IBM bridges the “great divide”

Helping enterprise architects and solution designers work together more productively, and building a roadmap for the future

Published on 22-Mar-2013

"The Corso plugins have really changed the game for us by building on the existing strengths of IBM Rational System Architect." - Gwen Murphy, Global Enterprise Architecture and Governance Practice Leader, IBM

IBM CIO Office

Computer Services

Deployment country:
United States

Application Design-Build-Manage, BA - Business Analytics, BA - Business Intelligence, Development & Technology Adoption, DevOps, BA - Risk Analytics, Transforming Business

IBM Business Partner:


The IBM Business Transformation / CIO organization is a global shared service that supports all business units across all geographies. Its role is to translate strategic business priorities into transformation initiatives, and maintain strategic roadmaps for the company’s own IT landscape.

Business need:
Responsible for BT / IT strategy realization, the IBM BT / CIO organization needed to bridge the “great divide” between the enterprise architecture and solution design teams, and develop consistent roadmaps for transformation.

Working with Corso, an IBM Business Partner®, the CIO team used IBM® Rational® System Architect to develop a standardized architecture building block (ABB) framework and roadmapping process.

ABB framework promotes re-use of existing deliverables – in one case, saving approximately $80,000 on solution design by eliminating about 90 days of work. Roadmaps highlight project priorities, status, risks and costs, supporting better strategic management.

Case Study

The IBM Business Transformation / CIO organization is a global shared service that supports all business units across all geographies. Its role is to translate strategic business priorities into transformation initiatives, and maintain strategic roadmaps for the company’s own IT landscape.

Within the BT / CIO organization, an enterprise architecture (EA) team was set up with the aim of improving the way planning teams work as a community to gather, manage and share architecture information. The team directly supports the needs of individual architects as well as providing an enterprise-level reflection of architecture strategy. Its main focus is to increase productivity and consistency, reduce costs and drive re-use across the enterprise.

Gwen Murphy, Global Enterprise Architecture and Governance Practice Leader at IBM, explains: “The danger with enterprise architecture is that it can become something of an ivory tower. We were determined not to become disconnected from the rest of the business: we needed to develop the tools to work productively with both the senior managers who are responsible for our overall Business Transformation strategy, and the teams of solution designers who deliver the individual projects.”

To bridge the “great divide” that often develops between EA and other parts of the organization, Gwen Murphy’s team identified two key requirements.

First, it needed to create a framework that would provide information and resources for solution designers, giving them a catalog of all the approved solutions and methods available for solving their specific business challenges. This would encourage the designers to benefit from best-practice approaches developed on previous projects, and also save time and money by re-using or re-purposing existing deliverables instead of re-inventing the wheel.

Second, it needed to improve visibility of the current and future state of the IT landscape, the progress of ongoing projects, and the attendant costs and risks. This would help the management team make better strategic decisions about the overall Business Transformation program.

Developing an ABB framework

The first challenge was met by working with Corso, an enterprise architecture specialist, to develop a solution known as the architecture building block (ABB) framework. The team deployed IBM Rational System Architect together with two plugins developed by Corso – “Team Solution Design” and “Team EA”.

Martin Owen, Managing Partner of Corso, comments: “The two plugins we’ve developed make it easy to manage highly complex enterprise architecture structures, assets and documentation, and share information between solution design and enterprise architecture teams seamlessly.”

Gwen Murphy adds: “The Corso plugins have really changed the game for us by building on the existing strengths of IBM Rational System Architect. We’re excited about helping Corso take these new offerings to market, so that other IBM clients can benefit from them too.”

To complement the new tooling, the CIO team standardized its approach to the language, governance, methods and techniques used in the creation and communication of enterprise architectures.

“As enterprise architects, the ABB framework gives us a framework for mapping and categorizing the entire IT landscape within IBM,” says Gwen Murphy. “We can drill down from a high level – for example we can click on a top-level category such as CRM, and see all the CRM solutions that are in use across the organization, where they are deployed, what infrastructure they are running on, and so on. This helps us decide which tools should be selected as strategic, and which should be phased out. We can also gather assets and documentation about each solution: standards, guidance, architecture diagrams, examples of previous deployments, and much more.

“From the solution designers’ point of view, the ABB framework gives them access to a wealth of information about which solutions they can use in their projects and how best to implement them. Industry benchmarks show that using these kinds of reference architectures can cut IT costs by as much as 17 percent,1 and this is consistent with our experience. For example, in one large multi-national project, the ability to re-use just one architecture diagram saved approximately $80,000 on solution design by eliminating about 90 days of work.”

The assets that solution designers create can now easily be uploaded to the ABB framework via the Team Solution Design plugin, and become part of the “catalog” of deliverables that other teams can download, customize and use in their own projects.

“When they log into Rational System Architect, the enterprise architects and solution designers see the information that is relevant to their role – but at the back-end, they’re both using the same solution,” comments Gwen Murphy. “Everyone now uses a common architectural language and creates deliverables in a standardized way, so the overall quality is much higher. Better documentation and better design ultimately helps teams to deliver higher-quality solutions, on schedule and on budget.”

The ABB framework also promotes better governance by helping enterprise architects and solution designers communicate about their needs and objectives. “It’s a two-way street,” says Gwen Murphy. “If the architects are setting standards that the solution designers don’t follow, that’s a problem; but if the architects don’t listen to what the solution designers need, that’s a problem too. With clear communication, both teams can work together to ensure all projects comply with an enterprise architecture that is not only strategically desirable, but also practically viable.”

Creating a roadmapping process

The second key focus for Corso and the IBM CIO team was roadmapping.

“The ABB framework is a catalog of what the company’s IT landscape looks like today; what we also needed was a methodology for mapping the desired future state and creating a roadmap for how to get there,” explains Gwen Murphy. “This makes it easier to understand the associated costs and risks, and to make decisions about which projects to fund, which to prioritize, and so on.”

By combining IBM and industry best practices, the team designed an eight-step roadmapping process that captures business drivers, the target end-state requirements, and the transformation steps needed to get there. IBM Rational System Architect was once again used as the key tool to support the new process by providing a central repository for all the relevant information.

The team leads for each domain within the enterprise architecture were then trained to build their own roadmaps as a set of eight defined deliverables. These deliverables were then iteratively refined based on practical experience and feedback from the rest of their teams.

The new approach creates consistent terminology for roadmap deliverables across all domains, and a simple way to share them with a wider community via IBM Connections.

“Enterprise architects can now work much more productively with management teams, because we’re all speaking the same language,” comments Gwen Murphy. “Easy access to the roadmap promotes greater understanding of which areas of the IT landscape need to evolve and how. This creates better business alignment, with more traceability about investment decisions and better long-term planning and prioritization of transformation initiatives.”

Fitting into a wider toolset

Corso also helped the IBM team build an internal web portal that links the Rational System Architect solution with Rational Focal Point™, which handles project and portfolio management. IBM Cognos® Business Intelligence sits on top of these solutions to provide reports with key performance indicators that help managers monitor the progress and performance of different areas of the transformation program.

Gwen Murphy concludes: “The work we’ve done with Corso, not only to develop our tooling for enterprise architecture, but also to define the standardized formats, methods, processes, languages and governance structures around it, has implications that go way beyond the success of IBM’s own transformation initiatives. In partnership with Corso, we are now taking these tools and approaches to a wider market, where we’re confident they will have a huge impact on other companies’ ability to deliver strategic change programs.”

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Rational System Architect, Cognos Business Intelligence, Rational Focal Point

Footnotes and legal information

1 Enterprise Architecture Executive Council, “Economic Model for a Reference Architecture Program” (2011), page 1. Available online (with registration) at:

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2013. IBM Corporation, Software Group, Route 100, Somers, NY 10589. Produced in the United States of America. March 2013. IBM, the IBM logo,, IBM Business Partner, Cognos, Focal Point and Rational are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at: IBM and Corso are separate companies and each is responsible for its own products. Neither IBM nor Corso makes any warranties, express or implied, concerning the other’s products. This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates. The client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided. Statements regarding IBM’s future direction and intent are subject to change or withdrawal without notice, and represent goals and objectives only.