Organisation-wide Architectural Awareness: How Can It Be Achieved?

Enterprise Architecture plays an important role in the information technology planning and operations of any large organisation – and is particularly critical to understanding, managing and updating the many complex integrations required in the higher education space of Universities and TAFE. However, outside IT teams, the pivotal role of the architecture is often overlooked or barely understood. This can result in heightened risk, where the EA team involvement in relevant projects or transitions does not occur or the full impact of system changes is not anticipated.

This risk has been intensified throughout COVID-19 where remote work and study arrangements introduced a much higher reliance on technology systems and the integrations between them than ever before.

At VU (Victoria University), we have begun to address the challenge of how to promote a deeper understanding of our Enterprise Architecture across diverse departments through a unique way of communicating our work across the entire University ecosystem.

Our vision was to create a, now established, modern Enterprise Architecture Repository. Transforming our paper-based portfolio of diagrams and resources into a digital resource, we have created a single site that is easy to use and accessible to all employees.

Taking the form of a SharePoint communications site (and using a combination of Lists, Document Libraries, Site Pages and Visio) the VU Enterprise Architecture Repository (EAR), is a platform open to everyone at the University, and is promoted to this vast audience with a marketing approach in collaboration with internal communication specialists. On this interactive site, VU staff are encouraged to learn about VU’s business capabilities, Information Architecture, Applications landscape and technology preferences and how our key systems interact together. It is designed to help our people understand our systems and structure more easily and support decision making.

Managed by the University’s IT Services Strategy & Architecture team, the repository presents easy to understand inventories and associated master diagrams for technologies and systems used at VU. It includes:

  • Easily searchable Business Applications lists that contain key details about our Business Applications and other software components.
  • Application integration diagrams that are used to help people understand the context of a system, either in current state or in relation to planned changes to be introduced via strategic initiatives.
  • Business Application Landscape diagrams and overlays indicating technology health and the business importance of each system to the University.
  • Business Application Health Reports summarising key elements about our landscape to support decision making.

Data stored in our inventory (SharePoint Lists) and Microsoft Visio is used to create interactive visual diagrams (such as heat maps of technology health and strategic value), offering users a real-time overview of technology data. These resources also help staff to understand how applications work together, what technology underpins them and what capabilities define VU as a university rather than another type of enterprise.

Of course this is just one approach to increasing architectural literacy across a large and diverse organisation within the education technology space, but one that we have found successful in driving awareness and interest in the importance of the interactions of and between different technologies.