Enterprise Architecture Modelling

At the beginning of November I was lucky enough to be sent to St. Andrews for the JISC CETIS 2nd ArchiMate Modelling Bash. As a computer scientist and software engineer, I’ve done a fair amount of modelling during the design phases of building systems, but I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect of Enterprise Architecture Modelling.

The 2 day event consisted of  an introduction to the modelling language ArchiMate, which is a standard for representing enterprise architecture models, an introduction to Archi, a JISC-funded, Eclipse Modelling Framework-based tool for creating enterprise architecture models. That took us up to lunchtime on the first day, and then the next day and a half was dedicated to the “bash” element of this event. The bash was time for us to model something in Archi, with the support of some ArchiMate experts and the developer of Archi.

Before I continue, I think it’s worthwhile mentioning how great Archi is, especially given the fact it only has 1 developer. Yeah, that’s right: one! It is rigorously compliant with the ArchiMate spec, it has a very polished interface and, best of all, is open source and in continued development. It is evidence of the quality of software that can be made, even in very small teams, given the right application of skill and attention to detail.

Enterprise Architecture Modelling allows an organisation to record and communicate the components and relationships within it, including the business processes performed, roles undertaken within the organisation, software applications provided and the computer systems they are run on. The reason we are interested in this within the Student Dashboard project is to provide our institution the incentive to understand itself better. Currently, iSolutions (our information services department) have an exhaustive inventory of the computer hardware they manage, but there is little information recorded about how the applications that run on that hardware relate to the processes undertaken by staff on a day-to-day basis. We hope that by demonstrating the worth of modelling part of the enterprise architecture that affect the student dashboard, it will encourage other parts of the university to begin modelling themselves.

The bash was very useful to me, as I hadn’t done any Enterprise Architecture Modelling (EAM) beforehand, nor used Archi, so the introduction to both and a chance to put them both into practice was invaluable. However, while bring isolated in Scotland is useful for concentrating on work, it also made me realise the requirement of EAM to have *all* of the information to hand. When trying to construct some models, I found myself coming up against processes where I wasn’t entirely sure how they worked, and in particular, trying to model the hardware available was impossible for me! My main takeaway from the event is that EAM is a tool to be used when sitting with the domain experts, for encoding their knowledge for future reference.

I am a teaching fellow in Electronics and Computer Science, teaching modules on the Computer Science degree, Information Technology in Organisations degree and Engineering Foundation Year. I studied my undergraduate degree and PhD at the University of Southampton, and loved it enough to stick around :-) My research is in the area of Technology Enhanced Learning, including methods of adapting teaching resources to the student and novel approaches to teaching programming.

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