Grounding EA by Linking Models to Operational Data

The investigative phases of digital business initiatives typically involve a combination of archaeological digging and detective work. The archaeological digging includes consulting architectural models and other forms of system and process documentation of varying currency and, therefore, credibility. The detective work involves reading production source code and configuration files as well as interviewing stakeholders and experts who understand what is really going on and what is required. These are certainly productive and essential activities, and are unlikely to be eliminated or replaced soon. However, they can be reduced and accelerated with operationally grounded models of enterprise and solution architecture. Operationally grounded as-is models (OGAIM) are continually linked and reconciled with operational data from change, incident, and other service management processes.

Linkage and reconciliation can happen in several ways. Change, incident, and service managers can create or require references to elements of enterprise or domain models in the documentation or structured records they maintain. Ideally, these references should be hyperlinks to model objects. For example, the LeanIX enterprise architecture toolset presents each model element as an editable factsheet, i.e., a web page with a unique URL. Many enterprise architecture tools, including LeanIX, also offer integrations with service management tools such as ServiceNow, and many enterprise architecture and service management tools have APIs that support custom integrations, but such integrations are not necessary to get started with OGAIM.

Regardless of the technology used, the creation of model element references in operational documentation forces architects and analysts charged with maintaining as-is models to keep them accurate and up to date. Also, this referencing process converges the terminology and perspectives of architects, developers, DevOps and site reliability engineers, support staff and others who create or consult architectural or operational data. Furthermore, this practice can improve the quality of operational documentation by aligning it with standard nomenclature for systems and processes. These benefits in turn ease audit and compliance activities. They also support application portfolio management (APM), which improves IT decision-making with lifecycle, fit, cost, risk, and value information for each managed application.    Finally, all these benefits enable the agile management of complex and interlinked business and technology change, which is the essence of enterprise architecture.

 OGAIM enables integrated views of architectural and operational data. The ArchiMate layered diagram example below depicts the inbound telephone customer support service provided by a contact center for a consumer electronics company. Operational metrics are superimposed on the icons representing key services (exposed behaviors), processes (internal behaviors), application and technology components, and business actors. Some metrics in this scenario are typically generated by the Contact Center as a Service solution depicted in the diagram. This illustrates that operational metrics can come from industry- or function-specific tools as well as generic operational management tools. The diagram uses a lot of acronyms, so please review its Terms panel first.

In conclusion, the integration of operational and architectural data can make enterprises easier to manage and change. The broad array of benefits provided by OGAIM merits its consideration by enterprise architects and operational leaders in all industries and functions.

Authored by Iver Band, EA Principals Senior Instructor and ArchiMate Expert