A Year of Enterprise Architecture

It’s hard to believe that we have had an Enterprise Architecture capability at Plymouth University for a little over a year now.  Perhaps saying it has been a capability for that length of time is stretching the point a little.  I took up the role of Enterprise Architect late in 2013 and at that time there was little or no idea of what enterprise architecture really was in the broader sense let alone what it would mean for Plymouth.  My first few months were spent trying to align what the books said to what was needed and would be accepted by the University.

I guess we are in the lucky position of having an architecture team of 7 full time architects, two of us within the Enterprise team including an Enterprise Security Architect and the remaining 5 Technical Architects working on the more technical aspects within segments to solution level in many cases.  An Enterprise Architecture Practice was formed from the wider IT organisation consisting of 12 people all of whom expressed an interest in the work.  Early on we agreed that a common language was needed, with this in mind I selected TOGAF as our architectural framework of choice and successfully managed to get 5 of us (including 1 from the enterprise architecture practice) trained to TOGAF 9.1.  From there we could start to climb the mountain together. We started by defining an initial set of Architectural Principles which were agreed at the inaugural Enterprise Architecture Board in December 2013.

The IT organisation at that time had no real idea of what we had, how it joined together and how we could look to the future in a holistic way.  We, as a group started to baseline our architecture, we quickly abandoned this as a lost cause, there were just too many loose ends that couldn’t be tied up, there had previously been very little documentation created around implemented solutions.  Instead we have adopted the idea of capturing the current architecture as we significantly change the existing, or develop afresh.  It will provide the baseline capabilities for the next generation of systems and services to be built upon at Plymouth, which in turn will become the new baseline architecture.  This is already growing at a pace, our only issue now is the lack of an effective architectural tool to help us with the job, we currently use Archi, a free and open source tool based around the Archimate language, it’s actually really good but what we sorely need is a tool with a centralised repository and additional analysis and reporting functionality.

A large part of the year has been spent writing policy, procedure, standards, etc.  Naturally, I started with the governance documentation, the Enterprise Architecture Policy and Procedure documents.  This was followed by sets of technical standards and policies intended to simplify the decision processes throughout the create, develop and run phases of our operation.  All of these documents can be found on the Strategy & Architecture Blog Site.  We currently have:

  • 3 Core Architectural Policies and Procedures;
  • 18 Architectural Principles;
  • 7 Technical Policies;
  • 27 Technical Standards;
  • 3 Security Policies;
  • 1 Security Procedure;
  • 5 Security Guidelines

It has only been in the last four months where Enterprise Architecture is starting to make a difference at Plymouth University.  Since the approval of the documentation by our IT Director, I have been able to implement compliance checks, which are now (or very shortly will be) embedded with the Acceptance Into Service process. This and the effective use of waivers within the architecture processes are helping to control and standardise the approach taken with IT implementations.  Also approved is the IT roadmap, driving towards a goal of “Pervasive Service Consumption” which in turn supports University strategy of edgelessness, empowering people, supporting research and innovation, digital people as well as, excellence in learning and sustainability.

So, what does the coming year hold?  Well, in short more of the same.  We will continue to build on our strengths, increase our portfolio of standards, policies and guidelines.  In addition we will be looking to improve out processes and create new where they are missing to help streamline Enterprise Architecture.  There are of course items missing from out portfolio, proper architectural change management and a suitable repository for our artefacts to name but two, these will be addressed in the coming months.

I am intending to add more posts to this site as things develop.  Please come back to find out more about what’s happening with Enterprise Architecture at Plymouth University.

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