15 years, 9 months ago

Achieving Model Traceability: Finding the Traceability Critical Path

We all agree now that Adoption is key for Enterprise Architects. And the trick to adoption is resonating with those that make change and influence them to make the change that is best for the enterprise. In a previous blog post, I introduced the Solution Model concept. In this post, I want to talk about the concept of the Traceability Critical Path, which is the portion of the Solution Model necessary to trace from Strategy to Code.

Support for Solution Architects is good

As Solution Architects, we have the ability to understand a business problem and be able to derive a software solution to meet the business problem. We have lots of process tools to help us such as software development lifecycles like Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF), Extreme Programming (XP), Rational Unified Process (RUP) to describe who does what and when. We have methods such as Object-oriented Design (OOD) and Attribute-based Design (ADD) to help use design software components. We have vibrant software engineering organizations and user groups like IEEE, OASIS and Software Engineering Institute (SEI) to leverage. We have knowledge bases to leverage such as the Software Engineering Book of Knowledge (SWEBOK). We have system design tools such as Visual Studio to design, develop and deploy software. Pretty good.

Support for Enterprise Architects is good

As Enterprise Architects, we have the ability to understand all of our business organizations and derive IT architecture for the entire enterprise. We have lots of tools to help us such as Enterprise Architecture Frameworks (EAF) like Gartner’s EAF, TOGAF, Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEAF). We have industry organizations and user groups to leverage such as ISACA/COBiT, ITIL and TMForum. We have methods to identify and focus on individual business pain points like MSBA’s Business Capability Analysis and Six Sigma/Lean to avoid analysis paralysis. We have tools to help manage enterprise information such as business processes, project and application portfolios from Microsoft, Troux, MetaStorm and Sparx Systems.

We need a way to connect Enterprise Architecture to Solution Architecture

So, here’s the problem, the outputs of all the tools and methods need to be connected so that we can trace from "strategy to code". You may have heard other catch phrases trying to say the same thing such as "connect planning and implementation", "deliver to the plan" or the phrase "help an organization determine the right things to do and ensure that project teams do them right". Isn’t it funny how there are so many catch phrases out there trying to describe the concept of Model Traceability?

Model Traceability connects Enterprise Architecture and Solution Architecture

My team thinks that Model Traceability is very important and we have invested in this area to help us make sense of all the tools and methods out there in an effort to streamline what’s important so that we can honestly and justifiably say we know what are the right things to do and we can trace them to project teams and show how they are doing them right. During this effort, we have discovered some very interesting things.

We evaluate the tools and methods and identify what concepts they produce or mange. We then evaluate these concepts and determine what value they bring to their stakeholders; concepts such as Business Strategy, Business Capability, Use Case, Business Process Activity, Application Interface, System, Code, Test Case. We then determine how they are associated to each other. For example, A Business Process composes Business Process Activities. Automated Business Process Activities use Applications.

Without the metamodel, we might have a mess like the diagram below illustrates.


Disclaimer Note: The diagram above is not representative of my team’s metamodel in order protect Microsoft IP. I deliberately used inappropriate elements, removed several elements, removed all associations between the elements, and spatially organized the elements somewhat randomly.

There are lots of concepts involved, we need the Traceability Critical Path to understand the explicit connection

Our goal is to get to what we are calling the Traceability Critical Path. The Traceability Critical Path (TCP) is the set of lowest-level elements in the metamodel that have an explicit association with each other that are necessary to trace from Strategy to Code. [I know, bad acronym choice. We might later rename it to avoid confusion.] Identifying the TCP elements and how they relate is the goal of this work. Then, connecting the rest of the elements to the TCP elements to understand how they relate.

Along the journey of defining the TCP, we discovered some interesting characteristics of the metamodel elements. We found it useful to differentiate between element types. Here are some examples:

  • Traceability Critical Path elements. Elements that have a direct or concrete relationship from planning activities
  • Enabling elements. Elements are really only methods or tools to derive critical elements.
  • Temporal elements. Elements that act as placeholders for required elements but are needed at a later time in a process.
  • Discipline-specific elements. Elements that are useful only to certain disciplines but are somewhat meaningless to others.
  • Associations elements. Elements that describe how elements are related/associated with each other.

We had some interesting observations made along the way worth sharing

Along our journey we made a few interesting observations that maybe, at some point, I’ll dig into later because each could take a while to explain. But for now, I’ll just jot them down to share:

1. Complimentary Information Model. In addition to the metamodel, we created an information model to describe the concepts the elements represent because there are times when identifying individual elements, the resulting element’s names don’t easily resemble the original concept being evaluated and causes a bit of confusion. We required an information model to describe aggregations, compositions, generalizations and subtypes to keep the metamodel meaningful by the different audiences.

2. Enabling and Temporal Elements and Abstraction relationship. We observed during the exercise of building our metamodel that the relationship between the Enabling Elements and degree of abstraction. We noticed that many of the Enabling and the majority of the Temporal elements tend to exist at higher abstractions and the TCP elements tend to fall in the lower abstraction. This trend is illustrated in the graph below.


3. Gaps in enterprise planning concepts. When analyzing the trend data, we found gaps in our scatter graph. We are wondering how to explain this and what to do with this observation, but we are leaning to spend a bit of time to apply some engineering rigor and define enterprise planning concepts in more detail. The types of concepts are those that describe Business Strategy and Business Model as examples.


Summary – The TCP brings very interesting benefits

Having the metamodel and clear identification of the TCP within it, we get a lot of benefits such as:

  1. Objectivity. Ability to put the tools, methods and concepts from several disciplines into perspective and help us get to the crux of their value proposition to enabling elements in the TCP.
  2. Impact Analysis. Ability to traverse the model and do Impact Analysis from any element of concern. For example, one can identify which applications are involved to enable Scenarios. Or, one could identify which System Features impact Customers or Business Partner and so on.
  3. Role Clarity. Ability to understand the disciplines and roles that typically create elements fit into the planning and implementation activities.

I would like to share our metamodel, complete with the TCP, as well as the process used to build it. But, to be fair, this is a team effort and I want to give credit where credit is due as well as respect the fact that this is the property of Microsoft that I don’t have approval to publish yet. If you’d like to see our metamodel, let me know and I’ll bring your request to my team.