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My MidWest tour (Wisconsin-Madison, Michigan and Miami)

I very much enjoyed my recent trip to visit the EA teams at three Universities in the American Midwest.  My hosts were generous with their time and gladly shared their knowledge and experience of establishing Enterprise Architecture practices.  I learnt a lot about EA techniques and even more about the soft skills required to establish an EA practice for a large and diverse institution with a limited budget.

The topics of our discussions reflected the different priorities that the three institutions have set for their EA teams.  The UM-W team focus on major initiatives rather than try to map the overall space.  They provide EA input to assess which aspects of the current state need most attention and then helping with the transition to the new processes.  This seems to reflect the steer I was given by a Gartner consultant, to show some immediate business outcomes.

The other two institutions are taking a more systematic approach in that they are attempting to define certain artefacts across all organisation units of their respective universities.  In the case of UMich, the EA team is helping organisational units across the university to define and clarify their (IT) strategies.  They have a common framework for presenting this information and this has proved especially useful for those units who are developing a strategy for the first time.  The resulting catalogue provides context for the prioritisation and implementation of projects.  

The team at Miami U is mapping the current state of five domains: business capabilities, applications, data entities, infrastructure, and security, in order to provide a context for decision making.  For example, their CIO wants to use this map of the “as-is” state to avoid (or at least discourage) the procurement of new systems that reproduce existing functionality.

Apart from showing me a variety of EA techniques, this diversity illustrated the importance of clear goals for the EA practice.  EA is an immensely flexible discipline, so we need to agree what we want to achieve, depending on the strategy of the institution.

For the University of Edinburgh, our goal is to emphasise the development of our data architecture.  To this end, I intend to produce conceptual data model, a business vocabulary, and high-level target architectures for both BI and operational data.  As data cannot exist in isolation, we will also look at the business processes that produce and consume data, and the applications that produce, store and consume data.

This runs alongside the development of EA processes themselves, of course.  A secondary goal of mine is to define a roadmap for achieving level 2 in the EA maturity model.


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