An introduction to Enterprise Architecture

In this blog post, I am going to explain, as best as I can, what Enterprise Architecture is, what it means for the Movement and why I am one of the first team members. I’ll start by explaining my role.

Rather than being the kind of architect who deals with the materials and design of a building, I deal with the building blocks of an organisation or ‘enterprise’. These building blocks are:

  • people (who make thing happen)
  • information (the material they work on)
  • process (the way things get done)
  • technology (the tools to get things done)

My role is to fix behind-the-scenes information, process and technology problems to help make working and volunteering at Scouting easier. My goal is to simplify the delivery of Scouting.

To do this, I’ll be looking at the architectural building blocks we have today and finding ways to improve them, in order to support the delivery of the Beyond 2018 plan to deliver skills for life to young people.

At the Scouts, both technology and data have become a bit unruly. Some of the IT tools we use are best-of-breed and some are inadequate. Sometimes several different systems do the same job. The management of membership data, which is the very life-blood of Scouting’s systems, needs improvement. We also need to look at how we can support members longer term. We are taking a good look at what we want to keep and what we should throw out, what we want to continue and what we want to stop. We have to imagine a new architecture and plan how to get there.

There are two main areas I’ll be looking at:

  1. The needs of volunteers (especially section leaders) and young people, and the systems that support them.
  2. The back-office functions, processes and the systems that we all need to support the delivery of Scouting

To ensure we start on the right path, we will manage all future work with a framework of strategy, principles, policies and standards.

One of the first things that I am looking at now is the technical strategy, which will explain how we want to work in the future and the components and systems we will need to be able to do this successfully. The technical strategy will help us implement the digital strategy and all technical decision making will be checked against it.

At the same time, I am working with colleagues to develop the policies and standards that we will use to ensure that best practice, with simplicity, is central to everything we do.

As part of the digital transformation work, we will look at developing a data strategy which will explain what we want to do with data and how we will make the improvements needed. It will also include a policy around data management and standards to ensure we do this in the right way.

Over the coming months, I will update you on these activities and some of my posts will start to get more technical.

Please feel free to comment below. I’d like to hear from everyone who has ideas or skills to offer.

Comments

  1. Annette Payne 21/12/2017 / 11:37 am

    Good to see you are consulting with end users at the coal face!
    Many of us leaders have computer software and computer architecture design experience, and lots of us would be happy to be consulted, so please do.

  2. Peter Day 21/12/2017 / 11:46 am

    Gordon – hello from another IT architect. Good to know that TSA have realised that they need to look across the enterprise. Good luck!

    Interesting to read your blog, and that you have identified “the management of membership data” (Compass!) as an area that needs to be looked at.

  3. Chris Jay 21/12/2017 / 11:46 am

    Did you really just admit that Compass the main membership management system is inadequate and needs Improvement ?

  4. Trevor Yeoman 21/12/2017 / 11:50 am

    As a Lead Architect for a major UK bank, I’m more than happy to help or be a sounding board as part of a working party if needed. Thanks for the article Gordon.

  5. Paul Spencer 21/12/2017 / 11:51 am

    Please do not move too fast with back-office functions as a lot of folks who support that are of the older generation!

  6. woodsrbRoger Woods 21/12/2017 / 11:52 am

    I hope you will be consulting the less IT literate of us because it those who will need the intuitive and obvious interfaces.

  7. Andrew Swayne 21/12/2017 / 12:15 pm

    As part of the architecture please consider WiFi and supporting cable to HQ cabinet infrastructure
    It’s also important that we look at digital exclusion which can be a significant issue in some of the communities who need scouting most
    Comments re intuitive interfaces are important in context of intuition being different for each individual

    I appreciate the honesty re starting point – let’s hope the inherited baggage does not delay progress

    If my mother can start learning to paint on an iPad at age 85, we can all learn how to use well thought out technology

  8. Phillip Barnes 21/12/2017 / 12:15 pm

    Like many of the above comments I am in IT my main areas being Security and more recently Cloud transformation.
    More than happy to help offer info review plans join a working party whatever is needed.

  9. Chris Scott 21/12/2017 / 12:57 pm

    Congratulations Gordon, I hope you will succeed where many others have not quite succeeded and certainly improve the Compass area for us as Administrative Scouters (with 45 years service).

  10. Keith Bryce 21/12/2017 / 1:48 pm

    Great to see TSA starting to take a professional approach to IT. I work with EA for a major bank so if you need input please ask. And PLEASE engage the membership then follow their advice this time. Don’t confine yourself to Gilwelll, or ignore inputs as was done with Compass

  11. Kevin Chamberlain 21/12/2017 / 4:48 pm

    As a fellow IT professional, and TSA member since 1970’s, agree it’s about time this was taken seriously. We’re currently embarking on our own County wide information system here in Devon, based on Office 365 – so interested to see how this develops, but please DO seek input from the ultimate users – i.e. Leaders & Administrators.

  12. Charles Bartram 21/12/2017 / 4:53 pm

    Does this mean that we will eventually (when?) get a membership record system to use that will work? We waited for compass and inputted data only to find it was a wasted effort. We keep wondering whether to use OSM but if something “official” is coming that would also be a wasted effort. Please let us Know likely outcomes and timescales.

  13. Pete Jeffreys 21/12/2017 / 9:06 pm

    Thanks for a useful and thought-provoking post Gordon. When in the workflow do you hope to be looking at the ‘new joiners’ and ‘new volunteers’ process? This is currently handled through the very lightweight scouts.org.uk/join forms and provides very little useful information. The previous system (before being ditched by a former Assistant Director, shortly before he left HQ) captured more of the information like the forms used at https://berkshirescouts.org.uk/want_to_join.php and https://berkshirescouts.org.uk/want_to_volunteer.php

    The justification for “slimming down” the form was to increase the through-put of the system. Of course this inevitably just pushes the workload up once it hits a volunteer and likely means the same drop-out rate happens just further down the track. All rather unedifying and frustrating – so definitely in need of a revamp. Of course taking an end-to-end view of the system shouldn’t see the process end by dumping information into an email and hoping for the best; some joining up with membership systems could also improve things a huge amount.

    Hope this helps, Pete

  14. Richard Hunt 21/12/2017 / 9:23 pm

    Always important to remember that there are lots of differing models of how Scouting is delivered – and the IT should sell itself on merit, not on compulsion.

  15. Martin Curwood 22/12/2017 / 8:29 am

    A very encouraging post Gordon. Great to see the use of established IT practices being taken up. I, like some above, am also an IT Architect, working for a global technology firm. I would be happy to assist where I can. I also support the view that those who are less IT literate play an important role in the user experience design aspects. As a GSL I have a number of leaders who require support to work with Compass and basic technology. It would be brilliant to be able to get them involved in digital.

  16. Howard Hills 22/12/2017 / 1:01 pm

    From an end user perspective it would be useful to have some website info downloadable to laptop/phone/tablet as a package rather than individual elements. Training rooms and scout venues do not always have good WiFi or 3G/4G connectivity so the capability of syncing key groups of pages (activities for example) would be a help.

    An obvious requirement is to have the membership database accessible on a tablet or phone. It would be nice to update member training records whilst you were in a validation meeting with them. I really useful app is My Badges so more like that would be great. I know this is tactics not strategy.

    I would pick up on Paul’s comment as I am over 70 (older generation!) and comment that Millenials and Generation Z! seem happier using phones rather than any sort of PC. In fact it seems to me from a random sample that many do not have access to a PC. Me; I am happier on a PC!

  17. Tony Crackett 23/12/2017 / 4:22 pm

    It seems unlikely that we can ever get 100% agreement on how systems should look and feel. But I hope everyone will agree that it is important that it is easy to record data accurately, keep it accurate and detect/correct wrong and suspect data. It is possible to keep data in Compass, but not easy to use it in ways that help to improve data quality.
    I would also ask that we publish the logic or rules of systems. Otherwise the experienced users can’t drive a continuous improvement process.

  18. Charlie Anderson 24/12/2017 / 9:53 am

    Really excited to see these blog posts, and learn more about the new team – it’s definitely moving in the right direction! To echo the other comments about involvement, there are lots of us in scouting who are software professionals and we’d love to get involved in any way we can.

    Secondly, make sure to shout about this initiative more – I only found out by accident, and I think many more scouters would be keen to know.

  19. Simon Carter 04/01/2018 / 8:13 am

    A really helpful outline of what you are trying to achieve. Interesting to see how this develops. As a GSL I can see there are a number of functions that would be easy to digitise and would improve how we do things and save section leaders time (always an issue). There are however other processes that in a commercial world would look good to digitise but because of the voluntary nature of Movement simply make things harder and more time consuming. The trick I think is to work out which processes save most time and therefore have most impact and do these first. Quick wins are key here.

  20. Brian 05/01/2018 / 8:28 pm

    Good to see an organic approach to our organisational needs forming. Just one point to consider, I suspect there are many adult leaders out there who spend all day wrestling with corporate IT systems and for them one, of the attractions of Scouting is to get away from all that. Don’t get carried away with enthusiasm building complex things because you can 😉

  21. Mark Eden 05/01/2018 / 9:11 pm

    Hi Gordon, I fully support the sentiments expressed in your post and am really pleased that this area is being looked at. In looking at processes please bear in mind that groups and districts often adopt a pragmatic approach that differs from the theoretical idealistic one expected by HQ. Uniformed volunteers join to work with children, not do back-office stuff. Anything that decreases the time they have to spend on that will be very welcome.

  22. Howard Hills 06/01/2018 / 5:44 am

    Gordon, a perspective you may find useful is that Scouting in the UK is composed of Franchises, Each Group is a Franchise, highly autonomous and fully financed. The success of OSM is that the developers understood that and the lack of success with Compass is that the developers did not. Some web developers have realised they can sell directly to the Franchises, in some cases to collections of Franchises (Districts).
    Both money and volunteer’s time comes from groups, not from Districts or Counties or indeed from Gilwell. I believe the same principle applies throughout the UK although the language may change.
    The implications for a digital architecture is similar to that experienced within the NHS where IT decisions are made by highly autonomous individual units even if the flow of money is top down.
    .

  23. Karen Osterley 06/01/2018 / 1:29 pm

    I definitely agree we have too much cross over of similar systems tackling same job, but be aware that even best-of-breed systems are still not flexible enough.

    Would be good to work on solutions which allow leader teams to collaborate more easily on data, but remember not all have smart phones!

    Reporting data, extracting and filtering is not easy currently which results in groups spending valuable volunteering hours inventing their own solutions.

    Looking forward to a simpler landscape! Good luck.

  24. John Alexander 06/01/2018 / 3:10 pm

    Having been a volunteer on Getting IT Right, I am pleased to see that once again the intention is to involve the volunteers – I hope this time that the hard work is not thrown away. What working on that did show was the diverse ways that we run Scouting with some Districts/Counties undertaking functions at different levels and having different processes.
    I would suggest that (whilst looking what is needed to support all the complex stuff) you start with the simplest basics and don’t force processes on volunteers which are not needed.

  25. Hayley Bennett 07/01/2018 / 11:29 pm

    Great to read your blog and looking forward to finding out more. I agree with Andrew Swain and Howard Hills that lack of infrastructure at HQ’s will be something that needs some consideration. We, for example, have no landline at our HQ and no reliable mobile phone signal (let alone 3G/4G). Help, both technical & financial, with resolving connectivity issues for groups would be a great longer term goal, but being able to work with critical data offline would be a really helpful start.

  26. Richard Carpenter CISSP 16/02/2018 / 4:37 pm

    As an Information Security Manager for the largest commercial radio group in the UK I’m more than happy to get involved with any InfoSec related discussions.

    I manage our companies InfoSec programme and am responsible for our ‘Security By design’ programme for our DevOps teams.

    Best of luck!

    • Helen Murray 16/02/2018 / 5:22 pm

      Thanks Richard, i’ll pass your details onto Gordon, our Enterprise Architect.

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