Can Enterprise Architecture be demystified

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Can Enterprise Architecture by demystified?

The following GovTech article attempts to say yes. It may be an article you find somewhat interesting. Or, if you have been burned by Enterprise Architecture in the past like many, you might find it trite. Or, you might be able to riff on it. Here’s what are some 101 points one can get out of it:

  • EA lacks support because people don’t understand what it is
  • Using the “building a home from a blueprint” analogy can help (to a degree)
  • Explaining EA terminology (framework, model, blueprint) can help
  • EA is about the business (or mission), not IT; It’s about getting IT to align with the business (or mission)
  • For EA, the federal government is leading (ahead of states and other jurisdictions)

That said, in a brainstorm, virtual whiteboard session, and here are some of our own riffing:

  1. How far can you go with the “building a home from a blueprint” analogy before it breaks down? 
    1. For example, how detailed does a blueprint have to be before you can start building? 
    2. Does the blueprint have to have the landscaping plan? 
    3. Or, does it just have to have the core, structural details? 
  2. When you’re building a house according to blueprint, how are changes handled mid-construction?
    1. If the building owner walks through the roughly-framed house and notices the natural lighting patterns and wants to add a set of windows and move a closet, the blueprint enables you to manage the change, understand the impacts, account for the impacts. What’s the EA analogy, if any?
  3. How agile and iterative can EA be? 
    1. How quickly can you get from EA to implementation to demonstrating results? 
    2. This gets to another obstacle to organizations embracing EA: it takes too long to architect the entire enterprise before the enterprise begins to experience the benefits. 
    3. Sometimes the organization realizes zero benefits because there’s no transition to implementation phase. 
    4. In any case, how exhaustive/comprehensive does the EA need to be before the organization can reasonably move out on some implementation? 
  4. As we’ve seen, starting some transformation in parallel to completing the full EA blueprint and roadmap can begin to improve the organization and move it in the right direction. 
    1. What are the boundaries, conditions for moving into incremental change? 
    2. And what are the risks of moving in the wrong direction before completing an exhaustive EA? 
    3. For example, if early analysis reveals that an organization is behaving like a products company but that it’s mission, purpose and objectives mean that it’s really a services organization, can you start implementing change to address that? 
    4. Is it still appropriate to architect just a “segment” at a time and rollout implementation then move onto the next segment?
  5. Can can organization views of EA go beyond aligning IT with the business/mission? 
    1. For example, are some EA re-alignments purely process-based?

Our comments of course were discussed in how our approach to core architecture concepts apply, so the intent of the blog was not as greenfield as it may seem, but capture some of how the now near 20 year somewhat mainstream practice may need to evolve further to adjust to agility that came about post-internet, utility commodity models (aka cloud), and moving data from ERP backoffice systems to the frontline of mission, scientific, and direct consumer service.

How to reduce time while increasing impact for complex project analysis

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Business Leaders… You are asked to lead your organization in becoming more flexible, driving down cost, reducing cycle time, and improving services to citizens across the board. In short, you are asked to do much more with way less. These are some specific Agency Performance Objectives:

  • Process Simplification
  • Standardized Procedures
  • Consolidated and Streamlined Bureau Processes, Data, Systems, Technology
  • Value-Enhanced Processes that eliminate unnecessary burden on the Citizen
  • Collaborative solutions that encourage Partnerships
  • Integrated architecture processes that facilitate knowledge transfer and reuse between business, data, application, and technology components

Prove the value through analysis to integrate pilot efforts into your broader program evolution. Prove the efficiencies, quality, and scalability sought can work – and under what factors, budget implementation, workforce impacts, data maturity, and infrastructure changes. Making sure that you can see a clear line of sight between your stakeholders goals, product and service portfolio, your concept of operations, and impacts to your resources – partnerships, data, workforce, and IT.

Our Rapid Design and Analysis Services approach can help you meet these objectives. We can support existing operations, projects, new projects, or new strategies.

Which does your organization need to focus upon for its modernization efforts?

 Read more about our Our Change Services Concepts

Sample Rapid Design Services

  • Agile Project Initiation Planning Support
  • Business Strategy Development
  • Business Process Analysis
  • Capabilities Assessment
  • Project Risk Assessment
  • Business Transition Planning
  • Business Solution Design
  • Data and Information Design
  • Business Modernization Blueprint and Implementation
  • Custom Lab Services

These types of tactical or strategic analysis or project implementation engagements should be targeted to have recommendations, transition plan, and scoped budget accepted at executive sponsor level within 3 to 6 months.

Agile Project Initiation Planning Support:

Your project plan has received approval yet you lack qualified or trained personnel to begin the implementation tasks.

The Project Initiation Support Service will assist you in forming your Core Implementation Team as well as in developing the project plan, project charter, communication strategy, funding strategy, and risk management plan.

Let us help you help you get your change effort started or back on track with our two-day workshop. This effort will be a rapid implementation planning effort that will seek to get momentum for moving forward. The workshop approach focuses on gaining consensus across your team, get the common vision, high-level, concept of operations, and priorities and dependencies for key requirements and milestones.

The effort usually requires a few weeks of preparation with the sponsor and reachback to your team, a two-day very rapid and intense workshop effort with your team, and ends with an action plan and all workshop deliverables polished after real-time capturing. The goal of the workshop, whether strategic, tactical, or technical in scope, will be to build a roadmap for the future to establish a clear “line of sight” from executive to users through costs, development, and support for your change effort. MBT:7, 10b

Business Strategy Development

Your organization needs to reevaluate its strategic direction due to changes in technology, policy, or regulations. Globalization requires that you better connect with your customers. Federal mandates require that you more effectively measure how well your organization is performing.

The Business Strategy Development Service will analyze your existing customer community and determine the exact needs and wants of that community. This service helps to bring clarity to goals and objectives, lays out an approach to reach those goals and objectives, and identifies corresponding performance objectives. Your strategy includes steps to be taken to reach your desired outcomes. MBT:1, 2, 7, 12

Business Process Analysis

Your organization has a clear mission and understands the needs of its customers, but you feel that it isn’t able to operate as efficiently as possible. Your staff is stretched too thin or is slipping in the delivery of services to your customers. Another symptom could be that benchmarking indicates that your process may be too costly.

The Business Process Analysis Service will assess how well your organization is performing by evaluating the products and services you are providing to your customers. It identifies the gaps between your organization’s objectives and your products and services, business mandates, and the needs of your customers. Once products and services are well defined, this service analyzes your business processes to determine cost factors and evaluate overall efficiency and value. Ultimately, the service provides a proposed core process that includes industry best practices as well as enhancements that result from process model simulations. It also provides guidance for implementing the needed and approved changes so that you can actually see the benefits of the analysis. MBT:1, 2, 3, 8

Capabilities Assessment

You would like an objective assessment of your organization’s existing business climate, including an assessment of current leadership, staff, organizational structure, information, and/or existing technology solutions.        

The Capabilities Assessment Service will analyze the skills and capabilities of your staff in relation to your mission requirements. The service will also analyze the leadership and current organizational structure in relation to your mission requirements as well as the specific needs of your staff. Once the existing business climate has been assessed, this service will analyze the existing information availability and exchanges as well as the technologies and applications that you are currently using to meet your mission. Overall, this service is designed to assess your operational capacity to meet customer demands. MBT:1, 2, 3, 4

Project Risk Assessment

An existing project of yours has been challenging with respect to technology, management, and/or funding. Unknown risks continue to emerge, forcing the management team to be reactive rather than proactive. This has resulted in senior management concerns that the project is at risk.

The Project Risk Assessment Service will identify and document overall risks by looking at all facets of your project. The service will document these risks and develop mitigation strategies and provide guidance to eliminate or accommodate the risks. MBT:2, 3, 4, 7

Business Transition Planning

Your organization is faced with a large-scale change either in leadership, vision, or a new technology implementation that will impact the way you do business. You know that this large-scale change will affect your people, processes, and organizational structure but you need help planning for that change.    

The Business Transition Planning Service will analyze the major changes that your business organization is facing, and how those changes will impact your strategy, processes, people, and/or technology resources. Since most major change events will actually impact many facets of your business, this service will take a robust and broad look at all areas that will most likely be impacted by the change. This service is focused on equipping you with a strategy that accomplishes a phased implementation of change components resulting in a pre-determined future state. MBT:1, 2, 3, 4, 7

Business Solution Design

Your organization has a clear challenge in performing tasks related to one of your mission areas. You feel that your organization would benefit from an automated solution (new system) to meet this mission challenge. 

The Business Solution Design Service is focused on a specific need or problem within your business organization. Specifically, it will analyze those aspects of the business that contribute to the problem. Additionally, it will analyze scenario-based alternatives that will simulate the problem with the use of technology. The service will define required technology components based on needed business features. MBT:1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 10a, 11

Data and Information Design

You feel that your organization could be more effective in sharing internal information, or in sharing data with other organizations. You know that the data you need is out there, but your organization can’t seem to find it, get it organized, or use it.    

The Data and Information Design Service will analyze your current and future data needs, determine whether the required data should be independently gathered and stored, and will assist in defining the steps to implement any required data-sharing relationships. This service is focused on producing actionable recommendations to improve the way data flows within and between DOI business organizations. MBT:1, 7, 9

Business Modernization Blueprint and Implementation

Your organization needs a make-over starting from a thorough customer analysis, thinking through the organization’s strategy and processes, understanding information needs, and then recommending the right technology solutions for the future.      

The Business Modernization Blueprint and Implementation Service is the most robust and thorough analysis service provided by the lab. This service begins with detailed customer analysis and extends into developing new goals and objectives for the business. The service then takes a closer look at the products and services for the business, followed by an analysis of needed and existing processes, skills, and technology solutions. This service provides guidance for the development of a Modernization Blueprint and its implementation. MBT:all steps

Custom Design Services

Your transformation support needs are cross-cutting, complex, and requires more combinations of discrete intermediate staffing support, and definition will come over time.

Is Federal Enterprise Architecture dead as we know it – yes

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Matt Tricomi

In short, yes! And it was not a humane end. It lived on way too long. As we noted in our Blog What do current disruptive technologies mean to the roles of the Federal CIO office:

Traditionally, the operating model and funding approach for IT has been based on the Brooks Act of 1965 and only added minor portfolio integration concepts based on the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996. These acts were focused on internal IT cost-based centers, management information systems, mission control systems, and enterprise resource planning systems. These systems were all either internal mission or data processing systems used to run business. Since 1996, a lot has happened in the IT based. It has moved from cost center to profit center in the private sector and in the government space to service or profit center as well (i.e. profit for IRS in efiling). As normally is the case when shifting positions of an asset to the executive level, this also means the investment models change and shift as it is now a critical part of executing transactions and interactions direct with the public, yet our policies are now 20-50 years old.

How Enterprise System and Conceptual Solution Architecture Approaches changed in 10 years

is still the same “original concepts of governance gates between major decision points/steps, step at-a-glance view, work product based methods” 

“but you can see the appropriate gravitational move less from system architecting to portfolio designing to roadmapping”

For instance, in MBT and FSAM, Step 4 “Analyze the IT and Develop the Target Conceptual Solution Architecture” took 70 days. Now in CPM its a very high-level set of boxes for executives with risks done in less than a couple weeks with a series of transition plan notes to do it closer to implementation and investment budgetting time.

In MBT and FSAM, Step 4 was nearly identical. Here, its gone.

My assumption is three-fold:

  • by the time the team goes to invest, doing conceptual target solution architecture has already aged 6-18 months
  • target solution architecture depends highly on the progression of other enterprise services – what if the cloud contract gets delayed or re-scoped, what if that enterprise workflow component is done differently, what happens to your architecture?
  • service principles are becoming more best practices and standards like building guidelines which are less project specific, and more the project needs to choose at the right time what is required to apply.

The con could be to this the investment learns to late after budget season the true CAPEX (capital costs) and projects get further delayed. But, that is not all bad, as many time, the original CAPEX outlay is wrong anyhow, even with a good conceptual solution architecture due to the notes above.

Does this mean Architecture should not be done at the Enterprise any more?

Dont we wish that could be true. That the tech developed in one group would integrate naturally with another. The data would perfectly interface. The security worked seamlessly. The protocols were hidden. Redunandancies and sunsets were robotically self-realized. OK, the last was too much tongue in cheek. But, no, systems must interface and be interoperable, accessible, and all the other architecture “ility” words.

So EA policy was constructed made for internal systems and local data centers. Now we are in utility hardware running software for the untrained user or trained user with very little time alotted. This is just a natural program as noted in IT Footprint Progression in the Federal Government… and the role of Architecture

All that being said, losing architecture is a reality in the planning. Disruptions are moving too fast. The best way we have found is making sure the agile development efforts are build on solids plans (per the above) and make sure the architecture principles, component selection is guided by an excellent architecture runway – either via governance or an enterprise agile framework.

We have more adopted a three-pronged approach

  • Strategically building collaborative relationships with our clients using Smart Lean Government concepts of building communities, integrating life events across organization types, and working towards a standing Service Integration Model
  • Tactically, doing the Step 4 work products when needed
  • Timing the tactical work products by implementing Agile with Architecture in concepts driven by Scaled Agile Framework