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erwin Expert Blog Enterprise Architecture

What Is Agile Enterprise Architecture?

Having an agile enterprise architecture (EA) is the difference between whether an organization flourishes or flounders in an increasingly changing business climate.

Over the years, EA has gotten a bad reputation for not providing business value. However, enterprise architecture frameworks and languages like TOGAF and ArchiMate aren’t responsible for this perception. In fact, these standards provide a mechanism for communication and delivery, but the way enterprise architects historically have used them has caused issues.

Today, organizations need to embrace enterprise architecture – and enterprise architecture tools – because of the value it does provide. How else can they respond to business and IT needs or manage change without first documenting what they have, want and need?

Because that’s exactly what EA addresses. It provides business and IT alignment by mapping applications, technologies and data to the value streams and business functions they support.

Essentially, it’s a holistic, top-down view of an organization and its assets that can be used to better inform strategic planning.

But what is an agile enterprise architecture, and what are its advantages?

The Need for Agile Enterprise Architecture

The old adage that anything of any complexity needs to be modeled before it can be changed definitely holds true.

The issue is that enterprise architects tend to model everything down to an excruciating level of detail, often getting lost in the weeds and rarely surfacing for air to see what the rest of the business is doing and realizing what it needs.

This often makes communicating an organization’s enterprise architecture more difficult, adding to the perception of enterprise architects working in an ivory tower.

Just-in-Time vs Just-Enough Enterprise Architecture

Just in time, just enough and agile development and delivery are phrases we’ve all heard. But how do they pertain to EA?

Just-in-time enterprise architecture

Agile is based on the concept of “just in time.” You can see this in many of the agile practices, especially in DevOps. User stories are created when they are needed and not before, and releases happen when there is appropriate value in releasing, not before and not after. Additionally, each iteration has a commitment that is met on time by the EA team.

Just-enough enterprise architecture

EA is missing the answer to the question of “what exactly is getting delivered?” This is where we introduce the phrase “just enough, just in time” because stakeholders don’t just simply want it in time, they also want just enough of it — regardless of what it is.

This is especially important when communicating with non-EA professionals. In the past, enterprise architects have focused on delivering all of the EA assets to stakeholders and demonstrating the technical wizardry required to build the actual architecture.

Agile Enterprise Architecture Best Practices and Techniques

The following techniques and methods can help you provide just-enough EA:

Campaigns

Create a marketing-style campaign to focus on EA initiatives, gathering and describing only what is required to satisfy the goal of the campaign.

Models

At the start of the project, it doesn’t make sense to build a fancy EA that is going to change anyway. Teams should strive to build just enough architecture to support the campaigns in the pipeline.

Collaboration

Agile teams certainly have high levels of collaboration, and that’s because that level is just enough to help them be successful.

In light of the global pandemic, such collaboration might be more difficult to achieve. But organizations can take advantage of collaborative enterprise architecture tools that support remote working.

Planning

In iteration planning, we don’t look at things outside the iteration. We do just enough planning to make sure we can accomplish our goal for the iteration. Work packages and tasks play a large role in both planning and collaboration.

Agile Enterprise Architecture to Keep Pace with Change

As one of the top job roles in 2020, it’s clear organizations recognize the need for enterprise architects in keeping pace with change.

In modern business, what’s also clear is that maximizing the role’s potential requires an agile approach, or else organizations could fall into the same ivory-tower trappings burdening the discipline in the past.

Organizations can use erwin Evolve to tame complexity, manage change and increase operational efficiency. Its many benefits include:

  • Agility & Efficiency: Achieve faster time to actionable insights and value with integrated views across initiatives to understand and focus on business outcomes.
  • Lower Risks & Costs: Improve performance and profitability with harmonized, optimized and visible processes to enhance training and lower IT costs.
  • Creation & Visualization of Complex Models: Harmonize EA/BP modelling capabilities for greater visibility, control and intelligence in managing any use case.
  • Powerful Analysis: Quickly and easily explore model elements, links and dependencies, plus identify and understand the impact of changes.
  • Documentation & Knowledge Retention: Capture, document and publish information for key business functions to increase employee education and awareness and maintain institutional knowledge, including standard operating procedures.
  • Democratization & Decision-Making: Break down organizational silos and facilitate enterprise collaboration among those both in IT and business roles for more informed decisions that drive successful outcomes.

You can try erwin Evolve for yourself and keep any content you produce should you decide to buy.

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erwin Expert Blog Enterprise Architecture

Agile Enterprise Architecture for DevOps Explained …

How do organizations innovate? Taking an idea from concept to delivery requires strategic planning and the ability to execute. In the case of software development, understanding agile enterprise architecture and its relevance to DevOps is also key.

DevOps, the fusion of software development and IT operations, stems from the agile development movement. In more practical terms, it integrates developers and operations teams to improve collaboration and productivity by automating infrastructure, workflows and continuously measuring application performance.

The goal is to balance the competing needs of getting new products into production while maintaining 99.9-percent application uptime for customers in an agile manner. 

To understand this increase in complexity, we need to look at how new features and functions are applied to software delivery. The world of mobile apps, middleware and cloud deployment has reduced release cycles to days and weeks not months — with an emphasis on delivering incremental change.

Previously, a software release would occur every few months with a series of modules that were hopefully still relevant to the business goals.

The shorter, continuous-delivery lifecycle helps organizations:

  • Achieve shorter releases by incremental delivery and delivering faster innovation
  • Be more responsive to business needs by improved collaboration, better quality and more frequent releases
  • Manage the number of applications impacted by a business release by allowing local variants for a global business and continuous delivery within releases

The DevOps approach achieves this by providing an environment that:

  • Minimizes software delivery batch sizes to increase flexibility and enable continuous feedback as every team delivers features to production as they are completed
  • Replaces projects with release trains that minimize batch-waiting time to reduce lead times and waste
  • Shifts from central planning to decentralized execution with a pull philosophy, thus minimizing batch transaction cost to improve efficiency
  • Makes DevOps economically feasible through test virtualization, build automation and automated release management as we prioritize and sequence batches to maximize business value and select the right batches, sequence them in the right order, guide the implementation, track execution and make planning adjustments to maximize business value

An Approach with an Enterprise Architecture View

So far, we have only looked at the delivery aspects. So how does this approach integrate with an enterprise architecture view?

To understand this, we need to look more closely at the strategic planning lifecycle. The figure below shows how the strategic planning lifecycle supports an ‘ideas-to-delivery’ framework.

Agile Enterprise Architecture: The Strategic Planning Lifecycle

Figure 1: The strategic planning lifecycle

You can see the high-level relationship between the strategy and goals of an organization and the projects that deliver the change to meet these goals. Enterprise architecture provides the model to govern the delivery of projects in line with these goals.

However, we must ensure that any model built include ‘just-enough’ enterprise architecture to produce the right level of analysis for driving change. The agile enterprise architecture model, then, is then one that enables enough analysis to plan which projects should be undertaken and ensures full architectural governance for delivery. The last part of this is achieved by connecting to the tools used in the agile space.

Agile Enterprise Architecture: Detailed View of the Strategic Planning Lifecycle

Figure 2: Detailed view of the strategic planning lifecycle

The Agile Enterprise Architecture Lifecycle

An agile enterprise architecture has its own lifecycle with six stages.

Vision and strategy: Initially, the organization begins by revisiting its corporate vision and strategy. What things will differentiate the organization from its competitors in five years? What value propositions will it offer customers to create that differentiation? The organization can create a series of campaigns or challenges to solicit new ideas and requirements for its vision and strategy.

Value proposition: The ideas and requirements are rationalized into a value proposition that can be examined in more detail.

Resources: The company can look at what resources it needs to have on both the business side and the IT side to deliver the capabilities needed to realize the value propositions. For example, a superior customer experience might demand better internet interactions and new applications, processes, and infrastructure on which to run. Once the needs are understood, they are compared to what the organization already has. The transition planning determines how the gaps will be addressed.

Execution: With the strategy and transition plan in place, enterprise architecture execution begins. The transition plan provides input to project prioritization and planning since those projects aligned with the transition plan are typically prioritized over those that do not align. This determines which projects are funded and entered into or continue to the DevOps stage.

Guidelines: As the solutions are developed, enterprise architecture assets such as models, building blocks, rules, patterns, constraints and guidelines are used and followed. Where the standard assets aren’t suitable for a project, exceptions are requested from the governance board. These exceptions are tracked carefully. Where assets are frequently the subject of exception requests, they must be examined to see if they really are suitable for the organization.

Updates: Periodic updates to the organization’s vision and strategy require a reassessment of the to-be state of the enterprise architecture. This typically results in another look at how the organization will differentiate itself in five years, what value propositions it will offer, the capabilities and resources needed, and so on. If we’re not doing things the way we said we wanted them done, then we must ask if our target architectures are still correct. This helps keep the enterprise architecture current and useful.

Enterprise Architecture Tools for DevOps

DevOps can use a number of enterprise architecture solutions. For example, erwin’s enterprise architecture products use open standards to link to other products within the overall lifecycle. This approach integrates agile enterprise architecture with agile development, connecting project delivery with effective governance of the project lifecycle. Even if the software delivery process is agile, goals and associated business needs are linked and can be met.

To achieve this goal, a number of internal processes must be interoperable. This is a significant challenge, but one that can be met by building an internal center of excellence and finding a solution by starting small and building a working environment.

The erwin EA product line takes a rigorous approach to enterprise architecture to ensure that current and future states are published for a wider audience to consume. The erwin EA repository can be used as an enterprise continuum (in TOGAF terms).

Available as a cloud-based platform or on-premise, erwin EA solutions provide a quick and cost-effective path for launching a collaborative enterprise architecture program. With built-in support for such industry frameworks as ArchiMate® and TOGAF®,  erwin enables you to model the enterprise, capture the IT blueprint, generate roadmaps and provide meaningful insights to both technical and business stakeholders.

According to Gartner, enterprise architecture is becoming a “form of internal management consulting,” helping define and shape business and operating models, identify risks and opportunities, and then create technology roadmaps. Understanding how vision and strategy impacts enterprise architecture is important – with an overall goal of traceability from our ideas and initiatives all the way through delivery.

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erwin Expert Blog Enterprise Architecture

Digital Transformation & Agile Enterprise Architecture

Digital transformation remains a hot topic as the convergence of new customer preferences and expectations, and the increasing number of touchpoints is driving business and technology decision-making like never before.

Rising to this challenge in the digital business world requires a laser-like focus on the customer and innovation opportunities, which means change is a necessity. Digital transformation is the crux to drive organizational, process and technology changes that help ensure the customer is more closely connected to, and better served by, the business.

Technology organizations will even begin to attribute their own revenue streams as digital business models play a much larger role in organizations of all sizes.

As such, enterprise architecture (EA) is extremely well positioned to support change and innovation initiatives, but how can EAs position themselves to influence and even lead digital transformation?

This will become increasingly relevant if analyst figures are anything to go by. IDC have forecasted that the percentage of enterprises creating advanced digital transformation initiatives will reach 50% by 2020, up from 22%. Additionally, Forrester sets out that only 27% of today’s businesses have a coherent digital strategy for how they will create customer value in the digital business world – a number which will only increase.

Digital Transformation Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise Architecture For Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation can be seen as customer and market pressures driving technology and organizational change and innovation that is necessary for the business to satisfy and delight its customer base (it is quite a mouthful I admit).

Architects should view the enterprise as a complex, living system and technology-enabled transformation requires a much more agile approach than traditional EA has been able to offer in the past. Focusing more on solving business problems than on extensive documentation, and taking a data-driven approach to transformation will allow EA to drive digital transformation.

Starting out on a transformation journey pursuing increased productivity alone is not going to deliver the kind of outcomes that will delight customers and set the foundations for competitiveness and growth. Instead, focus on the business opportunities that will allow you to better serve and delight the customer base, open up new products or services to the existing base, or open up a new customer segment entirely.

There is still much work to be done to break down the silos that exist; every department or line of business has its requirements and to a certain extent their own way of working, supported by applications that are siloed, resting on infrastructure silos.

In this type of environment the world is revolving around the organization’s infrastructure. But today, digital business often starts where the customer first touches the business online or via an app. This must be the new focus and the traditional silos need to be fixed in order to truly transform for the customer.

Transformation Requires Agile Enterprise Architecture

With as many articles and posts about digital transformation and EA, you’d think there was a defined clear path to follow on the journey to becoming a digitized business. Yet we all know there’s no recipe that can guarantee digital success.

One thing is for sure however, those organizations that can establish business agility as a strategic capability will be best placed to respond to the opportunities from digital transformation. An agile business means being responsive to new opportunities, resilient to risks, and innovative in the face of transformation requirements.

There are limitations to achieving business agility through EA, though. Those being:

  • EA is often buried deep within the IT team
  • EA has a poor connection to the business organization
  • EA is too focused on producing extensive documentation rather than delivering business outcomes
  • EA sits in an ivory tower

However, thinking about agility at the meta layer helps to describe an enterprise that is inherently agile, flexible and architected for continuing change and transformation. Start to think of business agility as a meta requirement, where requirement change must be supported. Even meta processes, where process change must be supported.

The agile EA needs to be oriented towards how things change, rather than the things themselves to help build an enterprise architecture and organization that can act with agility. Architects can focus on specifying technology that is inherently flexible so that it is capable of supporting the expected change.

EAs that can architect their organization for increased business agility can position themselves to influence and even lead digital transformation agenda, by providing the decision support system to focus and deliver on the right digital strategies.

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Enterprise Architecture erwin Expert Blog

Enterprise Architecture Case Study: Collaborative & Agile Enterprise Architecture at Plymouth University

Plymouth University is the 15th largest University in the UK with over 27,000 students and almost 3,000 employees. It was recently ranked 37th in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015 of institutions under 50 years old. A new erwin customer, Plymouth recently selected erwin’s agile enterprise architecture solution to support a collaborative approach to IT strategy planning and architecture decision-making.

Craig Douglas, Enterprise Architect at Plymouth University, spoke about their current initiatives and selecting a new tool. Craig leads the EA function, working with stakeholders across the organization to align corporate and IT strategies, and facilitate effective change for the University and its underlying processes, information and technology assets.

EA is a relatively new function at the university?

“Yes, EA is relatively new to Plymouth University and new to most of the Higher Education sector in the UK. It was introduced by the Head of Strategy and Architecture, Adrian Hollister, with the aim of creating a window into a sustainable IT future. This included governance frameworks, security, and documentation of the as-is and to-be. Adrian formed the Enterprise Architecture Practice of Excellence and invited people throughout the University to take part and have their say.”

What role does enterprise architecture play at Plymouth University?

“For us, it’s about taking the sound ideas of the business and looking at how we can best deliver them through technology. It’s no longer technology for technology’s sake, we’re focussed on adding value, improving efficiency, increasing performance, and making best use of existing capabilities to deliver what the business is asking for.”

What challenges do you face in EA today?

“We need to ensure we fully understand what we have in terms of technology and capabilities, and we need to constantly evolve on what we have and innovate. It’s important that we can understand where everything fits together with a complete view of all relationships and interdependencies. Once we have this, we can confidently produce diagrams and analysis to share our architecture honestly with the wider University and possibly beyond. It’s important to me to share our architecture with the widest group of stakeholders as possible.”

What prompted you to look for a new enterprise architecture solution?

“We’ve been running the enterprise architecture practice for about two years now and have a team of six architects. We had been using an open source EA tool but every week the management team would make requests and we would struggle to provide the answers they needed. So we began to look for a more collaborative platform that could help us produce all the required diagrams, reports and analytics with greater agility. We tried a few products and spoke with several different software vendors and ultimately opted for erwin.”

Why did you select erwin’s Agile Enterprise Architecture platform?

“erwin ticks all the boxes for being SaaS, multi-platform, collaborative, and flexible in that the underlying metamodel can be customized. It allows us to tailor our reporting capabilities and work with all stakeholders on architecture diagrams. Previously, I had to manually re-create a lot of diagrams produced by my colleagues which wasn’t ideal. Being able to work on a tablet is a real bonus too when it comes to mobility and sharing our architecture. Overall it ticked more boxes than the other tools and it’s very competitively priced.”

What’s next for enterprise architecture at Plymouth University?

“I’m excited about getting to grips with the platform and getting results from it. Overall we’ll be focussed on working much more collaboratively in enterprise architecture. We will be utilising the tool to push towards a complete understanding of our current capabilities and inform future projects like data centre, disaster recover options alongside many other high profiles opportunities. We’ll focus on using the diagrams and analytics to manipulate the metadata to get the end results.”

Visit the Plymouth University IT Strategy & Architecture blog for their latest updates.

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erwin Expert Blog Enterprise Architecture

Agile Enterprise Architecture in Higher Education

Over the last 5-10 years enterprise architecture (EA) has gained momentum in the Higher Education (or Further Education) sector, with many University and College institutions establishing an EA practice to help get on top of constantly changing and complex IT strategy and business strategy requirements.

Universities are in an especially unique situation of being both a research business and education business, with a degree of overlap between the two (researchers are also often the educators). And the added dichotomy of Universities both competing and at the same time collaborating with each other.

There are many complexities to doing EA in Higher Education, with tightening budgets, pressure to rationalize IT and related support and services. At the same time they must provide flexibility to cope with changing requirements, deliver innovative services to students and academics, and prepare for whatever is next on the horizon.

This is where agile enterprise architecture helps. But first, let’s briefly look at the current state of EA in Higher Education.

Agile enterprise architecture for universities

Enterprise Architecture in Universities

There are varying levels of EA maturity in the University/College ecosystem. Less mature organizations will often utilize Visio, Powerpoint or UML modelling tools to complete architecture-related tasks. However, there are major challenges with these tools around consistency of multiple diagrams, the effective communication and collaboration of architecture assets with stakeholders, and the timeliness of assets for use in decision making.

At the opposite end, the more mature institutions have purchased specialist tools and established an EA practice, and are using a common EA language such as ArchiMate® to build, manage and communicate assets in a consistent manner.

So what’s next for Higher Education institutions?

Adopting Agile Enterprise Architecture in Education Institutions

Every year EDUCAUSE, the non-profit organization whose mission is to advance higher education through the use of IT, publish a list of Top 10 IT Issues. One major theme from the 2015 list is the shift in Higher Education IT’s focus from technical problems to business problems, along with the growing interdependence between the IT organization and business units.

How Higher Education institutions respond to this acceleration of changing IT and business requirements is a top issue for Enterprise Architecture. To simply keep pace with the rate of change in 2015 and beyond, organizations must develop the capability to act with agility, to learn, respond and take action in shorter amounts of time.

What’s required is a new approach to enterprise architecture that’s focused on producing just the right amount of architecture assets for senior stakeholders and decision makers – communicating architecture quickly and only when it is valuable to do so for more agile IT and business decision making.

In the past, architects have often been guilty of producing detailed EA documentation but much of it providing little value to senior decision makers. Universities need to move away from this and adopt an agile enterprise architecture approach.

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