Diagram-Driven & Data-Driven: The Art and Science of Architecture

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Playing-to-win--- data driven Enterprise Architecture ABACUS

In the movie Moneyball, Brad Pitt’s character breaks with baseball convention by relying on data science instead of traditional scouting to choose a team he hopes will stop the Oakland A’s losing streak.

His analysts use probability to see past biases and identify both champions and affordable players that everyone else has overlooked.

As enterprise architects we’ve always been comfortable with data. But the addition of integrations and APIs has meant huge leaps in the volume of data we can use to understand operational and technical infrastructure and guide decisions.

The way we store data also improved our ability to access and analyze it: We’ve written before about the benefits of graph databases in managing large data volumes.

Add to this new enterprise architecture analytic techniques and interactive data visualizations. Enterprise architecture is quickly becoming, and needs to be, data-driven.

What of diagrams then, the “art” of enterprise architecture. Are they now old-school?

Visual modeling

Most business strategist use diagrams or visual models to do design.

The first thing people reach for when planning, or conceptualizing a new line of business is not a spreadsheet: it’s a whiteboard and a marker.

And later they might “draw” plans in PowerPoint, Visio or another drawing tool with a canvas-and-stencil functionality.

Diagrams and visual sketches help us to communicate designs. But they also help architects to do design, to think through a design, explore interdependencies visually, and create better designs – what architects call “future-states”.

Industry frameworks

Used smartly, business reference models can speed and orient planning, allowing a team to draw on existing industry best practice.

For a telecoms company the precise layout of the eTOM model is valuable groundwork.

For an insurance company the ACORD layout is a familiar reference-point.

But if a diagram isn’t interactive, dynamic and connected to fresh, real-time data, there is a real risk it will lose relevance.

Strategy & Execution

The value of enterprise architecture always lies in capturing strategy and guiding execution against defined business outcomes, not in the style.

Architects need to take the pulse of different facets of each line of business, and make decisions to rebuild parts of it whilst still ensuring it functions. A challenge similar to fixing the suspension of the car whilst it’s still travelling beneath you.

To do this really well you’ll want plenty of operational data, and you’ll want analytics for calculating what impact external forces and internal changes will have, and diagnostics for keeping a multitude of projects happily on track.

Diagram-driven architecture works best when diagrams are:

  • Customizable to your business
  • Automatically updated
  • Connected to data
  • Used to support communication or decision making

Data-driven architecture works best when it is:

  • Integrated with enterprise data-sources (e.g. using an API)
  • Focused by key business metrics or outcomes
  • Provides both diagnostic and predictive analytics
  • “Explorable” through interactive data visualizations

By maintaining future- and business-driven mindset, architects can track and measure success, putting their business in the position to excel and win.

Full article available at Techerati

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