Transforming the Enterprise, One Byte at a Time
Right across the C-suite, there is an understanding that execution of a successful, meaningful business strategy requires close alignment between business processes and the triumvirate of information (aka data), applications, and of course, technology architecture.
There is a range of frameworks that help enterprises develop best practice to aid the implementation of architecture changes. International best practice standards such as the widely adopted Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF), help management effectively assess and manage the impact of strategic adjustments throughout the business. Other standards focused on more granular areas of business and IT include LEAN, PRINCE2, and COBIT.
Then, with new structures taking form, specific business areas can adopt, or better implement systems which ensure smooth and effective services – like ITIL for IT helpdesk operations, Agile for dev ops, and so forth.
Enterprise Architecture (EA) provides a systematic approach to creating and building strategic capabilities. Effective EA enhances ROI on IT investments, speeds up the pace of innovation across the organization, lowers costs and increases efficiencies. Many of these positives come from the reduction of technological complexity – but more of this anon.
Whether enterprises have grown organically, or whether they have morphed via acquisitions, mergers, or in some cases, badly-managed growth strategies, large businesses or organizations tend to require a constant process of enterprise architecture realignment, monitoring, and management, going forward.
The challenges facing many businesses today fall into one of several general categories, which can be addressed by targeted EA activities:
- Rifts developing between the business’s needs and the ability for IT operations to support these.
- Increases in the costs of software development, support and maintenance.
- Lack of application and infrastructure portability (interoperability) due to complexity.
- Disparate decisions taken over time to develop IT solutions in-house, bought-in, or outsourced.
Complex procurement processes and providers’ lock-in contracts which increase timescales (often at odds with the need for agile business strategies) engender the feeling that new IT investment represents a risk, and that total cost of IT ownership is too high.
It’s therefore essential that EA providers (or internal departments) don’t become seen as resource-drains. By deploying the correct methods, powered by the latest software tools, the outcomes will save the organization money and enable efficiencies. And, with next-gen EA solutions (see below), even the most skeptical stakeholder can be brought on board.
With technology underpinning every area of the business, CEOs, CIOs, CTOs and enterprise architect roles become inextricably bound together.
The inter-reliance between these management layers and IT architecture means that EA-powering solutions – such as one of those listed below – come from a business strategy-oriented stance, not a pure IT department perspective.
In the past, all large organizations needed to achieve impactful growth was a business process management function.
But since technology began its inexorable permeation of every aspect of an organization, BPM has evolved into enterprise architecture management. While analyzing business processes (from initial audit to strategic plan formulation) remains vitally important, technology is now an intrinsic part of every process. The new generation of business process managers are, effectively, technologically-minded enterprise architects.
Calls for wholesale digital transformation often come when the enterprise realizes it needs to provide existing services and products via electronic channels – the consumerization of technology has, to a great extent, driven this trend.
To maintain expected growth levels, businesses have to grow through those new digital channels, plus offer fresh, unique, and attractive services through technological innovation.
Additionally, digital drivers may come from other sources too:
- Customers or service-users demanding personalized services and products, new ways of interacting and/or buying.
- Partners require data conduits opening to inform and drive their own functions: for instance, logistics suppliers requesting API access to core databases.
- Procurement functions in the enterprise may wish to create pools of self-serviced suppliers.
Investment in new technology comes with significant overheads. It is therefore up to the enterprise architect to reduce operational costs through digitization, to free up resources to move into new market segments, launch new products, personalize, liaise with partners, and so forth.
Encroaching digitization and new technologies – like IoT – are continually increasing data flows into a business. Phrases like data lakes or big data are used as summary terms for what is often silo-ed information. Drawing intelligent insights from so-called big data is required to drive growth and operational efficiency – but practicalities may dictate otherwise.
Two additional transformational domains are increasingly important to modern enterprise architects, either of which is sufficient to fill ten such articles like this! In brief, therefore:
- Strategic Portfolio Management is the very definition of an ongoing, evolving practice which needs to be baked-in to any change of strategy. The drivers for SPM are clear and vital. Firstly, ensuring the different portfolios within the company (applications, technologies, projects) are properly invested in to ensure key strategic goals are met and secondly, to allow organizations to ‘rationalize’ these portfolios and in doing so strip out significant unnecessary cost, enterprise-wide.
- The need for Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) management, as technology (or perhaps because of it) spreads across every function of the enterprise. Previously, compliance was only of the highest priority to perhaps legal & finance departments. Today, data’s sensitivity means correct procedures have to be followed right across the organization.
Here at TechHQ, there are three enterprise architecture software solution providers that we feel will be able to equip your EA team with the necessary tools to provide coherent plans and management for your organization.
The centerpiece in Orbus’s enterprise architecture suite is iServer, which acts as a repository and decision analysis toolset for all EA information and functions, as well as supporting the related practices of BPA, SPM and GRC. By nature, it is highly collaborative, existing as the canonical source that informs all EA activity, planning, monitoring, presentation and on-going management.
From modeling and simulation to powering process improvement, iServer is a powerful platform which plans, defines, manages and visualizes digital transformations.
iServer was created with the sole purpose of solving problems. It acts as a gathering point for all strategic models, business process and the different architecture layers (business, application, technology and data) as well as associated cybersecurity policies & methods, and much more.
iServer can be connected with existing systems, both for real-time data flow, and import & export of models and data. The use of open APIs into legacy systems obviates the need for data replication, and therefore removes the risk of data sets migrating away from one another.
Critically, this EA platform from Orbus retains the Microsoft Visio GUI, ensuring the broad feature set of the offering is quickly accepted and assimilated into use. Staff outside the EA function’s ‘core’ can continue to use tried and tested tools, including the Microsoft Office suite – working with EA data in familiar forms. iServer’s ability to produce visually rich, highly interactive business intelligence (BI) dashboards means stakeholders can gain immediate insights into processes, future plans, and day-to-day results. Ensuring a consistent, long-term buy-in is, as enterprise architects will know, critical to the long-term success of any EA initiative.
iServer’s comprehensive capabilities combined with its ease of use for business users have earned Orbus the Customer Choice Gold Award from Gartner. To read more about EA software from Orbus, click here.
Oracle’s business process management solution is led by Oracle BPM Process Composer, a web-based business targeted tool.
Via the Composer package, users define all aspects of the BPM application, beginning with processes, and then via forms, rules, and source data, to finalized business metrics for dashboards – presented in attractive & easy-to-use formats.
Oracle BPM also provides a highly lightweight architecture modeling system which captures goals, objectives, and strategies, and links them to value chains and business processes. Its smaller-than-average footprint means it can be used in smaller concerns, yet will scale up to cluster deployment if required.
Further functionality can be added with the Adaptive Case Management package, allowing organizations to manage individual cases from creation to close (with minimum exception rates) by using a mixture of BPMN processes, task workflows, events, policies, and rules. Users can elect to add on ML-powered back-end functionality to create malleable case management routines.
Real-time analytics can be added into the mix using the Oracle Business Activity Monitoring System, which is a process analytics component of the BPM platform, providing deep insights for ops managers and higher level management layers who may not have the technical acuity of EAs at the coalface.
The BAMS allows analysis of bottlenecks, critical strictures and root causes of problems. It includes an embedded instance of Oracle Event Processor, and prebuilt query templates used to create reports. Custom report creation can be guided, or built from the ground up. This is highly useful for trend analysis and risk management.
The Australia-headquartered Sparx Systems begins the enterprise architecture process from the point of view of the abstraction of a problem. From there the software is able to create a model of the processes which go into creating the issue, and from that point can move to a concrete solution.
Sparx Systems’s solutions are based on UML2.5, which was originally conceived as a language for development and software design, but also can be deployed in any scenario where abstraction and modeling are at the core.
From a single analyst to large distributed enterprise architecture teams, Sparx Systems’s EA platform can create models from small systems suitable for a small, dedicated project team through to huge, trans-global integrated systems.
Sparx has been specifically active in aerospace, financial, automotive and computer verticals, although it is notable that its EA solutions are applicable even to the workings of single freelancers and SMEs, according to its marketing materials.
The EA products on offer include simple integration with popular DBMS systems, support for subversion-derived development tools, and come with granular privilege level administration, making the solution suitable for large, geographically-spread teams.
Sparx has realized that for wider-scale acceptance in the enterprise, part of the battle is producing results in an attractive, digestible form for non-technical personnel. The powerful what-you-see-is-what-you-get document generator and HTML report generation engines allow for stakeholder investments to the EA solution.
*Some of the companies featured on this article are commercial partners of TechHQ