How much is a picture worth?

Issue 1, 2015

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Visualize the value of your IT

Alfabet plays an important role as the planning and management front-end of Software AG’s Digital Business Platform by ensuring the right priorities are set for Digital Enterprise transformation.

Facilitator for transformation

Alfabet helps plan and monitor the performance of IT support for business throughout its life cycle—ensuring that business strategy and demands are understood, prioritized and executed upon. It also ensures that the costs, quality and risks of IT support are known and considered during decision-making.

Alfabet is a facilitator for the team of planners, strategists, architects, portfolio managers and the CIO office tasked with business and IT transformation. It enables them to evolve business vision into successful projects and reliable operations.

A prerequisite for this, of course, is having a comprehensive information base on hand and visual aids for rendering that information to make it quickly understandable. The way information is visualized can be a help or a hindrance in understanding the impact of change to the landscape. Alfabet’s ability to capture the many relationships each planning element has is what makes its repository the powerhouse of information that it is. By understanding complex network structures and multi-level hierarchies, users can better manage the complexity that is today’s business IT reality.

Configurable visualizations

Alfabet offers a wide variety of means to visualize information. In addition to more than 1,000 reports delivered out of the box, Alfabet offers templates to design reports that display datasets, matrices, life-cycle charts, bar charts, pie charts, etc. These can be filled with any combination of information needed to provide answers to the questions at hand.

Colors and icons can be used in reports as indicators of a certain metric or criteria and to draw attention to important information. All reports support drill-down to the specific objects depicted in the display. Interactive filter criteria also allow you to change the view to fit your precise information needs.

The following types of reports can be configured:

  • Tabular reports are used to show a lot of detailed information. This is the most basic report form in Alfabet and the foundation for many other graphical reports. The sample report in Figure 1 shows results for a search for databases.

Figure 1: Tabular report

  • Life-cycle charts or Gantt charts help readers understand the road map for an object (in Figure 2, a technology component) or a combination of road maps for several different objects. Road maps are a key part of many Business IT Management (BITM) scenarios be it the realization plan for a strategy, the implementation plan for a project, the retirement of an application or technology, or the enablement of a new capability.

Figure 2: Life-cycle chart

  • Portfolio charts compare a distinct set of options or facts—for instance, a portfolio of demands, project proposals or applications. Analysis is based on two (or three) dimensions such as business value, criticality and cost. The criteria used to evaluate the objects and their weighting in a particular scheme are freely definable. Portfolio charts can have either the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) quadrant layout or ordinary axis definitions. The sample report in Figure 3 shows a portfolio of demands being evaluated according to business value and criticality.

Figure 3: Portfolio chart

  • Treemap reports are used to display hierarchical data by organizing rectangles in columns. Using color and size on the rectangles as well as icons within the rectangles to denote measures of certain indicators makes it easy to discern patterns and find items falling outside of the norm. Also, treemaps make efficient use of space in evaluating hierarchical data. They are well suited, for example, for hierarchically analyzing business capabilities. The sample treemap report in Figure 4 is used to represent a business capability map.

Figure 4: Treemap report

  • Layer diagrams are a way of visualizing the associations of objects in different classes to each other—for example, the demands associated with a selected strategy,  projects are associated with those demands, and applications or capabilities are associated with those projects. Each object class is displayed in a separate layer and related to the objects displayed in the layers preceding the current layer through a business rule. Users may select any of the objects represented in the diagram and show the end-to-end traversal paths associated with this object. Layer diagrams are helpful in identifying dependencies and the impact of change. The sample report in Figure 5 shows a hierarchy of dependencies on a specific group of devices. Like treemaps, layer diagrams allow color-coding depending on attribute values and icons as indicators.

Figure 5: Layer diagram

  • Grid reports are graphical representations of relevant relationships to individual objects. You can navigate through a dependency network by simply clicking on the objects. With the individual object of focus in the center of the diagram (a business requirement in Figure 6) and its relationships extending in both directions, the report shows all of the other objects in the reference framework (here, external trends and business drivers on the left and architecture requirements and initiatives on the right), helping to understand the specific object’s positioning in the network or hierarchy. Additionally, color rules and indicators can be used in the report to highlight specific aspects or add other information dimensions to the report. Grid reports provide good end-to-end traceability.

Figure 6: Grid report

  • Cluster maps show related objects in multiple levels of nested boxes. The outer most boxes can be arranged vertically or horizontally. Boxes represent objects and their nesting is described through relationships or business rules. Figure 7 shows which business capabilities are impacted by a particular set of projects. Cluster maps are, like treemaps, highly efficient in showing many relationships using a limited amount of space.

Figure 7: Cluster map

  • Matrix reports show object dependencies in a matrix for example in this platform architecture matrix. Columns and rows of the report represent objects in the Alfabet database. The cells display objects that are related to both the object in the row header and the object of the column header of the respective cell. In this context, a relationship can either be directly taken from the meta-model or be defined through a business rule, as shown in Figure 8. Box colors and icons are used for indicators.

Figure 8: Matrix chart

  • Lane reports provide an overview of relationships between collections of objects pertaining to a specific aspect. This helps you better understand the behavior of and relationships between groups of objects instead of just individual objects. Figure 9 shows the applications assigned to the trading domain, how they are affected by projects and how those projects impact architecture requirements.

Figure 9: Lane report

  • Chart reports are used to express measures of things (whereas the reports presented above describe relationships of objects to each other). Chart reports, as shown in Figure 10, are the types of diagrams commonly used in business: bar, line, pie and radar charts. Here, again, you have a template to enter the objects to be compared and according to what criteria as well as to define colors, labels, etc.

Figure 10: Chart report

Configuring standard reports

Alfabet offers 1,000+ standard reports that can also be configured to transport important information in a meaningful and efficient manner. The most relevant of these for IT planning are:

  • Dataset reports to display data in simple tables. Configuration possibilities include grouping, rule-based cell coloring and rule-based indicators.
  • Architecture diagrams, which include application diagrams, domain diagrams, business process diagrams, platform diagrams, project as-is and to-be architecture diagrams, etc. Designers can determine colors, labels, icons and properties that are shown.
  • Schedule reports to express the business support transformation in time phases.
  • Cell-coloring, which helps identify critical business supports or other important information.
  • Evaluation reports to allow indicator values to be edited for multiple objects in a table. Comments or icons defined for the indicator can also be displayed in the report.

Publishing reports

As an enterprise planning process involves many stakeholders beyond the borders of IT, it is important to have attractive documents in a format familiar to those working in a non-IT environment. Alfabet comes with the ability to create documents that bring together any type of information, reports and charts as shown in Figure 11.

Figure 11: Publications created using APF are tailored to satisfy user needs and corporate documentation standards

Users define Microsoft® Word document templates, determining text layout, creating static and dynamic fields, and formatting the document according to corporate standards or other publishing guidelines. Dynamic fields are filled with content from Alfabet, such as the names of applications, domains and business processes as well as any standard or custom report related that has been created in Alfabet. The template can hold a nested structure of separate documents on different objects. Once created, the template is uploaded into Alfabet for generation of the publication. 

Alfabet Publication Facility (APF) offers:
  • A flexible way to amalgamate information so that the results are relevant to the purpose in terms of content, format, usability and attractiveness
  • A standardized procedure for creating publications to enable self-sufficiency
  • Compatibility with corporate documentation standards to easily collaborate with non-Alfabet users
The publications created via APF are extremely useful for:
  • Decision support documents for management
  • Report archival
  • Reports for auditors or other external stakeholders

True worth

The wealth of information in Alfabet’s repository makes it the planning and management powerhouse that it is. Yet it is the facilities for visually communicating that information to the various stakeholders that Alfabet provides that proves its true worth—most certainly more than a thousand words.
Check out what analysts say about Alfabet. Visit the Alfabet Tech Community.