Knotion has supported the implementation of an Enterprise Architecture solution to ensure financial services company PPS achieves its 2020 vision.
In the modern world, the journey to Digital Transformation is both exciting and daunting. Astute businesses are forming smart Information Technology (IT) strategies to drive better operations and greater customer experience. For PPS, it became clear that a comprehensive IT strategy was required. Upon research the company identified the architectural approach as best suited to its industry and sought assistance in building this plan using best practice architectural principles.
PPS essentially wanted to create a three-year plan; its 2020 vision. Preparing the strategy was only part of the equation, as it would need to be presented to PPS executives. To do so effectively, a well-defined Enterprise Architecture (EA) was required. At the time, while the PPS IT team had participated in TOGAF training, they lacked the practical experience to develop this EA on their own. The goal was to build a plan to empower the application of data within an intelligent architecture, using developed infrastructure to deliver on conceptual, logical and physical levels.
“We were acutely aware of the need to partner with a business that could help us develop an accurate target state architecture to develop this strategy. This need is fuelled by the desire to improve,” said Avsharn Bachoo, Chief Technology Officer at PPS.
Established in 1941, the PPS Group is the only mutual financial services company in South Africa focusing exclusively on graduate professionals. The company provides tailor-made insurance, investment and healthcare solutions to its members. As such, PPS is an exclusive organisation of graduate professionals.
For PPS, the Knotion approach aligned with its strategic requirements given the changes that were taking place inside the company.
“We successfully launched an EA function within the group and examined ways to effectively grow it. Following extensive research, we decided to outsource to a specialist company as opposed to building the capacity in-house,” said Bachoo.
Marius Snel, Chief Executive Officer and owner of Knotion, said the process began with modelling the current PPS environment.
“Information was drawn from existing configuration management systems, providing the data required to create the initial building blocks to show the current, physical state,” he said.
“Reference models were then built to represent the target state both conceptually and logically, based on architectural building blocks.”
With the current environment and the target state effectively represented, Knotion could now map the ‘as is’ to the ‘target’. Using colour coded visual representations, PPS could easily identify what should be re-used, where potential problems were hiding, what needed to be retired or fixed, and what they didn’t have in place but needed.
“A gap analysis was put together to close the gaps between the current and the target – and this is the information that was fed into the strategy,” added Snel.
To achieve this, Knotion used its ‘Smart Strategy’ solution; a customised method based on TOGAF. While this international framework gives companies insight into what to do, Knotion’s customised framework tells users how to do it.
“Many companies choose a framework such as TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework), as the foundation to develop their EA capability,” said Snel.
“This is followed by customising the framework for the organisation based on the architects’ skills and experience. By the time that the EA capability is up and running, a company would have spent a significant amount of resources already, without showing any clear business value.”
With EAaaS, the value is derived by providing services to develop the relevant architectures as and when required by the client. These are provided using an architecture framework that Knotion has developed for this purpose – so delivery is consistent across the function. The client pays for the service and architecture deliverables and not the capabilities. Unlike traditional approaches to EA where the value comes after the creation of a capability, the ‘as a service’ approach focuses on the outcomes, not the means.
“Setting up an EA environment can take anything from three months to more than a year, our value proposition is already saving a client a significant amount of time.” added Snel.
Another challenge with the traditional approach, is that EA can easily become an organisational entity. It is transformed into ‘just another part of the business’ instead of being integrated into all operations and offering a return continuously.
Snel says an EAaaS approach turns this thinking on its head and leads to delivering value in more cost-effective and efficient ways.
“The focus is on getting the most out of EA instead of spending resources to create it from scratch,” he said.
For Bachoo, the Knotion EAaaS solution was ideal as it was designed to deliver outcomes instead of being stuck in the methods, meta-models and tools of architecture design.
“Most organisations try to predict the future and then build a rigid IT ecosystem around it,” he said.
“I believe in a more modular approach to architecture and using that to see what is coming. Knotion uses layers and building blocks that can easily snap in and out of our systems as technology evolves. This sees us being more agile to changing innovations and able to quickly adapt to new technologies.”
Knotion can provide this service thanks to the investment it has made in the enterprise architecture development process, as well as the reference models it has built using industry best practices. It believes that by commoditising 80% of that which makes up not only an architecture capability, but by creating modular components for that architecture, it can deliver this service effectively. The result was that Knotion could provide the modular architecture that Bachoo desired. The added benefit was that Knotion could spend time focussing on the 20% that gives PPS its core competitive advantage.
“The positive impact Knotion has already had on our application architecture is the biggest success story,” said Bachoo.
“Prior to commencing with the project, we had 130 silo-based applications. Subsequently, this has been streamlined into a single blueprint to provide us with an integrated view of everything inside the business.”
The Knotion implementation at PPS has enabled the organisation to ensure its cloud strategy for the remainder of the year remains in place.
“Our various applications need to seamlessly migrate to the cloud,” said Bachoo.
“Already, many of them have been architected for it, but we will continue to expand our development to incorporate all essential services for the cloud. Even though our migration path has not changed, the Knotion enterprise architecture as a service approach has enabled us to be more effective and embrace a multi-tenancy way of doing things.
“One of the biggest benefits of using Knotion in this way, has been to enable us to explain complex IT infrastructure in business terms. With ‘as a service’, we take away much of the fuzziness generally associated with technology jargon and translate it into deliverables that our business users can understand.”
EA for all
Knotion is quite excited about this approach as this offering is not limited to large enterprises.
“Considering that many SMEs do not have the resources to deliver internal EA capabilities, our solution plugs in to their environment and can be fine-tuned as required,” said Snel.
“Even corporates that have seen enterprise architects leave the company or divisions being disbanded, can leverage the offering to streamline and fast track its implementation and management inside the business.
“With this, enterprise and solution architectures can be done in a more effective way and we believe it will significantly change how architecture is viewed. It will unlock significantly more value for businesses on the road ahead.”