Modelling Bash – University of Sheffield

Today’s modelling bash was a get together of JISC funded projects (and others) to explore the use of Archi to develop Enterprise Architecture (EA) models. Modelling Bashes are self-organised events, so my attendance was very much a one of fact-finding and knowledge sharing. Ian Anderson (Coventry University) introduced the day before enquiring the main reasons for people attending the event which ranged from:

  • Using Archi (how and when)
  • Communicating EA models back to people who don’t understand EA
  • Using EA to develop a systems strategy

Before handing over to Jo Smith (University College Falmouth), Ian made a very important point in that there is a difference between process mapping and EA Modelling.

University College Falmouth (UCF)

Jo then provided an overview of UCF’s EA journey so far. To give some context UCF is quite a small institution. This might give off the impression that it’s easier for UCF to develop EA models however they still have to deliver and manage the same kind of systems as everyone else with much less resource. They have a very small training budget and generally try to make use of existing resources from across the sector. It was nice to hear how grateful Jo was for their involvement with JISC, opening up access to new resources and networks.

Part of Jo’s role was to come up with a better way of managing projects across the organisation to ensure UCF’s investments resulted in the best possible student experience. With some funding from HEFCE, UCF and The University of Exeter developed the ‘Project Enterprise Architecture Toolkit (PEAT)’. PEAT includes documents/standards/user guides/lesson plans/training guides to help people across the Universities manage projects more effectively, and there is a public version available. By using EA, as a tool, it helped UCF to decide what they should/shouldn’t fund. They are also using the impact calculator to manage benefits although still find this a difficult thing to do, a message echoed by many others from across the sector.

More specifically, EA helped UCF to plan: identify what they currently have, and how they should move forward. UCF share a campus with Exeter University and their IT service is a shared service. There are issues around system/service ownership because of this. EA is helping to very clearly map which university is using what services so that they can get the right people involved in the right meetings to ensure they avoid any major system failures.

Jo had brought a printout of their EA Model as it currently stands which the room investigated—worth mentioning it spanned two desks. At this point discussions broke out around what size map to produce. Put simply, it depends on what you want to get out of it. Jo demonstrated the vast range of responsibilities held by her staff and how under resourced they were. In some cases temporary staff were responsible for critical systems. Jo was glad to report they are now on permanent contracts. The problem with Jo’s map was that it was very difficult to follow what linked to what because there were so many connections on one diagram. Jo mentioned that the larger map took a couple of weeks overtime to develop and now that they have it, it’s a lot easier to maintain however it would be useful to have a dedicated resource focused on developing different views.

Smaller maps are best to tell more specific stories. Wilbert Kraan (JISC CETIS) mentioned the 7 +/- 3 rule. Typically speaking, you should only display 4-10 boxes in one view which gives you enough to discuss for approximately 20 minutes.

Group Work

At this point you might like to download Archi, install it and take a look at some past models (and even more example models). You might find the open day example particularly useful. Save the file from the link, and open it using Archi. Once in Archi, expand the ‘views’ folder in the branch view at the left of your screen. Take a look through the different views available to you. A different model for each view will be shown in the centre of your screen. The image below (click on it for a larger view) is from the ‘motivation view’ which Wilbert demonstrated during the day as an example of how the tool might be used at a strategic level i.e. taking you through the different layers based upon a particular driver such as ‘cut costs’. Wilbert has also produced a tutorial, ‘hands on ArchiMate® with Archi‘, which is definitely worth reading through.

 

After Jo’s presentation the room broke out into groups to look at EA models in more detail. Mark Joyce (University of Leeds) shared a model that he had been working on, from a very high-level, to show overlaps between various projects being ran by different departments from across his organisation. The whole purpose of the map was to get people to recognise they had something in common and that they may need to talk to one another in order to avoid failure. Again, another great example of how Archi could be used strategically.

Community Principles were previously developed by JISC and members of a practice group it used to facilitate. An Archi File is available too making it easy for others to develop models that can be exchanged between institutions. One of the great things about the modelling bash was that it allowed everyone present some real time to spend trying the tool out and t begin and develop their own models. Having people from a range of institutions together in one room helped to generate new ideas on how the tool could be used and ensured greater benefit from wider discussions.

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