What To Expect From A Framework

Preamble

Frames are meant to bring light on artifacts, not to cover them with veils; on that account, frameworks’ primary justification should be their leverage on engineering practices.

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Frames are meant to bring light on artifacts (Y. Levin)

It ensues that enterprises frameworks should only be considered in relation to actual contents (organization, artifacts, processes, …), and their benefits for core governance issues, in particular measurements, processes integration, and economic intelligence.

Prerequisite: Measurements

The heterogeneity of metrics is clearly a major impediment to assessment at enterprise level due to the different yardsticks associated with business value, development costs, and processes maturity.

The least frameworks should do for enterprise architects is to provide common bearings at both application and enterprise levels:

  • Application level: a consolidated scale for the mapping of value points, function points, and development costs.
  • Enterprise level: a common basis for a reliable assessment of systems capabilities and processes maturity.

A detailed account of how a framework would support such bearings should therefore be a prerequisite.

Cornerstone: Business & Engineering Processes Integration

Except for the Zachman framework, providers haven’t much to say about how actual business and engineering processes are to be hung to the proposed framework, and more generally about the continuity with existing methods, tools, and practices.

Conversely, being specific about the hinges linking it to processes is to give credence to a framework leveraging impact:

  • Business: leveraged agility from the harnessing of users’ stories to business functions.
  • Engineering: leveraged transparency, traceability and reuse from model based systems engineering (MBSE).

As the cornerstone of any enterprise framework, integration is to support their ultimate purpose, namely economic intelligence.

Deal Breaker: Economic Intelligence

Economic intelligence is usually understood as a merge of data analytics, information architecture, business intelligence, and decision-making; as such it can be seen as a primary justification for enterprise architecture frameworks.

As a corollary, one would expect frameworks to be specific with regard to the integration of data analytics, information processing, and knowledge management:

  • To begin with, no framework should be considered without being explicit about the ways such integration could be achieved.
  • Then, integration schemes should aim at being neutral with regard to engineering or support environments deployed at architecture level.

When options are considered, that should be taken as a deal breaker.

Conclusion

Assuming that expectations about measurements and processes could be reasonably borne out, decisions would rest on economic intelligence strategies.

Depending on the weight of information systems legacy, full neutrality may deem a too ambitious strategy. In that case an enterprise architecture framework could be built bottom up from MBSE environments.

Given that proviso, a neutral framework designed on purpose would bring much more leverage due to the generalization of well-defined slots and interfaces for business and engineering platforms; that would also facilitate modernization and consolidate quality assurance across enterprise architectures.

Finally, for EA frameworks to ensure consistent metrics, processes integration, and economic intelligence, knowledge management must encompass a wide range of concerns (business, engineering, regulations, …), contexts (environments, enterprise, systems), and resources (texts, models, people, …); that can be best achieved with profiled ontologies.

Further Reading

 

Caminao & EACOE

Synopsis

Taking a cue from a recent discussion about the Enterprise Architecture Center Of Excellence (EACOE), the intent of this article is to apply EACOE criteria to the Caminao framework:

(M.Kippenberger)

How to assess EA frameworks and methodologies (M. Kippenberger)
  1. Business Initiatives (Projects): Initiatives should address cross-organizational or individual concerns.
  2. Directed Guidance: Explicit methods, tools, and artifacts.
  3. Consistency and Simplicity: Single frame of symbolic representation and reference.
  4. Structured and Precise Definitions: Frame built from a compact, complete, and consistent set of concepts to be logically extended.
  5. Clarity and Reason in Modeling: Two distinct model sets – Architecture Models and Implementation Models.
  6. Value in Models Transformations: Why develop artifacts that do not lead anywhere?
  7. Skills Acquisition: Enterprise Architecture skills are acquired through practice and experience.
  8. Multiple Architect Roles: Collaboration between the many architect roles in contemporary business.

Business Initiatives: Managing Expectations & Commitments

Enterprise architecture is meant to serve business purposes set across organizational units. If intents and values of corresponding initiatives are to be properly measured and prioritized, portfolios management must tackle two inherent difficulties:

  • How to rank a motley of expectations and commitments possibly subject to cross-dependencies.
  • How to plan and schedule projects whose outcomes are set within changing environments governed along different time-frames.
Qualified Information Flows across Architectures and Processes
Enterprise Architecture & Separation of Concerns

That can be made easier if initiatives are classified and documented according to scope (enterprise, systems, platforms) and purpose (business processes, systems engineering, operations).

Frame of Reference: A Comprehensive and Consistent Modeling Paradigm

Enterprise architecture as a corporate discipline is upheld by the needs of large and complex organizations, which implies a wide range of units carrying out their projects according to their own concerns, organization, and methods.

Targets and Modeling Languages
All-inclusive Modeling Paradigm: Scope and Languages

As it’s safe to assume that different modeling languages are also involved, a frame of reference must be supported by a modeling paradigm covering the shared semantics of the basic domains of concern, namely: business processes, enterprise organization, systems functional architectures, and software engineering. That can be done with the conceptual backbone of the Caminao framework.

Directed Guidance: Model Driven Architecture

To be of any use, methods and tools should not become a constraint, introduce cumbersome procedures, or induce unjustified overheads. Hence the benefit of model based blueprints that could be adjusted according to the nature of problems (business value, assets, operations) and contexts (enterprise, systems, technologies), e.g:

  • Agile processes will combine requirements with development and bypass analysis phases (a).
  • Projects meant to be implemented by Commercial-Off-The-Shelf Software (COTS) will start with business requirements, possibly using BPM, then carry on directly to platform implementation, bypassing system analysis and design phases (b).
  • Changes in enterprise architecture capabilities will be rooted in analysis of enterprise objectives, possibly but not necessarily with inputs from business and operational requirements, continue with analysis and design of systems functionalities, and implement the corresponding resources at platform level (c).
  • Projects dealing with operational concerns will be conducted directly through systems design and platform implementation (d).
Processes should be devised according enterprise concerns and engineering contexts
Blueprints set according to layers and purpose

That scheme illustrates the benefits of  combining EA with model based engineering schemes.

Consistency and Simplicity: Seven Concepts & Three layers

As far as architectures are concerned, consistency and simplicity are best achieved through a clear understanding of architecture capabilities as defined by the Zachman framework: who, what, how, where, and when.

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Well established concepts are used to describe architecture capabilities

The semantics are to be defined in relation to architecture level: business, systems, and platforms. The role of enterprise architects is then to see how assets can best realize capabilities, and to align processes to supporting capabilities.

Structured and Precise Definitions: Formal Operators uniformly applied across Modeling Lanes

As illustrated a-contrario by the plenty of “universal” standards, combining simplicity, consistency, and all-inclusive relevancy is not easily achieved.

A way out of the conundrum is to delineate a small set of formal constructs and operators to be uniformly, comprehensively and consistently applied across models to connect, structure, and specialize conceptual nodes independently of their semantics:

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Conceptual nodes are connected, structured, and specialized using a single set of formal constructs.

On one hand such constructs provide a syntactic glue between the building blocs defined from basic concepts. On the other hand the semantics of these blocs can be extended and refined along the four standard modeling lanes (aka perspectives): objects, symbolic representations, activities, and execution states.

Clarity and Reason: Descriptive (extensional) vs Prescriptive (intensional) Models

Clarity for enterprise architects should begin with a distinction between environments and enterprise, the former given as realms of changing opportunities subordinate to external factors, the latter supposedly governed according to purposes and plans. Reason is needed to manage the relationship between environments and enterprise architectures, and that endeavor  fully depends on architects’ ability to build serviceable symbolic representations (aka models).

That makes for two distinct model sets:

  • Business environments are represented by extensional models, i.e ones describing actual objects and activities with regard to the categories set by enterprise business model.
  • Enterprise architectures are described by intensional models, i.e ones prescribing how organization and systems are to be built.
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Two distinct model sets: descriptive for business environments, prescriptive for systems architectures and artifacts.

Depending on size, complexity of organizations and systems, a level of indirection can be managed in between, as illustrated by MDA distinction between computation independent (CIM), platform independent PIM), and platform specific (PSM) models. PIMs and PSMs would correspond respectively to EACOE architecture and implementation.

Value in Models Transformation: Lean, Users Driven, & Knowledge Based

EA being a management discipline, it is bound to induce a motley of models to be shared and distributed across business and supporting units. In order to avoid a glut of redundant models, cumbersome procedures, and poor return on investment, processes have to remain lean and cut to the bone.

That can be achieved if models are justified by clearly identified purpose (governance or engineering), and set with clear semantics (descriptive, prescriptive, or mixed):

  • Descriptive (extensional) ones are supposed to be computation independent models (CIMs) and used to support transformations into other descriptive models, e.g analytical or conceptual ones.
  • Prescriptive (intensional) ones target platform specific models (PSMs), their purpose is to support crossed transformations or code generation targeting different platforms.
  • Mixed ones (PIMs) stand in-between and describe platform independent (aka functional) architectures meant to support business processes and be supported by systems platforms.

Models can then be understood as intermediate products to be processed “just-in-time” depending on users’ drive and artifacts’ status.

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Just-in-time processes & Knowledge Based Models: Computation independent (blue), Platform independent (yellow), Platform specific (grey).

With artifacts “inventories” organized along layers, the traceability and transparency of inputs would be set with regard to embedded knowledge: business, organization and supporting systems, and platform technologies. The value of transformations could then be assessed on that basis.

Skills Acquisition: Modular & Smooth Learning Curve

The range of enterprise architecture skills is by nature multi-faceted and volatile:

  • Multi-faceted: Enterprise architects have to deal with the variety of business domains, the singularity of human organizations, and the technicality of systems architectures.
  • Volatile: enterprise architecture is essentially a work in progress whose purpose is to combine changing environments, emerging structures and behaviors, and planned organization.

If they are to tally with such disparate needs, skills are best defined with regard to a limited number of stable characteristics:

  • Target: Enterprise and business oriented, or systems and technology oriented.
  • Purpose: Architectures or business value.
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Skills should be primary defined with regard to purpose and target

Given the diversity and transformations of challenges, the relevant skills have to be adjusted, expanded, and deepened continuously; that can only be achieved through a cross-reinforcement of practical and theoretical abilities combined with a modular and smooth learning curve.

Frameworks built from meticulously detailed processes, or sketched from broadly defined principles are ill-fitted to such pedagogy. By contrast, Caminao is built from a small and robust backbone of formally defined concepts that can be fleshed out with enterprise concrete semantics and decorated with customized terminology. That is to enable a step-by-step and open approach to EA.

Multiple Architect Roles: Responsibilities & Decision-making

As already mentioned, the raison d’être of enterprise architecture is to bring under a single roof business processes, enterprise organization, and IT systems. After dealing with criteria related to artifacts and communication, the last to consider is the way EA frameworks should support the integrity and consistency of decision-making.

The Caminao framework define responsibilities of enterprise architects along two dimensions: models and change management.

Regarding models, the dual perspective (actual vs symbolic) remains at the core of EA decision-making: business environments and processes should never be confused with their symbolic representations as systems surrogates. As a matter of fact managing that relationship is at the core of enterprise architecture, and these models are critical for the definition of responsibilities as well as for the support of collaboration. Bluntly speaking, without that distinction enterprise architects would find nothing to manage.

What moves first: actual contexts and processes or enterprise abstractions
EA Decision-making

Regarding change and decision-making, differentiated models will help enterprise architects with the evolution of structures (objectives and assets) and the conduct of operations (processes and configurations), the former shared across business processes and time-frames, the latter set for specific processes and time cycles.

Concluding Remark: EA as Entropy Antidote

The emergence of EA as a discipline is not happening by chance but as a consequence of the crumbling of the traditional boundaries between enterprises and their environment. Faced with the new challenges of competition in seamless digital environments, enterprises success is conditioned by the plasticity and versatility of their architectures, more precisely on their ability to “digest” the variety of data, process it into serviceable information, to be distributed as knowledge towards the different units depending on purposes and time-scales : assets and organization, business value, systems capabilities.

KEA: Knowledge is the Key to EA
KEA: Knowledge as the Key to EA

Along that reasoning EA can be seen as a natural antidote to entropy: like corporate cousins of  Maxwell’s demon, enterprise architects are to stand at enterprise data gates, looking for changes that could decrease internal complexity relative to the external one.

Further Reading

External Links

EA Frameworks: Non Negotiable Features

Frameworks are meant to abet the design and governance of enterprises’ organization and systems, not to add any methodological layer of complexity. If that entry level is to be attained preconditions are to be checked out for comprehensiveness, modularity, clarity of principle, and consistency.

Jonas Bendiksen roof
Shared Roof (Jonas Bendiksen)

Meeting core EA framework requirements will in turn greatly facilitate declarative and iterative approaches to enterprise architecture.

Comprehensiveness

The primary objective of an enterprise framework is to bring under a common management roof different contexts and concerns (business, technical, organizational), and synchronize their respective time-frames. That can only be achieved through an all-inclusive and unified conceptual perspective.

Suggested check: Variants for core concepts like agents or events must be clearly defined at enterprise and system levels; e.g  people (agents with identity and organizational status), roles (organization and access to systems), and bots (software agents without identity and organizational status).

Modularity

On one hand enterprise frameworks must deal with strategic issues without being sidetracked by enterprises idiosyncrasies. On the other hand swift and specific adaptations to changing environments should not be hampered by cumbersome procedures or steep learning curve. That can only be achieved by lean and versatile frameworks built from a clear and compact set of architecture artifacts, to be readily extended, specialized or implemented through the enactment of dedicated processes.

Suggested check: How a framework is to further the development of a new business, facilitate the merging of organizations, or support the transition to a new architecture (e.g SOA).

Clarity of Principle

Comprehensiveness and modularity are pointless without a principled backbone supporting incremental changes and a smooth learning curve. For that purpose a clear separation should be maintained between the semantics of the core patterns used to describe architectures and the processes to be carried out for their evolution.

Suggested check: The meaning of  primary terms (event, role, activity, etc) should be uniquely and unambiguously defined based on the core framework principles, independently of the processes using them.

Consistency

EA frameworks should be more compass than textbook, drawing clear lines of action before providing details of implementation. Lest architects been lost in compilations of ambiguous or overlapping definitions and rules, core meanings must remain unaffected when put to use across the framework.

Suggested check: Carry out a comprehensive search for a sample of primary terms (e.g event, role, activity, etc.), list and compare the different (if any) definitions, and verify that they can be boiled down to a unique and unambiguous one.

EA & Model Based Systems Engineering

These basic requirements get their full meaning when set in the broader context of EA evolution. Contrary to their IT component, enterprise architectures cannot be reduced to planned designs but grow from a mix of organization, culture, business environments, technology constraints, and strategic planning. As EA evolution is by nature incremental, supporting frameworks should provide for iterative development based on declarative knowledge of their organizational or technical constituents. That could be achieved by combining EA with model based systems engineering.

Further Readings

 

How to choose Frameworks & Methods

Summary

Before assessing criteria for long-term commitments, initial selection of a method or framework for systems engineering should consider four basic principles: continuity, duality, parsimony, and artifacts precedence.

A Framed Perspective
Picking a Framework (Spring Garden, Tehran)

Continuity

Modus operandi are built on people understandings, practices, and skills that cannot be changed as easily as tools. In other words “big bang” solutions should be avoided when considering changes in systems governance and software engineering processes.

Duality

While any solution will necessarily entail collaboration between business and systems analysts, they belong to realms with inbuilt differences of concerns and culture. Assuming that the divide can be sewed up by canny procedures is tantamount to ignore the very purpose of the framework.

Parsimony

According to Occam’s Razor, when faced with competing options, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. That principle is especially critical when dealing with organizational options that cannot be easily reversed or even adjusted. Hence, when alternative engineering processes are considered, a simple and robust solution should be selected as a default option, and extensions added for specific projects if and when needed.

Artifacts Precedence

Assuming that enterprise architecture entails the continuity, perennity and reuse of shared descriptions and understandings, symbolic artifacts can be seen as the corner-stone of the whole undertaking. As a corollary, and whatever the framework or methodology, the core of managed artifacts should be clearly defined before considering the processus that will use them.

Further Reading