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Enterprise Architecture to Enable Better Decisions

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Enterprise Architecture Tools to

Enable Better Decisions


Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

IT 304 Business Fundamentals for IT Professionals

Joe Schmitt, Instructor

Fall 2011

What would you do if you had to build your own house? Would you even know where to start? Is it as easy as going down to the local home improvement store and saying, "give me the two story model"? For the majority of people, knowing everything that goes into building a house is a mystery. You know it's made out of some wood, concrete, windows and maybe a door or two, but if you had to draw up a detailed plan to give to someone to build it, you would probably fail. In the housing realm, the job of putting together all of the pieces is done by an architect.

The same analogy holds true with businesses today. Many business leaders don't have a good view of how their businesses are built. They know there is a marketing department that makes some funny television commercials, an operations department that ships things out the door, and an IT group that is holed up in the basement making sure all of the supporting systems keep running. The business leaders, however, may not know the systems that operations uses to keep things shipping out the door. Or, they may not know that the database that marketing and HR are using is on the same physical hardware and may be vulnerable to malicious attacks or failure. In the business world, an enterprise architect does the job of putting together the pieces of the business.

The challenge is that too often, each separate portion of the business has its own artifacts. Businesses today need to know how the various systems they use interface with each other in order to make timely decisions. Human resources may have a Visio diagram showing how its SAP system works. The legal department may have an Excel spreadsheet with all of the interfaces to their back-end SQL database. Nothing is standardized and everything is ad-hoc. When a new project is proposed, there is often no clear way of knowing all of the underlying systems and structures and business rules already in place to make an informed decision. Projects get estimated with little more than an educated guess when millions of dollars are on the line. This is where I believe there can be an improvement in the tools we use.

In this paper I will be looking into a class of tools known as enterprise architecture tools. At my company, Medical Company, one issue we run into is the lack of understanding of what assets we have and how they relate to the businesses processes when we start a project. This leads to estimation errors in the early stages of projects that can cause further headaches down the line. As an example, when IT is asked by the business to build a new Interactive Voice Response (IVR) application, we often times have to interact with multiple back end data sources. It i's the business's responsibility to identify these data sources to show where the applications will be gettingretrieve their data from. If they don't do not have a clear view and understanding of the organizations assets, both time and money will be lost if a project has to be reworked.

As a solution to this, I will examine one of the open source and one of the proprietary enterprise architecture tools called CaseWise and discuss the capabilities of each. I will also discuss some of the financial aspects of what a solution like this means.

Enterprise Architecture, (EA) by definition looks at an enterprises processes, systems, technology, and personnel and tries to align them with the organizations goals and strategies. An EA modeling tool provides value to the business by transparently showing how each piece of the puzzle fits into the whole. The following diagram shows how everything in a business relates to each other and how an EA tool would help show this. Each of the four colored boxes represents a separate architecture of Medical Company: business, strategy, information and application. The overlying box and the connections between the four inner boxes represent what an EA tool will help with. It will show connections and allow for a holistic view of the business.

There are a couple of different solution options when looking for an enterprise architecture tool. Open source tools like those created by The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) offer an inexpensive solution to the problem. Users can use the tool and customize it to their business needs. What the open source solution lacks in a nice neat pre-packaged product, it makes up for in its flexibility. The tool includes functionality such as an editor to modify the standard framework, a content management system that allows for collaboration between different groups, and a plug-in architecture that makes adding other content, simple. (Krill, 2009)(Louw, 2009).

Using an open source tool would most likely meet the needs of the business from the content perspective. People would be able to add artifacts and other content as needed, but I think the underlying support work needed to create and manage the tool would take too many resources and not be



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