Do you sense that your processes are sluggish and overlap? From my experience we loose grip in rampant meetings and weak planning. What drives things forward are clarity, velocity, and direction. In frequently changing markets we need less talking and less bubbles. What we need are clear facts, common targets, and ability to deliver.
I will improve effectivity, consistency, and sustainability for you while reducing complexity of IT.
You may expect better time to market, streamlined system landscape, and boosted productivity.
When doing enterprise architecture as well as systems engineering (or system architecture in detail) the question arises if there can be one meta model like Archimate and one tool that does it all.
That means, supporting the strategic portfolio level (comparable to city planning) as well as the development-oriented system level (architecture for one building at a time).
Roles vs Tool Styles
A very important requirement if talking about ‘enterprise’ is easy access to the captured landscape and its building blocks if for business products, applications, data, or technology as well as blueprints, planned architectures, and governance. This access must be provided for a range of users comprised by many people in the enterprise very probably having various roles and skills.
Since all this architectural information shall not only be consumed but also improved and maintained in a distributed fashion, it becomes clear that a tool focusing on diagram-first modeling style cannot be the answer no matter if based on UML, SysML, Archimate, or any other formal modeling language. The reason is that most of the users are not able to model and only a fraction can be taught due to the costs. Mostly, the focus lies on roles already having a certain skill set you can easily build upon, i.e., mostly roles matching the word ‘architect’. Prominent examples of such expert tools are MagicDraw (Cameo) by No Magic (now Dassault Systèmes), ARIS Architect by Software AG, Adonis by BOC, Innovator by MID, Enterprise Architect by Sparx, and others. But, as we will see, any of these can be part of your overall story.
Since the average user needs a tool that makes live easier and not harder, most EA tool vendors have focused on an approach that is data-first ERP style – typically providing web-based access to collected portfolio information (products, applications, business objects, technologies, and such). That information is presented as profiles or sheets like for each application which can also be updated via data forms. Tools like Alfabet (planningIT) by Software AG, LeanIX by LeanIX, LUY by iteratec, ADOIT by BOC, and others follow this path. From the captured data, they automatically produce dynamic graphical or tabular reports. Some of these tools also support Archimate ranging from basic import over addition to their own metamodels to own metamodels based on Archimate.
But why do EA tools always provide more than Archimate provides? This is because many important aspects in daily life are missing in Archimate like roles and permissions, multi-tenancy, life cycle information (planned, active, deactivated; generally state per date interval), portfolio planning capabilities (as-is, plan, to-be; the later with alternatives), tool integration features (requirements, publication, test management), and a lot more.
On the other hand, the last decade has shown, that focusing only on the strategic portfolio level ignoring the reality on the ground easily leads to the ivory-tower syndrome producing badly accepted plans to change the IT landscape.
In order to avoid this, it is important to couple portfolio data with refined software and hardware architectures. The portfolio acts as the common structure and its content had better reflect the software and hardware inside (compare with reporting). And that’s where the above mentioned architects come into play again. They can bridge this gap by drilling down deeper to system architecture level and even further.
In that case, diagram-first modeling style tools for experts are more appropriate. As mentioned above, these are typically based on UML, SysML, Archimate, another modeling language, or even a combination of those. Modeling tools supporting Archimate as a dialect can make integration with enterprise architecture tools that are also supporting Archimate a little easier.
Being able to address both worlds is an important issue and not an easy task. Common meta models may help, but are not a must. More important is the ability to map high-level enterprise architecture blocks to medium-level system architecture content and that in turn to low-level system design content which can also partly be reverse engineered directly from running systems.
There are also tools that address both tool styles like ADOIT or upcoming versions of Bpanda that might be helpful, too. Let’s call it hybrid data-diagram style. Again, it is not a must, especially if different tools are already set in the organization and shall be integrated. The options are ranging from built-in integration features like export/import capabilities to separate integration tools like Smartfacts which provides a portal merging data from different tools via OSLC or classic synchronization.
OCL, the Object Constraint Language, is a powerful expression language for UML, SysML, and other languages based on UML. Unfortunately, there is no good documentation around for using OCL inside tools like MagicDraw and such. But, at least we have some input from which we can extract most important aspects.
Here is my link collection on OCL. The bad news are, this stuff is pretty old and it also varies in its statements. Either nobody is really working on it as a core module anymore or we just cannot find fresh insights here. Feel free to write me if you find any better resources.
“In einer Zeit, in der die Beschleunigung der Entwicklungs- und Release-Zyklen für viele Bereiche des Business zu einem entscheidenden Wettbewerbsfaktor geworden ist, wird das altbekannte Dilemma zwischen Geschwindigkeit und Qualität weiter auf die Spitze getrieben. Mit ganzheitlichen Herangehensweisen zur Umsetzung von Continuous Delivery hat sich hier im Softwareentwicklungsprozess im vergangenen Jahrzehnt mit der Nutzung von DevOps-Ansätzen bereits einiges getan.“
Nachfolgende Abbildung veranschaulicht die Rundreise mit ihren Phasen rund um involvierte Tools zu den Disziplinen Requirement Management, Requirement Engineering, Output Management und Test Management.
When changing your application landscape on a bigger scale you might have to worry about a target architecture that you can only reach with intermediate steps like per year or release. Even a high-level roadmap may be rather complex due to necessary plan changes. The following reduced example shows the core problem:
As you see, applications are repeated in different time windows and so are the features they provide. Moreover, feature provisioning may change like “Duplicate Check” might move from “LegacyCRM” to “BrandnewCMR”. In addition, features themselves may change like “Search Customer” and “Search Partner” being merged into “Search Account”.
I see people doing these things in Excel and Visio or, even worse, in Powerpoint. And everytime my hair stands up expecting a lot of waste or worse like lost COVID-19 results. Excel is a powerful thing, no doubt, but it has its limits. The right way to do such an exercise is using a proper method with a proper tool set. There are many options like application lifecycle tools, enterprise architecture management tools, and modeling tools. I will explain the core concept using a modeling tool, but it can easily be translated to other tools.
The core concept is based on adding the notion of lifecycle or time in general to your plan elements. Each gets a begin and end date between which it is valid. Consequently, showing an application being valid from 2018 to 2022 in a plan scenario for 2025 is not valid because it is long gone. But, since applications and also features typically live for many years, we can save a lot of redundancy by reusing the same elements wherever valid which also drastically improves consistency of your plan.
Now, you can understand much better how we build the diagram from above. In fact, our database contains less elements and relations than you count on the diagram since we simply reuse them where valid.
You may already guess the drastic improvement you can achieve in your very probably much larger scenario. It’s getting even better because we are now able to improve data quality with data validation as well as Powerpoint slides and Excel sheets by simply getting those as results of reports. We can even transfer plan data from and to other tools if necessary like for requirements management or budget planning.