Accessible EA in a Digital Age
Architectural thinking for everyone
The fact that the second workstream on the topic of accessible enterprise architecture was conducted in 2019, shows just how important accessibility and the lucidity of architecture information is to CBA Lab. A pronounced sensitivity with regard to enterprise architecture and a correspondingly appropriate attitude on the part of the workforce can eliminate non value-generating activities and thus reduce costs.
The results achieved by CBA Lab indicate that the path forward here requires the automation of EA information access, intelligent guidance, and architectural thinking. Transparency and heightened awareness help ensure that enterprise architecture can generate direct added value for business organizations.
The individuals responsible for EAM at the companies that participated in the workstream repeatedly face the same problem, namely that only the enterprise architects themselves are aware of the results achieved by enterprise architecture – results that are actually needed by employees in various roles and in a wide variety of business units at a given company.
“We produce many different kinds of results – starting with current architectures and details on the complete hardware and software landscape at a company and extending to governance rules, preferred systems, and options for aligning the IT landscape with business requirements,” says Christian Schwaiger, an enterprise architect at the KUKA robot manufacturing company and Head of the “Accessible EA in a Digital Age 2.0” workstream.
“We answer 600 different questions with our reports, but unfortunately no one besides the architects is aware of this.”
The objective of the workstream is to change this situation through the use of automation, self-service tools, and nudging.
“Our goal is to be able to offer as much barrier-free access to our results as possible,” Schwaiger explains. “This can be done using chatbots or self-service dashboards, for example.” The lucidity of the information provided is also important, of course, as everyone who is interested in the information also needs to be able to understand it.
Not all information should be given to all staff members, however. Instead, a clearly defined authorization concept needs to be used to ensure information is made available in line with an individual’s roles and responsibilities. This setup also makes it possible to issue recommendations to specific individuals on how and where to find further useful information.
The workstream team refers to this as “predictive guidance.” It works a little like the familiar Amazon bookshop feature: “Customers who bought this item also bought...”
Overview of the most important results of the workstream
- Automated provision of EA information for all employees – The provision of clear and understandable information from EA repositories via self-service dashboards or chatbots strongly supports the dissemination of EA knowledge and promotes transparency. It also helps make visible and noticeable the impact EA has on a company, and it increases awareness of the value of EA as a source of advice and support.
- Predictive guidance – Role-based recommendations accelerate the retrieval of relevant information.
- Architectural thinking – Greater awareness and a higher degree of EA sensitivity among the workforce promotes architecture-based behavior and thus increases the positive impact EA has on the entire company.
- Automated visualization – Still not feasible without metadata.
At the same time, automation represents only half of the equation. While it does lighten the load on EA in terms of inquiries that previously had to be answered manually and individually, it’s also just as important to establish greater awareness of enterprise architecture among the workforce in order to achieve more extensive and constructive collaboration between the business organization and EA. This is especially true in view of the fact that studies have shown that investment in traditional EAM areas only increases the degree of EAM sophistication to a limited extent and that such investment also can only influence ten percent of an entire company.
“What we want is for project managers not to approach an enterprise architecture department only because they can obtain software approval from us but also because they want us to quickly provide them with an affordable and sustainable solution for their software challenges,” Schwaiger explains.
In order to achieve this goal, the workstream proposed, among other things, that nudging should be used to get employees moving in the right direction. One nudge developed by the workstream focuses attention on an alliance between the business organization and EA, whereby here the EA side makes clear to the business organization the advantages offered by collaboration and offers the business organization a toolbox that is well stocked with tools, methods, and solutions.
Nudging is only one of many instruments that can be used, however. The workstream presented and explained numerous other instruments in the white paper it released as one of the results of its work. Another “incidental” result was the creation of a hackathon guide. “We used a hackathon to develop our chatbot and create prototypes of self-service user interfaces,” Schwaiger explains. “Moreover, because everyone really loved the hackathon method, we also produced a guide that can be used by other CBA Lab members to design their own hackathons.”
Our goal is to be able to offer as much barrier-free access to our results as possible. This can be done using chatbots or self-service dashboards, for example.