Building Blocks

For my Togaf certification.

A Building Block is a package of functionality defined to meet business needs across an organisation.

A Building Block is one of ( I tend to think “such as”)

  • Actor
  • Business Service ( a derivative of business function with defined SLA according to Togaf)
  • Application
  • Data Entity.

A Building Block has a defined boundary and is recognised as a ‘thing’ by a domain expert.

A good Building Block

  • considers implementation and evolves to exploit technology
  • is reusable and replaceable.

A Building Block should be loosely coupled to it’s implementation.  It should be possible to realise a BB in several ways without impacting boundary or specification.

Togaf further defines Architectural Building Blocks, which is what the above refers to, pointing out that ABB’s are ‘Technology aware’.  Whereas Solution Building Blocks are ‘Vendor aware’.

The OMG have developed a standard for re-usable asset specification (RAS) which provides a good example of how BB’s can be formally described and managed.

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I am belatedly studying for my togaf practioner certification.  The open group just call it level 2, but in essence it is practioner level.  So I thought I would combine my studying with posting a few articles that may be more generally interesting.  The bulk of the course concerns the method for developing architecture, termed the ‘ADM’.  It is much too big and boring to talk about here, except to say it covers the work done pre project – not explicitly all the work done pre- project as it skips quite quickly over any commercial activities.  But fair to say all the architectural pre project work.

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Agile V/S Waterfall Development

Software and Web development Articles

What Is Agile Development?

Agile programming  is a thought or technique that includes iterative advancement in short cycles. It incorporates a large amount of cooperation with clients or business agent, and its adaptable reaction to change is a positive for both business groups and task groups.

Agile programming is dependent upon a thought reputed to be the Agile Manifesto, which is:

We are uncovering better methods for advancing programming by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we now esteem:

  • People and connections over procedures and apparatuses
  • Working programming over exhaustive documentation
  • Client cooperation over contract transaction
  • Reacting to change over taking after an arrangement

That is, while there is esteem in the things on the right, we esteem the things on the left more.

As it says, the spry advancement process has distinctive qualities than other programming  procedures. The other principle programming approach you may be…

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Business Architecture Techniques

My work in IT Strategy and Enterprise Architecture always required a firm understanding of the company’s, or more accurately, the enterprise’s business architecture.  Much of this is straightforward to uncover, but gathering sufficient clarity and depth of business strategies and objectives is far more challenging.

Often the best tactic to structure understanding in this area is to use the same techniques that business strategy consultants use – and I have listed a few here.  These techniques can be effectively incorporated into workshops, so they are useful to have in your armoury.

  • PESTLE and Porter’s Five Forces analysis are particularly useful for examining the environment within which the enterprise is operating

  • MOST Analysis, Resource Audit and the Boston Box  can be used to examine the internal capability of an enterprise

  • SWOT analysis and Ansoff’s matrix are useful for strategy definition, where the results of the external and internal environmental analyses are summarised and consolidated in order to examine the situation facing the organisation and identify possible courses of action.

  • Two techniques used to identify performance measures  are critical success factors/key performance indicators, and the Balanced Business Scorecard technique.

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Assumptions and Risks

I have just tried to read a book on Risk Management, and failed. My interest had been stirred by some new thinking  (to me anyway) on risk that I picked up from a recent Prince2 training course.  This is addition to the fact that I have been participating as an investor in the risk markets for a number of years got me thinking that you have to take risk in order to enjoy the rewards.  So I am coming to the view that taking the “right” risks applies to my professional life as well as my part-time hobby investing.

The Prince2 insight came from a couple of words.  The first is rather than think of “risk” think of “uncertainty“.  What uncertainties do you see in your project?  and this is where my attention turned to all the assumptions we make as project managers. Assumptions in estimating, thinking our stakeholders know their business requirements, availability of staff etc etc.

If you think of risks as uncertainties then to me they come alive, which brings me on to my next point.  It is the “Management” part of the term.  We should be actively doing something with these uncertainties, in two senses

  • We need to track the uncertainty.  Take the availability of staff, if our plan requires x days per week from key staff then track it.  The same for estimating assumptions – when you begin to collect actual data, compare it to your estimates.
  • The second point is to form a plan should the risk / uncertainty materialise.  What will you do if you do not get the commitment from key staff?  What will you do if your estimates are out by 20%?

Many of us will do a risk assessment at the start of the project, then once a risk profile for the project is understood happily forget about risk and get on with delivering.  But I hope like me you can see that managing uncertainties is an integral part of the project manager’s role and is an ongoing element of the project.

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IT Enabled Change

Investment in IT can enable new ways for companies to do business and I have listed a few examples below.  But think hard regarding the realisation of value and I hope you will recognise that these are fundamentally CHANGE initiatives, rather than IT.

  • Serving Customers in new ways via the internet, reducing the need for agents
  • Producing better information; more detail, in real time, to allow better decisions to be made
  • Serving the global market
  • Increasing flexible working on the road and at home.
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Change Management with IT Implementations

In a previous post I shared a diagram showing the connections between a Change Management and IT Systems Development Methodology. I shared it with you to illustrate a very important point.  By the way, both parts of the diagram are showing their age now; the SDLC part is classic waterfall, and the Change side shows nothing regarding stakeholders attitude to change.

Back on track, my point was that the potential gains of implementing new IT are plainly compelling, as organisations are attracted by the idea that they will gain capability to do many desirable things to drive their business forward. Many of these gains, however, require fundamental changes to the roles and responsibilities of staff, suppliers and even customers. I am going to list a few examples in my next post.

IT staff traditionally tend not to learn about Change Management. They have grown up seeing their job finishing when the new system is delivered. This is beginning to change in some forward thinking organisations and rightly so in my opinion.

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Change Management for IT Implementations

Change Management for IT Implementations

The diagram shows how my old consulting firm mapped their Change Management methodology onto it’s Systems Development method.

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Critical Success Factors

The above is a term you may have come across, but in my experience it is widely misunderstood. It seems to me everyone has a different interpretation of the term. So I thought I would put my own view down on paper. I actually think CSF gets confused with “success factor”, which is a term I don’t particularly like.

I have used CSF’s as a technique in business analysis.  Imagine that your project has the challenge to improve a business process.  You would ask yourself and your team, “what few things do we need to improve to effect the overall business process improvement?” suppose the challenge was to reduce the order processing cycle from ten days to five days? There may be a whole host of ideas to improve the situation such as better monitoring of stock levels, reliable suppliers, better integration between sales channels, forecasting etc etc.  You should try and make a long list, say ten to a dozen, then review with your team, users and stakeholders to get down to about four.  When you have these few, then you can ask yourself “if our project manages to improve these few factors, does that maximise our chances of achieving the overall all aim of the project!” if yes then these are your CSF’s.

CSF’s are very useful because they provide the means to bring focus to your project.  You can cross tab your requirements against them, which will provide the arguments for either including or excluding them from the scope.  They can be very powerful as they play well with your business stakeholders.

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Workshop Idea

There’s a term used in Education I’d like to introduce you to as I think it may be relevant to your work as a Project Manager  –  it’s “Formative Assessment”.  As a teacher one thing you need to do is ensure your class if understanding and following your lesson.  Similarly in business we all strive to make ourselves understood.  But if you are like me there are situations where your audience doesn’t get the full depth and meaning of the subject you are trying to convey.  Studies in education into Formative Assessment may help us out here.

The term means assessing as the lesson is in progress, rather than assessing after the event.  The obvious way this is done by teachers is to ask questions – I know you are thinking you can’t be asking your boss questions but there is a little method in my madness.  Studies of classroom situations found that on average teachers wait on average only 1-2 seconds before expecting an answer, either answering the question themselves or moving on to another pupil. The problem with this practice is that the expectations is set amongst the class or audience that a simple fact is sought, rather than any deeper level thinking.

The recommendation to teachers is to set the scene by saying something like “Take 5 mins to think about…”  I think you can do a similar thing in business in your workshops. When you need to generate ideas or examine something a little deeper, have the confidence to arrange breakout sessions in pairs or small groups.  No need for lengthy breakouts as  10 to 15 minutes just sets the right expectation.  Any longer and you are indicating that you expect a validated idea, any shorter and you are not allowing time to move beyond the obvious.

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AC Meader

AC Meader

Father, IT Professional, Cycling Coach in that order. That's me

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