Tag Archives: solution architecture

A Case for an EA Approach

Here is my case for an EA Approach.  I was on a walk with my wife and our dog the other day and our conversation led to some of the problems we encounter at work.  My wife is a Registered Nurse at a large acute care hospital.  She has an amazing wealth of experience caring for very sick people.  She told me about a problem on her ward and how the implemented resolution failed to deliver the expected results.  This problem has nothing to do with information technology and everything to do with enterprise architecture (or in this case lack of EA).


Washing hands is a mandatory safety practice for all medical professionals.  It is a very simple way to limit the spread of infection from patient to caregiver to patient.  The configuration of the nursing ward my wife worked on had the sinks at one end of a corridor of patient rooms.  Each time a nurse had to wash their hands, they had to walk the length of the corridor and then back to a patient’s room.  This was time consuming and inefficient for the nurses who are already run off their feet on every shift.


The hospital installed sinks at multiple locations along the length of the corridor so that the travel time between hand washing and patient care was shortened.  The intended outcome was to improve efficiency for the nurses by having sinks close to where their patients are located.


Today, nurses have sinks close to where they care for their patients but the sinks require a supply of antibacterial soap and paper towels.  The new problem, from the nurses’ perspective, is that the soap and paper dispensers are not being filled in a timely manner because hospital management have not provided more time and/or resources to housekeeping staff to ensure the sinks are stocked.   The result is that nurses come to a sink to wash their hands and there is no soap and/or towels.  Nurses then need to find soap and towels and refill the sink supplies.  This means that highly trained nurses, who should be caring for patients, are now doing the work of the housekeeping staff causing delays in patient care.  Also the hospital has added a risk that hand washes are missed or not done thoroughly due to lack of supplies.  Failure to consider all factors of the original problem led to implementing a solution that did not resolve the problem of delayed patient care.

Add a Holistic View:

My wife’s story makes a case for taking an enterprise architecture approach to problem resolution and solution implementation.   The hospital recognized a problem and came up with a solution.  But, they failed to take an enterprise approach to understand the full implications of the problem and what the long term requirements for sustaining the optimal solution would be.  Adding an Enterprise Architecture step between Problem and Solution will always generate better outcomes.  Here is a simple approach that I use to help better understand a problem before coming up with a solution.  Clive Finklestein taught me this “Rapid EA Delivery” approach in the 2007:

  1. Start with the Zachman Framework  – using “What, How, Where, Who, When, Why” to understand the problem
  2. Make lists for each of “What, How, Where, Who, When, Why” related to the problem
  3. Create Matrices between the lists and note any relationships (What vs How, What vs Where, What vs Who, etc)
  4. Analyze the relationships noted in Step 3 to fully understand the problem
  5. Brainstorm solutions and then create lists for each solution which helps show if there are issues with the solution
  6. Select a solution to implement and ensure time is set aside to monitor the new implementation to ensure it is meeting expectations

In the nursing sink scenario, adding more sinks made sense.  What was missing was understanding the operational costs of keeping a larger number of sinks cleaned and supplied. If the matrix analysis approach had been used, this issue would have come up before any installation of new sinks and funding would have been allocated to the project.  I will post some sample matrices in a subsequent blog post to show you how simple and effective this technique is.

As always, I look forward to your comments and feedback.