Avolution ABACUS Review

An out of the box tool that creates reports on the fly that can help your client make better decisions


What is our primary use case?

When a client is looking for information on how to leverage an EA tool or how to look at the analysis that can come from an EA repository using the tool to create reports and dashboards, I can demonstrate that to them. 

I can demonstrate capabilities of what EA tools should be doing and how they should be doing it. 

Whether the client has a current tool in place or not, I can compare the information that needs to be gathered when you're documenting your architecture. Then I can tell the client that this is why the information is important to document. It may seem trivial or non-important at the time but it's important for later on because it allows for analysis and to do things such as project interdependencies reporting. This provides the ability to identify lags in the project delivery, where projects may depend on capabilities being in place but are not in place already. You will now have a lag for another project that is going to deliver early.

It gives you things for capability overlaps, gaps, and standards. 

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature is that it has a customizable meta-model, which is key. It has extensive uses of catalogs, which can also be called inventories or taxonomies, and that is important as an enterprise architect. A solution designer would need that.

Rather than starting from scratch, leveraging a section of the predetermined solution and then plugging it into the solution that they're trying to develop provides interoperability or greater potential for it.

One of the key things that Abacus does is that it has a 3D modeling capability that can identify multiple levels of connectivity of components through their 3D views.

An example is looking at if A is connected to B and B is connected to C and C is connected to D and so on, you can have multiple levels of connectivity which wouldn't necessarily be obvious because you don't document it. The tool makes the connection for you.

If you are going to change the tactical standard in your organization and you were going to make everything TCP/IPv6 and you are no longer going to use V4, everything has to be V6. You will want to know what the impact is going to be before you make the change. How many different solutions and how many different systems are out there that you have to change or modify.

You can do an impact assessment through Abacus. You can then model it better and you can manage your standards, and also you can manage your solutions simultaneously.

You can see which capabilities may impact where you wouldn't normally connect a standard to a business function or a business capability.

You can also do it through this nth degree of connectivity. It's making it less complex, but more aware of your business environment.

A good example would be if you were going to remodel your home and you want to know where every electrical plug-in is and what fuse it is connected to. That would be very helpful before just going in there and guessing. It's a lot more, as it will tell you if you have different levels of connectivity. For example, you want to go in and change one thing, but what is that change going to do? While you can change a fuse or a receptacle, if you don't know what it touches then you are going to shock yourself.

Another great feature is that you can create reports on the fly.

It's a role-based tool, where you can identify who can change what type of models. They have different permissions and you can manage those very easily within the tool.

One of the things I like about this tool is that you can do an "as is" and "to be" set of models and you can compare them.

What needs improvement?

It's an out-of-the-box capable tool. For myself, I think that it works extremely well and it's very useful because, for the most part, I know what I am doing. For some of the functionality, it might be a little complicated for people getting started.

The reporting could be easier to configure.

In the next release, I would like to be able to float some more menus. When I am inputting information about an object into the database, getting that information entered can be done in multiple ways. This is good but sometimes you have to go to a different screen in order to input additional information.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using this solution for three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

This is a stable solution and I have not had any problems with it.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I know that it's scalable. It's out there and has been in use. I assume that it is going to be very scalable.

I plan to use it more. At this time I am using a lot of the built-in repositories or examples that they have to create examples for my clients. I am going to start to try to populate my type of examples with what I can see as being particularly useful for clients to be able to leverage.

How are customer service and technical support?

I have contacted technical support and asked them how to do things. 

They have contacted me back with no problems and got it to work.

The technical support is more than fair.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Previously, I used ProVision. I started with it when it was a Proforma company, which was approximately in 2004 and 2005. Then they were bought out. It was sold to a couple of companies. The first was Metastorm and then it was bought out for that tool by OpenText. When OpenText bought it, the product was shelved in many ways. They didn't appear to want to evolve anything and just left it to die. Many companies will buy their competitors, then they disappear and then all of a sudden it's released as a new solution.

The tool is very useful, but it was more of a business process management with some EA and more EA functionality being built into it. 

The tools are expensive, as they are very niche tools.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was straightforward. I am the only user on my laptop, it's not like I am putting it in an enterprise solution. They have enterprise solutions and they are quite robust.

The setup may be straightforward for one computer but maybe a bit more complex for and enterprise situation.

It took a couple of hours to deploy.

I downloaded the software, then got my license and went through the steps that they provided and I was up and running.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

To get a fairly extensive license for Enterprise Architects from Spark is approximately US $400.00, maybe less, but with Avolution Abacus it was approximately US $2000.00 per year, and that includes maintenance with the Abacus tool.

There are no additional costs other than the licensing fees.

What other advice do I have?

Working with enterprise architecture, I set up the practice and evaluate the client's practices to see where they can leverage more consistent procedures and help with their program development.

Most of my experience in IT solutions is on the documentation of solutions through EA tools as opposed to getting into the details of the actual solutions and the internal workings of them.

From a recent email, Avolution has released a change being made in the latest version and they are explaining what changes need to be done. People who are on servers hosted by Avolution, need to log off by a certain time. You can host a solution either within your enterprise or they can host it for you.

A tool is only as useful as the people using it, so you want to have the training program associated with anything to get people aware of what models to use or what type of templates, viewpoints, or standards that need to be associated and then they can work with that. What you don't want is to have them going in and start changing things, as that would have catastrophic impacts.

Understand how you want to analyze your enterprise information and how you want to leverage that to make better decisions, and that will tell you what features of any tool you need to be considered as fundamental.

For example, if you are going to allow people to put information into a tool with no standardized approach, no rigorous rules, and no procedure on how to do things, then any tool will do because you are not going to get anything out of it. It's going to be garbage in and nothing out. Many organizations will go and buy a tool thinking that it will solve their problem but the tools won't solve the problem unless they understand how they want to leverage it to make better decisions.

You have to keep with it because this solution has so many options and features. I keep learning and I just have to review the tutorials if I have forgotten how to do something. It's not a one-person tool, it's multifaceted. It's role-based and just trying to go through and trying to do everything is a bit overwhelming.

One person can manage it but that also gives you the wrong impression too. You must understand how you want people or organizations to see how to leverage the tool and then assign building the catalogs of a process reference model or a technical reference model. You need to assign that to people to do, you are not going to do it all yourself.

In populating information about the projects, you have to delegate that to the project management office to make sure that they give you the information that you need. At this time, I have a client who's the federal government here and project managers don't like to be questioned or have to put more into a tool. 

it's a very powerful tool. It does what an enterprise architect needs it to do and it supports the business in knowing more about the business so that they can do better.

I would rate this solution a nine out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Private Cloud
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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