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                                                                                   Using Archi for Enterprise Architecture
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Integrated Collaborative Web-based
Modeling & Knowledge Management 

for Professionals and Consultants

 

Professionals and consultants working within the enterprise or across a client base deal with a great deal of knowledge. They use their skills and expertise to apply this knowledge to particular situations, thereby improving quality, productivity, efficiency and resource utilisation - ultimately adding value for stakeholders of the enterprise.

This group has traditionally been inadequately supported by software tools. Office products produce individual documents, spreadsheets, presentations and the like, but do not relate these to overall projects or provide an easy way to manage templates and versions of documents derived from them. Modeling tools are often too heavyweight and too specialised, forcing unsuitable approaches and notations to be followed. Many tools are single user - limiting their usefulness in a team. Few are properly web enabled, allowing the entry, query and management of information via the intranet or Internet - this limits their usefulness across an enterprise or within a consulting organization with distributed teams. Some high end tools do address areas like enterprise architecture, but are prohibitively expensive.

Inspired, as a long time knowledge-based consultancy group working in the areas of strategy, architectures, program management and methods, has developed a tool specifically to support the kinds of activities undertaken by planners, architects, business engineers, project managers, methods implementors and other knowledge intensive professional roles.

What is Archi?

Archi is a solution comprising a knowledge repository, a web based software tool and sets of meta data which customise the tool for particular purposes, such as enterprise architecture management, program management or methods definition and management. It supports multiple concurrent users and is implemented as a server product behind a standard web server (e.g. IIS™, Apache™, Websphere™) while storing repository information in a standard relational database management system (e.g. SQL Server™, Oracle™, DB2™). It can run in either a Windows NT/2000/2003/XP ™ environment or on a Unix™ platform (special request).

Users access Archi through standard web browsers (e.g. Internet Explorer™, Netscape™). Archi uses only standard protocols supported on current popular browsers and does not require any plug-ins or Java. All that is required is HTML and a basic subset of Java Script.

Archi is very flexible and can be easily extended by a user to support additional types and relationships, in a matter of minutes, interactively at run time and without affecting other users' access to the system.

While Archi manages rich structured data and relationships internally within the repository, it can also reference and manage a wide variety of knowledge assets created in other tools, including: word processing documents, spreadsheets, models, project plans, presentations and even audio and video.

How Do You Work with Archi?

Archi provides flexible ways of capturing, relating, querying and viewing information.

Browser-ItemTree-thumb03You could choose to work with the details of an item, follow logical relationships to other items, query their details, edit items, create new links or alter others in the process as you progress using the Item Tree Browser

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Browser-Unified- thumbYou can view information as forms and hyperlinks, a simple but powerful interface provided by the Unified Browser . This allows the easy capture of information, linking to related items and navigation of related items using a familiar web navigation metaphor or video recorder style controls

 

 

 

 

 

 

Browser-MDetail1-thumb03The Master-Detail Browser allows simultaneously viewing, editing or creating an item of one type and all related items of another type (or even several types) linked to the "master" via a selected relationship e.g A Project and Team Members; a Seminar and all Attendees; a Planning Scenario and all related elements, such as Goals,  Products, Projects, Channels etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Browser-Xref1-thumbYou may want to see information as a matrix, detailing the relationships between items of selected types using the Cross Reference Browser. This is also a convenient place to validate, create or cancel relationships and associated information. Relationships can be inferred, supporting "what if" and impact analysis

 

 

 

 

 

 

Browser-Worksheet1- thumbYou can view all items of a given type, their properties and/or relationships in the Worksheet Browser. Sorting can be by attributes or relationships. Editing selected items and viewing linked content is also supported.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Browser-Content1- thumb03The Content Browser provides a convenient way to quickly view rich content. It preserves the relationships to other knowledge items, allowing you to quickly view them too. It can display documents, presentations, models, web pages, spreadsheets, project plans and audio and video content with appropriate viewers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Browser-Graphical1- thumb05Items and relationships can be viewed graphically in the Graphical Browser , which allows querying items within the concept space and refocusing to any displayed item as the anchor point. The Graphical Browser can also follow single relationship types recursively - for example to display a hierarchical structure such as an organization chart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Browser-ContextHierarchyView-thumb02The Context Browser allows working through the knowledge space from a focus item in any dimension, allowing viewing of properties, relationships and hiearchical structures as you progress. It also supports sophisticated inferencing of "child" item relationships to "parent" items. Detailed matrices can be shown to document the relationships between a hierarchy of items and related items. Printer friendly layout is supported

 

 

 

 

 

 

Browser-CalendarMonth- thumb05A temporal view can be achieved in the Calendar Browser for any items identified as time related. Month, year and day views are provided. It is also possible to create new items here or to view details of linked items.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Browser-SpatialGeogMap- thumb02The Spatial Browser provides a way of viewing topographical, geographical or conceptual maps as an aid to locating relevant knowledge within a context. Drill down capabilities and queries on the knowledge base are supported. Unique custom "dashboards" can be created.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Browser-Delta- thumb03The Delta Browser allows easy discovery of changes to selected types within a specified time period. This can afford the user a quick update if you have been away from the knowledge base for some time, or allow easy export of relevant items to synchronize two knowledge bases.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Browser-ReportView- thumb03

A built in Report Writer allows easy generation of customised reports - either ad hoc or saved for future convenience. Reports can use filters to further customise data presented. Reports can include selected attributes andrelationship data with a choice of sort sequences based on either. No coding is required.

 

 

 

Browser-Composite1- thumb03A composite document editor allows traversing the meta model and building customised document structures where you select the types, relationships and attributes that you are interested in documenting. The specification can then be saved  and run at any time by selecting a start item from the repository. The output is in the form of a hyperlinked report with a table of contents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SearchTool-ListFoundItems-thumb

A powerful search facility assists in finding relevant content in the repository, in managed documents and in linked directories and their contents.

 

 

 

 

 

Browser-TypeMain-thumb02

 

Should you need to do so, and be authorised to, you could extend the capabilities of the tool immediately within the Type Maintenance Browser. Users can extend existing types and define new types then associate properties, legal relationships, default values and templates with them. As soon as permissions are set the new types are "live" for authorised users.

 

 

 

 

 

CustomView-Programme- thumbCustom Views can be developed which use a mix of HTML/Java Script code and server API calls to provide unique interfaces meeting special requirements. This is an example fo the program view now included as a standard example. i

 

 

 

 

Security

Archi has a powerful security model that relates users to a profile that determines which functions within the tool may be used, what types of knowledge a given user can access, and what may be done (view, create, update, delete, import or export). Group privileges are supported. Users may belong to multiple groups.

Filters

User defined filters allow control over what is viewed. These can be based upon values of properties of selected types as well as relationships. For example: Viewing everything linked to a particular business unit; viewing tasks which have not been allocated to any responsible party (hence no "allocated" link); or perhaps viewing information added within the last month only.

Templates

Archi supports the definition of default values and templates. For example, one could specify that a project should have a budget expressed as an Excel™ spreadsheet, a business case expressed as a Power Point™ presentation, a risk assessment which is a Word™ Document and a User Requirements Interview which is an AVI video file. We may have several other attributes, such as the name of the sponsor, the inception date of the project, current status etc.

Once the structure is defined to Archi and templates are provided for the relevant items, a user creating a project will automatically get a set of these templates cloned and associated with the new project. These can then be easily opened from within the Archi environment and customised to the project. Archi can version these artifacts for you as well, providing a secure knowledge base on a server. This kind of power can prevent the loss of valuable knowledge when staff move on, and can allow much greater leverage from existing assets, since they are easily findable and identifiable as to their currency, state and relationships.

Integration

An "anonymous mode" feature allows generation of queries into the Archi knowledge base. These can be embedded in web pages or other document types supporting URL's and allow Archi content to be accessed without logging on and within existing web sites. This facility can be deployed very quickly - in one instance a production software fault tracking and release management system was conceived, modeled, implemented and live on the Internet supporting users on two continents in less than a day.

Customization

Customizable Menus. Authorised users can create customized menu's which are associated with a user or user group, thus allowing rapid access to frequently used functions and content.

Custom Views allow the rapid creation of completely customized user interfaces, using an API to the underlying functionality. These can take on the look and feel required by a user community or integration with a corporate web site or portal. Views can be added to the tool at run time without interrupting operation.

Collaboration

A "discussion" data type allows easy linking of threaded discussion groups (like news groups) to any knowledge item. This can facilitate work of teams collaborating in a given area.

Tool Integration

Archi can import and export both type definition information and instance data as XML.

A component is available to allow other applications to query the repository over the web, subject to security. A Visio application of the above allows querying Archi type definitions and returning these into a UML static structure diagram.

Visiothumb

 

The related Visio Requestor feature allows retrieving Archi knowledge items into Visio, rendering them there as graphical models, where they can be laid out, and saving the layouts back to Archi. Any information from the repository can be composed into models and rendered in Visio with user selected shapes.

From release 2.3.27, Archi supports exchanging models with Visio, with an XML-based mapping between the visually rendered and repository stored models. This allows consolidating information available in previously created models, initial development of content in Visio, visual rendering of repository information in Visio and translation of visual models between representations. Interaction of Visio workstation with Archi is achieved over HTTP and can thus occur from any network connected workstation.

An interface allows capturing information in Excel, then importing into Archi.

Methods Engineering

For methods engineers, Archi supports a unique feature allowing a complete corporate method to be defined, with the ability to automatically generate a customised subset of this (required deliverables, tasks and resources) for a chosen type of project.

Many features of the tool are user configurable, allowing the look and feel, as well as other important attributes, such as server directories etc. To be customized.

Consultants (both consulting businesses and internal consultants within corporates) can link deliverables to projects and clients while maintaining consistency across methods and techniques - evolving these over time in a controlled manner. Archi can provide a shared knowledge base to authorised users, even where these are working off-site, thus enhancing the value of knowledge in your practice.

Server Administration

Archi has administration tools to configure the tool, monitor usage and performance, review any errors logged, export meta-data definitions, switch databases, report statistics of repository and more. All of these are available to authorised users via a web browser.

Events and Actions

Archi can monitor activities for you and alert subscribing users to events which have occurred e.g. The Database Administrator may want to know when a new item of type "Data Model" is added to the repository. Outbound e-mails can be generated. Routine actions can be triggered by time events.

Calculated Fields

Calculated fields allow computation and derivation of values from underlying properties in the repository. The source values can be on the current item or related items. The approach is declarative: much like a formula in a spreadsheet, except that the "cells" referenced are item properties from the repository. It is thus trivial to have a summary item query and summarise values from related detail items, for example.

Application Areas

Archi can be used in support of the following types of activities:

  • Enterprise Architecture Management
  • Program and Project Management
  • Course Administration
  • Human Resources information management
  • Consulting practice knowledge management
  • Virtual team support
  • Software Development Management
  • Online Strategy
  • Health Information Management
  • Legal practice knowledge management
  • Engineering firms
  • ISO 9000 implementation

In short - any group needing to capture, organize, query and share information and knowledge on a distributed and flexible basis.

Additional Features

Archi provides an automated repository audit capability which reports on repository population, currency of information, richness of population of properties per type, and richness of population of relationships. Snapshots of this information can be used to actively manage knowledge state, acquisition, refreshment and management.

Browser-SimpleTypeList- thumb02Archi can generate freestanding web sites of selected content. This is a very useful mechanism for creating "read only" sites or knowledge bases on CD for distribution. Users require only a browser to view this content - no server access. .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inferred Relationships. Archi can infer and report on relationships between items that are not explicitly related. E.g. If a component is part of a system, and the system belongs to a business unit, we can infer the component belongs to the business unit .

Domains allow the easy management of related types in the repository and switching viewing of these groups on and off at runtime . If preferred, security administration can use this model to simplify management. Domains also facilitate easy export and import of related sets of information.

To Find out More...

Please contact us via e-mail to mcleod@iafrica.com.

More details about Inspired can be found on the web at: www.inspired.org