Enterprise Architect sets new standards

We speak to Ken Harkin from Sparx Systems about the company’s commitment to standards development through its Enterprise Architect technology

It is a sunny morning in Toulouse, France and a technical working-group begins the day. The members in attendance are volunteers originating from 33 different countries, speaking five different languages. All have a personal interest in some aspect of geospatial analysis. Up on their screens is Enterprise Architect, showing a recent geo-specification model.

This model has been accessed, amended and updated by each member in their centrally hosted location from around the world; effectively being developed 24/7 over the past three months since the group last met. Progress has been swift. Using the readily available Enterprise Architect toolset, the team has not only modelled the needed specification, but they have also used the tool to solicit feedback from stakeholders, manage task allocations and generate all the specification documentation directly from the model.

This kind of scenario is becoming more commonplace for organisations. Individuals and teams based all over the globe are working towards common standards in industries ranging from telecommunications, utilities, healthcare, finance, geospatial analysis and defence. This collaboration is made possible by Enterprise Architect software from Sparx Systems.

The group’s business development manager, Ken Harkin, explains Sparx’s widespread involvement in standards, and the benefits that are made possible as a result of the firm’s range of solutions.

What purpose do standards serve and how do they help deliver value?
Widely accepted standards help foster product interoperability and system architectures that mitigate risks, simplify and reduce delivery time and yield a stronger ROI as global industries such as healthcare, retail, utilities, telecommunications and other sectors continue rapid modernisation programmes. Interoperable system architectures that share a common language and interfaces at a hardware, software and system level are essential for successful global industries.

New markets can emerge from the open access to information made available through interoperability. Many stakeholders can benefit from standards including domains that see the need to integrate and share information, and those vendors who deliver value solutions to the industry at every point in their relevant supply chain.

Conversely, a lack of interoperability reduces customer choice, new opportunities for developers, possibilities for technology convergence and generally limits the growth rate of the particular market in question.

How can stakeholders be assured that their voice is being heard?
Standardisation provides stakeholders everywhere with harmonised rules and tools to implement reliable and cost-effective traceability methods and provide a platform upon which to build new ideas and fully-realise exciting products and markets.

Standardisation helps change innovation into accepted market application.  As an agreed codification for action, standards help provide a benchmark against which inclusive evaluations and judgements may be made by the global community on technical criteria, products and services, systems and processes and business model transformation.

A common language and toolset is essential for a wide range of individual and group stakeholders to collaborate and remotely communicate their ideas on all of these issues while providing assurance that process changes are effectively audited. Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect provides such a toolset and facilitates this language of change.

What is Sparx Systems involvement in standards?
Sparx Systems has been a contributing member of the Object Management Group (OMG) since 2003 and helped pioneer much support for standards in 2002. The company supported UML and XMI, which helped many to enable the interchange of both data (models and model fragments) and meta-data positioning.

Enterprise Architect is based on open-standards and is designed to be used throughout the full lifecycle of a systems development cycle. Whether it be large-scale vertical markets such as utilities, healthcare, telecommunications, automotive, or the single developer – Enterprise Architect delivers cost-effective “out-of-the-box” management of the development lifecycle and provides direct traceability from one stage of the lifecycle to the next. Enterprise Architect is an open, standards-based modelling solution that enjoys popularity as the tool of choice for many standards organisations worldwide.

Do you have any instances of value realisation from standards development in the domains serviced by Sparx Systems?
Well concerning the value of geospatial standard’s to the industry, a study conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton on behalf of NASA in 2005 to assess the cost of implementing geospatial standards delivered some very positive conclusions.

“Overall, the project that adopted and implemented geospatial interoperability standards saved 26.2 percent compared to the project that relied upon a proprietary standard. One way to interpret this result is that for every $4.00 spent on projects based on proprietary platforms, the same value could be achieved with $3.00 if the project were based on open standards.”

More recently the Defence Geospatial Standardisation Framework was published in April 2012. This is a network of forums, processes and communication mechanisms to facilitate robust engagement and responsibility for enabling interoperability in the geo-domain, where this network can be enabled through the development, management, and implementation of new standards. As previously stated in a statement published in 2010, the application of a defence geospatial information and technology standard is vital to achieving a geospatially enabled and networked workforce.

In order to allow geospatial information to be delivered seamlessly across the network from the strategic to the tactical level, the capabilities that defence groups acquire in the future must be able to ingest standard data-formats.

This framework goes on to point out that non-compliance with standards will result in additional costs and delays in the acquisition of new systems. Once operational, non-compliant platforms adversely affect interoperability and create an ongoing requirement to convert proprietary data formats into standard data formats resulting in systems that are expensive and unsupportable in the long-term. It is important, therefore, that geospatial standards, including meta-data standards, are collaboratively developed, managed and applied throughout the defence sector.

How can Enterprise Architect help companies wanting to implement smart-grid technology in the future?
Today, power-supply companies face the daunting task of optimising their core processes as a matter of survival in a deregulated energy market. The task is to combine the large number of autonomous IT systems into a homogeneous IT landscape. However, because they do not use uniform data standards, conventional network-control systems can only be integrated through considerable time and effort.

Network-control systems with a standardised data format for source data based on the standardised Common Information Model (CIM), usually offer the best basis for IT integration. Enterprise Architect is being used to develop and maintain the CIM, which defines a common language and data modelling with the object of simplifying the exchange of information between the participating systems and applications via direct interfaces.

The standardised CIM data model offers a range of advantages for power suppliers and manufacturers as the model describes the electrical network, the connected electrical components, the additional elements and the data needed for network operation as well as the relationships between these elements. The Unified Modelling Language (UML) is used as the descriptive language.

In a McKinsey report published in 2010, optimistic projections were made that the smart-grid market would generate technology and services revenue in the order of tens of billions of dollars annually. However, this scenario ultimately depended heavily on the development of universally accepted standards.

What is Sparx Systems position on education with respect to standards?
Sparx Systems supports many other domains and makes Enterprise Architect technology available to those volunteers who represent various stakeholders and give their time to the standards development effort. We are currently supporting close to 40 industry domains through our standards development programme. We participate as fully as we can through involvement in industry key events and our education outreach programmes.

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