Sparx Services North America: Managing the Connective Tissue of Business

Chris Armstrong, President and Chief Architect Modern business environments are complex with a lot of pieces, and the picture each company is trying to assemble is unique—that’s where competitive advantage comes from. Enterprise Architecture provides a structure and connective tissue for bringing order to the chaos that companies experience so they can operate more effectively.

Chris Armstrong, President and Chief Architect of Sparx Services North America says, “In an era where organizations outsource the majority of IT operations, strategy and architecture will remain core functions that can never be outsourced without diluting the source of competitive advantage.” Granted, getting Enterprise Architecture right can be a challenge. Leveraging industry standards, robust toolsets, and gleaning best practices from those who have solved similar puzzles, can significantly increase a company’s likelihood of success.

Successful companies have a set of goals that they are trying to achieve. It is important that the different players on the team all work together effectively to achieve those goals. “It isn’t about a particular solution or process. It is about helping employees be more productive and achieving better results for the company. We don’t want to just sell you a box of pieces, or some pre-assembled version of someone else’s image of success, but help you bring your architecture vision into reality,” emphasizes Ryan Schmierer, Director of Marketing and Operations.

Sparx Services North America takes a holistic approach towards enterprise architecture that integrates the different disciplines of business analysis, systems engineering, software development, agile development and IT operations with traditional architecture domains. This holistic approach is realized by bringing together standards, integrated processes, training methodologies, and the right set of tools to put the company’s architecture framework into practice.

Enterprise Architecture is about Productivity, Not Religion

Architecture isn’t a religion – it is a set of tools to help companies more effectively achieve their goals and ambitions. Many companies have seen past enterprise architecture initiatives fail to achieve desired results because they were focusing too much attention on the activities of architecture instead of the outcomes that architecture could bring to the organization. As companies seek out digital transformation initiatives, sustainable value generation, harvesting insights for informed decisions, and optimizing operations—enterprise architecture has the potential to make a tremendous impact. The key is remaining focused on the goal.

Although quite a few companies claim to utilize enterprise architecture, practitioners and decision-makers often feel that the expected value isn’t really getting generated through the company’s projects and initiatives. “I often talk to practitioners on this topic, and they say that in spite of plans, models, and standards, they really don’t know if architectural content is directly impacting their organization’s business transformation,” informs Armstrong. Architecture artifacts need to be blueprints that help employees be more productive and generate value for the organization, not just art to hang on the wall.

The definition of agility is the ability to effectively and efficiently respond to change. According to Armstrong, “the litmus test of a good enterprise architecture is how well it responds to change also. That’s the purpose of architecture, to design for change! You can’t be agile at the enterprise level without an underpinning architecture describing where you are, where you are going and the pieces that need to be put in place to get you there.”
Tools, Skills, Experience and Standards = A Recipe for Success

Companies use tools, skills and frameworks together… Why do they have to get them from different places? With the creation of Sparx Services North America in 2017, companies can now get the holistic solution they need in one place, instead of having to assemble a box of parts from different vendors that really don’t fit well together.

We don’t want to just sell you a box of pieces, or some pre-assembled version of someone else’s image of success, but help you bring your own architecture vision into reality

While other companies are scaling back investments in their enterprise architecture offerings, Sparx is going big. They took the architecture training and consulting experience from Armstrong Process Group, the industry’s most widely used and affordable EA software platform from Sparx Systems, combined with decades of active involvement in developing Industry standards and a local presence in North America where many large global organizations are based. Some IT leaders have said that the creation of Sparx Services North America in 2017 was one of the biggest developments they have seen in the Enterprise Architecture space since the early IBM Rational days.

Collaborating to Make Standards More Usable

Standards are a great way to access the collective wisdom and experience of the global community of architects and other practitioners without the cost of developing the experience yourself. The staff at Sparx Services North America is actively engaged with industry standards organizations to collect, refine, and share best practices for enterprise architecture and related disciplines. Some notable examples include engagement with: The Open Group to develop the next version of TOGAF™ and refine the ArchiMate™ modeling standard; the Business Architecture Guild to contribute to a guide to the Business Architecture Body of Knowledge (BIZBOK®), and the Object Management Group to contribute to UML™, UAF™, SysML™ and UPDM™.

Standards, like architecture artifacts, don’t do companies any good confined to the pages of books – they need to be translated into the skills, processes, and tools that practitioners will need to utilize the standards in their daily work. As founding members of the Center for Enterprise Architecture at Pennsylvania State University, Sparx Services North America has contributed a considerable amount of content in the form of EA courseware and practices to advance formal academic programs in enterprise architecture.

Sparx Services North America has worked with partners to develop a UML™ (Unified Modeling Language) profile to support BIZBOK® Guide for Business Architecture in Sparx Enterprise Architect that will be released along with new training offering this spring. The development teams at Sparx Systems released a Business Analyst Toolkit for Sparx EA in partnership with International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) making the content and models from the BABOK Guide® available to Business Analysts through the Sparx Enterprise Architect and ProCloud Server platforms. The company is also working on a Unified Profile for how to use UPDM and UAF for DoDAF and greater support for the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM), targeted specifically at the defense contractor community and government organizations.

A big part of the Sparx Services North America mission is making architectural content accessible and usable to more people—if people can’t access content for decision making, the content might as well not exist.
Sparx aims at harmonizing industry standards over the next few years to ensure that practitioners are not left with a disjointed mess of standards, processes and tools without guidance on how to assemble them effectively. The upcoming release of Sparx EA14 later this year is aimed at providing a single modeling tool to support the entire architecture team within a company, with enhanced support for standards, business process simulation and sharing architecture models across the enterprise.

"The challenge lies not in defining enterprise architecture, but in effectively strategizing and contextualizing the framework to deliver successful results from your architecture efforts"

Deriving the Most Out of Architecture Journey

Every company (and individual) is somewhere along their own unique enterprise architecture journey. The path a company chooses to pursue may vary. Experiences of past architecture endeavors also vary from those who have failed to realize desired value out of architectural initiatives and are skeptical, those who have heard about enterprise architecture and its value potential but have not experienced it themselves, and those who have had a positive architecture experience and understand its benefits.

Architects at Sparx Services North America have encountered these experiences personally, with decades of experience working with companies across industries, wherever they are on their architecture journey

- Don’t know where to begin
- Building the fundamentals of an Architecture practices
- Recovering from a false start (failed implementation of tools and/or process)
- Settling in for the long haul and driving improvements that last
- Maintaining stamina and a steady pace as faces change and the business evolves

They also understand the opportunities presented at different stages of journey and how to turn them into results for the companies they work with. “The challenge lies not in defining enterprise architecture, but in effectively strategizing and contextualizing the framework to deliver successful results from your architecture efforts,” adds Wally McLaughlin, Director of Sales. It’s about getting the most from the architecture journey.

Engaging with the Architecture Community

Enterprise architecture is truly a community endeavor. Individuals share their knowledge and experience which are made available to others through standards. Companies share their ideas and challenges to prompt vendors to create new tool capabilities and training courses. Sparx has a large and active global user community supported by social media, online discussion forums and regional events.

Sparx Services North America will be hosting a 2-day North American Sparx EA User Group event this coming June in the Washington, DC area—providing an opportunity for companies and individuals to come together to network with enterprise architecture experts, share ideas and learn about how others are solving their business challenges using enterprise architecture. The keynote presenter for this event is John A. Zachman creator of the popular Zachman enterprise architecture framework.

“At Sparx Services North America, all our efforts are directed to helping companies address their most compelling business needs. By enabling architects, business analysts, project teams and decision makers to be more effective and productive, we believe we can help their organizations accomplish great things,” concludes Armstrong.

Sparx Services North America

Hudson, WI

Chris Armstrong, President and Chief Architect and Wally McLaughlin, Director of Sales, Sam Courtney, Technical Sales Lead and Ryan Schmierer, Director of Marketing and Operations

Provides enterprise architecture solutions, services, and toolkits for business operations

Sparx Services North America