>Executive Dashboards and Enterprise Architecture

>

Enterprise architecture makes information visible to enable better decision making in the organization. One tool to help do this is the executive dashboard.

In management information systems, a dashboard is a executive information system user interface that (similar to an automobile’s dashboard) is designed to be easy to read. For example, a product might obtain information from the local operating system in a computer, from one or more applications that may be running, and from one or more remote sites on the Web and present it as though it all came from the same source. (Wikipedia)

Dashboards help manage information overload:

  • “After three decades of aggressive computerization, companies are drowning in data and information. People produced about five exabytes of new information in 2002, twice the amount created just two years earlier” (Trend: The New Rules of Information Management by Jeffrey Rothfeder)
  • Dashboard are a way to take the fire hose flood of information that we get every day and make it more actionable by structuring it, focusing it, and making it more understandable often through visual displays. Note, this is similar to User-centric Enterprise Architecture’s use of principles of communications and design, such as information visualization to effectively communicate the baseline, target, and transition plan in the organization.

Dashboards provide business intelligence:

  • Dashboards, like enterprise architecture itself, contribute to translating data into business intelligence. EA does this by capturing, analyzing, cataloging, and serving up information in useful and usable ways to enhance decision making by the end-users. Dashboards do this by capturing and aggregating performance metrics, and displaying them in easy-to-read and often, customizable formats.

Dashboards generally focus on performance:

  • Dashboards generally are used for displaying, monitoring, and managing an organization’s performance metrics. Note, “performance” is one of the perspectives of the enterprise architecture, so dashboards are a nifty way to make that EA perspective really come alive!
  • According to DM Review, 15 April 2008, “Dashboards Help Drive and Improve Performance Metrics…Presented in highly visual charts and graphs, this data can provide each level of the organization with the information it needs to best perform…Dashboards also can be a key driver of performance improvement initiatives, offering a simple and graphical way to make key performance indicators (KPIs) visible throughout the enterprise.”

Dashboards typically provide activity monitoring and drilldown capability:

  • “The most effective dashboards allow users to drill down into the KPIs to find root cause or areas likely to cause problems. Some can even be configured to alert maintenance or support personnel when performance drops” or dangerous thresholds are crossed. Dashboard also help “make comparisons of multiple data sources” over time. These functions are called business activity monitoring, and when applied to the organization’s network, for example, is referred to a network monitoring.
  • The ability to monitor and manage performance using the dashboard is similar to ability to monitor and manage the organization’s track along it roadmap using EA!
  • The most effective dashboards, like the most effective enterprise architectures, are those that provide information in multiple layers of detail, so that the executives can get the high-level summary, the mid-level managers can understand the relationships between the information, and the analysts can drill down and get the detail.

Dashboards—an effective human-machine interface:

  • Dashboards done right, are an effective EA tool, and serve as a window into the organization’s performance; they provides real-time, summary and granular information for making quick and specific decisions to positively affect performance.

>Activity Monitoring and Enterprise Architecture

>

When you log on at work, many of you probably—know it or not–click on an acknowledgement that you consent to monitoring of your activities.

When you are working, your time and your “privacy” are not really your own!

Organizations routinely conduct various sorts of monitoring include network monitoring, intrusion detection monitoring, and now more and more, monitoring of employee activities online. This is an important part of the organization’s technical and security architecture.

  • Network focusedNetwork monitoring describes the use of a system that constantly monitors a computer network for slow or failing systems and that notifies the network administrator in case of outages via email, pager or other alarms. It is a subset of the functions involved in network management.”
  • External focused–“An intrusion detection system (IDS) is used to detect several types of malicious behaviors that can compromise the security and trust of a computer system. This includes network attacks against vulnerable services, data driven attacks on applications, host based attacks such as privilege escalation, unauthorized logins and access to sensitive files, and malware (viruses, trojan horses, and worms).” (Wikipedia)
  • Internal-focused–An activity monitoring tool, according to ComputerWorld Magazine, 7 April 2007, “monitors all activities on an end-user’s system to make sure that no data or computer usage policies are violated. If a violation does occur, the agent issues an alert to the company’s security team and begins collecting data for further review.”

While we all can understand the need for network monitoring and intrusion detection systems, many find internally-focused activity monitoring, a put-off, a display of lack of trust in the employees, or a violation of our privacy.

However, companies do actually have much to fear from their employees—especially the disgruntled or corrupt ones:

CyberDefense Magazine, August 2004, reports in “Beware of Insider Threats to Your Security” as follows: “Gartner estimates that 70% of security incidents that cause monetary loss to enterprises involve insiders…[that] recent FBI statistics show that 59% of computer hackings are done internally…[and that] a source inside the United states intelligence community stated that more than 85% of all incidents involving the attempted theft or corruption of classified data involved an individual who had already been thoroughly vetted and been given legal access to the data.

According to ComputerWorld, activity monitoring tools “features a video-like playback feature that lets security administrators view precisely what a user was doing before, during and after a policy violation was flagged. That can help the admins determine almost instantly whether the violation was an accident or the result of deliberate action…[Additionally, other tools] keeps an eye on all internal network traffic for sensitive or inappropriate material…[or] monitor database activity and check for improper access and other abuses.”

“Because the software [tools] can quickly correlate log even from practically every IT system, it also serve as both a “real-time alerting system and an after-the-fact forensic tool.”

Related products can actually be set up to quarantine a computer, when a policy violation is detected.

The architecture for monitoring the network and internal and external threats is becoming ever more sophisticated. While according to ComputerWorld, Gartner estimates that “less than 30% of Fortune 5,000 companies have installed such [activity monitoring] tools,” we can expect many more to adopt these in the near future.

These tools are vital in today’s information-rich environment where confidentiality, availability, and integrity are the backbone for our enterprise decision-making.