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Ardoq Discover boosts enterprise architecture tool usability

Tools for enterprise architects get criticized for their complexity, but they are getting better. A recently released module from Ardoq seeks to improve usability.

Although enterprise architecture software is intended for use by EAs, these tools often fall short when EAs need to share information with CIOs and other managers. That's a failure, since providing information that empowers and enables others is a key part of an EA's job.

To that end, the software tool maker Ardoq improved its own usability with the recently released Discover module. While its core SaaS platform offers modeling and data visualizations, Discover's ambition is to make data easier for non-EAs to consume.

An Ardoq customer, Arch Insurance Group Inc., uses Discover to help EAs in different business units organize information across their federated enterprise. Arch Insurance, which is part of Arch Capital Group Ltd., has different managers on different teams, such as in DevOps assessment or portfolio management. All have different demands, said Bubba Puryear, an EA at Arch Insurance in Jersey City, N.J.

But the EAs must all communicate with one CIO who looks for common reporting. Without Discover, EAs could offer just one basic interface for everyone. There was no clean landing page to show a person the information that was specifically relevant to their interests.

"They don't want the nitty-gritty, but they do want to know what's on the menu," Puryear said. "Discover is the menu. As the architect, I create the menu. You can browse it, ask questions and figure out answers."

Forrester Research, in Cambridge, Mass., counted 54 vendors that sell software specific to the task of the enterprise architect. They vary according to their maturity and diversity. Some offer basic drawing or modeling capabilities, but others offer more sophisticated technology features and address deeper architectural or business challenges.

Not all feed real-time data into the architecture, which can help EAs spot trouble. Though not unique, Ardoq, based on Oslo, Norway, does stand out with its ability to integrate with operational data, according to Gordon Barnett, a Forrester analyst.

As an EA, it's challenging to tell product teams they need to modernize, create responsive apps, cloud-native apps, and then have them put architectural data into a legacy app.
Bubba PuryearEnterprise architect, Arch Insurance Group Inc.

Barnett said only about 30% of Forrester clients use an EA tool. "I think the problem is that EAs are the least funded of all the IT functions," he said. "To buy an EA tool you must cover many domains. It has to go to the application manager, the portfolio manager, etc., and lots of these other groups already use some tool."

EA tool providers range from relative newcomers, like Ardoq, to established software companies, such as Software AG, Mega International, LeanIX and Bizzdesign, among some of the more well-known names. They all have their differences, but in general, EA software routinely gets knocked for poor usability, and most require some level of professional services engagement.

Arch opted for Ardoq because it was a relatively new company and the insurer felt that, as an early customer, Arch could help shape the direction of the Ardoq product. And Arch wanted an EA tool that would complement its own goals to develop modern applications.

"As an EA, it's challenging to tell product teams they need to modernize, create responsive apps, cloud-native apps, and then have them put architectural data into a legacy app," Puryear said. "We're supposed to be vision casting, and now you're telling us to use an old model?"

Puryear said the dashboards are kept up to date and accurate using surveys mailed to managers who answer questions and enter data. 

The Ardoq SaaS platform complements how modern companies approach the EA function today, said Erik Bakstad, Ardoq's CEO, who also co-founded the company in 2013. Today, Bakstad said he sees a new generation of EAs that sit in product teams as advisors, versus the old-school style of uber architecture governance.

To do enterprise architecture at scale, there can't be a central command and control, but rather, modern SaaS tools that are cloud-native with input provided by individuals across the organization, he said.

Arch's Puryear sees his role of EA as one of corporate custodian, making sure the company technology portfolio is not more complicated than it needs to be. That can be a source of tension, as it's tricky to keep today's two-pizza development teams working at high velocity and simultaneously make sure everyone is doing the right thing.

Puryear said that if he can get everyone to use the EA tool -- given that all of Arch's tech standards are in Ardoq -- EAs can empower everyone while creating guardrails for those teams at the same time.

"Teams don’t have to fear transparency anymore," Puryear said. "They can show what they're doing. The reporting is fair and honest."

In future releases, Puryear said he would like to see improvements in analytics. "The tool helps generate insights, but not aggregated insights," he said. "There are ways to do it but it's hard. Possible, but a lot of work."

Ardoq's Bakstad said there are plans to add workflow and personalization features into the tool in the coming months.

Pricing for Ardoq Discover was not provided, but the costs can vary greatly depending on the use. EA tools are a significant investment. For those who do commit to an EA tool, costs can range from around $60,000 to $80,000 a year, Forrester's Barnett estimated.

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