Information Technology Architecture: INTRODUCTION TO ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE
Upon analyzing this district's current state of there are three crucial discoveries. First, the district has the potential and capabilities of implementing an architecture development method to apply the vision of a continuum of improvement and meeting standards. Second, the district is functioning efficiently due to the redundancy of applications and systems, and communication barriers in what is perceived as structured organization, yet are operating as silos. Lastly, as technology is adopted and instruction shifts to meet the demands of 21st century skills, the district continues to work with a infrastructure designed on legacy of a typewriter era in the world of cloud based services where the district will continue to be reactive to the demands instead of adaptive.
This introduction to Enterprise Architecture allowed me to discover how systems and an architecture development method can not only be applied to education, but is crucial in order to function in a world where technology changes how we work now and the demands of on our education system in an uncertain future. An EA allows SEA and LEA to utilize technology in an infrastructure instead of just acquire technology and attempt to make it fit in an existing, traditional architecture. It is crucial for our education system to adopt a business framework in order to be efficient with resources, adapt to new challenges and meet objectives.
Currently, the district I am studying has a separate district education plan and technology plan. With the crucial role that technology plays in the daily functions of at the global level, the practice of planning education and technology separately is obsolete. It may keep a district afloat for NOW, but it does not prepare for the FUTURE OF STUDENTS or the district as an enterprise.
In their article, Exploring the Future of Enterprise Architecture: a Zachman perspective, Lapalme et. al. propose three future “Grand Challenges” that organizations using EA will need to consider and plan for: 1) Increased Complexity and Intensity, 2) New Realities and 3) Evolving Enterprise Architecting. (Lapalme et. al, 2016) In this article, truly challenging concerns that organizations will have to face new realities, complexity and changing/evolving architectures of the future are discussed and the impact will be great. The article goes on to provide potential practices for coping with these future “Grand Challenges.” If a district continues to function in the traditional sense of silos without communication, how will it fair when presented with these grand challenges in the near future? Changes and shifts are gaining momentum at a rapid pace due to technology, it can no longer be separate in any function in any organization.
The NIH brick model could be a powerful tool to use in my Special Day Class at the elementary level. Because I have three grades of students, each student with an IEP with individual goals, planning if and when to replace instructional tools needs to be done frequently, yet we have limited resources to implement such changes. Evaluating the process and considerations of replacing instructional programs, curriculum, tools and strategies with a brick would present a systematic approach to demonstrate the needs and support to implement changes in instructional tools, as well as plan for most beneficial time and tracking of other considerations for potential influences on such changes/updates. This could be valuable information for administration to know and understand to goals and developments of each unique Special Day Class as they all have such diverse demands and look different from year to year, site to site.
Finding a integrated platform on which all systems, Teaching and Learning, Administrative, Back Office, and Supplemental can communicate is the key to unify all the operations for school districts. I see areas where the district I am evaluating is not only working against themselves, but working double time with multiple applications for the same task. It seems the Technology Department is making small steps towards integrating systems, but this appears to be in part to hold off to take on what is perceived as the greatest challenge of adopting the “best” LMS system. The concern is of the life and capacity of a Learning Management System they commit to instead of looking at the bigger picture of the systems communication and adaptability. At this point LMS’s big and small have the potential to have the necessary capabilities to serve a K-12 district. In my opinion, there should be a mindset shift when looking to adopt a LMS. Instead of holding out for the best LMS to prove themselves top dog, the Technology leaders should consider service and adaptability that meet the district’s needs. It can look much like the preference of a department store or a boutique, the items you prefer are in both but which experience do you prefer? The mentality of waiting for the best to come out is a thing of the past. Many of the products exist that go beyond an LMS system, include SIS and streamline with existing functional applications. The decision comes down to the right fit for the district’s needs now and in the future.
The initiatives for Data standards has been interesting as it proposes a solution to the gaps I am noticing at the district I have been researching. As I investigated the current state of the district, communication and system gaps which became so obvious, yet overwhelming with my lack of understanding in potential solutions, the light bulb has gone off. The critical factors of Data standards that need to be noted are the benefits from the common data models, language and interoperability between multiple standards/initiative which provides data across the “community of stakeholders” to inform decisions, instruction and best practices. (CEDS.ed.gov)
Employing this standards not only address the gaps in communication from schools, district and state level, it also allows policy makers, administrators, teachers and technologist gather data and address the needs across the CCSS and other standards. This provides educators to design quality alignment with standards and professional learning to best deliver learning services. I can now see the strengths and needs of the current state of services and where joining the Data standards initiative will provide sustainable solut
I have learned that the systems and processes of my current organization have several frameworks creating separate “silos” functioning independently while accessing the same budget. For example, the Educational Services is made up of 10 divisions, some with directors, some without, and all reporting the Assistant Superintendent Curriculum & Resources. With each division it appears to be different systems and very little communication with the Technology Department. While near in proximity in the building, far away in the architecture is the Technology Department organized under Business Services. By breaking down the systems and their subdivisions I found that with some reorganization and communication systems in place the beginnings of a Business Architecture is not as far off as I was predicting. However, this reorganization is not as simple as it looks in a diagram. I found that the current systems are deeply rooted in “the way it has always been done” rationale.
I spoke briefly to the new Superintendent about the current systems in place and her plans for the future around this. She reported that while she did not plan make any changes this soon in her position, there was an obvious lack of communication which she needed to not only address to practical business, but also because she is still trying to understand all the different systems in the district as they are currently and needs the communication herself. The first directors committee meetings was well received and I found myself in shock that she had to implement a regular meeting of directors. I was not shocked however that she did not appear to be familiar with Enterprise Architecture, but with an invitation to meet with her again I am encouraged that she wants to learn of everyone’s perspectives and hopeful that she will begin addressing the gaps and create a foundation for Business Architecture. The first gap I identified was communication so I think she is off to a great start!
Patience is a virtue. When learning about Enterprise Architecture and differing frameworks, I found that I identify many frameworks I know and work with aligning with these models. When studying school districts the organizational practices in place, it becomes obvious where an EA can be applied. A major benefit is maximizing resources and working efficiently by reducing redundancy. From the first time I examined the role of Technology in the district I studied, I immediately noticed how the Technology Department works in isolation, yet plays an important role in every other department. The biggest need in the alignment and communication with Education Services. Should this need be addressed with an EA framework not only would redundancy be eliminated on the department side, but also for teachers!
How does one implement to address this need right away? Where do we start? I learned that the no how loudly the cry for attention, it can’t be addressed just between the two departments first. First the scope needs to be determined and start with a business architecture. This will start with input from stakeholders and ensure goal alignment from the beginning.
As I learn about Enterprise Architecture Methodology, I have noticed and discussed similarities to my current role as a Case Manager in Special Education. The EA frameworks for integrated governance and strategic goal alignment match that of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Team approach, as well as a standardized plan for long term and short term goals for each of my students. This has made the concept clearer to me and also presented other areas of my study and profession where like architectures are resembled, such as Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS.) However, the major difference here are the scale of Enterprise Architecture. The holistic, multidimensional approach to operating a entire company/district creates a framework for all components to align, work towards common goals and allowing for adaptation with future changes.
When looking at how a district approaches implementation of these features, my new understanding of Enterprise Architecture highlights areas of strengths and needs among the organization of the district and it’s approach to technology. In the district I studied, technology and the Technology Department are seen as a strategic asset, however the views, or interpretations of this, differ. Within the organization there are common goals, but it appears that the alignment is off. The Technology Department and the Education Services department have many joint interests and responsibilities, but it is reported that Ed. Services does not understand the depth of involvement and plans with instructional technology. Without this understanding the decisions of Ed. Services often impede implementation and development involving technology. This void, where there should be communication, also creates an IT department in isolation, lacking in input on the needs of the other departments. Time and resources are wasted in all areas because of the gap here. Implementing an Enterprise Architecture would close the gap and create a truly unified school district