>IT Project Engineering and Enterprise Architecture

>

Architecture and Governance Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 1, has an article called “The Secrets of IT Success: Transforming Companies” that identifies three critical architectural elements necessary for successful IT project execution, or as I see it, project initiation.

These critical IT project elements are as follows:

  • Community Analysis—“It must understand the needs of the customers, the supply chain, and the transactions necessary for the day-to-day running of the business…generate understanding on both the business and IT sides of the equation, to capture organizational goals comprehensively, and to enable effective training and buy-in, IT analysts and engineers must identify with and embrace the community to be transformed.”
  • Operations Analysis—“A deep understanding of the operational activities, capabilities, and business processes…Here work activities are identified, captured, and catalogued so that information flows, technologies, roles, and other processes and elements can be accurately mapped. The analytical results from this phase give a clear perspective to move from the business’s needs to the requirements of the new technology that will need to be implemented.
  • Technology Analysis—“technical needs are defined and blueprinted, and their intersections with business rules are specified…A multidimensional analytical view encompassing user workflow, technologies, data, security, business rules, and interfaces can greatly enhance the pure IT view of transformation.”

To me this translates in simple terms to the following:

  • Business needs
  • Functional and technical requirements
  • Technology solutions

While these IT project elements factor into the development of the enterprise architecture, they are more the domain of segment and solutions architecture that work toward business and operational outcomes, rather than strategic-level outcomes.

The article also calls for the use of visual tools to aid in IT project analysis:

  • In all three phases, a key ingredient is supplying a visual tool as part of the universal language that will be used throughout the project to facilitate clear communications between members of the community affected by it. Consistent and unambiguous visual expressions of the operational need and intent immeasurably enhance the likelihood of a successful IT implementation.”

This call for the use of visual tools is similar to and supportive of the use of information visualization in User-centric EA, where information visualization is especially helpful in the high-level, strategic profile views of the architecture as well as in modeling business, data, and systems. In all areas of User-centric EA, the principles of communication and design are critical for developing useful and usable information products and governance services for the end-user.

>Systems Theory, Community Model, and Enterprise Architecture

>The Community Model is a way of presenting a high level view of function and the actors and their relationships in an organization. The model is then decomposed into activities, data, and requirements for establishing enterprise architecture. (adapted from Booz Allen Hamilton).

In the community model, the circle (representing the enterprise) is divided in half. The top half represents the mission functions. The bottom half represent the support functions. The Support functions act on the behalf of the mission function above and hence are connected by arrow from the support to the mission. The mission semi-circle above has arrows towards customers on the outside above the circle. The support semi-circle below has arrow towards supplies on the outside beneath the circle. There are additional arrows from the sides of the circle toward partners and towards organizational sub-entities that function independently (and have their own circle with mission and support), but that interfaces with the primary organization. I believe there should also be arrows connecting the prime circle to stakeholders, such as unions, associations, distributors, oversight authorities, even competitors.

This is a pretty cool way to get a high-level snapshot of the organization and the “community” it functions in.

In my view, the community model is an adaptation from Systems theory, which studies the nature of complex systems in society, nature, and science. In systems theory, organizations are compared to organisms; they are open and interact with their environment and must achieve effective relationships with the various actors in the environment to survive and thrive.

Systems theory is used as a framework to analyze and/or describe a group of objects that work in concert to produce some result. In this context, a system means a configuration of parts connected and joined together by a web of relationships. In the case of an EA community model, the enterprise and its affiliates are working to provide products and/or services to its users. The various actors in the system interact in a network of relationships to provide execute, support, consume, supply, distribute, partner, oversee, or compete. Every actor in the system has a role and every actor is impacting the others.

In User-centric EA, system theory and community model are terrific ways to understand and describe the enterprise, its functions, actors, interactions, and dependencies. It is also a good starting point for decomposing business, data, and system models to further understand the specific nature of the relationships and how these can be reengineered or improved prospectively.