I’ve worked with a couple of EA vendors over the years and I’ve noticed that most of the tool vendors (who will go nameless) do a great job of collecting applications, mapping them to capabilities, capturing capability measures, and showing portfolio reports. Great. But you cannot run an EA program with that.

EA programs need a good bit more and I just haven’t seen enough focus on the rest of what it takes to run an EA program. I’d expect to see the following features:

  • Support for application design review — Architecture review boards are not easy to set up an maintain and an EA tool can really help this. Documenting the process, integrating it with the project portfolio (prior to funding, including funding, and after funding), and ensuring that each of the funded projects is properly associated with standards and informed of their place in the tool for tracking processes.
  • Connection with document repository such that a direct link from the tool to the file repository is supported and ALWAYS provided — there is a repository of information somewhere. The assumption for some tools is to upload documents. That’s nuts. They repository already exists in a collaboration tool. But the EA tool should have reports to allow an EA Data Whip to complete the data links.
  • Compliance review for multiple stakeholders — EA is not the only team that needs to review an app. Security and Operations do as well. One of the challenges is that app projects will have to do multiple compliance reviews. One tool to handle all compliance reviews (ARB, Security review, DevOps review, Service Transition, etc) will help app teams feel good about participating with the tool.
  • Training for non EA staff members to understand the value of their roles — people don’t understand the roles that they play with respect to the EA portfolio. If you don’t help someone to understand why they should participate, they won’t. The EA manager should know who has accepted the training (reports) and allow the EA team to measure compliance.
  • Keeping the EA portfolio up to date — not only assigning the various data items to people but also setting up a notification and reminder process to updating the data, as well as reports to allow governance of the data.

The stakeholders for these features are primarily the chief architect and members of the EA team itself.

Perhaps tools have these features and I’m just not seeing it. Or perhaps they think they have these features but I just don’t see how their features solve these problems. I’d be happy to work with any tool vendor to help them to see the value of features of this kind and how to use these solutions to sell their products (product management).

By Nick Malik

Former CIO and present Strategic Architect, Nick Malik is a Seattle based business and technology advisor with over 30 years of professional experience in management, systems, and technology. He is the co-author of the influential paper "Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture" with Dr. Brian Cameron that effectively defined modern Enterprise Architecture practices, and he is frequent speaker at public gatherings on Enterprise Architecture and related topics. He coauthored a book on Visual Storytelling with Martin Sykes and Mark West titled "Stories That Move Mountains".

2 thoughts on “Why don’t EA tools actually help EA?”
  1. Nick, I agree with your comments but not sure I would want those capabilities in an EA modeling tool. The one I use tries to do too much already and only a few things very well. There is also the issue about licensing costs if there are non-architect stakeholders that need access. Another challenge is the learning curve for overly complicated tools.

    Great thoughts though for sure.

  2. Great stuff as always Nick. I’ve noticed this too. My question before committing to purchasing a tool is “how does this tool help us keep the information up to date once we’ve put all of it in there?” and “what will induce the rest of the organization to believe that it’s important and in their best interest to keep it up to date?”. It can’t just be an ivory tower repository IMO.

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