim to identify scope for sector-wide reusable solutions. Not yet addressing attendance/PBS – but it could. Comment from Peter Tinson – Home Office are not expecting insitutions to develop/put in new systems to monitor attendance, but expect them to use systems they’ve already got – so if you are putting in new systems, stop it! TVU open to expressions of interest ref joining an IDS-HE Special Interest Group.
  • Leeds Metropolitan University. All about integrated student-facing services. Service diagram – essentially an EA model but not presented as such – so would benefit from common representation of such models, eg Archimate. Objective – be able to say why we’re using what we use, & how things fit together – very good articulation of an aspect of EA. Barriers: institutional change; availability of expertise; supplier engagement; economic climate. <Note: deployment of shared modelling language across FSD/STG/EA work would have great benefits in terms of shared understanding, key objective for JISC – at the moment there is a risk that everyone will be doing this modelling using different languages/tools/approaches which will make it difficult to compare/contrast/share>.
  • Cardiff. STG membership very much informed/based on EA work. Fragmented IT governance, difficult to defragment in a devolved environment. Good handle on reality of EA & what it means. The cake driven approach to EA must be the way to go.
  • Roehampton University. JISC funding has enabled investment in modelling software – standard/exchangeable way of representation, very important, ref Leeds MET. Develop understanding of business & enhance abilityof IT to support it through modelling exercises. http://www.roehampton.ac.uk/cairo.
  • Nottingham. Common themes important – EA; Governance; Data Management; etc

Next presentations from possible consortium members, introducing projects:

  • RMAS Consortium/Exeter University. Research management at Exeter = burning platform. Another modelling approach. Market research has not identified a clear supplier solution. Very tight timescales to move through procurement to pilot. Expectations from STG: access to technical expertise; forum to share approaches to governance (key area!); knowledge & best practice.
  • Bloomsbury Consortium. The Bloomsbury Learning Environment – started with Blackboard. Since 2006/7, Blackboard hosted. Now extending into other services – huddle, Wimba, google docs, iTunes U etc. Key lessons in governance area? Apparently no MoU, SLAs etc, which was surprising.

& then lunch was followed by an excellent Affinity Diagramming session looking at barriers & enablers to FSD, facilitated masterfully by me & Andy Jordan – joking aside, it did go very well, got lots of ideas out clustered into useful themes, & will be useful to the JISC in thinking about what they might do to drive the agenda forward. Themes were as you might have expected: Culture; Senior Management Buy-In; Suppliers; Governance; Resources; External Factors; Drivers (lack of) – but there was some valuable detail in there. Interesting that there were as many post-its on enablers as on barriers, which is unusual as there are usually far more on barriers; that not that many were about technology; and one post-it from barriers said ‘900 years of institutional independence’.

Followed by presentation from Paul Hopkins/De Montfort on the Student Tracking & Engagement Project – demonstrator on student attendance/retention, then round table sessions on EA, Support, & Supplier Engagement – don’t know about others, but I was flagging by this point (after 3pm on a Friday afternoon), so commentary almost ends here – but it was a worthwhile event & I think JISC/the FSD Steering Group have a lot of useful information to process/inform future activities. Hopefully it was also useful in engaging STG members & other attendees.

Final points – ref the EA side of the street, which personally I think is a very valuable avenue to go down (?), I have lingering concerns about: lack of clarity about what EA is; continuing focus too far over on the technical side; & I think an impression still being given that this is somehow something complex & difficult & requiring education in a whole new language, when it should be presented as a simple & obvious tool that helps the organisation to make a better job of lining up its information systems with its business processes & its people & to make better informed decisions about future direction. EA as strategic change management tool – that’s the way to go. Plus I would advise strongly against anyone ever having an ‘EA Project’ – what would that be for? – & wish there was a way of depicting this stuff that didn’t involve boxes & arrows (usually lots & lots of boxes & arrows). Mime. Song. Street theatre. Please.

26th October – Reflections on the Munich Conference

Better than Glasgow! – although may well have been due to being further along in working with EA/TOGAF. Also HE day was useful although to a great extent confirmed what we already thought/direction in which we were already going. Seemed from the HE day that – as one of the Dutch participants said – Governance is more of a problem for HE than EA. Or maybe you can’t get anywhere with EA until Governance in place.

Which is where attendance at the Architecture Forum was surprisingly useful. Both myself and Bill Olivier made the point pretty strongly that where we needed help in promoting EA in HE was in convincing senior management/decision makers that this was something worth doing. New focus of the Strategy and work of Adoption/BA working groups suggests that this might be an area where the Open Group might be able to help, and they seemed to be very supportive.

Made the point strongly – & several times – that EA needs to speak the language of the business & not be so IT-related, & also that in the HE sector particularly speaking the language of “the business” is not necessarily the same as speaking the language of “business”. Seemed to be accepted, have to see what happens.

Also raised the issues about the cost of membership – David Rose is taking it up with the appropriate people. Overall felt that our contribution was valued/relevant.

So having expected this Conference to confirm my view that Open Group membership was not much use, now I’m not so sure. If the new Strategy really does take off in the suggested direction might be more help. Discussed future position with David Rose & Bill Olivier – & now tend to think that if future HE membership continues, will need to be better structured, focussed on particular work groups, & maybe will need to be different people involved.

Largely a matter of watch this space.

23rd October – Architecture Forum

Attended not expecting much out of this & was proved wrong.

Included brief presentation from David Rose on the JISC programme, with input from me & Bill Olivier, which was welcomed & catalysed some useful discussion. Various points picked up:

With release of TOGAF9 imminent (immanent?) focus seems to be shifting helpfully from (internal) working on the model to (external) promoting/supporting/using.

New ‘Adoption’ work group, ‘Sales Manual’, focus on change management. New Strategy: to make TOGAF “the management tool of choice for developing and executing business strategy” – some problems with this: where does it leave other tools/approaches/methodologies such as the Excellence Model, Balanced Scorecard, MSP etc. Highly unlikely that there is ‘a’ management tool of choice – better to be one of a range of available tools. Does everything need to be in TOGAF? Also questioned continuing apparently technical focus – talking about IT Governance, not just Governance – but asured that in future more focus on business transformation. Ref issues of industry alignment/vertical v.horizontal, Business Architecture Working Group (Judith Jones) may be doing some relevant work in this area.

So overall, more use than I at first suspected.

22nd October – HE Day

Attended by JISC/Open Group people, UK pilots, Dutch Universities, others. Good discussion, very interesting/useful day. TUDelft/Bert van Zomeren – very interesting thoughts on the key place of Principles. Interesting to see level of shared views on EA/TOGAF etc. – & there was a lot more in it than this very brief report!

21st October – Open Group Conference Munich: Day Two (my Day One)

(Note: unfortunately wifi was generally dodgy, kept dropping in & out, so most of this update done after the event rather than during, although I will try & maintain the illusion it will err on the side of brevity)

ABB – Adapting TOGAF for a Global Enterprise

Some good definitions – EA as a framework for communications = good start. An EA framework presents a common, shared vocabulary for communicating architecture concepts.

Framework requirements: must simplify complexity; introduce structure; enable communication; manage change; promote agility.

Approach that clearly adapts the chosen EA Framework eg TOGAF. Own version of crop circle (bit like we’ve done!) Iterative/backwards & forwards through ADM. Took out Governance as already had this covered. As at LJMU – we’ve taken out Vision, Strategy, Governance (in our own strategic planning/Governance framework/Excellence Model/BSC etc) & Implementation (in Development Programme).

Resources: 30 architects in global organisation…yeah, right. Mind you, company has 115,000 employees – as 30 = 0.0026 & corresponds to c.0.75FTE in LJMU, which is about right as well! (mind you, my maths is probably wrong…)

Cap Gemini – A Compelling Case For Open Business Analysis

Starts with slide of Tower of Babel by Breughel. Business focus/analysis coming more to the forefront. BCS def of Business Analyst – see Wikipedia – “An internal consultancy role that has the responsibility for investigating business systems, identifying options for improving business systems and bridging the needs of the business with the use of IT.”

Competencies of a Business Analyst: Information Analysis; Business Process Management; Subject Knowledge. Not just a requirements gatherer. Similar to LJMU definitions as: Business Change Assistant/Analyst/Coordinator – making sure change is in there, if nothing’s going to change then why have the role at all?

Len Fehskens, The Open Group: Re-Thinking About Architecture

Good definitions; key concept: alignment. Architecture = “Those properties of a thing & it’s environment that are necessary & sufficient for it to be fit for purpose for its mission”. Focus on “stuff that matters”. Architecture, alignment, essentials – ensures alignment of essential things. Like figuring out where the sculpture is in a block of marble?