Posts Tagged ‘EA’

Pioneering a low carbon future with Enterprise Architecture

August 8, 2009

It’s been a busy August so far, putting the finishing touches to a report on Enterprise Architecture (EA) which has just been published by JISC TechWatch.

EA is a strategic management technique which aims to align business strategies and goals with information systems. The process involves mapping out both the current situation within an organisation, what’s termed the ‘as is’ and then laying out a vision for the future, the ‘to be’.

It has been in use in the commercial world for a decade or so, although it is new to the education sector. The report synthesises the results of a year-long pilot project by a group of pioneers who looked into the day-to-day practicalities of introducing this technique into the higher education institutions. In particular they looked at the use of The Open Group’s TOGAF method for this kind of work.

The report comes to a number of conclusions, but I think the most interesting relates to the potential for the technique to be used to help the sector move to a low carbon future. As the report makes clear low carbon ICT is an area of activity that is strategically conducive to the EA approach as it needs long-term planning within, and possibly between, institutions. Work is already underway in the sector on the feasibility of shared data centres and the introduction of EA can only help these initiatives.

The report’s called Unleashing Enterprise Architecture and you can have a look at a PDF of the report on the JISC TechWatch website.


Using Twitter

April 15, 2009

Regular readers will know that I have been a little sceptical about Twitter, saying, for example, that it needs some kind of killer app. in order to really take off. Recently though I have begun to mellow, as I have been making serious use of my Twitter account. There is, as you might expect, a vibrant community of users across the JISC universe that I inhabit. By following tweets I’ve been able to keep up with how enterprise architecture (EA) is shaping up across the higher education sector – particularly useful at the moment as I am in the process of preparing a synthesis report on EA.

Twitter started out as a quick way of saying ‘What I’m doing at the moment is…’. It’s still used a lot like this, but what I’ve noticed is that it also seems to be increasingly taking the same form as the earliest blog postings took i.e. very short statements along the lines of ‘Oh, have you seen this interesting thing’ followed by a link. Perhaps we are coming full circle? How long before Twitter expands to allow more than 140 characters?

Doing Enterprise Architecture

March 23, 2009

For those of you who have noticed the dearth of blogging recently, I can now unveil all. Since Christmas I’ve had my nose to the grindstone working on a new futures project for JISC. It’s going to be formally launched at JISC’s annual conference in Edinburgh tomorrow, but I’ll give you a sneak preview now.

The project is called the Enterprise Architecture pilot programme, which is a complicated way of saying we went ‘native’ with a small group of universities for a year while they were trying out something called enterprise architecture, or EA, a strategic management technique which helps large organisations align their business processes with their ICT and data/information sources. It’s supposed to help manage business change and enable what’s sometimes called the ‘agile’ organisation.

We’ve been involved in developing something called an Early Adopter Study, where we’ve written some introductory material and overseen the production of some quite detailed case studies from the participating universities. Despite being used in the corporate world for over a decade, EA has very little in the way of ‘warts and all’ case studies, so it will be interesting to see how this goes down.

For us it’s been more about trying out a new report format – there’s a lot of quite adventurous stuff goes on in universities but people don’t often get to hear about it. So whereas we were already involved in forecasting and speculation, this is a little closer to home in that it’s looking at some of the ‘toe in the water’ stuff.

The report’s called Doing Enterprise Architecture: Enabling the agile institution and you can have a look at a PDF of the report on the JISC TechWatch Website.

The preaSOAic era

April 18, 2008

I came across a new computer-related term the other day: the “preaSOAic” era. SOA stands for Service Oriented Architecture and – together with Enterprise Architecture (EA) – form the two hottest buzz-words in the business computing world.

The SOA ideology envisages recasting a company or public sector institution’s myriad software applications into a series of services that are open to each other via the Web and have formalised methods for exchanging messages and data. By turning software applications into services all the different business processes and databases of an institution should be able to co-operate merrily with each other. It is hoped that this will avoid the usual situation that most companies find themselves in, where there are many applications spread across dozens of departments, all with their own databases, most of which are extremely reluctant to talk to each other or use each other’s data. In this “preaSOAic” era there is the potential for massive amounts of data duplication (referred to as ‘data silos’) and general muddle. It is generally portrayed as a period when large amounts of staff time are spent simply taking data from one computer application and [manually] entering it into another.

SOA is potentially a huge paradigm shift for an organisation, not only for the computer development team, but also for the business processes that link departments and functions. The recognition of the potential for large scale ‘reordering’ of the way information is handled within an organisation has led to increasing interest in the second concept: Enterprise Architecture. This involves a formal process of analysing and articulating a company’s fundamental organising business logic (i.e. what it actually does on a day-to-day basis) and activities, and tries to work out how the ICT infrastructure should go about modelling this. Frankly, it’s big brain stuff, but research by Harvard Business School seems to suggest that organisations that get it right can lower their ICT costs and be more effective and efficient in their day-to-day activities.

The commercial world has been pretty heavily engaged with this in the last few years and the education community is now starting to take notice. JISC is starting to articulate the ideas of SOA and EA to its community of higher and further education institutions and has started to fund a series of pilots. As part of this work, I’ve been commissioned to help out by providing technical reporting and editorial support for these activities and I’m off to Glasgow next week to learn more at the OpenGroup’s annual Enterprise Architecture Practitioners conference. As you’ve probably gathered by now, this is all ‘adult material’ and so I’ll probably require some light relief: I’ll be on the hunt for a vegeterian haggis or two and perhaps a wee dram.