Enterprise architecture management (EA) tools are responding to the increasingly complex demands of a digital and cloud-based marketplace, helping keep track of everything from servers to data, business strategies and ideas.
But once you get beyond the tracking, especially if you’re just past the small or medium-sized business (SMB) threshold, the need for an enterprise architecture management tool becomes even more important, analysts say. Spreadsheets and static blueprints aren’t always flexible or rich enough to provide a holistic view of your current state of affairs and the “what-ifs” and “to-be” scenarios that can change your bottom line.
“Organizations are using EA not just to map what they have but to make sense out of it, to drive transformation and analyze the impact of any particular change,” said Terry White, associate senior analyst with London-based Ovum Consulting.
“Instead of EA, I call it AE, the Architecture of Everything,” White said. “It’s about the idea, the business case, the design, all the way through the project being implemented and benefits realization. Rather than a pure technology focus, it’s much wider.”
There’s a financial architecture tool that can track from the budget process through actual budgeted amounts being put into a ledger, to modeling the “spend” and potential cost-savings scenarios, he said. And there’s the case of a large manufacturer that now takes 38 days instead of 18 months to bring on a new customer. That company used EA to help automate the process, reduce the onboarding process and save a “whack of money,” White said. “Even on a small scale you can look at process and ask, ‘What if we do something else?’”
EA tools are software applications that support enterprise architects and non-IT individuals with information to help them plan, analyze, design and execute business strategy. The tools support “strategic and tactical decision-making by capturing and connecting context and information” across an enterprise with attention to at least the following core “architectural viewpoints,” according to Gartner.
Business: An EA tool helps guide people, process and organizational change by delineating day-to-day operations (who does what). It allows individuals to see where collaborations and partnerships are possible and can help ease transition to new processes.
Application/solution: The tool helps manage the future “to-be” solutions, with an eye toward emergent strategies. Additionally, this viewpoint can consider the larger ecosystem, including supply chain and how changes in the customer journey can impact the enterprise architecture.
Information/data: Especially with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and heightened privacy concerns, coupled with an unending supply of new data, enterprise architecture management tools must help control and segregate repositories of information. Developments in AI and IoT are pushing vendors to come up with ways to track and mine data for trends, patterns and insights that can lead to efficiencies and new business opportunities.
Technology: At its most basic, an EA tool provides an overview of hardware and software to track lifecycles, maintenance and redundancies and to plan for investment strategies.
Risk management and compliance are additional viewpoints to consider. Some EA tools will help architects plan for and handle unexpected disruptions in business operations or strategies and can surface hidden risks that could impact compliance programs and budget.
Within each core viewpoint, you should also consider how an enterprise architecture management tool performs in the following areas:
Modeling: What types of modeling are available and how customizable are they? Will your different constituencies be able to interpret the effects of the proposed changes based on their technical background? How does the tool ingest information from your other business systems such as Salesforce or ServiceNow?
Monitoring: Does it allow real- or near-time actions based on alerts or changes in patterns?
Presentation: What formats are available (PDF, spreadsheets, HTML) for your reports and other deliverables?
Usability/interface: Is the tool intuitive? Will non-IT users be able to produce reports or follow along during presentations? Can you customize the interface? Can you limit access to certain users?
Tools that were once used by just the enterprise architect are now being made available to entire organizations, White said. “You can have 8,000 people look at where you are with a particular project, and then about 800 of those actually get involved. The user base is much wider.”
Additionally, some EA tools run Software as a service (SaaS) or through an on-premises deployment. There’s also tremendous diversity in cost and pricing structure, available training, technical support, and focus on specific vertical markets. Also be sure to check the international architecture standards it supports, such as TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework), ArchiMate, Zachman Framework, etc.
Criteria for inclusion on this list, which was culled from a roster of 21 enterprise architecture management entrants, included the company’s focus on the EA market, approach to innovation, reviews of the company’s performance and response to client needs, and company size and longevity in the market. When possible, we factored in the company’s financial stability.
Here’s the list, which is presented alphabetically (requires registration):