Time travelling through the ever changing IT landscape

The IT landscape of financial organisations is in a constant flux. As new regulations come into force organisations need to fulfil requirements stipulated by those regulations. As a result, they will develop new strategical systems for the long term, tactical systems for the medium term and phase out systems that have become obsolete.

To support the strategy and planning for this change, organisations usually model the IT Landscape in the form of logical and structural views of IT assets. In this context IT assets can be applications but also hardware. Oftentimes multiple views are created to accommodate for the change over time of the IT Landscape. Why is this important? Amongst many reasons, department heads need this maintainable insight to ensure they stay in control, as they move towards their target operating models (and of course, to track critical decommissioning milestones!).

Kineograph, a tool developed in-house by ACT

Several tools are commonly used by financial organisations to model their current and future state architectures. In this showcase we’re going to focus on the limitations of tools used – not by the architects themselves, but by change management teams – i.e. MS PowerPoint and MS Visio. Although both tools are obviously established, and have their own merits, when it comes to visualising information dynamically, linked to critical KPIs, they can be lacking. Especially the change over time of the IT landscape due to the onset of new systems or the phase-out of obsolete systems cannot be modelled without largely duplicating the before and after state of change (leading to many similar slides). For that reason ACT developed an in-house a tool named Kineograph that specifically supports the design of IT landscapes that change over time.

Time-Travelling the IT Landscape

In Kineograph every IT asset, being an application or hardware, has a start date and an end date. Both dates can be empty. The start date represents the first date of existence of that IT asset. If the start date is empty it means the IT asset existed at the earliest possible date. The end date reflects the date the IT asset ceases to exist. If the end date is empty the IT asset will never cease to exist in the model design.

Kineograph has the ability to ‘time-travel’ through the IT-landscape. To further clarify ‘time-travelling’ in Kineograph, consider a simple IT landscape with two IT assets referred to as A and B. A has a start date equal to 1 Jan 2020 and end date equal to 1 Jan 2022. B has a start date equal to 1 Jan 2021 and no end date. Figure 1 below shows schematically the IT landscape at three different dates 1 Jan 2020, 1 Jan 2021 and 1 Jan 2022. Kineograph allows the time-travel to each of the three dates when a change in the IT Landscape occurs. This means it can show the composition of the IT Landscape at each of the three dates.

Figure 1. Time-travelling the IT landscape through 3 different reference dates.

If we used a tool such as Microsoft PowerPoint we would have created three slides: each slide represents the state of the IT Landscape at a certain reference date. Of course, in the example above the additional effort in PowerPoint to duplicate a slide and change the content such that that it reflects the state correctly is minimal. In reality however an IT Landscape has dozens of IT assets. Thus, if the IT Landscape also has multiple states it would mean that a single change in one the IT assets, e.g. name change, can have an impact on many slides. This non-data driven approach adds an enormous overhead to your resources – not just when creating blueprints, but in maintaining changes over time.

Uniform view on same type of IT Assets

The lack of time travelling in existing tools was an important reason to design Kineograph. But there are more reasons. In the example above, both A and B belong to the same type of IT asset. Therefore both A and B automatically have the same shape and colour. Of course, in PowerPoint we would have chosen the same shape and colour for the same type of IT assets. But the possibility that we are able to unintentionally change the colour or form of one the blue shapes in the example above may lead to inconsistencies. This is to be prevented of course.

And what if we want to change the shape and colour of all boxes? When using PowerPoint the shape and colour of each IT asset need to be changed. In Kineograph it is only a matter of changing the shape and colour linked to the IT asset type. Using Kineograph saved us a lot work modelling IT landscapes especially when time-travelling or changing form or colour of IT assets.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of challenges Kineograph can help with! In next week’s showcase we’ll be focusing on features that help laying out components on the canvas.

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