Collaborative & Agile Enterprise Architecture at Plymouth University

Plymouth University is the 15th largest University in the UK with over 27,000 students and almost 3,000 employees. It was recently ranked 37th in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015 of institutions under 50 years old. A new Corso customer, Plymouth recently selected Corso’s Agile Enterprise Architecture solution to support a collaborative approach to IT strategy planning and architecture decision-making.

Craig Douglas, Enterprise Architect at Plymouth University, spoke about their current initiatives and selecting a new tool. Craig leads the EA function, working with stakeholders across the organization to align corporate and IT strategies, and facilitate effective change for the University and its underlying processes, information and technology assets.

EA is a relatively new function at the university?

“Yes, EA is relatively new to Plymouth University and new to most of the Higher Education sector in the UK. It was introduced by the Head of Strategy and Architecture, Adrian Hollister, with the aim of creating a window into a sustainable IT future. This included governance frameworks, security, and documentation of the as-is and to-be. Adrian formed the Enterprise Architecture Practice of Excellence and invited people throughout the University to take part and have their say.”

What role does enterprise architecture play at Plymouth University?

“For us, it’s about taking the sound ideas of the business and looking at how we can best deliver them through technology. It’s no longer technology for technology’s sake, we’re focussed on adding value, improving efficiency, increasing performance, and making best use of existing capabilities to deliver what the business is asking for.”

What challenges do you face in EA today?

“We need to ensure we fully understand what we have in terms of technology and capabilities, and we need to constantly evolve on what we have and innovate. It’s important that we can understand where everything fits together with a complete view of all relationships and interdependencies. Once we have this, we can confidently produce diagrams and analysis to share our architecture honestly with the wider University and possibly beyond. It’s important to me to share our architecture with the widest group of stakeholders as possible.”

What prompted you to look for a new enterprise architecture solution?

“We’ve been running the enterprise architecture practice for about two years now and have a team of six architects. We had been using an open source EA tool but every week the management team would make requests and we would struggle to provide the answers they needed. So we began to look for a more collaborative platform that could help us produce all the required diagrams, reports and analytics with greater agility. We tried a few products and spoke with several different software vendors and ultimately opted for Corso.”

Why did you select Corso’s Agile Enterprise Architecture platform?

“Corso ticks all the boxes for being SaaS, multi-platform, collaborative, and flexible in that the underlying metamodel can be customized. It allows us to tailor our reporting capabilities and work with all stakeholders on architecture diagrams. Previously, I had to manually re-create a lot of diagrams produced by my colleagues which wasn’t ideal. Being able to work on a tablet is a real bonus too when it comes to mobility and sharing our architecture. Overall it ticked more boxes than the other tools and it’s very competitively priced.”

What’s next for enterprise architecture at Plymouth University?

“I’m excited about getting to grips with the platform and getting results from it. Overall we’ll be focussed on working much more collaboratively in enterprise architecture. We will be utilising the tool to push towards a complete understanding of our current capabilities and inform future projects like data centre, disaster recover options alongside many other high profiles opportunities. We’ll focus on using the diagrams and analytics to manipulate the metadata to get the end results.”

Visit the Plymouth University IT Strategy & Architecture blog for their latest updates.

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