So, what is Enterprise Architecture (EA) and why are we bringing it to the University? Let me set aside formal definitions and detailed explanations - after all, there is plenty of background information on the web, which you can read should you wish. Instead, let’s keep this informal and look at what it can do for our university.
Essentially, the goal of EA is to link all IT and administrative services together to provide a joined-up, easy-to-use suite of services. Times have changed from when students dealt with IT systems separately - logging in to the back-office finance system for one task, the timetabling system for another, teaching systems during the day, and so forth. Instead, people do everything online, using smartphones or laptops or desktops. We rarely think about the ”IT” systems underpinning these services, we just do the processes online without really thinking about the IT. Enterprise Architecture is about making the “business processes”, the data, the applications and the underlying technology all line up to provide this modern, integrated service.
We need to design processes to prioritise the user’s point of view, rather than the administration staff (including IT staff). We may need to change the way we do things, and we need to align the underlying IT so that we can make these changes as easy as possible.
We also need agreed data models and data definitions, so that anyone accessing data via any of our systems see the same information and understand the information presented to them. We need management information (MI) so that the University makes decisions based on accurate and timely information.
Enterprise Architecture provides a range of techniques to aid all this. An EA practice brings people together to achieve shared understanding and common goals. It creates templates so that we can define standards, processes and data models using common approaches. It produces reusable data schemas and APIs so that IT systems can integrate with each other more simply, and so that projects don’t replicate similar work.
This gives me plenty of scope for future blogs posts. I can write about particular techniques and what they can do for us. I can give examples of the work we do as we do it. I can discuss some of the challengers we face as an institution. First of all, I’ll be writing about enterprise architecture experiences from other universities, which may give us some guidance of what can be achieved in our sector.