LinkNews

Retail Bank case (part 1) – Using EA as a communication tool to create awareness for a broader user base

The main objective of the project was to support the communication and create awareness of the architecture for all the stakeholders involved. In order to do that, an EA tool was implemented and integrated with other collaboration and communication tools in use inside the organization. Creating visibility and extending usage of EA across the organization is one of the main issues that typically EA teams try to achieve.

Context

The bank serves almost 2 million customers (Individuals, Companies and Institutions) through its multi-channel distribution network comprising around 650 retail branches.

The bank already had an EA portal on their intranet to support the registration of information regarding Application and Technology Architectures. The intranet portal included a large number of features such as a wiki, with a considerable amount of articles that described the processes, system architecture, and which established an entry point for all documentation deemed more technical.

The project started in early 2013 and was concluded by August 2013. Link Consulting provided EA consultancy services and supplied the EAMS tool, to be used in the project.

The project

The EA intranet portal helped the collection and presentation of architectural information about the bank, presented in the form of lists, or in the simpler cases, in the form of simple hierarchical maps generated automatically from textual information. People filled up template forms that fed the intranet portal that was then used to generate architectural maps.

Problem

The main objective was to improve the bank´s EA practice, by improving the EA intranet portal to support the communication and create awareness of the architecture for all the stakeholders involved. This included infrastructure teams, development teams and business areas.

The Approach:

The project involved 3 people from Link Consulting and a team of 10 people in part time from the client, namely the responsible for each Architecture (Business, Information, Solutions, Services, Platforms, Infrastructure, User Experience and Normative) as well as the EA repository manager.

The project aimed at the implementation and deployment of an EA solution fully integrated with the existing intranet, so that all but back-office housekeeping activities could be done in a seamless manner on the bank´s intranet.

To achieve those objectives, the bank had to:

  • Improve the overall ability of the EA portal supporting different levels of information detail and different views according to the user profile. This would enable the use of a centralized point of communication for a heterogeneous audience, from business to the different IT domains.
  • Enable the sustained growth of information residing in the EA portal by reducing the effort required to create and maintain the enterprise repository information, reports and representations.
  • Capture the evolution of the assets throughout their lifecycle, from the moment they were conceived, until they were decommissioned.

Architectural views had to be generated based on consolidated and up-to-date information. To achieve this, the information had to be harvested from various sources, such as Microsoft SharePoint ©, Oracle Enterprise Repository©, among others.

Link-EAMS-IT-Empower-IBM-SA-01
The consolidation of the information implied the creation of a unified view of the information gathered from the various sources in a central repository that was structured according to the existing meta-model.

Another challenge was the need to keep audience’s learning curve, regarding the usage of the architecture intranet portal, as light as possible. This was perceived to be a critical aspect for the success of the project, since the audience, composed by different stakeholders, had to be able to easily navigate and explore content and representations. The information had to be presented in a self-explanatory and simple fashion, but also allow users to drill down on details, and get the representations as complete and detailed as necessary. This way, the portal and the architectural views would be adequate communication tools regardless of the level of expertise of the user in particular domains or architectural layers.

Outcomes

  • Centralized point of communication.
    • Different profiles and stakeholders easily explore the information according to their needs.
    • Interconnected Architectures
  • Architecture domains aligned: Business, Data, Application and Technology.
    • The ability to keep-up with all the individual components in the enterprise IT and understand all the dependencies within and between assets.
    • Analyses and representations become interconnected and more complete.

This EA initiative was successful mostly because EA is indeed perceived as a living asset by hundreds of users in the bank. It is used daily as a decision support tool.

In the case presented, the architecture views are embedded in a seamless manner with the bank knowledge and collaboration tools, such as their intranet portal. Architectural views are the entry point to access any IT documentation and knowledge kept on wikis.

This approach provides for, not only making the role of architecture views fundamental in understanding the complexities of the business and it’s IT dependencies, but also for a better and more effective way to foster collaboration between the different stakeholders. This has a positive feedback that reinforces the use of the EA intranet portal as a collaboration and communication platform.

We claim that languages used for architectural design (such as Archimate) fail to provide a universal language between all architecture stakeholders, particularly for management and business staff, because it tends to be too complex for them to explore and get the answers they require. Besides the complexity of the architectural views, stakeholders also have to face the complexity of EA tools, which is adequate for conception and design, but not suitable for non-technical stakeholders. Therefore, they are mostly dependent on technical staff to provide them with the answers they need.

With EAMS, architectural views and navigation paths between them, are generated automatically according to the user profile. Furthermore, end users do not need to login in EAMS, since architectural views are embedded in the bank´s intranet portal. This ensures that stakeholders have complexity adjusted according to their needs and skills, enabling management (e.g. Business, IT Projects, Governance, SOA) to navigate and explore architectural views, and get the answers they need, directly.