The Enterprise Architecture concept has been introduced since 1960 by Zachman. Although it is still not widely introduced for many organizations, It becomes an important topic in Information Technology community and many organizations are trying to understand how it is important to have Enterprise Architecture capability within the organization.
In this article, I will try to illustrate what is Enterprise Architecture, why it is important, and what are the existing practices for that? And how you can start?
In a way to understand the Enterprise Architecture, let us break down the word to understand what is Enterprise and what is the Architecture.
TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework) defines an “enterprise” as any collection of organizations that has a common set of goals. For example, an enterprise could be a government agency, a whole corporation, a division of a corporation, a single department, or a chain of geographically distant organizations linked together by common ownership.
In the later section of the article, I will illustrate what is the TOGAF. So, the enterprise can be a government entity which has a different kind of projects and information system in a way to achieve this entity vision and sustain its operation.
ISO/IEC 42010:2007 defines “architecture” as:
“The fundamental organization of a system, embodied in its components, their relationships to each other and the environment, and the principles governing its design and evolution.”
In TOGAF, “architecture” has two meanings depending upon the context:
- A formal description of a system, or a detailed plan of the system at component level to guide its implementation
- The structure of components, their inter-relationships, and the principles and guidelines governing their design and evolution over time
For more information about Architecture and its definitions and how it is different than design and structure, you can read this article.
Yes, it is still not clear. Let us see an example of a City. The city can be the best analogy for software engineering to describe the architecture, assume that the city is our Enterprise, which has the vision to be a smart city with different facilities and services. The city administrative authorities and units have the same common vision and goals. When the Architect starts to plan the city there are different layers, for example, infrastructures, from cabling, water pipes, sanitation, streets design, building, landscapes, services…etc.
Each layer has his own expert who is specialized to design and implement this layer of the infrastructure of the city. What if these layers are not integrated and you want to modify something or add new infrastructure layer, for example, Gas pipes or new fiber cables. If these layers are not known and overseen by the governance group this can lead to disaster and destructuration of one or more of other layers. There is a need to study the impact and how this change will affect the other layer, is it applicable? Will it add extra value? Can I replace one of the layers or upgrade it easily? How I can communicate this change with different stakeholders and share with them the information in a way each stakeholder can understand and also resolve their concerns. That’s why a blueprint of the city is important to have and visualize the interconnections of all layers, utilities, and services within the city.
In the same way in the digital transformation era, each organization has a need for Enterprise Architecture discipline. Let us now discuss what is the Enterprise Architecture?
What is Enterprise architecture?
Enterprise Architecture is defined as the following:
The organizing logic for business processes and IT infrastructure reflecting the integration and standardization requirements of the firm’s operating model. [Source: MIT Center for Information Systems Research]
A conceptual blueprint that defines the structure and operation of an organization. The intent of an enterprise architecture is to determine how an organization can most effectively achieve it’s current and future objectives.[Source: SearchCIO.com]
Enterprise architecture (EA) is a discipline for proactively and holistically leading enterprise responses to disruptive forces by identifying and analyzing the execution of change toward desired business vision and outcomes. EA delivers value by presenting business and IT leaders with signature-ready recommendations for adjusting policies and projects to achieve target business outcomes that capitalize on relevant business disruptions.[Source: Gartner.com]
The Enterprise Architecture is focusing on 4 cutting concerns of any Enterprise, the business perspective, the application perspective, the information perspective, and the technology perspective. And these perspectives are the main architecture domains.
Why Enterprise Architecture?
The business agility and alignment
The holistic view of the Enterprise is not only from systems and information perspective, if we are conducting projects which are not aligned to the business strategy or not a priority at this time, it will not add any business value, or even has the stakeholders interest which will result in successful or unwanted projects which is a waste of money, time, and resources.
It is important to understand what are business motives and drivers, what is the strategy? how to align the IT projects with this strategy? the new projects can lead to new business processes and new capabilities and skills need to exist within the enterprise.
Moreover, how to adapt faster to the business dynamics and changes, how to ensure that new ideas can transform to real implementation without affecting the current systems and operations
Efficient IT Management
The enterprise architecture provides the blueprint for the existing system, data, and technology domains, that make it easier to know how these systems integrated together how they are dependent on each other.
This will lead also to better management, maintenance, upgrade and support of these systems
Better planning and communication
When you have the Enterprise Architecture ready, with the required new systems and capabilities, it will lead to better planning by putting priorities for implementation, how the organization will manage the migration and transitions from old to new processes or use of new systems. How to manage the change to make it happens. Moreover, this will lead to the better feasibility of procurement cycle, securing the budget, and ensuring the interoperability of the systems.
This will lead to faster time to market and better management of innovations and the establishment new capabilities.
Enterprise Architecture provides the common vocabulary which all stakeholder can understand the holistic blueprint from current to the target state which each stakeholder can view his/her concerns and the evolving of the architecture.
How can you start the Enterprise Architecture?
Enterprise Architecture is not an individual effort, it needs to have organization buy-in and strong leadership and support from the top executives to ensure that they understand and believe in the need of the Enterprise Architecture.
Before we start the discussion of how to establish the Enterprise Architecture Capability, let us discuss what is the Enterprise Architecture Framework.
An architecture framework
is a tool that can be used for developing a broad range of different architectures.
- It should describe a method for designing an information system in terms of a set of building blocks, and for showing how the building blocks fit together.
- It should contain a set of tools and provide a common vocabulary.
- It should also include a list of recommended standards and compliant products that can be used to implement the building blocks.
It means, that the framework is a collection of practices developed by experts who experienced different problems and concerns, and documented that in a framework which contain a methodology on how to apply this methodology to similar or different contexts, and a set of tools to help you analyze, organize the output and document the findings of each phase of the methodology. Moreover, how to ensure compatibility with different standards, policies, and principles.
There are a lot of EA frameworks, the most popular one is the TOGAF which is developed by the open group. Other frameworks like Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF), Gartner EA Framework, and The Zachman Framework for Enterprise Architectures.
It is important for an architect to select the appropriate framework and apply the suitable methodology to fulfill the business needs successfully for the various products, services, and internal organizations they serve
I will not discuss here the different frameworks, I will add different references for who would like to know more about each one of them.
Let us back again on how to establish the Enterprise Architecture Capability. The open group introduced a structured way for that through the Architecture Development methodology.
Architecture Development Method (ADM) Cycle
They considered this capability as project which needs to go through the ADM cycle, as we discussed that you need to get the buy-in of the Enterprise Architecture need and the benefits will impact the organization from this capability, what is the organization model for this project, what is the vision and processes, standards, tailored methodology of applying the EA practice, what are the systems, data, artifacts, will be used across the life cycle, and how you will use them in new EA cycles, how you will manage this transformation and align with different capabilities like Project Management, Governance, and Services Management.
How you will govern the Enterprise architecture practice and ensure the compliance of standards and the organization’s principles, and manage the change.
I have been through this experience, It was tough to find suitable resources to tell how to start, there are a lot of consulting companies can help to establish this capability through the defined process. Although the best way to start is to read TOGAF specifications, it is available online through this link. It is important to start educating the team about the Enterprise Architecture, why it is important to have it within the organization? How you can manage the change through top down or bottom up approach, without leadership engagement and dedication to have this capability, it may lead to nothing at the end.
If you have more question regarding Enterprise Architecture, I will be more than happy to help. I added some slides to summarize Enterprise Architecture through TOGAF framework.
- A Historical Look at Enterprise Architecture with John Zachman. (2015, January 23). Retrieved October 20, 2017, from https://blog.opengroup.org/2015/01/23/a-historical-look-at-enterprise-architecture-with-john-zachman/
- TOGAF® Version 9.1. Retrieved October 20, 2017, from http://pubs.opengroup.org/architecture/togaf9-doc/arch/index.html
- What is enterprise architecture (EA)? – Definition from WhatIs.com. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2017, from http://searchcio.techtarget.com/definition/enterprise-architecture
- Enterprise Architecture – EA. (2017, February 15). Retrieved October 20, 2017, from https://www.gartner.com/it-glossary/enterprise-architecture-ea/
- Sessions, R., & DeVadoss, J. (2014). A Comparison of the Top Four Enterprise Architecture Approaches. Retrieved October 20, 2017.