Blog New Adventures in Enterprise Architecture

Tagged: Thoughts Ea | Posted: Wed, Apr 10, 2019 approx. 6 min read

New adventures in Enterprise Architecture.

If I was to write a presentation talking about Enterprise Architecture I’d start thus. Two words - Enterprise and Architecture.

For some of you Enterprise conjures up a happy childhood of Kirk, Spock et al adventuring through space at tea time. If not that then it at least has the dynamic connotations of Enterprise culture, and people being Enterprising. So far, so good.

Then we have Architecture. Building things. Whether your view of Architecture is shaped by Atlas Shrugged or Prince Charles’ views on carbuncles, no one would dispute the rich and exciting heritage of the field.

So why is it that when we combine these two words all the life seems to drain from them both. That had been my understanding of EA; a field that sounded awfully dry and corporate and not for us. To ‘do EA you need to be in a giant corporate intuition with complicated processes and monolithic systems that need dedicated architects to make sense of it all and translate it.

The honest opinion of EA as a whole was bureaucratic stuff that the corporate sector does to add a layer of complexity that just wasn’t needed in our sector. Different parts of ‘EA’ made more sense than others and a healthy skepticism of how relevant it is to the particular needs of a university still survives

It was against the background of a particularly disruptive period in the IT department that I was introduced to the UCISA Capability Map. Our new director had previous experience of a more mature Business Analysis and EA practice in Coventry University and also of the project through her involvement with UCISA so was looking to introduce this capability into the University.

At this point it’s worth mentioning my background and history to answer the question of why me?

I have a design background but unusually, I live in the IT department where I’ve been part of a team building websites and apps for many years. As a consequence of that I think one inevitably discovers that many technical problems are in fact business process problems. The ongoing task of analyzing requirements to translate business wishes into something realizable prepared me to step into a different mindsets and approach.

For many years, we’ve looked with envy at initiative like the GDS work with service design that focuses on user needs and bringing clarity to the products that get built - working in-house the dream is to bring the same clarity and focus to business processes so that we can build the great products we want, and that users need.

When Nath arrived my design and illustration skills were deployed to communicate some ideas about strategies and future intentions for the department. I do love a good diagram (another bone of contention with EA - the number of awful diagrams that claim to make systems and processes clearer, assuming that the diagram is easily decipherable - usually not)

It was about this time that I was introduced to the UCISA HE Capability map and it was pretty great. To have an artifact that would mean we could get up and running without having to engage in a giant consultation and mapping exercise to discover most of what had already been done. It was great to see the reality that Universities have more in common that differences with regard to what they do presented in a useable form

Getting Started

Having signed up to learn what it was all about I was lucky to have an introduction from Nath and to catch up on the blog posts.

One thing I had to do though was design a more readable version for use in the organisation. Allied to that I’ve created readable web version of all the definitions since I envisioned a lot more people would need to become acquainted with the definitions - as well as using them myself. The site is available at http://preview.southwales.ac.uk/capability/

PDFs of the USW version of the HE Capability Map are attached.

Include USW versions

Once I’d created something that I could show people in the organization the task began of explaining what Capability modelling is and how it might help the business. We concentrated on Teaching, Learning and Research capabilities first.

Going round in meetings with Learning Technologists, Policy Makers, Lecturers, Administrators explaining what is still quite a dry, technical subject. I tried to pass on my enthusiasm for the process - with varying degrees of success. I believe that clarity of terminology and consistency across the organisation is one of those things that sounds niche, but overtime could be liberating and functional. Establishing a really solid base around what we call things is surprisingly hard and hence valuable. Quote Alex’s tweet on what a course is.

After a few months of this (not exclusively) it became clear that other themes were emerging across the department and university. Projects and activities that contribute to improving Student Experience are rightly prioritized here and it was sometimes difficult for people to see the connection with Capability Modelling. The slightly abstract banner of ‘Improved Business Outcomes’ is a slightly more opaque message than better Student Experiences.

Around about this time the stars aligned a little and we recruited a colleague with experience of mapping a Student Journey to better understand and support the delivery of the touchpoints along the way. This seemed like a great opportunity to reframe the capability modelling in less intimidating terms and align to activity that is more readily understandable. Most people in a University are familiar with the concept of a Student Journey - especially so here since we been focusing on that very thing.

We have developed a Student Journey Map with the intention of mapping systems that are used to deliver the touchpoints. We intend for this to identify opportunities or weaknesses that.

The work around the Student Journey Map will need to be a post in itself, but we think that using the SJM work as the ‘friendly face’ of Capability Modelling can work well for us.

Include SJM

I’ve created diagrams in Archi that use the correct terms and visual elements, but at the moment our Capability function doesn’t need that level of technical modelling. At the moment I’m designing relevant artifacts to help get people to contribute their time and attention to mapping processes and systems.

Include archi diagrams

In this way the Capability Model has kicked off a big piece of work around Students Journeys that we hope will become embedded practice as served as a really solid foundation that would have been such mammoth task to do ourselves it’s difficult to see how it would have been prioritized.