I’ve been using Sparx Systems’ Enterprise Architect for close to ten years now and my love for the tool is as strong now that it was when I first stumbled across it with a good friend on a client site. Initially, I was attracted to Enterprise Architect because of its great value for money, and like everything I was skeptical of how it would actually perform in the ‘real world’.I initially test drove it on some simple projects, documenting requirements and use cases, with a few class models thrown in for good measure. Needless to say it easily passed these tests.
I look back now at this time and think about how immature my thinking was and at the concepts that have been developed, refined and further developed over the years while using Enterprise Architect. One of the biggest things that I see when working with clients is that they consistently look to implement tools to solve the problem. What’s the problem? Well that varies from replacing Visio as a drawing tool, model driving their development, or having greater traceability between requirements. All these are worthy outcomes for implementing Enterprise Architect, so what are the challenges?
The top 3 challenges we see are:
- Inconsistent language across teams.
- Lack of standards and guidelines.
- No end-to-end process definition.
“So what?”, you say. “Why are these so important?”
Most organisations are very good at looking after their physical assets, but few are good at looking after their intellectual assets. Take a physical asset like a desk. Your organisation would purchase it from the local office supply store, get it delivered, and on receipt of the new desk add it to the organisational asset management system so that it can be tracked. If the desk gets knocked around then the organisation may choose to renew it, maintain it, or if it is in bad enough shape they may even replace it with a new desk.
So why do most organisations ignore their intellectual property?
It’s rare to see an organisation create some code and, once complete, record that in their asset register, or create a use case model and record that in their asset register.
Nowadays, intellectual property is so much more important than it used to be, with the majority of the web-based businesses having no physical assets, instead trading by selling online products globally. Traditional bricks and mortar businesses have shifted also and now have significant online portals or businesses, and software can be found in just about any product from cars to pens. I firmly believe that businesses should keep an asset register for their intellectual property. For me, this asset register is Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect. Here at Catch Software, my aim is to make sure that we are recording every piece of intellectual property we create so we can then renew, maintain, or remove it at a future date.
An interesting difference between physical assets and intellectual assets is that once a physical asset is placed and in use it can’t be used by anyone or anything else in a different location. Intellectual assets on the other hand can be duplicated and reused by numerous people or things at the same time. Not only can an intellectual asset be reused, but it can also be used in a transformation process to generate other intellectual assets.
- One location.
- Costly to copy.
- Can’t be used in multiple places by multiple people or things.
- Can’t easily be automatically transformed.
- Easy to value.
- No fixed location.
- Easy to copy.
- Can be reused by numerous people or things.
- Can be easily be copied and transformed into a different asset.
- Hard to value.
These differences provide significant opportunity for businesses to reduce cost, shorten project timeframes, and understand their business better. They’re integral to how we work at Catch. I have only just scratched the surface of the reasons to take this approach, so watch this space for the next in the series.
How do you manage your intellectual assets? What are the positives and negatives of your approach in comparison to mine?
This is the first in the three part series by Founder / CEO of Catch Software, Bryce Day.