By Iver Band, Enterprise Architect, Cambia Health Solutions and Vice Chair, The Open Group ArchiMate Forum
An Interview with Jan van Gijsen of VIVAT
Jan van Gijsen is a Senior IT Architect at VIVAT NV, a Netherlands-based insurer and asset manager. VIVAT has six brands: Zwitserleven for pension capital management, Zelf for online insurance, Route Mobiel for roadside assistance, travel, and auto insurance; Reaal for life, property & casualty, and disability insurance; Proteq Dier & Zorg for pet insurance, and ACTIAM for institutional asset management. In July 2015, VIVAT was acquired by Anbang Insurance Group of China. In its 2015 annual report, VIVAT NV reported over €60 billion in total assets, €4.375 billion in total income, and €109 million in profit. Right now, VIVAT has approximately 3,600 employees, including 630 in IT.
Iver: Please briefly describe your professional background and current role at VIVAT.
Jan: I have worked in IT for more than 35 years, the last 15 years as an IT Architect. At the moment I am responsible for the overall use and standardization of ArchiMate® models within the Architecture Department and the analysis and reporting on a consolidated VIVAT level based on these models. Particular concerns are roadmaps, cost management and portfolio management.
Iver: What challenges does the Architecture Department face now that VIVAT is part of the Anbang Insurance Group?
Jan: VIVAT is embarking upon a new phase, which will allow it to place full focus on its policyholders and existing and new customers based upon a new strategy for the future. During the second half of 2015, a thorough and extensive Strategic Review was carried out under the supervision of the new Executive Board. Going forward, VIVAT will focus more on innovation and digitalization, along with plans to further simplify its business processes. VIVAT will also make its organization less complex. Simplifying the operations and the business processes will create a lean, customer-oriented organization. Ultimately, customers will be better served by the company.
VIVAT will implement these change over the course of three years, during which it will create one centralized structure. The company will continue its ongoing digitalization effort and adapt to technological developments, drawing on the innovative capability and experience of its new owner.
Iver: How is the architecture function organized at VIVAT?
Jan: The architecture function is centralized in one department. Within the department the work is organized around the business domains such as Life, Corporate, Individual Life, Property & Casualty, Asset Management and VIVAT.
Iver: Tell me more about the VIVAT domain.
Jan: Our new strategy is driven by the theme “One VIVAT”, which transcends our historic domain silos. The VIVAT domain provides consolidated views of the entire company and the base for common functionality and strategy across the business domains. We use architectural views of the VIVAT domain as overviews of what is going on in the business domains.
“ArchiMate has been in use since 2006.”
Iver: What is VIVAT’s experience with the ArchiMate language?
Jan: ArchiMate has been in use since 2006. It is mainly used by twelve architects to create, analyze and calculate models. It is also used by four software engineers for integration designs.
“All the architects are ArchiMate certified.”
Iver: How does VIVAT support architects and engineers in using the language effectively?
Jan: We had a formal training at BiZZdesign and all the architects are ArchiMate certified. For standardization, coaching and review we have an ArchiMate Competence Center with three architects. I am the chairman of this competence center. Most importantly, modelers learn by doing and discover what is working and what is not. For this purpose, we had additional training on stakeholder management and selling skills.
Iver: How is ArchiMate used to support VIVAT’s businesses and corporate functions? Does usage vary across different areas of the business?
Jan: For every business domain we create and maintain blueprints, which contain the baseline, transition and target models for the three architecture layers: Business, Application and Technology. The details and content depend on the planned changes within the domains. Each blueprint also contains a roadmap with the cost forecast for the next four years. These forecasts are calculated using ArchiMate models.
Iver: Did ArchiMate models play any role in the decision-making and planning for the acquisition by Anbang?
Jan: ArchiMate models were used to show the IT baseline, future plans and cost forecast. In addition, our ArchiMate models enabled us to respond very quickly to additional questions regarding our IT landscape.
“This opened the door to our decision makers.”
Iver: What have been VIVAT’s greatest successes with the ArchiMate language?
Jan: Developing the roadmaps and cost calculations, and embedding the models in the portfolio and cost management processes. This opened the door to our decision makers.
“You have chosen ArchiMate as a standard. From now on, you are going to use it as a standard.”
Iver: What have been VIVAT’s greatest challenges with the ArchiMate language?
Jan: Forcing every architect to use ArchiMate exclusively for modeling, and to get rid of all the Visio and PowerPoint models. The breakthrough occurred when my manager told the architects “You have chosen ArchiMate as a standard. From now on you are going to use it as a standard.”
Iver: What software tools does VIVAT use for ArchiMate modeling?
Jan: BiZZdesign Enterprise Studio.
Iver: Does VIVAT maintain a repository of ArchiMate models?
Jan: We use the BiZZdesign repository. Within the repository we maintain separate models for each business domain. Shared objects are synchronized with a catalog which contains all the standard objects and relations, along with the costing and roadmap information. This is not an out-of-the-box configuration; it was designed by us.
Iver: Where does the information in the catalog come from?
Jan: The catalog is synchronized with the CMDB for infrastructure and several application portfolio lists. These lists are consolidated in the ArchiMate catalog. For applications, the catalog is also the base for other functions like cost and incident management. The other parts like processes, organization and relations are extracted from previous models to be reused in new models.
Iver: Let’s return to your personal perspective. How do you use the ArchiMate language?
Jan: I use ArchiMate more and more as a metamodel to do analysis and reporting, based on a solid repository with all the objects within VIVAT. I use the ArchiMate structures to combine information from several sources for analysis. I use, for instance, data from contract administration, configuration management (CMDB), planning and administration and the general ledger. The reports contain the results of the analysis as simple graphs or tables with, sometimes, simple ArchiMate models appended. The results of these analyses are stored in the repository and can be used by the other architects to color or label their models.
“Don’t show any models to the decision makers; only show them the results of the analysis of your models.”
Iver: For what business and IT situations would you recommend ArchiMate modeling?
Jan: That depends on the stakeholder with whom you are working. Don’t show any models to the decision makers; only show them the results of the analysis of your models. For us, ArchiMate is very useful for portfolio and cost management but that depends very much on the maturity of the architecture function and the portfolio and cost management processes. ArchiMate is also very useful for guiding strategic change and application rationalization.
Iver: What do you think of ArchiMate 3.0?
Jan: I have taken a quick look and am very enthusiastic about the extensions around capabilities. For us, that fills in some missing pieces.
“Start small, think big.”
Iver: Do you have any advice for architects who are just starting to use the language?
Jan: Start small, think big. Start with a few architects using an ArchiMate modeling tool. Don’t flatten creativity by defining modelling standards before you have given yourself a chance to discover the strength of the tool and the ArchiMate standard. Once you have experienced how you want to use the tool, then define your standards. Be pragmatic with your standards. Modeling is about the message to your stakeholders and not about following a standard. Force yourself to create all your models in ArchiMate–even small sketches.
Iver: How should organizations select ArchiMate modeling tools?
Jan: First decide how you want to use the tool: for just modeling or also analysis. It also depends on have many people are going to use the tool and if they will have shared or separate models. This will give you the requirements on functionality and cooperation. A simple tool is suitable for just modeling with a few people on separate models. For analysis and a lot of users you need richer functionality, including scripting facilities. For cooperation among a lot of people you need a repository with the ability to control access to models.
Iver: Thank you very much for sharing your deep experience and expertise. Any final thoughts on how the ArchiMate language can help enterprise and solution architects?
Jan: Formal modelling languages force architects to think more carefully about what they are specifying, so they perform at a higher level. Also, formal models are suitable for analysis and calculations for presentation to senior management, which opens the door to the boardroom and increases the influence of the architecture function.
ArchiMate® is an Open Group standard.
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