Enterprise Architecture (for a beginner)

A review of the recent JISC event ‘Doing Enterprise Architecture’

Along with many others involved in the course data programme, I recently attended the Enterprise Architecture workshop run by JISC’s Emerging Practices unit, and I’d like to use this post to evaluate that experience.  Thanks to all involved in running the workshop for a very informative and well-organised session.

Webinar

A webinar run the previous week had introduced the concept, laying the groundwork so that the workshop day could get off to a swift start.  I thought this was an excellent idea, although I didn’t find that the content of the introduction was entirely suited to my role.  There was a great deal of focus on how best to sell EA to high level staff in your institution with the authority to lend support to its implementation.  This was approached from several different angles, using varied definitions and metaphors, and including a slide on “what not to say to your VC”.  For me as a complete beginner to EA, it felt slightly the wrong way around – demonstrating how to re-sell something that I had not yet fully bought.  However, for those in management positions or who are further ahead with EA, it may have been more valuable.  I was pleased that the workshop itself was designed to be more practice-focussed, and we were shown many concrete examples of how using EA could provide benefits to an institution.

Institutional perspectives

The workshop included three short consecutive presentations from those who had (varying levels of) experience practising EA in the sector.  The first was from Nikki Rogers of Bristol University.  She has been working as an Enterprise Architect there for a year, and her very useful blog is here.  I was particularly interested in some of the reasons that she gave for using EA (it starts necessary conversations and encourages precision in describing processes) and in the innovative ways that she had adapted the methodology, for example in producing an Archi diagram of the student lifecycle, which ties in closely with work I am doing to map ‘programme lifecycles’ here at Sheffield.

Ian Anderson from Coventry University followed on by showing how they had implemented an EA approach surrounding a project for the introduction of smart cards on campus,  and how they had created a meta-model to specify which ArchiMate shapes would be used and to define their meaning in context.  He judged that XCRI-CAP “has EA written all over it” because this project is about pulling data from all areas of an institution.

The final presentation was from the University of Bradford, who have recently  started their journey towards full implementation of EA – after mapping various projects e.g. HEAR, KIS and timetabling, they recommended that EA should be used in every one of them.

Discussion and modelling session

Subsequently each table in the room had some time for discussion.  Ours focussed on the scope of EA: what it could replace, and what it could not replace.  As the day went on, it became apparent that one thing it should not replace is process mapping.  As this blog post from the Emerging Practices initiative explains “EA provides a vertical view of the organisation whilst process mapping gives you a more in-depth horizontal perspective. EA helps you to understand where data is coming from. You’ll probably realise that data isn’t great in which case you’ll probably review your process to help improve that data”.

In the afternoon, the room divided into two, with one group (including me) learning how to use the Archi tool to create models, while others focussed on management and governance that should surround the approach.  The modelling session was intense, and very useful, I would have really struggled to get started with Archi without it.

Conclusions

At Sheffield, we’re not yet sure whether and how we will implement Enterprise Architecture.  From this workshop, however, I gathered that at the mapping level EA can add a valuable dimension that is not usually covered by process maps, and that it can help to support and direct institutional strategy. I’d also welcome more EA events, e.g. regional assemblies or XCRI-CAP sessions, which were suggested by a few at the workshop.

All of the presentations from the day are available here.

One thought on “Enterprise Architecture (for a beginner)

  1. Andrew Stewart

    Great feedback, thank you! Lots for us to ponder, especially the idea of regional assemblies/XCRI-CAP sessions. We’ll hopefully get dates for future events, already in the plan, published soon via the blog and think through any additions soon.

Comments are closed.