Enterprise architecture (EA) is a conceptual approach. In order to do anything with the concept you need some kind of framework to structure your approach as an organisation, you need tools to help you model different views of the organisation and you need some way of integrating the views and keeping them up to date.
There are many tools on the market to help you do all of these things. In fact there is a bewildering array of tools and choosing between them can be one of the biggest problems in terms of actually getting started with EA. Our selection of quotes from the EA pilots highlights this very clearly and the experiences are replicated elsewhere:
"There is no way you could even contemplate choosing a tool until you go through some of the pain to appreciate what might be needed."
In the following sections we give a brief overview of some commonly used tools for doing EA under the headings of:
- Frameworks for EA
- Modelling EA
- Managing your EA
Before embarking on an EA approach, you may however want to undertake some kind of analysis of your institutional readiness for such an approach. Our Strategic ICT Toolkit provides a means of measuring an institution’s current state of play with regard to the strategic use of ICT. Using the self analysis tools to analyse your current position and address any immediate issues may put you in a better position to begin implementing EA. The toolkit was developed in 2010 and has undergone piloting in a number of institutions. Development will continue on the basis of feedback.
An interesting blog post from Loughborough University describes the experience of field testing the toolkit and concludes that, despite much good work going on, the University is just taking its first steps towards EA and that EA is probably the missing link that makes the university’s use of ICT ‘strategic’ rather than ‘transformational’.
About three months into the project (25% of total project time) we still hadn’t been able to identify a suitable tool.
"… tool evaluation could easily consume us for the rest of the project."
"… there is no such thing as an intuitive tool, just differing levels of complexity."
"… it (TOGAF) doesn’t give you very much of an idea what an EA might look like when you finally have one…"
"The learning curves for these tools were high, and the significant time and effort required to learn how to use them reduces the amount of time that can be spent doing ‘real’ work."
"given that TOGAF is so generic it was not clear to us what we should have been doing, by applying TOGAF, that was different to what we would have been doing anyway (other than using a particular vocabulary)."
"… whilst we had found out what TOGAF is, we still had little idea of how to apply it in concrete circumstances."
"… there is little value in worrying about whether you are ‘applying’ TOGAF correctly."
"Even after the end of the project. Staff members responsible for the modelling work did not feel able to commit to a specific product."
"The effort spent working to understand and apply TOGAF has helped us identify and clarify some fundamental organisational issues and challenges."
Quotes from the EA pilots
Strategic ICT toolkit
The strategic ICT toolkit, hosted by the University of Nottingham contains resources which will help you assess your current level of ICT maturity, and help your organisation to align ICT strategy with the institutional strategy.
Ten steps to improving organisational efficiency
The real purpose of this guide is to provide a suite of resources that can support whole institutional management teams in their strategic planning. It is hoped that, having worked through these resources, management teams will see the value of enterprise architecture (EA) as the key approach enabling organisational effectiveness.
We recognise this will be a big step for many institutions and that many will prefer to start in a small way in order to prove the value of the approach. We also recognise that awareness of, and interest in, the approaches discussed here may start with the IT community before spreading to other parts of the institution.
For these reasons we also offer this ten point plan as a way of making progress in key areas whilst stopping short of full adoption of an EA approach:
- Review a copy of your college or university’s strategic plan. If you are not directly part of the senior management team then engage with people at this level in order to ensure you understand the main goals for the coming year as seen by your Principal or Vice-Chancellor.
- Create a basic view of the functions carried out by the institution (our Business Classification Scheme may help with this). Think of these functions as ‘services’ provided to stakeholders rather than as particular systems and processes.
- Create a basic view of your IT architecture showing the applications and services, the interfaces between them and the data transferred.
- Identify any ‘bloated’ or redundant applications that consume resource far in excess of their actual value to the organisation and plan to phase them out. In time you will look at the business processes that drive this.
- Use the IT architecture conclusions as a starting point for discussions involving management, teaching and administrative colleagues about architecture at enterprise level. Look at your main business processes, the weaknesses or ‘pain points’ in them and where they interact. See how this relates to your conclusions on IT architecture. Use this debate to build a roadmap of integrated process and ICT change.
- Identify the likely lifespan and replacement cycle for existing applications.
- Consider how a service-oriented approach (SOA) to your data layer could streamline the architecture and reduce the need for interfaces/data retyping. Plan to turn the ‘spaghetti’ into a ‘lasagne’.
- Consider where approaches such as shared services, open source products, cloud applications or SaaS could add value or reduce costs.
- Produce a ‘roadmap’ of how you hope to develop the ‘Enterprise Architecture’ in conjunction with business colleagues. Relate this to the key business goals of the institution and review your Roadmap regularly in the light of any changes to the institution’s strategic goals.
- Talk regularly to others in your institution about this and connect with people in other institutions who are doing similar things. A useful way to do this is to keep an eye on developments coming out of Jisc Innovation Programmes and find out about the communities that engage with such programmes.