An Introduction to User-Centric EA - Andy Blumenthal


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An Introduction to User-Centric EA - Andy Blumenthal

  1. 1. An Introduction to User-Centric Enterprise Architecture Page 1 of 5An Introduction to User-Centric EnterpriseArchitectureAndrew BlumenthalDM Direct, May 2, 2008When it’s time to make order out of an often-chaotic environment with hundreds or eventhousands of systems in use, IT professionals turn to enterprise architecture (EA), thediscipline that synthesizes key business and technical information across the organization tosupport better decision-making.User-centric EA represents a new and improved way of practicing this discipline. It extendsand expands the goal of traditional EA by providing useful and usable information products andgovernance services to the end user. In user-centric EA, information is relevant (current,accurate and complete), easy to understand and readily accessible. Also, in user-centric EA,decision-making is improved on behalf of all stakeholders in the organization, not just the ITfunction.I developed user-centric EA first at the Secret Service and later at the Coast Guard. Here’show I did it.The Origin of User-Centric EAI have been an enterprise architect with the federal government since 2000; I was there shortlyafter the Department of Homeland Security was formed and had the opportunity to participatein the development of architecture products for the new department at that time. And Iremember seeing architecture products that spanned the length and height of entireconference rooms: Many of us at that time used to joke that we would defy anyone in the roomto make sense of what these information artifacts said or meant.So my first decision when I became chief enterprise architect at the U.S. Secret Service wasthat I would not develop any EA information products that did not have a clear use and adefined user. If nobody wanted it, we weren’t going to spend time developing it, regardless ofwhat any framework told us to do.This is not to say that user-centric EA breaks completely with the discipline. In fact, it is basedon the other common frameworks such as the Zachman Framework, the Federal EnterpriseArchitecture (FEA), the Department of Defense Architecture Framework (DODAF), and theOpen Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF). But it diverges in its unequivocal focus ondeveloping useful and usable products to the end user.EA User Requirements - Getting Started 4/25/2008
  2. 2. An Introduction to User-Centric Enterprise Architecture Page 2 of 5As we prepare to work with the users, we have a user-centric framework for capturing, viewingand processing information.A Framework for Capturing InformationBefore we ever identify a single user need or requirement, we use a simple, basic frameworkfor all of the information products that we will provide the users. This is known as the EAframework and has six perspectives through which one can look at business and ITinformation. It is relatively common to all enterprise architectures: Performance: The results of operations or outcomes that we are trying to achieve (EA is a proponent of the development and tracking of performance metrics). Business: The functions, processes, activities and tasks to produce those outcomes (EA is striving for business-technology alignment). Information: The information required to perform mission-business functions (EA is driving toward information sharing and accessibility). Services: The systems that serve up the requisite information to the business (EA is working for interoperability and component reuse). Technology: The technology (hardware and software) underlying the systems (EA is developing standards, simplifying the infrastructure and realizing cost efficiencies). Security: The assurance of information security (EA is working toward the confidentiality, integrity, availability and privacy of information).The first five are from the FEA, and the last one, security, is typically considered cross-cutting,but I call it out as a separate perspective due to its criticality, especially to law enforcement anddefense readiness, which characterizes the agencies that I have recently worked for, currentlythe U.S. Coast Guard, and previously the U.S. Secret Service.A Framework for Viewing InformationA second critical piece we have in place for our users is the framework for how information canbe viewed by them - in various layers of detail. I developed this framework for the EA levels,which consists of three basic user views - profiles, models and inventories - in such a way thatit is meaningful to a broad array of users in the enterprise. They offer information as follows: Profiles are high-level, big-picture, strategic views of the information for the executive decision-maker; they capture a great deal of information in a visual way that executives can quickly grasp, analyze and use to identify problem areas or to make decisions. Models are midlevel information views for the midlevel manager; they shows the relationships of EA information with each other - such as how functions interrelate, how systems interoperate and how information is exchanged. Inventories or catalogs are the detailed view for the analyst. It the trees versus the forest, the distinct configuration items with lots of information about each.The presentation of the information in multiple layers of detail makes it understandable andusable by everyone from the executive decision-maker down to the staff analyst. The ultimatevision is for all of these to be interactive, linked and drillable so that one can maneuver up ordown or across the architecture information products seamlessly. 4/25/2008
  3. 3. An Introduction to User-Centric Enterprise Architecture Page 3 of 5A Framework for Processing InformationThe process for developing the substance of the EA content is heavily focused on the enduser. Therefore, it is highly collaborative between the EA team and the subject matter expertsin the organization. Every EA perspective (and product) has not only an EA product managerwho is responsible for the structure and configuration management of that EA area, but alsohas an EA product owner who is the subject matter expert and is responsible for the content ofthe EA products and for supporting the development and maintenance of those.User-Centric Products and ServicesFor specific individuals and departments at the U.S. Coast Guard, we categorize the enterprisearchitecture into two user-based functions that we provide.One is information products, or insight, which provide EA information to end users to enhancetheir decision-making capability. The information takes the form of a current (or baseline)architecture, target architecture and a transition plan.The second is governance services, or oversight, delivered through the Enterprise ArchitectureBoard that reviews proposed new IT projects, products, and standards and provides findingsand recommendations to the IT Investment Review Board that authorizes, prioritizes and fundsIT investments.User-Centric Principles of Design and CommunicationAn architect has to be a true master of communication - above and beyond anything else. Thatis the essence of good architecture.Here are the core design and communication approaches that we have implemented: All information products should enhance decision-making by the end user. Simplify complex information. Categorize information into consumable chunks. Unify information by creating a common look and feel. Maximize use of information visualization. Provide accessibility through multiple robust delivery mechanisms.All of these are derived from the basic principle of marketing: know your customer and serveand satisfy your customer so well that they not only provide repeat business, but alsoenthusiastically refer others to you.The Role of Management ControlsThere are also IT aspects to our user-centricity. For example, in our EA, we have aconfiguration management plan that describes the process for identifying, collecting, reviewingand implementing changes to published information products. This contributes to satisfyingquality assurance parameters and to effectively communicating changes. This is very user-centric because again, with shelfware, nobody cares if the data is controlled and kept current.But in user-centric EA, the change management is critical to keeping the information relevantto the end user. Similarly, we have a regular release schedule so that users are not making 4/25/2008
  4. 4. An Introduction to User-Centric Enterprise Architecture Page 4 of 5decisions based on outdated, incomplete or inaccurate information.The Importance of Performance MetricsTo measure our impact on users, performance metrics are a key area for user-centric EA.Most EA programs do not have or regularly track performance measures. User-centric EAuses both program metrics and product metrics.Program metrics look at measures of success and accomplishment for all areas of EA,including development, maintenance and use. Under program metrics, we include things like:number of products developed, total products under maintenance, number of EA reviewsconducted, end-user information requests fulfilled, EA Web site hits by the end users, andnumber of segment and solution architectures aligned and supported.Product metrics show the amount of information captured, cataloged and presented in the EA.These metrics helps to gauge the scope of the EA products and the depth, breadth andcomplexity.Primary Benefits to the OrganizationDespite the occasional conflicts that arise, at the end of the day, user-centric EA offers a fewkey primary benefits to the end user over and above traditional EA.Actionable ArchitectureThe first one is that user-centric EA is actionable by all people, not just IT people, to enhancebusiness planning and decision-making. The mission of user-centric EA is to improve ITplanning and governance. The vision is to make information transparent to enable betterdecision-making. This is our value proposition.We develop and maintain only information products that have clearly defined users and usesand enable better decision making.Human Capital PerspectiveAnother point is that the FEA does not include a human capital perspective or referencemodel, and user-centric EA, which is focused on the users, is a strong proponent for adding ahuman capital perspective. And in fact, the Zachman Framework, which preceded the FEA, didhave the equivalent of a human capital perspective, which is what Zachman called“People/Who.”While some erroneously consider EA an information or documentation endeavor, it is muchmore than that - it is a planning and governance mechanism for the organization. And toeffectively plan and govern (to execute on the mission and achieve success), EA must includea human capital perspective, because people are our organization’s most valuable asset. Ahuman capital perspective to EA would include the following types of information: leadershipdevelopment, succession planning, performance management, training, recruiting, retentionand moraleSensitivity to Organizational Culture 4/25/2008
  5. 5. An Introduction to User-Centric Enterprise Architecture Page 5 of 5Related to this, user-centric EA is much more attuned to the organizational culture and changemanagement issues than traditional EA. Traditional EA just sets the technology targets andestablishes the plan and seeks compliance. Like the Star Trek Borg, they say, “Resistance isfutile.”User-centric EA is more focused on the user. It looks to understand the organizational culture,the political issues, the various stakeholders, where there may be conflicts, resistance tochange and so on. User-centric EA respects the organizational culture in developing the target,transition plan and strategy. The chief enterprise architect learns and understands the values,norms, beliefs, guidelines and expectations that prescribe behavior in the enterprise so that heor she can stand a chance of successfully shaping the future of the organization.The essence of any EA is common sense and good business and project management. But Iargue that the major focus of EA should be on the user - on the development of useful andusable information products and governance services. Unlike traditional EA, a user-centric EAapproach focuses not on the process of creating the EA, but on its value to the end user.In the end, the user-centric EA is defined by our value proposition, which is to enhancebusiness and IT decision-making for the entire organization. We believe we haveaccomplished this, and though there is more work to be done, we are on the right track intailoring all products and services to the business needs of end users.For more information on related topics, visit the following channels: Enterprise Architecture©2008 Data Management Review and SourceMedia, Inc. All rights reserved. SourceMedia is an Investcorpcompany. Use, duplication, or sale of this service, or data contained herein, is strictly prohibited. 4/25/2008