Today I read …”How to Use Enterprise Architecture to Deliver the Right Solution”

Enterprise Architecture This is the another post in my “Today I read …” series where I aim to summarise. or recapitulate, excellent, and educational, articles that I have read
Previous: BA Practices in a Virtual World

Today I read an excellent article on the IIBA site: “How to Use Enterprise Architecture to Deliver the Right Solution“, authored by Sergio Luis Conte.

For me, this was an excellent article.One that really helped me get a better understanding of Enterprise Architecture, especially from a Business Analysts point-of-view.
Sergio pulls relevant information from the EABOK (Enterprise Architecture Body of Knowledge), the BABOK (Business Analysis Body of Knowledge), along with other relevant sources, to detail:

  • What Enterprise Architecture is,
  • Why it should be used,
  • When it should be used, and
  • How it should be used.

The “What”

Sergio provides a quote from Gartner to answer this one:

a discipline for pro-actively and holistically leading enterprise responses to disruptive forces by identifying and analyzing the execution of change toward desired business vision and outcomes. EA delivers value by presenting business and IT leaders with signature-ready recommendations for adjusting policies and projects to achieve target business outcomes that capitalize on relevant business disruptions. EA is used to steer decision making toward the evolution of the future state architecture. (Gartner Group 2013)

He goes further by describing how Enterprise Architecture consists of several independent, but cohesive architectures: Business Architecture (BA), Application Architecture (AA), Technology Architecture (TA), Security Architecture (SA), and Information Architecture (IA).

The “Why”

Sergio explains that Enterprise Architecture is a way of thinking about the Business from a system management theory perspective. He also ties this nicely in with information presented in the BABOK (under competencies).

The “When”

Enterprise Architecture is used when a business needs to transform itself – when a desired future state is recognised.To identify the gap between the current state, and this future state, a gap analysis is performed, and appropriate steps are taken to make the necessary transformations,

Image “In search of problem situation to solve” – Sergio Luis Conte (IIBA)

This is a repeating cycle. Businesses attempt to adapt to an ever changing environment.

The “How”

For the “How”,Sergio mentions that there are several models available for working with Enterprise Architecture. The one he concentrates on, though, is “The McKinsey 7S model” that focuses on, and analyses, seven elements – strategy, structure, systems, staff, skills, and shared values.

Sergio explains each of these seven elements in further detail, including listing references for further reading.

Conclusion

All-in-all, a great article that helped me lot, and gave me enough information for further reading.

The link to the full article is: https://www.iiba.org/News-Events/Best-Practices-for-Better-Business-Analysis/BP4BBA/2013/enterprise-architecture-to-deliver-right-solution.aspx

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Thanks for reading.

“We use Google…to find out about our own company”

Using 3rd party tools to find what I wantYou wouldn’t believe the number of times I have heard people say that when they want to find out about their own company, they use Google

Case in point – I was at a well-known appliance store the other day, that has branches throughout the country.I asked the girl at the checkout whether there was a store in one particular city. While she looked furtively at her screen, I took a peek over her shoulder. It was the company’s intranet. I advised her to open up a new tab in her browser, go to Google, and type in the name of the store plus the word “branches”. She obediently followed my instructions, and two minutes later she was able to give me an answer.

I won’t talk about the magic that Google performs to bring you the information that you want. I do want to talk, however, about why people are going to an outside facility rather than using the companies own resource…findability  and usability.

Findability does not just mean being able to search for something and getting results. It also means that the information on the intranet is structured in a logical way that allows people to navigate to information quickly. Often, little thought has gone into the way information should be presented:

  • What information do the users (in this case all staff ranging from back office workers to those at the client interface) need access to?
    Analytics will show you what is being accessed the most. Well thought surveys can return valuable information. Even talking to staff members individually,or in groups, can add a lot of value.
  • How can the navigation structure be set up so that it is intuitive?
    Use the feedback you got. Perform a card sort to help build up a understanding of how the staff want information grouped. Put together a “mock navigation”,using a suitable tool such as Optimal’s Treejack, and see how easy it is for user’s to find what they are looking for.
  • What other ways are there that the information can be accessed quickly? Short-cuts, quick links, FAQs.
    Create a screen mock-up, and test how easy it is for staff to find the information. Use a tool that allows this to be simulated on-line, and set up real-life scenarios involving staff members with different functions to determine whether improvements can be made.
  • Pay attention to the questions that are often asked by staff.
    These will usually turn up questions that get repeatedly asked. “How is xyz done?”, “Where do I find information on our widgets?”. These questions make up the basis for the FAQs or a wiki.

 

Should we brand our Intranet?

IntranetLocation:    LinkedIn SharePoint Users Group
Date:           2 days ago
Situation:   Jodi Stevens, a Web Content Specialist” put a question to the group…

 

Just curious how many brand their intranets beyond the basics like changing themes?

 

At the time I read it, there were already two responses. I added my own…

It’s an interesting discussion – whether to brand, or not.

With regards SharePoint, Microsoft’s Jeff Teper – senior vice president for SharePoint, advises…

“Use SharePoint as an out-of-box application whenever possible — We designed the new SharePoint UI to be clean, simple and fast and work great out-of-box. We encourage you not to modify it which could add complexity, performance and upgradeability and to focus your energy on working with users and groups to understand how to use SharePoint to improve productivity and collaboration and identifying and promoting best practices in your organization.”

However, and this is something that Dan Adams touched upon, you need to think about the purpose of the Intranet. Is it just a file-share-replacement? or is it a focus point for staff members to learn about the company, about each other, as well as to engage them and to foster exchange of ideas?A “branded” intranet, if done properly, can achieve the latter. I say “if done properly” because a “hack-job” can result in a something worse than a plain vanilla install. To do it properly, it is essentially to have, not only developers who know what can be changed without breaking something, but also a designer with UX/UI skills. These make for a very pleasant user experience, and one that helps the intranet align with the company values, as well as being somewhere that people “want” to go to when they turn their computers on first thing in the morning.

At the same time, a good Information Architecture (IA) helps, enormously, with usability and findability. Often, when an intranet is created, items and content are put into places “that make sense…at the time. Then as more things are added, they are placed either “where it makes sense for the person adding it”, or a new grouping is created. As time flows forward, the intranet becomes more and more complex. Having an IA that is usable, as well as maintainable, requires a lot of work, but can make a big difference to the system.

The Intranet can also act as a file share replacement. There are many benefits to this. Being able to label content as well as apply extra metadata to it, adds considerable value. Content can be grouped more effectively, and can be surfaced (through search functionality) in a way that has more meaning to the end-user. However, here also, great care must be taken. A suitable taxonomy should be created, as well as a way that allows content to be correctly labelled. Otherwise you end up with the original file share – just in a different format.

Underpinning all this.. some form of governance is important. This is what ensures that the intranet remains that great place that it started out as, rather than degenerating into a complex, tangled bog of despair that people use because “they have to”.

Hand drawn – Alive and inviting

In an earlier post (The Power of Comic Books!!) I talked about an interview with a Keegan Lannon, a Phd student studying the value of comic books. This was accompanied with a video of the interview.

In the video Keegan states “the more abstract a comic is, the more the person can relate to it”.

Abstract-relate

Interestingly enough, a couple of days later I stumbled across an interesting piece that validates this. In Rough and Hand-drawn: Alive and Inviting Tom Benthin talks about how, when compared to computer created images, “more abstract drawings of people allow us not just to imagine that a drawing is real, but that we are in it”.

This translates, as well, into techniques that are used for analysis and design work.  When you either try and describe something to users, or try to draw out of them details on processes etc, a roughly drawn picture can be used.

An example of a Use Case Model

 

Information Architect (also known as “The Bridge Builder”)


Peter Morville described an Information Architect as a “Bridge Builder” in his Information architecture and findability column from August 2008.

He expands on this with the following:

An information architect builds bridges between:

  • Users and Content. We design search and navigation systems that connect users with the content and services they need.
  • Strategy and Tactics. We translate abstract visions into well-grounded, actionable blueprints for design and implementation.
  • Units and Disciplines. We facilitate cross-functional collaboration using boundary objects (e.g., wireframes) to start conversations.
  • Platforms and Channels. We sketch maps for new services and experiences that span multiple platforms, channels, and media.
  • Research and Practice. We use the scientific method, heuristics, analytics, user research, and ethnography to inform our designs.

You can read the full post here

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A couple of reasons for me to travel to Switzerland – ARMA & Chris Walker

On Monday morning, I’m heading to Switzerland.

The Swiss Chapter of ARMA, is having their inaugural meeting, in Basel, and a fellow tweeter of mine, Christian Walker, will be giving the key note speech there.

Because I’m “in the neighborhood”, (sort of), he suggested I come along to it.

I’m really excited…for two reasons.

This is going to be the ever first meeting of the ARMA’s Swiss Chapter!
I’m really pleased that I have the opportunity to be present during this.

The second reason is that I really, really enjoy the chance to meet some of the really smart ECM people that I tweet with. Christian is a senior consultant at Oracle in Edmonton, as well as an “expert blogger” for AIIM. I’ve be connected to Christian for over a year now, and have been involved in many Twitter discussions with him (and others) on subjects ranging from ECM through to “toilet paper” (long story…maybe I’ll cover this in a separate blog).   Needless to say – I am looking forward to meeting him in person.

(I had an excellent opportunity recently to meet up with another fellow Tweeter, Laurence Hart, in Paris, a few months ago (I was invited as a guest blogger to Nuxeoworld, where Laurence was giving the keynote speech.)
Because of various circumstances, I couldn’t make it – something I still regret).

Needless to say – I’ll be taking notes during the sessions (especially the keynote speech), and plan to write a blog post once I get back.

Related Links

Getting Lost in a Wild SharePoint Site

In this post, I want to tell you about a unexpected,but interesting journey I have made.

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Recently I was asked to help “trim” a SharePoint site that had become overly complex. The site was going to be migrated to a different domain, and the goal was to tidy up the site.

On first glances the site look harmless.

But once I started delving deeper, I could see that it was a jungle of sub-sites, interlinked in a strange M.C. Escher way.

To really get to understand how everything was connected, I decided to map it all out.

Using MindManager (it could have been any mind mapping tool – or even pen and paper), I started with the top site.

The beginning was easy, the path was clear. Things were

L O G I C A L.

Then as I got deeper, things started getting more complex. And, now and then, there were tricky little bits where I SharePoint Governance plan viralwould follow a path and suddenly find myself in a totally different area, feeling disoriented. Fortunately with the use of a good compass and a ball of string I had been unravelling as I went along, I was able to find my way back.

I made notes, I took photos, and  I saw some amazing things. (Unfortunately, my camera was damaged when I tripped over some metadata in one of the fields, so you’ll just have to take my word for it).  Slowly, over several days, I was able to map out the site (and sub-sites, and sub-sub sites).

The map was big, with lots of colorful lines showing relationships between the various parts, as well as highlights and comments. When you looked at it at its original size, it looked like some strange alien exoskeleton. It was not until you increased resolution that you got to see the fine workmanship.

My “client” was impressed with what I had done. The didn’t have MindManager installed, and when I tried to create a flash, or PDF version of said map, MindManager bailed on me. Thank goodness for the MindManager Viewer. At the time of writing, this had not been installed. I’ll know when it has been…I’ll hear lots of “Oohs” and “aahs” and other sounds one makes when one is impressed with something.

SharePoint map governance Note – artist’s rendition


Site Mapping Tools

Now, it may be that there are tools, or applications, out there that will achieve what I did, automatically.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

New & Classic – Ways that SharePoint & Traditional ECM systems can play together

In this post I look at some SharePoint-ECM Integration scenarios.

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The AIIM SharePoint Master course material that I am studying at the moment presents 4 scenarios about how SharePoint can be used alongside, or integrated with, traditional ECM systems.

These are:

1. External Storage Provider

In this scenario, SharePoint is used to manage indexes, metadata, user presentation, etc, and the ECM application manages content storage/retrieval

2.  External Repository of Record

In this, all content is managed in SharePoint, until it is declared a record. Then a copy is pushed into the ECM application, where it can only be accessed by Record Managers. SharePoint provides the user interface where documents are created, and edited. The ECM application handles the security, record retention, etc of the document once it has the status of a record. Content only gets into the ECM app via SharePoint.

3. Cooperative

In a cooperative scenario, all documents are created in SharePoint, where they can be edited, etc. The ECM system  is used to manage and control documents that have the status of a Record. Unlike the External Repository of Record scenario, in the Cooperative scenario, content can only exist in one system at a time.

4. Portal

In this scenario SharePoint acts merely as an interface into the ECM app. All documents are created, and managed there.

In researching this further, I came across  Andrew Chapman blog “Never Talk When You can Nod“. In it he covers the use of SharePoint with existing ECM systems a lot better in his .

Andrew offers 8 scenarios. I won’t regurgitate all of what he has written (you can read the posts yourself – see link at the end of this post), but I do want to summarise his 8 scenarios, and discuss where the AIIM scenarios match. (Andrew has got some really cool images on his post that visually represent each of the 8 possibilities beautifully. I’ll use this as well, but remember, they came from his site :-)

Andrew Chapman’s 8 Reference Architectures

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1: Keep Systems Separate, Restrict Usage.

 

1: Keep Systems Separate, Restrict Usage.

Content is moved manually from SharePoint into the ECM application.

2: Loosely Coupled Solution

2: Loosely Coupled Solution

Content is moved from SharePoint into the ECM application based on some rule, or event.

3: Use SharePoint as a Portal Container

3: Use SharePoint as a Portal Container

SharePoint uses Web Parts that allow content from the ECM application to be seen, and at the same time, other Web Parts that allow the user to interact with content in SharePoint.

4: Passive Unification in Web Part

4: Passive Unification in Web Part

SharePoint contains Web Parts that allow a user to see content from both the SharePoint system, and the ECM system. This is from within the same Web Part. The user is unaware that the documents are located in separate systems.

5: Active Unification

5: Active Unification

Similar to Architecture 4 except that in this Architecture, the user is able to perform more complex operations with the content (managing versions, attaching objects to versions, etc).

6: Passive Back-end Aggregation

6: Passive Back-end Aggregation

An aggregated view of all the content stored across all libraries in created in the ECM. This aggregated view could then be used to make security decisions, perform risk analysis, monitor file usage, etc.

7: Active Back-end Aggregation

7: Active Back-end Aggregation

All content is aggregated from SharePoint into the ECM system where it is managed, and controlled.

8: Synchronized, Intelligent, 2-way Shortcutting

8: Synchronized, Intelligent, 2-way Shortcutting

As with Architecture 7, all content is transparently moved from SharePoint into the ECM system. However in this scenario, users can still act upon the document directly from SharePoint.

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As you can see, Andrew Chapman has put a lot of thought into the various possibilities of SharePoint and tradition ECM systems working together.

Looking at what the AIIM SharePoint course material mentions, and comparing it to Andrew’s various architectures, there are close correlations – the AIIM scenarios match the first four of Andrew’s Architectures, with the last four describing variations on the Portal concept.

Andrew Chapman’s post: Eight Reference Architecture Organizer

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Small Brain Notes on CMIS

In 2008 I became aware of CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Standard), and started following its progress  (from afar). I knew that several big players in the ECM world were pushing CMIS, and that it would allow interoperability between different repositories. (I blogged about CMIS in an earlier post.)

However, I never really understood how CMIS worked on a technical level. I know that there is a plethora of content about how CMIS worked, but, not having a BIG brain, I had a tendency to jump in at the deep end, and almost drown in the information that was available.

This has changed (a little bit). I’ve just watched several short YouTube videos. One in which Dr David Choy (Chair of the OASIS CMIS TC and a member of EMC’s CTO staff) discusses the technology behind CMIS, and another where  Jignesh Shah (Product Manager for EMC’s DFC technology) talks about the application of CMIS. (Links to these are at the bottom of the page.)

… I made notes!  Here they are:

================================================

Mark’s small Brain Notes on CMIS

CMIS Technology Primer

=========================

What is it?

———–

A proposal from EMC, IBM & Microsoft developed in collaboration with OpenText, Oracle, Alfresco and SAP to provide an inter- operability standard to allow a generic application to access different content repositories without product-specific interface code.

 

Why is it needed?

—————–

Many companies are running disparate repositories from different vendors. This can be, for example, because each repository offers specific functionality that a specific business unit within the company makes use of, or that the company has acquired the content store/repository through the purchase of, or merger with, another company. Having a standard that allows an application to access each repository (regardless of which product the application belongs to) allows the Enterprise to make full use of the information that it has.

How does it do that?

——————–

CMIS offers a Service Oriented Infrastructure (CMIS APIs) that an application can use to access the content from each repository. This means that an application does not have to worry about how to communicate with the repository – just the CMIS APIs.

 

Design points for CMIS

———————-

The design goals were: – platform independent, programming language independent, protocol independent. – easy to lay on top of existing repository (cannot be complex – the data model should be able to sit on top of existing repositories so that the data model and behaviour match that of the repository.

 

What isn’t it?

————–

CMIS is not a full-function interface to explore the priority functionality of priority content management systems. It provides, however, core functionality that is common to all CMS products that are on the market today.

 

What does CMIS consist of?

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1. An abstract data model that describes the content stored in the different repositories. It is a generic model that can be easily mapped to different priority applications.

2. Set of abstract services that allow an application to access the content stored in a repository.

3. Two web binding protocols. These allows the CMIS’ generic services to be made available via the web to an application regardless of the specific protocol used by the CMS.

The web binding protocols currently used are: * SOAP * REST using APP Additional protocols may be supported in the future.

 

Data Model

———–

= Predefined object types =
There are 4 object types defined by CMIS, Each has an immutable object_id.

1. Document – represents elementary asset that is stored in the repository (document, image file, video, etc). Document objects can be versioned, and are searchable.

2. Folder – container object – can contain other objects (including folders, thus folder hierarchy is also possible). Document objects can be stored in multiple folders (multi-filing). Document objects can also be “unfiled” (orphaned) – that is they do not reside in a folder.

3. Relationship objects – Represents binary relationship between two other objects. The relationship can have its own properties.

4. Policy Object – administrative policy that may be applied to other objects. (E.g. content retention policy)

| DOCUMENT
| FOLDER |

          | * Content | * Container | | * Metadata | * Hierarchy/Filing | | * Version History | * Metadata | | | | | ————– | |————–| META MODEL | ————| | ————– | | | | | RELATIONSHIP | POLICY | | * Source | * Target | | * Target | | | | |

=========================================== = Basic Services = i) Access

CMIS provide basic services to access these 4 objects – CRUD Create Retrieve Update Delete Applies to all 4 types of objects A repository can create subtypes using the above 4 basic types Basic services also apply to sub-types.

CMIS also allows services to apply a policy on an object, (effectively placing an object under the control of an administrative policy). ii) Query capability CMIS allows for the querying of objects.

Data Model

———–

The CMIS Data Model consists of object type definitions. The object types define the schema. (The schema is effectively a set-up of properties for each object).

On top of the model, a Relational View is defined.

A property in a data model will appear as a column in a table. On top of that a subset of SQL92 is used. This can be used to search against the relational view. This was extended to be able to – do FullText searching, as well as – searches on multi-value properties. (Each column in a relational view is single-value, however in content management a property can sometimes have multi- ple values) – ability to limit search within a particular folder, or folder tree

Thus – two basic functions: 1. CRUD 2. Query

This allows a generic application to access repositories without writing repository-specific code.

Further Information

Dr David Choy’s video discussing the Technology behind CMIS

Jignesh Shah video discussing application scenarios of CMIS

Alfresco’s – Getting Started with CMIS