Today IT is becoming more complex in every company and globalization requires handling bigger business context (such as joint-venture between companies, multiple lines of business, fast changing landscapes…); in this case a structured approach to dominate complexity, analyze nearly chaotic business and IT current landscape and take the right decisions is mandatory; Enterprise Architecture enable this kind of approach.
Enterprise Architecture (shortly named EA) is a holistic representation of all the components of the enterprise structure and its technology, which comprises enterprise reusable components, and the externally visible properties of those reusable technology components. The scope of the enterprise architecture includes the people, processes, information and technology of the enterprise, and their relationships to one another and to the external environment. In addition, nowadays business developments, such as outsourcing, partnerships, alliances, and electronic data interchange, extend the need for architecture also across company boundaries. this means that EA is not limited to the internal organization, but includes customers, business partners, and external systems
EA contains many type of different information which can be grouped in three main contexts:
- Business context: business model, organization structure and business process dealing with intra-organizational processes, inter-organizational cooperation and coordination
- Information context: business information entities (e.g., customer and products) and how they correlate each other (e.g., customers’ orders and products) to support the business context
- Technology context: applications, platforms, infrastructure, interfaces, software and all other IT-related assets which together run information systems supporting business context and managing information needs.
This EA approach can show big advantages at least in three following areas.
EA enable a common language to communicate and create a shared understanding across and throughout the enterprise, providing a very formal structure and a standard terminology for all business and technical components. For instance, the deﬁnition of the term ”sales” may have vastly different meanings for those who work in Selling and Finance.
Secondly EA show its full potential when you need to dominate complexity; this means that if you need to take decision for a specific application EA does not provide a real advantage but in more complex scenarios involving many application and application domains EA can play a relevant role and can provide concrete support for decision making. EA provide a way to understand enterprise complexity through decomposition and evolution of the enterprise away from organizational functions and towards a component based structure. This is achieved through the creation of a number of interconnected architectural views, with the various reference models breaking Enterprise Architecture down into manageable areas, and different levels of abstraction, usually including strategic, operational, and technical perspectives.
Finally it is also critical for communicating easily and effectively because technology and business departments must work together in order to remain in line with the strategic objectives of the company, but also because it is critical to sell IT strategic concepts to senior executives and business managers. This should be a continual practice of education, and the setting of both financial and business expectations to ensure that any concerns about loss of control, or other political considerations is addressed. Communication lines should remain open all the time to make certain that there are no surprises for the organization’s management.
As said before Enterprise Architecture is a model, meaning that it is a snapshot of how the technical and business works in a certain point in time which usually is set to the current one (AS IS situation) and the target one (expected TO BE situation in 2-3 years from now).
AS IS snapshot is used in a documentation fashion; defining exactly how it is that the current enterprise functions and interrelates each other. The AS IS provides current standards and definitions; these are helpful for interoperability, interchange of information, and integration of the business processes. In this way Enterprise Architecture provides the essential blueprints for the communication, interpretation, and implementation of value drivers throughout the organization. Indeed EA models enable the definition and documentation of the Enterprise, overcoming the main issue of poor communication by documenting the architecture to convey the descriptions to different stakeholders in the organization such as Business Management, CxO, CIO, PMOs, Governance team leaders, Chief Architect or Enterprise/Technical Architect.
TO BE is used as a target definition for a future state. In this role, EA application is a framework which can be used to assess new projects and investments providing insights into what projects should be done, by doing gap analysis between the AS IS and TO BE architectures.
As a first cut three types of architectures can be identified which are Business, IT Conceptual and Executive one; each realm requires a different level of involvement from the architects.
In the Business Architecture the IT Architect mainly serves as a translator from the business leadership to provide the direction and sets the boundaries needed to evolve the system landscape; in this case the word IT becomes “the Technologies of the Enterprise” and the ﬁrst question becomes “What should the technologies of the enterprise do?”.
In the IT Conceptual Architecture the IT Architect acts as the creator; in this realm the word IT turns into “the Systems” or “the System Landscape”. The IT Conceptual Architecture is the fundamental communication vehicle for the architect towards all the stakeholders. Once the IT Conceptual Architecture has been completed, the architects can more effectively inﬂuence the outcome of system implementation and help in the prioritization of the technology projects presented.
Finally, in the IT Executive Architecture, the IT Architect play the role of mentor for the people (system designer, developer, …) implementing the changes to the enterprise; in this case the word IT become “the Project” or “the System”. IT Executive Architecture focuses on a speciﬁc application/system and primarily set the guidelines for implementation activities. It can be consider the most detailed of the architectural processes and has a domain or application speciﬁc focus.
Exhibit 14 – Enterprise Architecture Framework
In this layered view of architectures, the Capabilities are the components that constitute the glue that link the Business world (Business Model and Business Operating Model) with the IT world (IT Architectural model and the IT Operating Model). The capability view of the business provides an abstraction of the business assets and needs which provides the high-level foundation for alignment between Business and IT.
In the following paragraphs we will analyze in more detail the Strategic (or Business) and then Conceptual (or Functional, Information, Application and Technological) architectures. Due to its detailed focus on just only a single system, the Executive Architecture is not relevant for the IT Strategy definition, this is the reason why we will not cover this part in our book.
In next post we will briefly describe the Architecture Model components (Business, IT Concepual and IT Executive Architectures).
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