Inside Architecture

Notes on Enterprise Architecture, Business Alignment, Interesting Trends, and anything else that interests me this week...

December, 2008

Posts
  • Inside Architecture

    Feedback requested: Information driven process design

    • 6 Comments

    An esteemed associate of mine asked me recently if I believe that a conceptual information model, created and delivered independently from a process model, can be considered useful when attempting to improve a business.  In other words, if you have an conceptual information model, can you use it directly, or do you need to produce a process model as well?

    The answer, as is typical of EA answers, is buried in the question.  If the goal is to improve a business measurable (like customer satisfaction, or average dollars per order, or customer acquisition cost), then the information model is not useful by itself.  A process model that illustrates how the information is generated and managed must also exist.

    So we will often need to develop both a conceptual model of a business and a process model for the business… but which comes first?  Must they be done in parallel?  Or should an architect create one before the other?

    Personally, I know of cases where a process model existed long before a conceptual model did, and vice versa, so clearly the efforts are not contingent upon the other.  In fact, in the situation I am in right now, the business has defined a rich process model that has grown out of date.  I have separately developed a conceptual information model that includes concepts considered important by the stakeholders.

    Now comes an interesting question: how do we take an updated conceptual information model and use it to improve an existing (but dated) process model?

    I have my ideas, but I’m wondering if you, gentle reader, have specific ideas to share as well?  I’ll outline my thinking, but I invite a discussion: is there a better way?

    Situation: a project team finds that they have a conceptual information model, and/or business vocabulary, that is not in sync with the processes that the business says they want to standardize upon.  How do we use one to improve the other?

    Nick’s method:

    • Step 1: insure the conceptual model reflects the complete breadth of the process model.  This requires going through the process model and identifying all elements referenced, and insuring that they are correctly represented in the information model.  Capturing nouns, verbs, and relationships is key to this step, as are the negotiation skills needed to get everyone to agree on the resulting diagram.
       
    • Step 2: identify entities on the information model that are key entities.  Indicators of key entity:  (a) many different stakeholders define the entity as important to their work, (b) the entity is necessary to model the primary relationship between two other key entities, or (c) the entity is part of a key business measure.  An example of the third indicator: if the business scorecard includes a measure of “number of open incidents” then the term ‘incident’ is a key entity.
       
    • Step 3: establish dependency relationships for key entities.  It is common for one data entity to depend upon another.  The ‘order’ entity depends upon the ‘product’ entity, for example (in most businesses, it is difficult to order a product that the business does not have in their catalog). 
       
    • Step 4: define a loose process model that describes each of the lifecycle events of the key entities on a timeline: when is the entity data created?  When is it used?  When is it updated?  When is it archived? When is it deleted?  Drill down on the steps to identify where specific information must enter the process in order to manage the information.
       
    • Step 5: compare the newly generated “loose” process model to the out of date process model in existence.  Use the new one as a guide to making incremental changes to the existing process model. 

    OK… that’s a swag.  Does anyone have a reference to a well documented and sound methodology for taking a conceptual information model and using it to improve an existing, and potentially out of date, process model?

  • Inside Architecture

    Understanding SOBA

    • 1 Comments

    Just ran across, quite by accident, a blog post from last spring from Johan den Haan on the "Architectural requirements for Service Oriented Business Applications."  This is a clear, consistent, well described web post on SOA and service architecture.  I recommend it highly.

  • Inside Architecture

    Adopting a new technology like Oslo

    • 0 Comments

    Sometimes, when something new comes along, the best way to see it being useful is to see it being used.  Think about it.  If I went back to 1960 and visited a family somewhere in the midwest of the USA, and explained a "computer chip" to them, would they see value?  Maybe.  Probably not.  Life is just fine as it is, thank you. 

    But if I showed them how I could use a computer chip to make a simple and useful device, that could do the trick.

    Oslo is a new technology for modeling, and many Microsoft-platform developers are unfamiliar with model-driven development in general.  I don't think the best thing is to say "it's cool" but to say "here is how you use it to solve a problem."

    Microsoft IT is looking to adopt Oslo in a big way, and along the way, we will be going through all of those same growing pains.  We use modeling tools in many areas, and some teams are quite sophisticated in their use of modeling, but Oslo is a major step forward for the Microsoft platform, and we are excited to be adding this new tool to the arsenal.

    As we do, I hope to be able to come back to you, in this forum or in some other one, to talk about the useful problems we were able to solve using Oslo.  I believe that "showing" is better than "telling."

    But for those of you who are still curious, please jump over to the Oslo Developer site and download the CTP or read up on some excellent material.  I especially like this blog post (Oslo == 42) for helping to put Oslo into context.

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