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Showing posts from February, 2016

Use of student data: dashboards

The University's Student Systems team have built a prototype dashboard for our academic schools, to display information about students on the schools' programmes and courses.  The prototype has several tabs, presenting information about applications for programmes, completion results, survey results, demographics, and assessment.  The team consulted with other universities about what works for them, took the best results we found and applied that experience to the needs of our University.

The next stage is to turn this into a robust service and this where the architecture team have a role.  We are currently working to define an architecture for the university's BI/MI data, both at the technology level (e.g. a data warehouse) and at the modelling level.  Much of the data used in the prototype has been scraped together using a combination of existing data marts and Excel, with significant effort needed to write complex reports across these multiple sources.  That is fine for…

Meetings: Data Governance and Information Security

This week saw a meeting of the University’s Data Governance Group.  I gave a presentation about enterprise architecture, including my draft principles for data architecture and the need for governance of the data architecture as it evolves.

I requested that we produce a list of core data sets, with the data steward identified for each, and a standard process for requesting and recording access to data.  Some of our data stewards already have reasonably mature processes in place, but others do not and the lack of standardisation makes it difficult for people to access the data they need.

We had a useful discussion about this and other issues. One key piece of feedback I took away was that my draft principles are focussed on centrally managed datasets, and I also need to consider how locally managed data fits into the architecture. The view of the group is that we need to ensure that this data can be managed without undue overhead.  I think the tools we develop for documenting central …

Meeting: Science & Engineering Computing Professionals

Last week I gave a short presentation about my EA work to the Computing Professionals Advisory Group in the College of Science and Engineering (CSE).  Each academic school in the college has one representative in the group, so these meetings are a good way to find out what is happening across the college.  Representatives from IS attend in order to share our news and to hear what issues are being raised in the schools.

My contribution on this occasion was to give a brief overview of the plans and intent for the EA practice.  I chose to show some example artefacts from our work and from elsewhere, and to highlight some of the existing catalogues that we could incorporate into the planned architecture repository.  I added an appendix to the slides listing our draft EA Principles, for comment, but I did not talk through those in the meeting.

The CSE computing professionals are very keen to have access to download and update data on central systems.  They queried my applications architect…

Digital maturity

I had an “A-ha!” moment when reading a book called Enterprise Architecture as Strategy, published by Harvard Business Review in 2006, which has been recommended to me by several architects working in other universities. The book is indeed very interesting. It looks at the overall operating models of businesses and how the top-performing companies digitise their core processes.

The book’s title is slightly confusing because the authors use “Enterprise Architecture” in a rather different way from the main EA frameworks such as TOGAF.  Instead, their book focusses on strategy. If it were written today, a more relevant title might be “Digital Strategy”.

There are many useful ideas in this book but the one that most caught my attention was part of the discussion of “architecture maturity” – or what I call “digital maturity”.  The authors present four stages:
Business silos
Standardised technology
Optimised core
Business modularity
Each stage is described in some detail which I don’t have…

Business Model Canvas

A Business Model Canvas is a tool for mapping the core functions and capabilities of an organisation.  Compared to the Core Diagrams that I described in an earlier post, the business model canvas attempts to present more aspects of the business, starting with the value proposition – a statement of what the organisation offers to its users (in the business world, to its customers).  It shows the activities and resources, as Core Diagrams do, but also shows user relationships & channels, and also benefits and costs.  I’m not aware of any universities that have used this tool but you can find examples from elsewhere on the web.

We are considering business model canvases as a tool for mapping the strategic capabilities of units at the University of Edinburgh.  Phil Taylor, our EA contractor, sketched an outline of what a business model canvas might begin to look like for HR:
This is only intended to be suggestive: the real canvas would need to result from in-depth discussions about th…