Representing organizational structures, roles, responsibilities, and linking this model with the process model, could be a mess, especially if your Architecture model should integrate perspectives modeled according to different standards.

I expose here some ideas that we are putting in practice across our Enterprise Architecture projects, in my current Company.

The topic of model mapping is hot: you can find a lot of interesting toughts in the blogs of Gerben Weirda. At the same time, the OMG is working on a UML profile for Archimate.

I will start with Archimate, and the basic elements from the Business Layer: Actor and Role.

The following picture, shows a suggested extension:

Archimate extension roleactor

The Role is specialized, leading to four different stereotypes:

  1. Organizational role: a role that is specific of an organizational unit, eg. Director (role) of IT (unit).
  2. Functional role: a role that is specific of a function or authority assigned to a person, eg. Sales Representative.
  3. Process role: a role that has a meaning in the context of one or more processes, eg. “Purchasing requester”, “credit approver”
  4. Partner role: a role of an external partner in a collaboration, eg. Customer, Bank, Tax agency.

At the same time, the Actor element is specialized:

  1. Organization unit: ana element of the organization which may be aggregated at an higher level, or may aggregate lower level units. The dependency may follow several patterns: hierarchical, matrix.
  2. Human Business Actor: a single, identified person.
  3. External partner: a person or organization external from our business.

The diagram shows the main relationships among elements. The “Process role” may be assigned to a human actor, another functional or organizational role. Anyhow, it is meaningful only n he context of execution of a single instance of one or more processes,

Why do we need those extensions? Well, mainly for ease of communication with some stakeholders. It is common wisdom that complexity in the metamodel leads to obscure resulting models (for the eyes of non-professional stakeholders). But in this case, I think that a little bit of specialization is useful:

  • specialization of user roles helps the overall classification of them, and provide some guidance also for junior analysts and people outside the Architecture practice.
  • Specialization of business actors helps avoiding the potential ambiguity deriving from the fact that a branch, an office, a bank, or a receptionist are all modeled with the same element.

In the following posts, I will describe how we have translated this profile in UML, and how we have linked the Business Layer with the relevant elements of BPMN models.

Every business deals with a finite number of entities, concepts, things, as you may prefer to name them.

Every modeling standard and project framework deals with this, approaching this description from several different viewpoints.

The existence of different descriptions, at different abstraction levels, for the same thing, and the logical links between these different modeling contexts, is one key output of an Enterprise Architecture capability.

Let’s look at the following picture, showing a common concept, “Vendor”, at different architecture layers.

Data objects in Archimate and BPMN

The picture shows modeling elements from two widely adopted standards: BPMN and Archimate.

Context / Behaviour

A Vendor is usually a stakeholder, and an external party, for our business, As such, it may be represented with a Partner Role element, according to BPMN. This is mainly a reference role, a bookmark, also if we may wish to attach some documentation or classification elements. This element will have a place in BPMN process modeling, as a Participant in a collaboration.

Archimate modeling language includes two elements that can be used as a collaboration participant: Business Role and Business Actor. The Actor is an element modeling something which may or may not have a defined identity (in BPMN Partner Role doesn’t have an identity, while Partner Entity does), but have an independent capability to perform actively some tasks. A Role, on the contrary, is more a formal description of the duties, responsibilities, capabilities, interfaces used and provided, related to a business organizational unit or single person.

So, if we want to emphasize “what the partner does”, we can model it with a Role, but if we have more interest on “what kind of partner is”, we will prefer an Actor. Usually, and Enterprise Architect is interested in the “internal” architecture of his business and, in my opinion, will find the Actor element better suited for this task.

Business Object

This is a typical element of Archimate, representing a wide range of possible items. I usually see the Business Object (a passive element in the Business Architecture Layer) as an element of the business dictionary. In every Company, when you start an interview with people with different roles, you will recognize a number of common “words”. They represent the products, the market, the external parties, the production facilities. They are the better candidates to be represented with a Business Object (behind this analysis, we may like to perform a more detailed ontological analysis on the concepts and relationships, but this is another chapter). At the Business Layer, a Business Object is not an “information item”, but is a collection of information, rules, connection with processes and internal organizational units, that will remain unchanged if we replace the information system with another one, without changing the business architectural layer.

In BPMN there isn’t a corresponding element, but we often use the Data Object to show which activities interacts with some parts of a Business Object. In general, I prefer to limit the “technical data structure pollution” in BPMN diagrams, this means trying to be as abstract as possible with respect to the actual data structure. The BPMN standard encourages this, providing a number of Item Aware Elements, that may reference any kind of physical, logical or informational element.

So, for instance, a process where one of the deliverable is the Vendor Master data, or a new Vendor Dossier, will see the “Vendor” Data Object.

Application and Database

Coherently with the approach followed for Data Objects, I usually use Data Stores to model “logical” database representations, detached from the actual database storing their data. Following the example in this article, we will have a “Purchasing” Data Store, including everything that is connected to the purchasing cycle: items, prices, vendors, orders, deliveries, etc. Someone may observe that a “Vendor” is also relevant in the “Accounting” Data Store, as part of the Accounts Payable, but I don’t agree. We deal with a Vendor because it is a provider of services and goods, not because we have an account opened with his name in our books.

Archimate, on the opposite, makes a clear distinction between the Application/Data layer – where the Data Object will have a strong “structure/database table” meaning, and the Device elements, which is used to represent the actual “hardware” hosting the Database.

Bottom Line

By using a limited number of partially-overlapping modeling standards (in our choice: TOGAF, Archimate, BPMN and UML), we can obtain a powerful and detailed representation of our Business Architecture according to different perspectives and viewpoints. Business Concepts modeling is a key part of the Enterprise Architecture capability, allowing us to catch what is maybe the core knowledge base of our business. Extending upwards (Business interactions and processes) and downwards this modeling layers will give us the ability to track the impact of any change in our business scenario on all the levels of the Architecture.

Archimate uses the “Business Object” element to model a passive entity representing a concept or a business entity manipulated by behavioral business elements.

Creating a catalog of “Business Objects” is useful when you need to analyze links among application, data, process areas.
Consider concepts like “Purchase Order” or “Supplier”: they may appear as data input or output, part of the data architecture, stakeholders, roles in process diagrams.
It’s also important to model the information associated with each Business Objects. For instance, a “Purchase Order” may carry information about the kind and quantity/quality of goods or services, contractual information, cost accounting details, internal organization references (requester, buyer, authorizer). These information can be modeled in two ways:
  • using the “Meaning” element in Archimate;
  • using an aggregation.
I don’t like the second, because, while a Purchase Order has a defined identity and unity, the details of goods, outside the Purchase Order context, is ambiguous, because the same information can be related to a Purchase Request, a Delivery, a stock adjustments, etc.
In my Company, Caltagirone Group, I adopted the first notation, obtaining this kind of diagrams:
Archimate PO Business Object

Read the rest of this entry »

When you decide, or are involved, in an evolution project regarding your Organization division, perhaps your Company is willing to transform it in an Enterprise Architecture Capability, in other words a set of resources dedicated to design and support change management using comprehensive frameworks, like TOGAF.

It’s a good moment to think carefully about your objectives, and you can use TOGAF itself as a supporting framework for this project (TOGAF manual describes this task in the “preliminary” phase).

The core of this activity will be synthesized by:

  • you “as-is” practice, that is your baseline Architecture Capability;
  • the desired target Architecture Capability.

The differences between those two situations will be described using a list of gaps, that will be the starting point for your project definition.

Using Archimate – the modeling language that integrates very well TOGAF in many parts – we can describe these elements.

Archimate diagram illustrating baseline and target architecture capabilities

Archimate diagram illustrating baseline and target architecture capabilities

The figure is only an overview, but the gaps highlighted will guide you through a series of questions that will define your evolution:

  • people and skills involved,
  • organizational position of the Architecture team,
  • usage of internal/external resources,
  • scope (horizontal and vertical) of the analysis,
  • interaction with IT, HR, Board, etc.,
  • tools, standards,
  • project management practice,
  • methodologies,

and so on.

This will be also a good opportunity to start practicing, in your “real” business, your new organizational structure. At the same time, during this project, you will produce – as a deliverable – an initial Enterprise Architecture, covering the basics layer of Business, Data, Application and Technology. This initial Architecture, stored in your Architecture Repository, will be used and refined in your following architectural projects.

During the design of the Business Architecture, in TOGAF, we have to outline the structure of the organization, including the description of how human resources are assigned to roles, organizational units, locations.

The structural element representing the organizational unit in Archimate is the Business Actor. As the standard says, a Business Actor may be “a human, a department, or a business unit”.

This is the main building block of our organization structure design, and can be enough if you want to limit yourself to the traditional hierarchical organization chart. Following this approach, you will find perhaps a missing element: a taxonomy that helps you classify the different elements.

Simple Organization chart with Archimate
This simple vertical organization shows some of the problems and possible solutions:
  • the sales organization is a business unit, with a manager; we suppose that the manager will be a single person.
  • There are more Area Manager; the composition relation shows that the Sales Manager is their direct boss. Again, this “Actor” will perhaps be a single person, but there will be more people in this role, each of them assigned to a different geographical area.
  • Within each “Area”, there are separate managers for each “Product”. All the Product Managers of an Area will report to the Are Manager. The geographical dimension appear to be the prevalent one.
  • Perhaps there is also an orthogonal Product dimension; we can imagine that there is a global Product Manager, it’s not represented here, but is clearly possible.
  • There is a single back office unit, working for the whole sales organization.
Using this really limited set of elements from Archimate, we were indeed able to represent the basic hierarchical organization. Some of the relationships among business units, and the kind of each unit, are somehow ambiguous, requiring an explicative narrative. This is not good, because a modeling standard should be able to represent a situation without disambiguation.
Other modeling standards, such as BPMN, provide the designer with some attributes that are specific for extensions. Archimate includes a generic extension mechanism, trough “attributes” for specific elements, included in a “profile”, or using specialization of standard concepts.
We will see later how to accomplish this, adding some more elements to the model.

From mail to knowledge

November 16, 2014

Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) are usually considered as a mean to gather the corporate knowledge that is dispersed in the people’s head, or in mail/documents threads.

The pattern commonly adopted, to connect the sources of this knowledge, to the final repository, that can be a tool within the ESN, is depicted in the following figure:

different path from mail to knowledge (2)

  1. the user receive mail;
  2. the user select some messages, that are relevant for his social interaction, and publish them on the Enterprise Social Networks;
  3. the user (or someone else, an ESN editor), further classify (using tagging, grouping or other ESN features), the content that contains knowledge.
  4. Now, the knowledge-bearing content is available to everyone.

Where is the limit? In user actions.

This pattern assumes that the single user is willing to spend some effort in publishing/reviewing/classifying content. But we forget that this is not his job.

Imagine a salesperson, in hurry, trying to close an important deal. How much do you think that he will be committed in leaving a knowledgeable trace that that particular kind of product requires a specific customizing in order to be successful for a particular kind of customers? Maybe he will do it later? With an inbox receiving hundreds of email each day?

This is why sometimes user adoption for ESN projects is limited, and adding a “training/sponsoring” track to the project is not enough.

Now imagine a different model:

different path from mail to knowledge (2)

Here, the Enterprise Social Network software includes the inbox features. Incoming mail appears immediately as a new post on the user’s dashboard, classified in the proper thread. If the message contains short-term content (i.e. “John is coming late at the meeting: he will arrive perhaps 10:30″), it will remain in the user inbox, and will be deleted lately.

There is still the need to select and classify content that is relevant for the corporate knowledge-base, but this action will be easier if the content is already classified in the context of the ESN.

A step in this direction can be seen in Zimbra, or in the last Inbox by Gmail development. But I expect that this will be a significant development for the most popular ESN products.

Google have just released a new mail client for its Gmail service, which is usable free or with a paid subscription for smb and education.

Whith this new client, Google is suggesting that a mail client should support the user not only in mail “browsing”, but also for acting on the mail messages, taking and organizing the proper actions required by each message.
This is not new, the classical user interface of Microsoft Outlook was already providing an integrated environment for mail, tasks, calendar and contact management.

image

Google is adding value to this idea in two directions:
1 adding information from the search engine that is relevant for the mail content (flight info, stock quotes, etc.)
2 providing a grouping mechanism, that was already in place in the traditional web interface for Gmail, that assign each mail to a group (social, updates, forums, etc.) according to its content/sender

The final expected result is a cleaner inbox, that helps finding out the important messages, plan when we are going to act upon them, and gently guide us in browsing other categories of messages when we are confortable.

Now, the main components of a mail messages are:
1 content
2 people involved

image

People are sets, nested and mixed together in various ways, that can be seen as “containers” for several messages, with the exception that the containment is not strict, as water in a bottle, but shows a sort of ripple effect, that goes beyond the natural border of organizational or social set.

Google is putting emphasis on content: mail are classified according to their content type, even if the sender is used as an element helping content classification.
The missing element is people relations, and threads, intended as an extended version of the traditional mail threads (answers, forwards).
I think that this is a promising further line of development.

Content is something that is somehow limited to the single message (or message thread).
People is something more “stable” in the network of our relations, and more significant when we shift to groups/clustwr of people.

In this field, Google has already its social layer, Google+, that is already exploited in the traditional web interface of Gmail.
A shift from the single interaction model that is typical of mail messages, toward a more social aware model is, in my opinion, the future evolution of mail, and the convergence field with Social networks, and, furthermore, Enterprise Social Networks,

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.