Tag Archives: enterprise architecture

The UCISA UK HE Capability Model

A UCISA-backed project to unravel the DNA of UK university business capabilities has mapped out a ground-breaking model that promises to revolutionise HE business planning and resource investment.

For the first time, UK HEIs can now predict how pulling on one lever in the organisation will affect all other components across the entire business architecture, as Ian Anderson, head of the UCISA’s Enterprise Architecture Community of Practice, explains:

 

SOURCE CODE FOR AN EASIER LIFE IN A WORLD OF HE CHANGE

 

The UK HE Capability Model is about mapping what a university, or other HE provider, is at its core. A business capability defines “what” a business does and differs from “how” things are done, where, or by whom. Business capabilities are the core of the any enterprise architecture.
When it comes to planning change, if you know all the contributing factors and all the variables to take into consideration in terms of the impacts on the rest of the organisation, then you can better judge and plan where to invest time, money and resource.
I work at Coventry University which is a big £300 (+) million business. Like many other large organisations, it’s not always easy to ensure one end of the businesses always know what’s going on from the other.
Take a simple example. If you want to run a part-time course in the evening, the course content isn’t the only thing to consider. Do you know if the car park is open in the evening? Is catering available? There is seldom one place you can go and find out and one place to let everyone else know what you are planning.
The UK HE Capability Model sets out to allow HEI’s to be more ‘situationally aware’; to allow better assessments of threats and opportunities and plan in a much more consistent manner. Through the model, Senior Managers and planners have a mapping architecture that allows HEIs to plan holistically across the entire business.
For example, if you wanted to break into the American market, what are all the processes and all the data sets that you already have that you should take account of? And how might they need to change? The Capability Model provides you with a baseline to access all the things that you need to consider going forward.
And just one of the many things we discovered in putting the model together, is that while we may all work in the same location, we all come at problems from a different perspective. And we don’t all speak the same language!
For instance, the model has a box for ‘domestic student recruitment’. Something every HEI does. We had to define and map this capability and that led to one university partner asking the simple question: “Who owns the messaging?” The recruitment office said, “Well, we own it.” But a college off-shoot said, “No, we own it.” And the Faculty said, “Actually, we think we own it.”
We had all these people thinking they owned recruitment, a number of systems running it and god knows how many spreadsheets in the background. Mapping and modelling the capability made them realise they were not doing it in a joined-up way.
We also uncovered the language problem. Some people would refer to student invoicing, some to academic fees management and others to student billing. Through the UCISA model, we have created a common language for use not only between the business and IT, but across the organisation.
The aim of the UK HE Capability Model has been to create a generic UK HE model that is very much in line with the UCISA ethos of collaboration and sharing the benefits with the sector.
One or two universities have had a go in the past for their own organisations and models exist for the sector in Australia, New Zealand and Holland – but we wanted to create something specific to the UK sector and to take our model further. Including, for example, commercial activity as a value stream alongside teaching and research and so reflecting the kind of work done at many Universities in areas such as ‘Technology Parks’ etc.
We’ve put in the time, defining something like 230 capabilities and grouping them logically, so you can take our model and put in your data and your information. You may wish have to tailor it to your individual circumstances (that’s fine it’s a generic model) but the bulk of the work has already been done – saving you time and making planning that much easier.
UCISA’s UK HE Capability Model is thus essentially a check list across five core groupings to confirm you have all your building blocks in place before you take anything forward. It ensures that you’ve taken account of all the ripples your plan may cause and that you know exactly what opportunities, impacts and improvements it will create – not only in the area you are working on but right across the rest of the university.
The essence of the model is the repository system. It tells you exactly where to collate and store information and data sets associated with a particular capability. It shows you the links to other capabilities so you can quickly assess the potential impact on them when planning and all the factors you should take into consideration.
That is the sort of work that a business analyst would spend many hours trying to identify. But having that repository of information about how the ecosystem of the organisation is put together, allows you to adapt and change the environment you’re operating in that much quicker.
The starting point is something we’ve called POLDAT. For each capability, ask yourself what are the Processes that support it? What is the Organisation and the people that support it? Where are they Located? Then what is the Data? What is the Application? And finally, what is the Technology?
If you start defining and collating that, you will find you can start to plan much more holistically
HESA contributed because they were doing some work around HESA data sets and felt the model matched what they were trying to do. If you have a capability around, say, enrolment management, then you will identify the dataset that sits there and the processes that create and manage that data and the governance that sits around it. When you look at the UCISA Capability Model you can see there are definitely links.
It’s a stretch —but in future you may be able to benchmark your performance on one capability against other universities using such data.
I see enterprise architecture as the glue that links what we do as individual UCISA members back to the core business and mission of our universities and colleges. If we’re changing a technology or promoting a technology, the model can help us understand which capabilities or groups of capabilities are affected and how that benefits the organisation overall.
I see it helping to move us away from the old-fashioned view of IT as something that works in a tins and wires sort of environment to being absolutely a part of changing the way the business operates. It is very much about being a trusted partner in that process.
And looking to the future in a fast-changing world, the Capability Model is also durable. If you go back 30 years, people paid fees to their university and we had a capability in student fee management. The difference is that people paid by cheque whereas now they pay online.
Thirty years on, the capability is still the same. Once you’ve tailored the model to your institution, you’ll probably be able to say, even in 30 years’ time, that even if the attributes and component parts may be different, we still do most of these things.

Key take-outs:

  • UCISA’s UK HE Capability Model is freely available to all UCISA member institutions

  • The Model enables you to plan holistically across the entire organisation

  • The Model saves planning time, improves decision-making and encourages common
    terminology across the organisation

 

UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA.

 

Enterprise Architecture and language

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Ian Ellery
Head of IT Architecture
Canterbury Christ Church University

 

 

 

 

Mark Heseltine was the next speaker I heard; talking about enterprise architecture for innovation and change, linking EA with Lean and Agile concepts. He made a really interesting observation early on in his talk: the very language of enterprise architecture causes problems. EA is based on an architectural metaphor, but because the people who are listening to us have physical, building architecture as their mental starting point there is a danger that they will (unconsciously) conflate the analogy with reality. A point I will certainly consider when talking to those outside IT.

The other interesting aspect of his talk for me was discussion around technical debt. He showed a slide of a four quadrant model for technical debt and used a financial debt metaphor for dealing with it. There is the interest we pay on technical debt – the effort in managing it – which has to be balanced against paying off the debt, in other words removing or replacing technology.

I also spotted a tweet which quoted another speaker in a parallel session: “don’t aspire to be the best airline in the world at recovering lost luggage”. I think this is something many organisations, and departments within those organisations are guilty of. We need to have appropriate goals. Let’s not be the IT department who are brilliant at fixing things when they break, let’s be the IT department who deliver services which don’t break.

The final two sessions I chose to attend were probably the least useful. The first was from the Swedish national electricity grid, and the second from the UK national air traffic control service. Both had huge problems and were undergoing massive change and transition programs. However, the very scale what they were trying to achieve made it difficult for me to see anything applicable to, or transferable to HE. The only comment I did like was from the Swedish speaker who pointed out that a target architecture is a direction of travel not “The Truth”. Something it’s easy to forget when it’s been through endless committees and gained the rubber stamp of SMT approval.

Overall, a very useful and enjoyable two days. This is not a cheap conference, so I am very grateful for UCISA funding my place. Would I recommend other HE architects to attend? Yes I would. Getting out of our own sector is always useful and the commercial challenges of disagreeing business units, limited funding, and pressure to deliver are no different to HE.

UCISA has an Enterprise Architecture community of practice which may be of interest.

Enterprise Architecture and the Double Diamond model

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Ian Ellery
Head of IT Architecture
Canterbury Christ Church University

 

 

 

 

The next talk I went to was entitled “from 0 to EA” and was about trying to use enterprise architecture in a small business undergoing radical transformation after being bought by a private equity company. They used a “double diamond” model, with ideas diverging and then converging on a solution. Another insight was thinking ahead and asking where did they want to be in the IT change cycle when “X” happens? We should specifically design timelines to meet external events. A couple of things resonated with me: firstly, true EA success is embedded and invisible, but changes everything. Secondly, be careful not to solve problems for people and tell them that EA is always right. It’s difficult to gain a seat at the table, but easy to lose it again.

I struggled to get much from the next talk from Andrew Swindell. He was describing a concept called “line of sight”, but with very busy sides, I lost sight of his concept. He showed lots and lots of alternative models, and my overwhelming impression was it was all simply too much. One to consider on rereading slides later perhaps.

UCISA has an Enterprise Architecture community of practice which may be of interest.

Enterprise Architecture – using a chess analogy

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Ian Ellery
Head of IT Architecture
Canterbury Christ Church University

 

 

 

 

This morning’s opening keynote is one I’ve been looking forward to – Gerben Wierda, author of “Chess and the Art of Enterprise Architecture”. The book was recommended to me, but I never got round to buying it. He is also creator of the well-known YouTube animation of “hairball architecture”.

His view is that EA has been generally unsuccessful. We do EA to try and make sense of complexity and prevent chaos. However, while this works in theory, chaos still remains. In many organisations there is significant churn of EA functions, and the business remain unconvinced. Why? In his view because the decisions, the action, takes place in projects and not at the higher EA level.

To make EA work, we should use a chess analogy. In chess each move is to make things better, to improve the current state, but with no specific end state in mind. So, he reasons, EA future state plans are a waste of time. The rules of chess are descriptive not prescriptive, and similarly he argues that EA principles can be toxic as they prevent any discussion leading to a “comply or explain” culture.

He also talks about ensuring that EA does not leave out relevant detail. This led to, for me, a lightbulb moment: oversimplification is as bad as over complexity. If as architects we produce a very simple picture for our senior teams – usually to try and help them understand – they will think that the problem is simple. They will then wonder what all the fuss is about trying to solve this apparently simple problem. There were several other phrases and points which made me consider just what I am trying to do with architecture. Overall, this talk was a really good challenge to the status quo of enterprise architecture. And yes, I will now be buying the book.

UCISA has an Enterprise Architecture community of practice which may be of interest.

EA and project portfolio management

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Ian Ellery
Head of IT Architecture
Canterbury Christ Church University

 

 

 

 

 

 

My final technical session was from an enterprise architect and portfolio manager at Danfoss, a Danish engineering company. Although very focused on improving the bottom line and digital innovation for a manufacturing company, parts of this were very relevant. Before architecture and portfolio got together, projects were initiated and governed by individual business areas (faculties?) with no overall coherence. While they have now moved to a single portfolio model, they still allow business areas to think they have their own portfolio, even if they don’t really own it. They also spoke about technical IT people never wanting to engage with business staff, expecting business partners to act as the interface and go-between. This certainly sounds familiar at Christ Church. Their final insight for me was that although they had a big vision for how architecture and portfolio was going to come together, they cautioned against trying to explain this to business colleagues all at once. Eyes would simply glaze over, so they realised it was easier to explain the changes piece by piece.

The last session of the day was from Neil Mullarkey – formerly of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and now using the techniques of improvisation to teach businesses how to collaborate. He drew out a lot of parallels between agile development and improv, as well as getting us all to improvise a story with those sitting next to us. An excellent speaker, with some strong messages, who I would strongly suggest UCISA consider as a guest speaker at the annual conference.

UCISA has an Enterprise Architecture community of practice which may be of interest.

EA and bimodal IT

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Ian Ellery
Head of IT Architecture
Canterbury Christ Church University

 

 

 

 

 

The next IRM EA conference I session went to was described as looking at the linkages between EA and portfolio management. However, little was said about the PMO, with the focus really being on setting up an EA function. One telling insight is that most EA tools are for enabling architects to talk to architects, not architects to talk to humans. The speaker’s company eventually settled on a tool with both PMO and architecture visualisation capability, which also links to technology life-cycle. This latter allows them to link projects to technology obsolescence. The speaker ended by commenting negatively on the Gartner model of bimodal IT. He felt that the faster mode does not understand BAU, while the slow side is seen as boring. This linked nicely to the next session.

This session was entitled “avoiding the bimodal disaster”, so we were in no doubt about the speaker’s viewpoint. He was president of a digital transformation consultancy, and strongly believed that the digital agenda is impossible in a bimodal organisation. In his view either the slow side will hold back the faster transformation efforts, or shadow IT will be created. There were some good aspects to this, such as not seeing EA as city planners, as planned cities are not agile. They may be efficient, but they are not able to cope with rapid change. However, throughout the talk I was left feeling that while there may be issues with Gartner’s bimodal model, there were at least as many issues with the “self-organised” approach advocated by the speaker. Perhaps it’s working in HE, but I was left thinking that there has got to be a compromise position somewhere. One observation I did agree with however, was the need to be ready for citizen IT: whether it be citizen integrator, developer or data analyst. We need to accept that in the future, these areas are no longer wholly owned by IT.

UCISA has an Enterprise Architecture community of practice which may be of interest.

EA – making a first assessment

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Ian Ellery
Head of IT Architecture
Canterbury Christ Church University

 

 

 

 

 

The next session  I went to at the IRM enterprise architecture conference was from the Head of Architecture and a solution architect from Cambridge Assessment: the examinations and marking offshoot of Cambridge University. To start architecture, you should always look at what is failing. When the new head of architecture joined, he sat in IT operations and observed what was happening. He realised that things were breaking constantly, but being fixed instantly before user impact by a very dedicated team. Poor architecture was being hidden by passionate staff.

There is a balance to be made between architecture for operations and architecture for the users. In the former it’s about reliability, the latter for example about moving away from pure infrastructure (“how many data outlets do we need?”) to asking questions about the users experience in a new building. They finished by describing architecture as a set of services with outcomes aligned to decisions. And compared all EA Frameworks to the labours of Sisyphus – forever pushing a boulder up a hill for no benefit at all.

UCISA has an Enterprise Architecture community of practice which may be of interest.

EA for managing change

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Ian Ellery
Head of IT Architecture
Canterbury Christ Church University

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so, here I am at the IRM enterprise architecture conference  . The opening introduction promised a mixture of talks about the theoretic as well from those who have actually done it. We were also told that there were representatives from over 30 countries and all continents (except Antarctica!). A glance at the delegate list showed that I am the only person from a UK university, with just three other university representatives. This is reflected in the talks, with lots of emphasis on product delivery, profit margins and managing a business across multiple international locations. However, there was very little that I didn’t feel could be translated into the UK higher education sector in some way.

The opening keynote was from Ashley Braganza, a professor at Brunel Business School. He spoke passionately and length about the fact that, when it comes down to it, everything is about change. Business process management leads to enterprise architecture which leads to project and portfolio management: but all of these are really about managing change.

Theoretically, everything that is being done should link back to organisational strategy, but in practice it rarely does. He used an excellent analogy of the strategy being a mirror. When SMT look in the mirror, they see their strategy reflected back at them. But the mirror is then broken apart and each SMT member takes away a piece that reflects their part of the strategy. The mirror is then broken down again and again until every individual in the organisation has their own piece of the mirror reflecting their objectives. But the big picture, the reflection of SMT’s real vision, has been lost. And unfortunately, it is the enterprise architects who are usually called on to fix things! My reflection on this (pun definitely intended) is that either we fight this and try and get a coherent strategic vision, or alternatively, perhaps we embrace it and welcome the fact that EA is the place where corporate strategy becomes visible.

To finish, Ashley reflected on different change models, which he felt were all lacking. He was especially vitriolic about Kotter’s eight steps to change . Finally, one of the phrases of the day which totally resonated with me: the problems, in his view, are that we have 21st century models and methodologies, working within 20th century organisations led by people with 19th century mindsets. By the latter he meant a Dickensian obsession with counting things. Budgets, REF, TEF… sound familiar?

UCISA has an Enterprise Architecture community of practice which may be of interest.

Reflections before the Enterprise Architecture Conference Europe 2016

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Ian Ellery
Head of IT Architecture
Canterbury Christ Church University

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am the lucky recipient of a UCISA bursary  to attend the Enterprise Architecture Conference Europe 2016 run by IRM UK. In the week before the conference, I reflect here on my reasons for wanting to attend, what I am hoping to get out of it and how I hope to use the information.

I have worked at Canterbury Christ Church University for nearly 10 years and have recently become Head of IT Architecture. However, I am not an enterprise architect by background or training I am a senior IT manager and strategist. The potential power of enterprise or IT architecture was introduced to the University by the new IT director and my challenge is to deliver for her a light-touch architectural framework. This will allow the IT department to create a blueprint for the future, and allow the University to manage the significant levels of application change currently planned.

But unlike many universities, we cannot afford to recruit a team of architects. It’s just me, a software/ solutions architect, three business analysts and some project managers. And all too often, architecture feels theoretic and more concerned with tools and frameworks than pragmatic delivery. I was looking for an opportunity to learn how enterprise architecture and IT architecture delivers in real life. A few months ago we worked with Sally Bean, now a consultant and formally an enterprise architect, who consults on building and maintaining high performance architecture teams. She regularly speaks at this conference as does Chris Potts (author of “FruITion” ), and John Zachman, creator of the Zachman Framework  .

By attending I hope to gain insights into the practical application of enterprise architecture, into an organisation which doesn’t realise it needs it. I’m also interested in how hard-nosed commercial organisations use EA to improve their business.  So I am looking forward to talks with titles such as “What Can You Achieve with a New Architecture Team?”   and “Outcome Driven Architecture” . The conference is also co-located with a business process management conference, with attendees of both conferences allowed to drop into sessions from the other. This is also interesting, as in common with many universities, Christ Church has processes which have built up and grown over the years and are no longer necessarily suitable for a 21st century digital university.

As well as writing a daily blog for the UCISA website, I will be posting the occasional Tweet as @e11ery, conference hashtag #EACBPM. I will also attempt to collate my thoughts and experiences, both from the past six to twelve months as well as the conference into a beginner’s guide to creating and using enterprise architecture in higher education environment: without actually employing any trained architects.

 

Benefits of a UCISA bursary – six months later

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Allister Homes
Senior Systems Architect
University of Lincoln

 

 

 

I have attended a number of HE-sector EA events over past few years, and applied for the UCISA bursary hoping that the Gartner EA summit would help me learn more from experts outside the HE sector, and perhaps help me to consider different perspectives. I didn’t see official figures, but I estimated that there were roughly 400-600 attendees. The same summit also takes place in the USA on different dates (with, I would imagine, an even larger number of delegates). As you would expect, there were a lot of sessions running in parallel, so it was impossible to get to everything, and I cherry picked what I thought likely to be the most interesting and useful sessions.

It wasn’t surprising to find that the EA practice of universities is more modest than that a lot of other organisations represented by delegates at the conference. I mentioned in the reflections blog post that there was often an unvoiced assumption that delegates were part of teams with significant numbers of architects and developers, with suggestions such as “when you get back, why not assemble a small team of 5 people to go and investigate X, Y and Z”. It’s good to see how EA is being done outside the sector, but equally important to remember that we need to use it appropriately by learning and adapting from billion-pound organisations, rather than hoping to replicate.

I found the summit helpful to maintain my thinking as an architect on how the architecture we implement now can support the changes that we will need to implement in coming years. Nobody knows exactly what these changes will be, but nonetheless we need to make the best decisions we can now in order to be flexible for whatever change comes along later.

Cloud maturity

Gartner’s views on cloud maturity were interesting and seemed sound. Things such as breaking through vendor fog and hype to get the real information about what offerings are available, the fact that many vendors now offer new services as cloud first, the need to frequently update cloud strategies, and the fact that it’s a case of the “degree of cloudiness” rather than whether to take a cloud approach or not, all ring true.

There was useful insight into changes that Gartner Analysts expect to see over the next few years. Information about strategic trends was also interesting and useful as background information to keep in mind when considering enterprise architectures over the next few years. So too was the session on making sure the architecture is flexible enough to respond to business moments as rapidly as possible; in a setting such as HE, I think getting to that point of the intuition’s architecture being flexible is itself a significant undertaking that will take a long time to achieve, and has to come about gradually, but with deliberate direction, as things are introduced, removed and changed.

Software architecture

In retrospect, I’d categorise several sessions as being about software architecture rather than enterprise architecture; for example, more than one session looked at designers splitting applications into smaller applications and using micro-services for massive web-scale SOA.  Cases in point included Netflix and Facebook, but I think the enterprise architect would be more interested in the services Netflix delivers, how it interacts with other services and how people interact with it, than the detailed software architecture of how Netflix works internally.

Networking

Unlike many of the HE events I’ve attended, I didn’t make any useful contacts at the conference with whom I could occasionally keep in touch to share information. I mentioned in the reflections blog that conversations appeared to be mainly limited to people who already worked together, and a bit of people-watching seemed to reveal that others who, like me, tried to strike up conversations with ‘strangers’ didn’t get much of a flow going. This may well be the norm for a large conference with people from diverse organisations, the vast majority of which would be profit making entities less inclined to openly share.

Attending the summit has not fundamentally changed what I (or we at the University) do or how I think, and it’s a conference that would be useful to attend every two or three years rather than annually, but overall it was beneficial and an interesting experience.

Perhaps one of the most thought-provoking things was that Gartner estimates that by 2017 60% of global 1000 organisations will execute at least one revolutionary and currently unimaginable business transformation effort. Of course, there are no universities in that list, but I wonder – what the proportion of universities that will undergo such a transformation by 2017 will be, and what that transformation will be?

Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme 2018.