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How to Improve IT Decision-Making With Real-Time Enterprise Architecture

Posted by Tim R

Smarter IT management

Amy Asadi reminded Enterprise Architects and IT Managers at US EA Connect Day about what technical constraints were hit during the 2008 financial crisis. A Global Enterprise Architect at Workday, a California-based vendor of financial and human capital management software, Asadi recollected just how ill-equipped she and her former colleagues were when executives needed impact analysis on IT landscapes.

Technology vendors at this time were disappearing in incredible numbers, she said, but not only did her previous employer lack reliable overviews of IT dependencies, the default option to collect and evaluate data was Excel—a comically inefficient mechanism to handle the range of materials involved in a common systems review. Alongside VPs and Directors across brands and regions, Enterprise Architects were instead forced to search up and down the chain of command to perform health-checks on IT Components essential to core enterprise functions.

All of which just to give business units one basic status update.

[A guide to defining Business Capabilities]

Episodes like the one shared by Asadi emphasize how connected Enterprise Architecture fieldwork is to the executive potential of CIOs and CTOs. And it all begs the question: why is turned to only in times of crisis? Why not involve Enterprise Architects much sooner—say, perhaps, at the moment aggressive growth strategies are initiated and before crucial operational choices get cast in a fog of undocumented applications, providers and IT components?

Said Asadi: “Enterprise Architecture should enable us to make decision-making easier and faster. We need to have reliable data. We need insights. And we need to enable our business partners to prioritize their choices in a better and more reliable way.”

To do so means building working environments where senior management doesn’t strategize with IT out of necessity, but because they know that their goals can truly be elaborated upon and translated in technical yet accessible ways—and in some cases even anticipated for them. This is the characteristic of a true “Smart Space”, Asadi said, and it means so much more than using IT to keep systems running at a status quo. It’s about knowing, in real-time and from accurate data, what an organization needs and then having the means to execute and track relevant changes until completion.

It’s something that can’t be generated by Enterprise Architecture programs composed by Excel and Powerpoint and Sharepoint. The fastest way to do so is with a platform capable of interpreting, on-demand, all emerging IT/Business issues and then returning solutions based on real-time data.

“One of the reasons I became engaged with LeanIX is because it's a SaaS application that practically takes away all the effort and worry about tools to support Enterprise Architecture and lets you focus on what’s important.” — Amy Asadi, Global Enterprise Architect, Workday

Something precisely like LeanIX, an Enterprise Architecture Management tool that connects technology to the operational objectives of all stakeholders via automated data collection and reporting methods.

Here's an example of how it makes the lives of Enterprise Architects easier (and their activities more transparent to business).

LeanIX Surveys:

Enterprise Architects using LeanIX can collect data for urgent ad-hoc requests by sending customizable or pre-defined questionnaires (“Surveys”) to those based internally or outside their business’s network. It’s an effective way to assess any specific aspect of an IT portfolio at short notice, and since all results can be filtered and reviewed using configurable administrative controls, questions can safely be fielded to an assortment of both technology- and business-focused stakeholders. Survey results can automatically be directed into LeanIX application “Fact Sheet”—the building blocks of the tool’s reporting and inventory network—and whatever data is replaced is saved inside backlogs. But most importantly, as was also discussed by Asadi, since LeanIX is object-oriented to keep data flowing from only one source (i.e., the Fact Sheets) and to guarantee that changes to entities become reflected across the entire IT inventory system, all architectural changes appear in real-time, too.

[A store of pre-built IT survey templates

Any data collected in these surveys can be used to generate pre-defined and shareable analytics reports for addressing individual stakeholder concerns. One common use case for combining information gathered from LeanIX Surveys with Reports is performing reviews on enterprise functions (otherwise known as “Business Capabilities”) to uncover at-risk technologies. To illustrate this example, we’ll use a fictitious application called “AC Management V1” integral for running “Customer Service” at an unnamed company.

LeanIX Application Landscape:

Users can begin a search for obsolete technology inside the LeanIX Application Landscape Report, a multi-angled overview of IT inventories where applications are displayed alongside the Business Capabilities they directly enable. This report can quickly be set to “Lifecycle” to show, in color-coded detail, “end-of-life” applications like AC Management V1.

Business Capabilities and IT 1

Sections of an IT landscape arranged by Business Capabilities in the LeanIX Application Landscape Report and viewed according to service lifecycle status. "AC Management V1" appears in the second-level Business Capability of "Customer Service". 

And to see if the breakdown of AC Management V1 is affecting other key enterprise services, Enterprise Architects only have to enter the application's name within a search box to retrieve a filtered overview like the following:

Business Capabilities and IT 2

A LeanIX Application Landscape Report filtered for instances of AC Management V1 and viewed by service lifecycle status. AC Management V1 is used across three first-level Business Capabilities. 

Upon obtaining a basic understanding of the issue itself, Enterprise Architects can then invite the employees who work in the Customer Success department (as apparent from the names “subscribed” to the Business Capability’s Fact Sheet) to discuss possible alternatives to AC Management V1. It’s a dialogue that can take place by alternating through some of these illustrative real-time reports:

LeanIX Application Roadmap:

The LeanIX Application Roadmap displays running timelines of applications according to technical details like service lifecycles. All information is synchronously linked to data from Fact Sheets, and views can be filtered to show related technologies like “Successors”, “Children”, “Projects” and “IT Components”.

How to plan and schedule IT strategies

Critical points of application service lifecycles in an IT landscape as seen within a LeanIX Application Roadmap. 

LeanIX Interface Circle Map:

To demonstrate to business colleagues how deeply an application like AC Management V1 is integrated into the overall IT landscape, the Interface Circle Map gives visual overviews of dependencies plus their corresponding interfaces. This report can be filtered according to Business Capabilities.

How business leaders can manage sensitive information 2

The connected interfaces and dependencies associated to a single application (AC Management V1) inside a LeanIX Interface Circle Map. 

LeanIX Data Flow Visualizer:

Directly from the aforementioned Interface Circle Map, stakeholders can leap into a modeling canvas known as the Data Flow Visualizer to collaboratively see viable alternatives to the failing application and plan a suitable implementation strategy. When modeling with the Visualizer, information used for LeanIX inventorying and reporting (e.g., Application Lifecycles, Data Objects, Application names, etc.) can be added/removed by accessing the corresponding Fact Sheets on the right side the diagram.

How business leaders can manage sensitive information 3

Modeling an application (AC Management V1) using the LeanIX Data Flow Visualizer.

It all boils down to helping Enterprise Architects become more responsive to change by equipping teams with a tool to foresee and pro-actively adapt to market fluctuations. Or, as Asadi put it, to "deliver the same value that the business is intending to deliver to its shareholders and customers". 

Here are some extra resources on this subject:

 

Amy Asadi: "Adaptive and Business Outcome-Driven EA"

 

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