What is enterprise architecture?

Many organisations struggle to define terms such as “Enterprise Architecture”.

Below is my view which hopefully makes sense!

Enterprise Architecture is …

The practice of mapping and understanding the relationships between the:

  • elements of a business (strategy, model, processes, organisation etc);
  • information necessary to operate the business;
  • applications that serve the business operations; and
  • technologies that enable these.

Enterprise architecture documentation is a blueprint showing a description of the current and target states of a business.

Enterprise architecture is used to guide decision-making, both by identifying new initiatives to improve business performance, and by evaluating proposals for changes to the business and its ICT systems.

The CIO would typically consider developing policies, standards and guidelines in the following domains:
  • Mobility;
  • Cloud computing;
  • ICT asset management;
  • ICT project governance and management; and
  • information interchange between systems.

To support the CIO, an Enterprise Architecture Practice (or Centre of Excellence) will be engaged and typically deliver frameworks, reference models, policies and standards.

Governance will typically be managed through Design Authority Boards or different committees who are responsible for providing assurance, guidance and advice to those involved in delivering change (affecting business and/or technology).

The CIO’s role in enterprise architecture is to:

  • encourage and support departments and agencies to develop, manage and utilize their own internal enterprise architecture;
  • facilitate the exchange of information to develop enterprise architecture skills; and
  • support ICT projects whether undertaken within Lines of Business, IT or elsewhere.

Data is like water: capitalise or capsize

Everyone on the planet is swimming in an ocean of data. Within this ocean is an al- most unimaginable array of useful information being generated by a multitude of sources—everything from buoys on the ocean to RFID tags on the smallest packages. The press focuses on certain aspects of the global data culture, such as the latest fi- nancial product innovation on Wall Street or data-mining algorithms that track con- sumers’ every move on the Web. But data isn’t just for whiz kids, rocket scientists, or marketing gurus. With the right tools, everyone can benefit from data, because data can be turned into insight, and insight can be turned into action that changes lives.

Right now, using a self-service business intelligence (BI) platform called Business Dis- covery, people all over the world are using data to achieve unprecedented goals. They are improving the way they work, understanding the complex forces that shape glob- al markets, and even saving lives by using data in new ways. These are the new pio- neers. They are gaining powerful new insights, as data, alive in context, opens minds to new possibilities and solutions never before considered. Those who don’t harness data productively are putting themselves at competitive risk.

Data will be as important to improving and sustaining life on the planet in the 21st century as water always has been. CITO Research has unearthed two very different water stories that exemplify the power of Business Discovery for everyone. 

To read more, click here.

Self-Service Business Intelligence: Empowering Users to Generate Insights

Executive Summary

In today’s economic environment, organizations must use business intelligence (BI) to make smarter, faster decisions. The business case for BI is well established. Access to BI is what gives companies their competitive edge and allows them to discover new business opportunities. Yet, in too many organizations, decisions are still not based on business intelligence because of the inability to keep up with demand for information and analytics. IT has been stripped down to the barest numbers, even while information workers are demanding more control and faster access to BI and business data. To satisfy this demand and accelerate time to value, one approach involves setting up an environment in which the information workers can create and access specific sets of BI reports, queries, and analytics themselves—with minimal IT intervention—in a self-service BI (SS BI) environment.

Information workers become more self-sufficient by having an environment that is easy to use and supplies information that is easy to consume. It is these two themes—ease of use and information consumability—that play crucial roles in a fully functioning SS BI environment.

Self-service BI is defined as the facilities within the BI environment that enable BI users to become more self-reliant and less dependent on the IT organization. These facilities focus on four main objectives:

  1. easy access to source data for reporting and analysis,
  2. easy-to-use BI tools and improved support for data analysis,
  3. fast-to-deploy and easy-to-manage data warehouse options such as appliances and cloud computing, and
  4. simpler and customizable end-user interfaces.

Tenents of Self-Service BI

  • Make BI tools easy to use
  • Make BI results easy to consume and enhance
  • Make it easy to access source data
  • Make DW solutions fast to deploy and easy to manage

10 Key Recommendations

1.    Don’t assume that simply installing easy-to-use BI tools creates a self-service BI environment.

It’s a start, but it just isn’t that simple. You must have a solid and sound infrastructure in place that supplies the required data. The infrastructure requires planning and design, data integration and data quality processing, data models for the data warehouse and marts, scalable databases, and so on. It requires an understanding of the types of data the information workers will need.

The bottom line is that your job is to make these functions look easy and appealing. Simply installing technologies will not make your BI environment self-service enabled. What will make it easier and more appealing is to have a complete and solid infrastructure in place that makes access easy, the creation of analytics simple, and the display of results easy to understand. It also means giving the right environment to the right workers. Whether consumer, producer, or collaborator, the technology must match the tasks users want to perform in a way that is simple and engaging.

2.    IT needs to monitor the self-service BI environment.

There must be a layer of administration and manageability. Ensure that IT has monitoring and oversight capabilities when information workers deploy, share, and collaborate using BI capabilities. IT should be able to monitor the usage of any BI component that an information worker publishes, whether the data used was
from a governed or ungoverned source. They should also know who else is using it. IT must be able to determine which queries are too costly, long-running, or bog down the performance of other queries.

IT not only needs to monitor BI components, but also needs to secure, validate, and audit them.

The key here is to ensure that business users feel they have the “power” or ability to create their analytic capabilities while IT still has the ability to monitor when they need to jump in and help out.

3.    Support collaborative business intelligence.

Enable different types of information workers to share BI results and work together to define new ways of viewing and analyzing data. Start simply—use a setup that IT can configure easily and use technology that the information worker can understand and use easily. SS BI may need to mimic something information workers are already familiar with (Microsoft Office, for example). Use technology that meshes with your traditional BI environment and/or interfaces seamlessly with it. You will need to provide collaborative features that enable teams of information workers to develop and publish charts, dashboards, and so on, and the users of these analytics to rate or comment on them.

4.    Don’t give information workers too much responsibility.

Most information workers really don’t want the entire responsibility for generating information and reports. It’s not part of their job!

They may find the tools and infrastructure too difficult to use, or they may forget their training before they can use the environment. Make sure that those who do construct self-service BI components also define key metrics, entities, hierarchies, and terms in a consistent fashion.

They should be trained to use the existing technical and business metadata as well as the existing standards and nomenclature.

You should strive to strike a balance between self-service and IT-generated delivery of information. You can do this by taking small steps toward selfservice if your business users are not used to technology, fear doing something “wrong,” or feel they are not properly trained for these activities. Nothing will destroy a self-service environment faster than no one using it. It may take more handholding than you expect. One key successfactor, though, cannot be ignored—the business users must play by the rules when it comes to  defining their metrics, analytics, algorithms, and so on.

5.    Understand the information requirements of information workers and provide appropriate tools/ reports/dashboards.

Understand what each group of information workers wants to accomplish with BI. What are their motivations? What are their skill sets, capabilities, and even interest
in learning how to serve themselves? You may find that most of your information users are consumers with little interest in creating, producing, or generating their own reports, queries, or analytics. But be aware that information workers change their roles frequently.

The best practice here is to get inside the heads of your users to understand what it is that they want to do, accomplish, or create. One suggestion is to examine or be familiar with their compensation models. Their bonus structure will give you a clear idea of what motivates them at work!

In addition, keep in mind that this may be a new service to many business people. Their reluctance to embrace it may come from fear of the unknown, inertia around the way they have always done things, or ignorance about the benefits that they might receive from the environment. In any case, be prepared to change what the users can do—design ways to monitor the utilization of the environment. As users become familiar with the self-service environment, many may begin to change their role from consumer to producer, from producer to collaborator, and so on.

6.    Create a starter set of standard reports, analyses, and widgets.

Provide a library of standard BI components (queries, reports, analyses, widgets). Make them appealing to information consumers (the largest audience). These can also act as templates for the information producers.

The best practice is to make these parameter-driven and customizable. It an amazing but true fact that one of these reports can replace hundreds of hard-coded, customized reports and analyses. The ability to select parameters based on immediate needs also makes consumers feel as though they are truly self-sufficient. They are not overwhelmed, because the BI results have simple, intuitive interfaces to filter, navigate, and analyze a predefined set of data. All of these “starter” components will help with the adoption of self-service BI simply because we all make better editors than creators. So the more that you supply, the faster the adoption.

7.    Establish a governance committee.

The governance committee should consist of representatives from both the information worker population and IT professionals. Their responsibilities include reviewing requests for new components or modifications to existing standard ones, determining whether an existing component can satisfy a request or if a new one is needed, examining requests for self-service, determining what to provide, and identifying needed training.

Governance also includes the creation of role-based access and security by a particular user group as well as the determination of which self-service objects should be promoted to the governed environment for general use.

Remember that the governance committee should promote the use of self-service BI, not hinder its adoption. It is not meant to be a restrictive group, so it should perform the needed PR and communications about its purposes to ensure this message is heard.

8.    Allow the data warehouse to be used with other types of data.

There are times when urgent business requirements cannot be satisfied in a timely manner using the data warehouse alone. It may be that other sources of data, such as operational data, external information, or analytic data from other sources, must be brought together for the needed analytic. In this case, data virtualization provides a quick way to give rapid and flexible access to multiple data sources. However, you will need to provide a monitoring mechanism for the sources accessed to ensure that the performance of these systems is not negatively affected.

The governance committee should be involved in this process.

We all know that emergencies happen—requests come in with an urgency that cannot be met through traditional mechanisms. Workarounds happen. In fact, there is data that may be needed regularly for analytics but should not or cannot be incorporated into the data warehouse—for example, real-time or sensitive data. Data federation technologies have come a long way to allow different data sources to be combined in a virtual fashion and yet act as if they were physically integrated.

Data governance and some form of monitoring will be needed to ensure that the end-run or workaround can be halted if the data is subsequently incorporated
into the data warehouse. Note: retrofitting can be painful!

9.    Buffer less experienced information workers from the complexities of the BI environment.

Use features such as Web browsers, interactive graphics, wizards, drop-down lists, and prompts to guide users through BI tasks. This will free up IT professionals from spending large amounts of time responding to requests for new data, building new reports, and so on. It also gives the information consumers a sense of control and adds to the flexibility of the overall BI environment.

But beware—what’s intuitive to a BI professional is not necessarily intuitive to a naïve user. BI implementers have to think outside of their own boxes to truly understand what business users who want SS BI really need. It may mean doing their job for a day!

10.    Watch your costs.

This is a major product differentiator.

If you already have a BI vendor’s platform in place, you can often add a self-service capability with minimal effort and cost.
Many vendors offer entry-level products geared toward companies with limited budgets. Some companies use open source solutions, but there may be additional “deployment” costs.

Consider software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings to cut capital and IT staff costs.

You must be careful not to break your budget through your self-service BI implementation! There are many deployment options available to BI implementers today that can greatly reduce the costs of these environments. However, remember to ensure that their deployment options will fit into your overall conceptual and technical architecture.

Download the Report

This report describes the technological underpinnings of these four objectives in great detail while recognizing that there are two opposing forces at work—the need for IT to control the creation and distribution of BI assets and the demand from information workers to have freedom and flexibility without requiring IT help. Companies seeking to implement self-service BI must reach a middle ground in which information workers have free access to data, analytics, and BI components while IT has oversight into the SS BI environment to observe its utilization. This gives the information workers the independence and self-determination they need to answer questions and make decisions while giving IT the ability to monitor the SS BI environment and apply governance and security measures where necessary. For guidance, this report provides practical recommendations to ensure a successful SS BI environment.

To access the report, click here.

Situational BI: Agile and Self-Service Analytics

On-Demand Webinar (Length: 59.30)

Increasing competition and the need to react rapidly to today’s fast changing business climate is leading BI to play an ever increasing and important role in driving and optimizing daily decision making. But being able to quickly and easily ask and answer questions of your data in a dynamic and constantly changing environment is not a simple task. Traditional BI is often too cumbersome and complex for today’s business environment, requiring significant IT support and involving long turnaround times for even something as basic as customizing an existing report or analysis.

Featured Speakers

Claudia Imhoff
President of Intelligent Solutions, Inc. and Founder of Boulder BI Brain Trust

Claudia Imhoff, Ph.D., is a thought leader, visionary, and practitioner in the rapidly growing field of business intelligence. She is an internationally recognized expert on analytics, business intelligence, and the infrastructure to support these initiatives. Dr. Imhoff has co-authored five highly regarded and popular books on these subjects and written more than 100 articles for technical and business magazines.

Colin White
Founder of BI Research and President of DataBase Associates Inc.

Colin White is the Founder of BI Research and President of DataBase Associates Inc. Colin is well known for his in-depth knowledge of data management, information integration, and business intelligence technologies. With many years of IT and consulting experience, he is a frequent speaker at industry events. The author of numerous articles and papers on deploying evolving information technologies for business benefit, Colin is also a regular contributor to several industry journals.

Business Intelligence: Trends in 2011 and beyond

Forrester continues to see ever-increasing levels of interest in and adoption of business intelligence (BI) platforms, applications, and processes. But while BI maturity in enterprises continues to grow, and BI tools have become more function-rich and robust, the promise of efficient and effective BI solutions remains challenging at best and elusive at worst.


Two main reasons:

  1. BI is all about best practices and lessons learned, which only come with years of experience;
  2. Earlier-generation BI approaches cannot easily keep up with ever-changing business and regulatory requirements.

In the attached research document (see end of article for link), Forrester reviews the top best practices for BI and predicts what the next-generation BI technologies will be.

We summarize all of this in a single über-trend and best practice: agility. IT and business pros should adopt Agile BI processes, technologies, and architectures to improve their chances of delivering successful BI initiatives.

Business intelligence (BI) software has emerged as a hot topic in the past few years; in 2011, most companies will again focus their software investment plans on BI. More than 49 percent of the companies that responded to our most recent Forrsights Software Survey have concrete plans to implement or expand their use of BI software within the next 24 months.

But being interested in BI software and spending money to adopt BI tools and processes do not necessarily translate into successful implementations: Forrester’s most recent BI maturity survey indicated that enterprise BI maturity levels are still below average (2.75 on a scale of 5, a modest 6 percent increase over 2009). Why are BI maturity levels so low, given the amount of money firms spend on it? Three factors contribute to this rift and can lead to less than successful BI initiatives:

  1. Implementing BI requires using best practices and building upon lessons learned
  2. BI technologies and processes have not kept pace with business realities
  3. Centralization has not led to agile, streamlined BI implementations

Why don’t traditional BI approaches often work? It’s possible to model, build, and implement business processes that will not require new features or other major enhancements for six to 12 months – sometimes even longer. This is especially true for many stable and well-defined back-office applications, such as budgeting, planning, and accounts payable/accounts receivable.

But what we at Forrester call untamed processes (I’ve even heard some vendors refer to these as dark or hidden processes) change much more frequently, because some steps in these processes are either partially or completely manual and thus depend on less predictable external factors like human intervention. This is especially true when these processes involve external constituents, such as customers, prospects, partners, and regulators, over whom you have little or no control. Untamed business processes create challenges for standard BI approaches because:

  • Untamed processes are often invisible
  • Traditional SDLC doesn’t work well for automating untamed processes
  • Untamed processes often require new approaches and technologies

Something radical needs to happen to make BI implementations more successful so that they can effectively support untamed business processes. And while Forrester will never say that agility will cure all of BI’s current ills, it certainly provides the most important best practices and leverages a key capability of the underlying BI technology to help close the gap that earlier-generation BI processes and technologies create.

Don’t misinterpret what we’re recommending here – it’s not just about the Agile software development methodology, which is nothing new. But Agile development by itself is not enough for BI, so Forrester also recommends adopting multiple best practices and next-generation technologies to make BI more flexible.

In addition to Agile software development methodology we recommend starting by adapting your organizational structures and enterprise culture for agility. No technology or processes can address BI challenges if a company’s organizational structure and enterprise culture are not already on firm, agile ground (in the detailed research document we desribe five of these best practices). Once the organization is aligned for agility, the next step is to consider and implement agile BI processes (in the detailed research document we desribe three of these best practices)

Last, but not least, while some of these best practices can stand on their own, others require the application of next-generation BI technologies. In the past, BI vendors and BI application developers focused on business and operational functionality and architectural robustness. In most cases, these features have become commoditized. BI vendors and developers now need to concentrate on next-generation technologies; Forrester categorizes these technologies as Agile and defines four major subcategories of agility:

  • automated (6 emerging techologies),
  • pervasive (6 emerging techologies),
  • unified (6 emerging technologies), and
  • limitless (3 emerging techologies).
Please read the Forrester report for more details and comment.
[Extracted from Information Management Blog. Original Article by Boris Evelson]

Why KPIs are dead

“ Insistence on managing to an established set of high-level metrics has prevented many organizations from seeing the benefi ts of their new data assets.”

The Era of KPIs is Over

Key Performance Indicators, also known as KPIs, have become part of the canon of management practice over the last few decades. The idea is that you define a set of key metrics: for example, new customers, customer churn and bad debts; and run your business by them. When KPIs first came out they were a great innovation. They helped companies identify the driving forces of their businesses and standardize on a set of metrics to define success. Most companies went through a useful process of defining KPI’s, creating scorecards, and implementing a regular scorecard review process.

The problem is, KPI’s don’t work anymore.

What’s changed?

What’s changed is the pace of business. A scorecard that was designed two years ago, or even six months ago, may not help you see important changes in your business today. A media company operating on an old scorecard might have failed to recognize the rising importance of social media in advertising campaigns. A food distributor operating on traditional KPI’s might not realize that due to changing consumer demand, organic foods are becoming a new driver of the business.

So why not just incorporate the new information into your KPI scorecard? Create a metric for the percent of organic food products in your portfolio? That’s one answer. But demand and supply markets move so fast today, you’ll be in a constant process of redesigning and redeploying scorecards if you do that. And some changes may not be important enough for a permanent scorecard—a manager may just want to see drill into a new trend or ask questions on the fly about the business.

The landscape of business has changed, and many companies find that traditional business intelligence as represented by fixed KPIs and scorecards is unable to support the new needs of their organization. Another major change in business has been the scale and complexity of data available for analysis. With the advent of new data sources such as web analytics, retail sensor data, and ecommerce data, companies have a huge opportunity to understand their businesses more deeply and gain an edge over their competitors. But insistence on managing to an established set of high-level metrics has prevented many organizations from seeing the benefi ts of their new data assets. What’s needed is a way for people throughout the organization to get access to and get meaning from the information that is relevant to their

The new guard

What the modern organization needs is to be nimble and able to react optimally to ever-changing markets. Terms such as self-service BI, data discovery and agile BI have been cropping up, indicating the arrival of a fresh set of tools to address these needs. The vision for self-service BI is an enticing one: to provide business users with direct access to all the data they need to make critical business decisions. To provide them with easy-to-use tools that let them ask and answer their own questions, without having to submit a dashboard change request or learn an arcane query language. To enable them to share their fi ndings with a click of the mouse, not a web development project. And to transform IT into an enabler, rather than a gatekeeper and hindrance to business intelligence.

Self-service business intelligence is simply business intelligence for a fast-moving world.

The new way: KPIs and ad-hoc analysis

So no, KPI’s aren’t completely dead. Having a set of common, standardized metrics across an organization is still a useful management practice. What’s dead is the idea that all you need to know to manage your business can be defi ned at once and measured in one way. Also dead is the idea that today’s big data assets can be easily distilled into one set of numbers that are equally relevant to everyone in a department. This kind of thinking cuts off innovation and prevents managers from seeing new threats and opportunities.

[Extracted from Digital Information Management, Jan 2011]


Links versus Attachments – the dawn of content management

An interesting thing happened to me earlier this week which highlighted to me ways in which our work culture is being directly affected by changes in social media, tablets and mobile working by virtue of convenient (and often free) use of WiFi to connect to the internet.

I have to say I’m a bit surprised (perhaps naively) that there are several people out there who are still very much in the “dark ages” sticking to “old” technology and techniques for exchanging, sharing and communication information.

But first some background of my experiences …which caused this surprise …

Over the past 6-8 years, I’ve introduced Mobile Working and Remote Working practices into clients I worked for. This has included introducing “smartphones”, “tablets” and mobile working allowing people to work remotely and use technology to enhance their end-user experience and tasks/activities.

I’ve also  introduced “enterprise content management” into organisations reducing the need for attaching large files to emails and using “links” to information stored on a company internet/intranet/extranet site to improve security and accessibility to information (safely). This has led to better, more efficient ways of managing storage which many “users” of technology conveniently dismiss believing that it is being taken care of.

Anyhow …back to my story …

I was on the road and got a tip from a friend to email my CV to an organisation that typically finds work for Interim Managers and Strategy Consultants like me. However, being out and about, all I had with me was my trusty iPad.

As some of you who own (and use) iPads for work probably know – attaching files to mail on an iPad isn’t very straightforward when compared to Microsoft Office on PCs. This is, in my opinion, a (current) major shortfall of the iPad experience when using email. But I fully embrace the Apple philosophy of making technology fun and interactive and as the old adage goes “there is always a way …”!

I had a copy of my CV on Dropbox (a great “cloud” based file sharing utility) which allows you to generate and email a link to files. The link is as good as sending an attachment – it provides access to a read-only version of the file in a web-browser. This does mean that you should be able to read (for example) WORD documents in a web browser which I would expect most people with Microsoft Office to be able to do.

Including a link to a document is similar to what you can do with SharePoint within a corporate environment. However, many people (such as the dufus I was in email contact with) still don’t appreciate this concept and consider a link as something alien (… this does actually raise an important point of SPAM and information security). I was asked to stop wasting his time and just send an “attachment”! When I explained I was on the road, not in front of a PC and that the link was “as good as ..” he got a bit vexed (clearly out of his depth) and I (sorry couldn’t help myself) responded in kind …

Anyway, I advised him that I wouldn’t be proceeding with his company and that we should each go our separate ways.(Naturally, I said this in fewer more direct words!).

What did I learn from this experience? The “younger” and more technology-aware members of our communities are already changing the way they interact. Conversely, there is a generation which is (slowly) being left behind who don’t appreciate “new ways of working” and who need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century … I remain prepared to do my part … won’t you (and others) join me?!?

[Ironically, I’ve since found other apps such as “GoodReader” which also actually make adding attachments on an iPad possible. What a pallava! Guess all experiences, good AND bad, lead to learning something new!]

The value of decommissioning legacy systems

As someone who practices and advocates Enterprise Architecture and the role of the Enterprise Architect, I often find programme / project managers undersell and often overlook the value of decommissioning systems and the associated interfaces, processes and information.

This article serves as a great reminder of the business value of decommissioning systems that executives and senior management should be mindful of. In an age where Cloud Computing and “utility computing” are becoming a reality, organisations need to be more mindful of consolidation, rationalisation and replacement of legacy systems as they move into a new era of opportunity for Business/Technology alignment and innovation.

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