What is Information Architecture?

I want to continue to build on the theme of Information Architecture which is being talked about a great deal at the Open Group Conference in Newport Beach. In my post, “A Quick Look At The Importance Of Information Architecture” I highlight the value of Information Architecture and put it into the  context of Enterprise Architecture. 

In this post I want to define it and continue to build on that context setting. The area of information architecture is still a bit fuzzy on what it really is. I think the confusion starts with the name. Is this topic called “Information Architecture” or “Data Architecture”? Once you decide on a term you like, typically off to Google you go for a definition on wikipedia or some other site(s) that will contain variety of different insights into the terms.

I have my own definition of what Information Architecture is, and yes, I locked in on what I prefer to call this aspect of Enterprise Architecture. But let’s take a step back and look on the web at some definitions to see if there are some definitions that resonate.

 

Data Architecture

  • TOGAF Data Architecture – A description of the structure and interaction of the enterprise’s major types and sources of data, logical data assets, physical data assets and data management resources
  • Wikipedia – Data architecture in Information Technology is composed of models, policies, rules or standards that govern which data is collected, and how it is stored, arranged, integrated, and put to use in data systems and in organizations. A Data Architecture is often the design of data for use in defining the target state and the subsequent planning needed to achieve the target state. It is usually one of several architecture domains that form the pillars of an enterprise architecture or solution architecture.

Information Architecture

  • EIM Institute – Information Architecture is the function of defining and using master blueprints for semantic and physical integration of enterprise data assets (e.g., enterprise data model, enterprise data flows). These master blueprints provide a clear definition of how the data is structured, collected, shared, maintained, and stored from both the IT and business community perspectives.
  • Wikipedia – Information architecture (IA) is the art and science of organizing and labelling data including: websites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability.[1] It is an emerging discipline and community of practice focused on bringing together principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.[2][page needed] Typically it involves a model or concept of information which is used and applied to activities that require explicit details of complex information systems. These activities include library systems and database development.
  • Web Monkey – Information architecture is the science of figuring out what you want your site to do and then constructing a blueprint before you dive in and put the thing together. It’s more important than you might think, and John Shiple, aka Squishy, tells you why.

 

Looking at these and it is really two ends of the extreme. So which one is right? 

Neither in my opinion, but some are close and I don’t think these definitions do the space justice. I also want to be clear that information architecture is a lot like business architecture a few years ago. Not well defined, loose methods, models and a real lack of definition around roles. 

The definitions around data architecture seems loser to enterprise architecture, however, it is a very technical definition. One of which I am not a believer in personally. Just like with all aspects of architecture there is abstraction, I believe these definitions are correct but at a lower level of abstraction.

As you read the definitions of information architecture from most sites it is more centered around User eXperience (UX) rather than what EA’s think of it. The outlier is the Enterprise Information Management (EIM) Institute, which has a definition that is closer to what I think the definition is. 

I like the marriage of the EIM Institute + TOGAF (and some parts of the Wikipedia definition). 

So here is the definition I land on:

Information Architecture is an aspect of enterprise architecture that enables an information strategy or business solution through the definition of the company’s business information assets, their sources, structure, classification and associations that will prescribe the required application architecture and technical capabilities.

 

The core of this definition is switching from starting with the application architecture (and sometimes even the technology architecture) but rather to focus first on business architecture that will lead to information architecture and then the other aspects. Once you define the IA aspects your architecture will more reliably align to the business value realization goals. 

This is enabled by many different methods, models and tools. I will talk more about them in a separate post. 

Free TOGAF 9 Exam Simulator and Sample Questions

Manuel Di Toma has created a great resource for Enterprise Architects looking for TOGAF 9 certification. He built a set of TOGAF 9 simulation tests to help prepare you for the big test. 

Manuel ensures that all the resources in this portal are verified by TOGAF® 9 certified Architects. But please note, this website was designed and implemented by the Manuel; The Open Group is not directly involved in this initiative.

You can find the resources here: http://theopenarch.com 

In Manuel’s words he describes why he created the site:

When I was studying for my TOGAF 9 certification exam, I realised that there wasn’t any FREE website offering a reliable service to try and test your TOGAF 9 knowledge and GET PREPARED FOR THE TOGAF 9 EXAMINATION. For this reason I decided to build a simple test engine using a free PHP solution called Limesurvey to enable the online testing capability, then on top of it, I built a portal. But I decided not to stop there and extend the purpose of the Portal. The Objective of this portal is to spread Enterprise Architecture Best Practice and offer FREE Enteprise Architecture Resources to other Fellow Enterprise Architect

Other helpful resources include:

Open Group Newport Beach Conference Day Two Keynote Highlights

Mike The Architect Blog - Open Group Newport Beach Conference Day 2

Keynote: Big Data and the Cloud – We Better Get it Right

Wow, what a great way to kick off the second day!  I found that this presentation had so much
useful information for enterprise architects who want to build cloud based
solutions. It was less about telling the audience the specifics but rather
teaching them how to fish.

For those that read my blog it may not be a big secret that Mary
Ann and I share the same concerns when it comes to cloud risk management.

She talks about the notion of Security 2.0. Mary Ann
described Security 2.0 as the evolution of security where it shifts from being
a reactive infrastructure oriented response to a business oriented risk management
based approach. I couldn’t agree more and I have evangelized this heavily in the
Cloud Strategy and Planning Framework I built where the notion of Value and
Risk is core to understand before making investments into the cloud (Understanding
Which Investments Should go to the Cloud
Cloud
Strategy Begins with Value and Balances Risk
 ).

“Information is the
life blood of your organization”

This is a key quote that I think is often overlooked but it
is so important. We also see similar principle statements of “data is a
strategic asset” but do we really treat data that way? I think this session highlights
that there is a lot more opportunity for us to address that aspect.

The session covered two high hitting areas:

  1. Current State of Security and Cloud
  2. Addressing Security and Cloud

 

Current State of
Security and Cloud

The message here is that the climate is really changing. Mary
Ann said that:

  • The business is changing – There are a number of
    forces on the business that are driving security
  • Explosion of data – The rate of data that is
    consumed has exploded
  • Real-time decisions – Consumers and business
    customers are expecting decisions and data in real-time.

The two slides shown drive this point home.

The first slide talks about the market research that HP done
with their customers and generated some really interesting statistics. 

Mike The Architect Blog - HP Research CIO Sec Concerns

The second slide goes into the specific concerns that
manifest from executives. 

Mike The Architect Blog - HP Research Customer Challenges

As a result of all this new data, increased access to it and
the seemingly lose control over it there has been an increase of regulation and
compliance. But since what we know as the traditional notion of a corporate fortress
is no more, we have a somewhat different model with new methods we need to
support. 

Mike The Architect Blog - Security 2

Addressing Security
and Cloud

The second major area of the presentation moved right into
how to think about addressing security concerns in the cloud.

The key message here was that one security solution isn’t
enough for cloud. There is a multifaceted approach. I agree with her on this. I
often see architects and other roles try to address security by through
infrastructure at the problem. However, with the cloud that all changes and we lose
control of the things we could walk down the hall for.

Two slides I think will be useful to many architects are
overlaying risk and security onto the NIST defined Cloud Service and Deployment
Models:

Cloud Service Models
& Security

Mike The Architect Blog Cloud Service Models and Security

Cloud Deployment Models
& Security

Mike The Architect Blog Cloud Deployment Models and Security

While Mary Ann talked about their methodology at a
high-level I don’t think she had to necessarily go into the details. The key
point is that HP / Mary Ann gets the fact that having a repeatable and
predictable method is a key part to the notion of Security 2.0.

Below is the HP ATOM methodology

Mike The Architect Blog - HP ATOM Security Method

Great job Mary Ann! I really enjoyed the presentation. 

 

Open Group Newport Beach Conference 2013 – Big Data Panel

Mike The Architect Blog - Big Data Panel
Continuing on the theme of Big Data, the Open Group held a
panel on that topic with some of the keynote speakers along with other industry
experts on this complex topic.

The topics included:

  • Big Data and the EA Perspective
  • Lessons learned
  • Big Data’s relationship with the Cloud
  • Mobility
  • Security

 Below are the key insights that resonated with me.

Big Data and the EA
Perspective

  • Define what is useful data
  • Institute a data life cycle through your governance
    practices
  • Focus on what data is going to create business
    value
  • Big data platforms were not built with data
    security in mind (example: Hadoop – access control mechanism not there.. Still needs
    third party controls)

 

Lessons learned

  • Not all data is created equally
  • Once you classify, then you can do something
    with it

 

Big Data & Cloud

  • Need to figure out information, service level
    agreements and risk analysis 
  • Sometime the risk analysis points to private
    cloud
  • If you are thinking about moving big chunks of
    data around the enterprise, then cloud may not be an option. Figure out
    real-time data, Hadoop solutions, ETL or Data Warehousing.

 

Mobility &
Development

  • Developers are now developing  for mobile first or at a minimum mobile compatible
  • It is important to address security in the mobile
    tier. How important is to make data avail to mobile device
  • In general, if consumers have access to it on
    their desktop, they will want it on their mobile

 

Value of Big Data

NASA is using Big Data in several small projects, mostly in
the visualization realm.

Example: Write an app to use NASA data to allow a farmer to
have an iOS app to determine what they should grow. The team that worked on it
realize that great satellite data wasn’t enough. They decide to build the
“mash-up” of data through other sources. The mash-up was vital to getting an
accurate view. 

 

A Quick Look at the Importance of Information Architecture

With all the buzz at the Open Group Conference in
Newport Beach
this year around Big Data I thought I would take a small step
back and write a short post that looks at the importance and the linkages of Information
Architecture (or in TOGAF terms Data Architecture).

The importance of information architecture cannot be overemphasized. As architects we look
at solutions a bit differently than others in IT by focusing on solving
problems business first or top down. However, sometimes we get caught in the
trap of focusing on the most tangible aspects of our architecture while losing
track of the aspects that truly drive our architectural decisions.

Information architecture serves as that vital bridge from
the business architecture world to application and technology  architecture.  This is shown below, from both the widely
accepted Enterprise Architecture from NIST
and from the Open Group’s TOGAF Architecture Development Method
(ADM)
, you will see Information Architecture as the glue between business
and solution architecture.

Mike The Architect Blog - NIST and TOGAF 9

As shown above, information and data constitutes the most
basic and foundational of all information units employed by a solution.
Solutions are created to manage data and to help transform data into
information. But data is consumed in different ways by people, process and
technologies. While it’s a little dated, I really like how NIST puts this all
together in one model.

Having a clearly defined information architecture provides concrete
direction to the architecture. It provides a translation layer between the
business architecture and all other views. The Information view does this by
first identifying the required information that provides clear direction on how
the information should be created, manipulated, and analyzed. Through this articulation
of information the view will then identify the required technical capabilities
and specific technologies required.

A well-built Information Architecture should be able to
address how your architecture will provide:

  • Insight into how information will flow
  • Classification of information
  • How the business and applications should use and
    operate information
  • Map of information entities
  • Pathway for the creation of application
    definitions

 

Cloud computing architectures provide a tangible example of
why this is so important. To really determine what solutions can / should go to
the cloud we must first understand the data aspects. This ranges from functional
/ non-functional requirements to risk management and compliance. These aspects
have the ability to stop you in your tracks, and they are all data centric. 

Open Group Newport Beach Conference 2013 – Day One Keynote Highlights

Mike The Architect Blog - Open Group Newport Beach Conference Day 1

This is the second Open
Group conference that focuses on the topic of Big Data. This is an architecture
style that is getting a great deal of attention lately. With the emergence of
social and the explosion of data coming from devices there is a surge of opportunities
for companies to monetize on the data that is generated in the public domain. A
great example of a tech company doing this today is Google. Google generates
that vast majority of its revenue on marketing data, not its technology. Other
companies want a piece of this pie. 

Mike The Architect Blog - IBM Big Data Opps

Above is an IBM
created an infographic I think sums up the opportunities for companies.

So with this as such
a value driver for our companies it’s important for us to understand what this
new technology enables but also be cautious not to abuse this new architecture
style.

The first two
keynotes of Day 1 cover the business opportunities for Big Data and the ways to
make it interoperable in the enterprise.

 

Big Data at NASA

Mike The Architect Blog - Big Data at NASA

Chris Gerty presented the views and uses of Big Data at NASA.
What great way to kick off the conference. At least for me, it’s always good starting
off a conference with space ships, distant galaxies and the mars rover.

Outside the pure science geek factor, this was a great
presentation. Chris showed the direct result of architecture or more
specifically, information architecture on providing truly compelling results. I
liked that Chris didn’t call out EA specifically but rather talked about the
value that this new architecture style enables.

NASA is on the cutting edge of technology. What a refreshing
view of the government.  They are doing
everything from open sourced solutions to democratizing information to create
some really interesting crowd sourced applications. They even stood up a
private cloud inside NASA before the public cloud really emerged as an option.
They then evolved to a public cloud infrastructure for their big data
activities.

The area that Chris talked about that I think has a lot of potential
is the notion of context aware solutions. This is a Gartner term that has been
used for a couple years to describe getting data from devices. NASA is looking
at this to get a better understanding of their Big Data. The assertion here is
that Big Data is often time “context-less” and when you bring in other inputs
from other methods you get truly meaningful information. I believe this
assertion  hits the nail on the head.  

Key Takeaways

There was three core takeaways provided at the session.
Below I have provided a bit of commentary on those takeaways to provide
additional insights from a pure EA perspective.

  • Democratize
    Information
     - "we believe that oneness, collaboration and
    collective insights are the pathways forward to solving humanities
    toughest challenges". I thought that this was a very thought
    provoking statement not only applied to NASA but as a lesson for EA in
    general. I think of the quote from Aristotle quote, "The whole is
    greater than the sum of it's parts"
  • Look
    for Opportunities for Big Data
     - be creative and experiment. In
    his talk we learn about all the insist you get in an unexpected way. I
    think there should most certainly be an innovation piece to EA some EA
    organizations have it but there are still a lot that don't. In creation of
    an architecture strategy for your company it is important that EA can get
    in front of the challenges facing the business along with exploration of
    new business opportunities.
  • Involve
    Everyone
     - While a specific NASA ask it does apply to general Big
    Data architectures. This is a lot like the first take away.

 

Bringing Order to Chaos

David Potter and Ron Schuldt talked about the work that The
Open Group is doing to evolve their standard Quantum Lifecycle Management (QLM)
and the complementary Universal Data Element Framework (UDEF) standard.

This session was complementary to the Big Data architecture
style by leveraging these standards to provide a consistent method for tagging
and exchanging information about anything.

Quantum Lifecycle
Management
 (QLM)

Quantum Lifecycle Management  or QLM is a body of
work that was started in 2010 based on the EU-funded PROMISE project in 2005m
is an information life cycle management standard. It is a model that can
describe how to optimally collect and manage big data oriented solutions where
data is feed from multiple different sources. 

Mike The Architect Blog - UDEF Framework

In Open Group terms QLM has the following characteristics:

  • Quantum Lifecycle Management is the next leap beyond
    Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)
  • Closing instance-level information loops across
    all phases of all kinds of lifecycles
  • Developing an open, trustworthy and secure information
    exchange for whole-of-life lifecycle management.
  • Enabling Boundaryless Information Flow™ to reach
    trillions of autonomous objects in the “Internet of Things”, making it a
    reality

You can find more information on QLM here:

 

Universal Data
Element Framework UDEF

The UDEF is
based on the concepts of International Standard 11179, and is integrated with
the World-Wide Web Consortium’s Resource Description Framework (RDF). But it is
less complicated than these standards. It is designed for use by the people
that understand an enterprise’s business operations, rather than specialists in
semantic technology.

Using a simple process, you can assign an index to any piece
of data, based on the core UDEF vocabulary and imported vocabularies. This
index will be the same as that assigned by other UDEF practitioners in your
enterprise and in other enterprises. This makes it easy to relate new
information to information that you already have stored, which can significantly
reduce the cost of configuring and programming interface software.

You can find more information on UDEF here:

 

GE was used as a key case study for the Big Data movement.
Below is an overview from Forbes.com on what was described in the session:

When it comes to big data, GE is playing catch-up to IBM.
GE is counting on its expertise making industrial equipment—from gas-fired
electrical turbines to locomotives—to give it an advantage over rivals focused
on exclusively providing data solutions, says Ruh. “If you don’t have deep
expertise in how energy is distributed or generated, if you don’t understand
how a power plant runs, you’re not really going to be able to build an
analytical model and do much with it,” he says. “We have deep insight into
several very specific areas. And that’s where we’re staying focused.”

 

 

Open Group 2013 Predictions Part 2

Continuing on from the Open Group 2013 Predictions Part 1 the Open group continues to explore additional aspects of Enterprise Architecture and related areas.

In this Part 2 of the series the predictions are broken up in major areas:

  1. Global Enterprise Architecture
  2. Business Architecture
  3. Trusted Technology

 

Global Enterprise Architecture

 By Chris Forde, Vice President of Enterprise Architecture and Membership Capabilities

 Cloud is no longer a bleeding edge technology – most organizations are already well on their way to deploying cloud technology.  However, Cloud implementations are resurrecting a perennial problem for organizations—integration. Now that Cloud infrastructures are being deployed, organizations are having trouble integrating different systems, especially with systems hosted by third parties outside their organization. What will happen when two, three or four technical delivery systems are hosted on AND off premise? This presents a looming integration problem.

 As we see more and more organizations buying into cloud infrastructures, we’ll see an increase in cross-platform integration architectures globally in 2013. The role of the enterprise architect will become more complex. Architectures must not only ensure that systems are integrated properly, but architects also need to figure out a way to integrate outsourced teams and services and determine responsibility across all systems. Additionally, outsourcing and integration will lead to increased focus on security in the coming year, especially in healthcare and financial sectors. When so many people are involved, and responsibility is shared or lost in the process, gaping holes can be left unnoticed. As data is increasingly shared between organizations and current trends escalate, security will also become more and more of a concern. Integration may yield great rewards architecturally, but it also means greater exposure to vulnerabilities outside of your firewall.

 Within the Architecture Forum, we will be working on improvements to TOGAF® throughout 2013, as well as an effort to continue to harmonize TOGAF and ArchiMate®.  The Forum also expects to publish a whitepaper on application portfolio management in the new year, as well as be involved in the upcoming Cloud Reference Architecture.

 In China, The Open Group is progressing well. In 2013, we’ll continue translating The Open Group website, books and whitepapers from English to Chinese. Partnerships and Open CA certification will remain in the forefront of global priorities, as well as enrolling TOGAF trainers throughout Asia Pacific as Open Group members. There are a lot of exciting developments arising, and we will keep you updated as we expand our footprint in China and the rest of Asia.

 

Business Architecture

By Steve Philp, Marketing Director for Open CA and Open CITS

Business Architecture is still a relatively new discipline, but in 2013 I think it will continue to grow in prominence and visibility from an executive perspective. C-Level decision makers are not just looking at operational efficiency initiatives and cost reduction programs to grow their future revenue streams; they are also looking at market strategy and opportunity analysis.

Business Architects are extremely valuable to an organization when they understand market and technology trends in a particular sector. They can then work with business leaders to develop strategies based on the capabilities and positioning of the company to increase revenue, enhance their market position and improve customer loyalty.

Senior management recognizes that technology also plays a crucial role in how organizations can achieve their business goals. A major role of the Business Architect is to help merge technology with business processes to help facilitate this business transformation.

There are a number of key technology areas for 2013 where Business Architects will be called upon to engage with the business such as Cloud Computing, Big Data and social networking. Therefore, the need to have competent Business Architects is a high priority in both the developed and emerging markets and the demand for Business Architects currently exceeds the supply. There are some training and certification programs available based on a body of knowledge, but how do you establish who is a practicing Business Architect if you are looking to recruit?

The Open Group is trying to address this issue and has incorporated a Business Architecture stream into The Open Group Certified Architect (Open CA) program. There has already been significant interest in this stream from both organizations and practitioners alike. This is because Open CA is a skills- and experience-based program that recognizes, at different levels, those individuals who are actually performing in a Business Architecture role. You must complete a candidate application package and be interviewed by your peers. Achieving certification demonstrates your competency as a Business Architect and therefore will stand you in good stead for both next year and beyond.

You can view the conformance criteria for the Open CA Business Architecture stream at https://www2.opengroup.org/ogsys/catalog/X120.

 

Trusted Technology

By Sally Long, Director of Consortia Services

The interdependency of all countries on global technology providers and technology providers’ dependencies on component suppliers around the world is more certain than ever before.  The need to work together in a vendor-neutral, country-neutral environment to assure there are standards for securing technology development and supply chain operations will become increasingly apparent in 2013. Securing the global supply chain can not be done in a vacuum, by a few providers or a few governments, it must be achieved by working together with all governments, providers, component suppliers and integrators and it must be done through open standards and accreditation programs that demonstrate conformance to those standards and are available to everyone.

The Open Group’s Trusted Technology Forum is providing that open, vendor and country-neutral environment, where suppliers from all countries and governments from around the world can work together in a trusted collaborative environment, to create a standard and an accreditation program for securing the global supply chain. The Open Trusted Technology Provider Standard (O-TTPS) Snapshot (Draft) was published in March of 2012 and is the basis for our 2013 predictions.

We predict that in 2013:

  • Version 1.0 of the O-TTPS (Standard) will be published.
  • Version 1.0 will be submitted to the ISO PAS process in 2013, and will likely become part of the ISO/IEC 27036 standard, where Part 5 of that ISO standard is already reserved for the O-TTPS work
  • An O-TTPS Accreditation Program – open to all providers, component suppliers, and integrators, will be launched
  • The Forum will continue the trend of increased member participation from governments and suppliers around the world
  • Continuing on the theme of predictions, here are a few more, which focus on global IT trends, business architecture, OTTF and Open Group events in 2013.