Skip to main content

Episode IV: A New Hope

Since the beginning of this academic year, I have taken on the full-time role to establish an Enterprise Architecture capability at the University.   For the past few months, I have been working out roles and relationships, principles and processes.  I have given presentations to several groups, first within IS and now moving beyond.  I have recruited an experience contractor to help the University along this new path.  And as the new calendar year begins, we are in the position to start producing results that people can see.

A key part of this role is communication – explaining what EA is about, listening to people’s concerns, sharing knowledge of resources new and old, discussing what needs to be done, and disseminating decisions.   I am reviving this blog as one strand of this communication.  Over the years, I have been a pretty poor blogger.  I haven’t always had things to say, and sometimes I have lacked the time to write them.  With the importance of communication in this new role, I hope to do better.

There are other channels besides this blog.  I am arranging regular meetings with other sections of IS, with the colleges, and with other support units.  There will be an Architecture Repository with links to resources – including high-level documents such as principles and architecture overviews, as well as more technical artefacts such as data models, interface descriptions, technology life-cycles, and procurement standards.  And I welcome any questions from anyone who wishes to know more or to raise a concern.

Architecture is a subject dear to my heart.  During my time as Head of Development Services I did try to introduce some architecture ideas and practices, which is very difficult to achieve with basically no funding. My new role, to which I am seconded for the current academic year, gives me the opportunity to put proper foundations in place.


Popular posts from this blog

Presentation: Putting IT all together

This is a presentation I gave to an audience of University staff: 

In this seminar, I invite you to consider what the University’s online services would be like, if we worked together to design them from the perspective of the student or member of staff who will use them, instead of designing them around the organisational units that provide them. I’ll start with how the services might appear to that student or member of staff, then work back from there to show what this implies for how we work, how we manage our data, and how we integrate our IT systems. It might even lead to changes in our organisational structure.

Our online services make a vital and valued contribution to the work of our students and staff. I argue that with better integration, more consistent user interfaces, and shared data, this contribution could be significantly enhanced.

This practice is called “Enterprise Architecture”. I’ll describe how it consults multiple organisational units and defines a framework …

Not so simple...

A common approach to explaining the benefits of Enterprise Architecture is to draw two diagrams: one that shows a complicated mess of interconnections, and one that shows a nicely layered set of blocks. Something like this one, which came from some consultants:

I've never felt entirely happy with this approach.  Yes, we do want to remove as much of the needless complexity and ad-hoc design that litters the existing architecture.  Yes, we do want to simplify the architecture and make it more consistent and intelligible.  But the simplicity of the block diagram shown here is unobtainable in the vast majority of real enterprises.  We have a mixture of in-house development and different third-party systems, some hosted in-house, some on cloud infrastructure and some accessed as software-as-a-service.  For all the talk of standards, vendors use different authentication systems, different integration systems, and different user interfaces.

So the simple block diagram is, basically, a l…

2016 has been a good year

So much has happened over the last year with our Enterprise Architecture practice that it's hard to write a succinct summary.  For my day-to-day experience as enterprise architect, the biggest change is that I now have a team to work with.  This time last year, I was in the middle of a 12-month secondment to create the EA practice, working mainly on my own.  Now my post has been made permanent and I have recruited two members of staff to help meet the University's architectural needs.

I have spent a lot of the year meeting people, listening to their concerns and explaining how architecture can help them.  This communication remains vital, the absolute core of what we do and we will continue to meet people in this way.  We also talk to people in other Universities in order to learn from what they are doing and to share our own experience back.  A highlight in this regard was my trip to the USA last January.

Our biggest deliverable for the past year was the design of the data wa…