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Enterprise architecture tools add pandemic-related updates

The COVID-19 pandemic spurs vendors of enterprise architecture products to add new online and mobile capabilities and promote business functionality to address changing customer needs.

Several enterprise architecture tools picked up new online and mobile capabilities as vendors sought to address the changing needs of their customers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some updates hit product roadmaps well before COVID-19. In other cases, vendors added features to their enterprise architecture tools to try to help customers cope with remote work conditions or with employees' return to the office.

For instance, LeanIX introduced a free Self-Service Portal for customers to access information about their application landscapes. Enterprise architects can configure and launch any type of portal they choose -- for applications, technology, APIs, processes or data -- without having to write any code.

"This is a direct response to people being more in the home office or having the need to expose what they have in their architecture so that they can involve more people," LeanIX CEO and co-founder André Christ said. He noted that more than 50 LeanIX customers have evaluated the Self-Service Portal and over 15 use it live in production.

Christ said the portal can provide employees with an overview of approved and available-for-order software to reduce support requests and assist help desks with information about application context and experts to speed their response time.

"The EA repository is more than ever before seen as an important asset which helps to inform decisions," Christ said. "During the pandemic, these decisions range from operational to strategic, from ensuring business continuity to contributing to cost savings."

LeanIX and other enterprise architecture tools vendors, including Ardoq and Mega International, also released long-planned major product updates that can assist customers in aligning their IT resources with business objectives and simulating potential future states.

EA tools vendors could do more

But Betsy Burton, a vice president of research and fellow at Aragon Research Inc., said she has not seen the enterprise architecture tools vendors that initially focused on technology take enough of a leadership role in helping organizations use the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to think about their businesses in new and different ways.

Besty BurtonBesty Burton

"What the tools vendors want you to do is take an inventory of everything in your current state -- which takes a lot of time and energy and probably some consulting -- versus looking at things in the future state and saying, 'What are the tools and technologies that actually matter to my future state? Let's focus on those first,'" Burton said.

Andy Neill, chief enterprise architect and senior research director of data and analytics at Info-Tech Research Group, said he hasn't seen any major new capabilities added to enterprise architecture tools that weren't in the planning stages long before the pandemic. But he said he has seen the EA tools vendors promote their capability modeling because customers now need to focus on business process modeling and collaboration to determine how they can save money or where they need to concentrate their efforts.

Andy NeillAndy Neill

"The collaboration features in all of these products are important, especially during COVID," Neill said. "Being able to have a single repository of your enterprise architecture continuum -- including all of your architecture, artifacts or models -- is really important as people are working at home because many architects can collaborate on the same model at the same time."

Sparx finishes cloud repository option

Sparx Systems in April launched a cloud-hosted architecture repository option on AWS and Microsoft Azure to address a long-standing request from its Enterprise Architect customers to enable distributed teams to work together. Sparx worked on the cloud repository for some time and accelerated the release timeline when the pandemic arrived, according to Ryan Schmierer, vice president of operations at Sparx Services North America.

It's been really difficult for a lot of architects to adapt to remote work.
Ryan SchmiererVice president of operations, Sparx Services North America

"Customers said, 'We need to move to the cloud now.' So, there was a sense of urgency," Schmierer said. "Traditionally, architects spend a lot of time staring in front of a whiteboard with a marker drawing pictures, creating flowcharts, meeting with stakeholders to brainstorm ideas. Then they go back and work with their teams in their modeling tools. It's been really difficult for a lot of architects to adapt to remote work."

Schmierer said customers could get the subscription-based Sparx cloud repository up and running in three days, compared to the months they might need for the on-premises Enterprise Architect product. Sparx configures, manages, monitors, tunes performance and handles the backup and recovery with the SaaS-based option.

Sparx Services North America also added a one-day virtual course this year to train new users on its Enterprise Architect tool. In the past, the vendor typically conducted weeklong training courses, most often at a customer's site, with the EA 101 portion on the first day. Sparx now offers the instructor-led interactive introductory course via Microsoft Teams at a half-price promotion of $299.50 per person. Private course options are also available.

Mega adds Hopex options

Mega International beefed up its webinars and playbooks to illustrate ways that long-standing capabilities in its Hopex EA tool can address challenges and difficulties resulting from the pandemic. Dan Hebda, chief strategy officer at Mega, said the tool could help architects to address security concerns over remote access to business applications, optimize availability or help customers figure out ways to save money.

In direct response to COVID-19, Mega International released a free Hopex Trust mobile application to aid customers in organizing the return of employees to the office. Hopex Trust lets companies define and display security measures and configure a compliance checklist for employees to complete. The app also provides mechanisms for employees to report policy breaches and dashboards for administrators to track the number of incidents, locations and severity.

Along similar lines, Software AG made available a Smart Social Distancing tool for customers to ensure employees can return safely to work. The application uses smart badges to alert wearers if they approach the limit of safe social distancing. It can also record incidents where an employee breaches the distance and present an auditable proof of compliance.

Another new pandemic-related update that Software AG added is a set of "Crisis Response" questions to its SaaS-based Alfabet FastLane product. The FastLane tool -- which distills the capabilities of Software AG's flagship Alfabet product -- provides a prescribed methodology for small architecture teams to address common questions about IT composition, cost and supported business capabilities in pre-configured dashboards and reports. The new "Crisis Response" set of questions includes:

  • What are our business capability outsourcing candidates?
  • Who are our potential business partners?
  • How can we reduce our tech budget?
  • What changes need to be made to business continuity plans

Broadening EA team

Meanwhile, Enterprise Architecture Solutions Ltd. (EAS) made a large effort to make data capture and maintenance accessible to stakeholders beyond the specialized enterprise architecture team, according to John Mayall, a director at the company. EAS launched a Corporate Foresight capability within its Essential toolset to target COOs and other business leaders that need reports to assess their strategic options in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The vendor also provided an extended free trial period of its SaaS offering to help EA teams at small to midsize organizations in their decision-making. 

Bizzdesign packaged up COVID-19-specific response offerings on its Horizzon platform. One option, in operational resilience, aims to help customers identify the areas of impact to business operations and connect the dots across silos to mitigate risks. Another, in investment and operations optimization, attempts to help customers control nonessential spending while identifying the investments they should maintain.

Erwin Inc., headquartered in Melvin, N.Y., launched a Rapid Response Resource Center microsite to help customers navigate business challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The site is designed to assist users with efforts such as training, setting up disaster recovery plans and protecting data.

Another new resource is a Work From Home Impact Manager application based on Erwin's Evolve enterprise architecture tool. More than 80 customers accessed the free application to model the locations, connectivity, systems and processes their work-at-home teams use, according to Mariann McDonagh, CMO at Erwin.

For ValueBlue B.V., the main pandemic-related focus was enabling customers to fully onboard its BlueDolphin EA tool online. The Netherlands-headquartered vendor launched an online tour to guide users through the first steps of deployment. The new online version starts with an Architecture Capability Maturity Assessment to determine new customers' maturity level on architecture and the information they already have in place. The tool can help them to define their goals and next steps and build a navigation structure for their transformation initiatives, according to Jelle Visser, chief commercial officer at ValueBlue.

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