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Data Management Summit: Building Enterprise Architecture

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The increasing importance of data management as a business driver brings with it questions about the underlying enterprise architecture that supports it. Should legacy systems be part of the architecture, is it best to build or buy new systems, and how can enterprise architecture projects be designed in the first place?

Matt Cox, director and founder of MJC Data Management Solutions, set out with a team of experts to consider these questions during a panel session at the A-Team Data Management Summit in London. Moderating the session, Enterprise Architectures for Robust Data Management, Cox was joined by Rupert Brown, executive director and trustee of the AIMREC project; Colin Gibson, global architecture director at Willis; Stuart Grant, EMEA business development manager for financial services at SAP; and Paul Kennedy, general manager for data and analytics at Commonwealth Bank.

Cox kicked off with a question to the panel about the value of legacy systems in enterprise architecture. Grant responded, saying: “We can’t get rid of legacy systems as no-one knows how they work any more, but they are becoming an operational risk. When regulations such as BCBS 248 and 239 come into effect, legacy systems will be under the spotlight and firms will have to get a handle on their infrastructure and data management.”

Considering how best to build an efficient and cost effective enterprise architecture that delivers data that users want, Brown said: “The need is to figure out which applications are needed. One organisation that is good at this is British Airways. Its architects went to the operations side of the business and asked how the business runs. They could then identify core applications. The problem is connecting them together.”

Kennedy added: “You need to make people accountable for systems and hold them to account. When building architecture at the bank, every system that is put in has to do two things: meet business requirements and include governance.”

On the issue of building or buying solutions that will be part of architectural change, Gibson said: “Most IT departments would avoid work if they could, but bought solutions still involve work. It is important to weigh up what you have and question whether you already have the systems you need.” Explaining his approach at Commonwealth Bank, Kennedy said: “I am agnostic about where things get done, less so on how things are done. So when it comes to a vendor solution plus internal costs versus build costs, let the best one win.”

Beyond building or buying enterprise architecture systems, Cox asked the panel whether costs can be reduced by handing systems over to a third party? Kennedy answered: “A conversation on cost alone is a dangerous one. You must hold on to intellectual property.” Brown said: “You need to consider whether a service dovetails with the business, and you need to avoid services with SLAs that are just about availability and providers that hide behind trouble ticketing.”

Looking forward, Cox considered whether enterprise architecture for data management will be implemented differently in future. Brown suggested the processes an architect goes through won’t change, but the connectedness and semantic integrity of what is done will change. Gibson commented: “Builders will have new tools that architects need to be aware of as they may open possibilities around how things can be done.” Taking a big picture approach, Kennedy concluded: “Beyond processes and tools we need a town planner. In the past, we have worked at the system level, missing out how systems connect together and failing to ask whether we are repeating spending. We need a CIO, CTO or CDO in a strong role to make sure this doesn’t happen in future.”

You can listen to a full recording of the session here.

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