Skip to main content

Data-centric architecture, for better services

John Schmidt of Informatica argues that the digital transformation of an organisation is better supported by focussing on the organisation's data, rather than its IT applications.  An application-centric approach structures an organisation's IT by the applications, each of which has a business owner and defined functions.  This works as long as these functions remain separate.  But when more processes are moved online, when the processes become more complex and involve multiple business areas, the emphasis needs to shift away from the individual applications, to the processes and the data that they use.

I agree with this point of view.  Software development (of individual programs) moved to this approach a long time ago, primarily with the introduction of object-oriented programming. Basing the structure of programs around the data elements, rather than the processes, made it easier to change the processes.  A data-centric approach to architecture is taking the same approach on a larger scale.

The difficulty can be in explaining the advantages to the business areas.  In software development, the choice of program structure is an internal matter for the programmers to decide.  In architecture, the decision is more visible, because it is often the business areas who pay for, and choose, the IT applications that we deploy.  So we need materials to explain why this is a good idea, using non-technical language (or "speaking human", as a colleague put it).  I don't have an easy answer for this, but I'm working on it.

My thanks to Ian Anderson for alerting me to John's post, via the UCISA EA mailing list.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Changing Principles

In EA, architecture principles set a framework for making architectural decisions.  They help to establish a common understanding across different groups of stakeholders, and provide guidance for portfolios and projects.  Michael Durso of the LSE gave a good introduction to the idea in a webinar last week for the UCISA EA community.

Many organisations take the TOGAF architecture principles as a starting point.  These are based on the four architectural domains of TOGAF: business, information/data, applications, technology/infrastructure.  These principles tend to describe what should be done, e.g. re-use applications, buy in software rather than build it, keep data secure.  See for example the principles adopted at Plymouth University and the University of Birmingham.

Recently though, I encountered a different way of looking at principles.  The user experience design community tend to focus more on how we should do things.  E.g. we should start with user needs, use iterative developm…

Why the UCISA Capability Model is useful

What do Universities do?

This may seem a strange question to ask and the answer may seem obvious.  Universities educate students and undertake research.  And perhaps they work with industrial partners and create spin-off companies of their worn.  And they may work with local communities, and affiliation bodies for certain degress, and they definitely report on their activities to government bodies such as HEFCE.  They provide student services and support.  The longeryou think about it, the more things you can think of that a University does.

In business, the things that an organisation does are called "capabilities", which is a slightly strange term.  I think it is linked to the HR idea of a combination of the CAPacity and ABILITY to do a task.  Whatever the name, it is a useful concept.  A capability is more basic than a process: a University may change the way it educates students but as long as it remains a University it will educate them one way or another.

A capability …

A brief summary of our major initiatives

I notice that in 2016 I wrote 34 posts on this blog.  This is only my fifth post in 2017 and we're already three-quarters of the way through the year.  Either I've suddenly got lazier, or else I've had less time to spend writing here.  As I'm not inclined to think of myself as especially lazy, I'm plumping for the latter explanation.

There really is a lot going on.  The University has several major initiatives under way, many of which need input from the Enterprise Architecture section.

The Service Excellence programme is overhauling (the buzzword is "transforming") our administrative processes for HR, Finance, and Student Administration.  Linked to this is a programme to procure an integrated ERP system to replace the adminstrative IT systems. 

Enabling Digital Transformation is a programme to put the middleware and architecture in place so that we can make our processes "digital first".  We're implementing an API framework, a notification…