Tuesday, 20 March 2018

An Introduction to Enterprise Architecture

An Introduction to Enterprise Architecture

In this series I’m going to be looking at enterprise architecture. Over the last few years many of the projects that I have been involved with have involved complex digital transformation for large organisations. Delivering change in a large organisation can be a complicated and difficult process. The purpose of Enterprise Architecture is to align IT and IT systems to the business goals and objectives. When you break down to that sentence it seems full of common sense and it should be a common sense approach to take. However, business and IT alignment hasn’t always been the case, and in recent years more and more businesses are looking at their IT function as a key business driver as opposed to a cost centre. Enterprise Architecture can help with that… some of the terminology can be confusing and the nature of people who I will call stakeholders in the enterprise and how they react to and resist change can add to the complexity and delivery of enterprise architecture and business change. In this short series we are going to attempt to remove some of the confusion.

There are various tools frameworks and methodologies dedicated to Enterprise Architecture, The Zachman Framework and The Open Groups Architecture Framework being the most common. This series will try and remain framework neutral but we will make reference to these frameworks as we go along, and call on them where they provide a useful definition.  Just a caveat to note, we are TOGAF certified and work extensively with the TOGAF ADM. So if I seem to favour TOGAF over other frameworks you know why.

Lets start with some terminology

What is an Enterprise?

Let’s start by answer a simple question that can sometimes cause a lot of confusion. What is an Enterprise? It causes confusion because it can mean anything from a department that sits inside an organisation or a large organisation that consists of many departments’ suppliers and customers. The latter is called an extended enterprise. TOGAF defines an enterprise as “any collection of organisations that has a common set of goals.”

TOGAF goes on to list some examples including

  • A whole corporation (for example Learning Tree)
  • A single department (IT department)
  • A chain of geographically distant organisations linked by common ownership (I think amazon, amazon distribution and AWS as an example here)

From an enterprise architecture perspective the term enterprise can be used to represent the entire organisation (or extended organisation) or a specific area or department within and organisation. Using a fictitious insurance company as an example the Life Insurance arm of a large insurance company could be represent an enterprise  all of its own.

What is Architecture?

We will also look at some definitions of architecture
ISO defines architecture as
“Fundamental concepts or properties of a system in its environment embodied in its elements, relationships, and in the principles of its design and evolution”
TOGAF embraces but does not strictly adhere to the ISO definition of architecture. In fact in TOGAF architecture can have two meanings, the following is taken from Chapter 3 of the TOGAF document. Section 3.8 which provides a definition of architecure:
1. A formal description of a system, or a detailed plan of the system at component level, to guide its implementation (source: ISO/IEC 42010:2007).
2. The structure of components, their inter-relationships, and the principles and guidelines governing their design and evolution over time.

What is Enterprise Architecture?

What is enterprise architecture? This again is an interesting question that can have many answers. I tend to think of enterprise architecture as being a strategic, business and technology perspective analysis of an enterprise  and documenting an enterprise in its current (as is) and future states (to be).
Enterprise architecture is all about aligning the IT and IT systems to business goals and objectives.
It can be used to optimize legacy sometimes fragments systems and processes into integrated environment that is responsive to change and supports the business’s goals. And as everyone knows you have to change to survive to that end enterprise architecture can help deliver that  change. In the age of digital transformation being a key business enabler understanding what you currently and where you want to get to can help you make key decisions on what needs to change in order to get to the desired future state. I was going to use end state, but you never really get to an end state. Just a state whereby you can change again.

If you do enterprise architecture well you can expect

  • Lower business costs
  • A more agile organisation
  • Business capabilities shared across the organisation
  • More efficient IT operation
  • Lower software development costs
  • Increased application portability
  • Improved ability to support enterprise wide initiatives 
  • Improved and simpler procurement

As you can see in theory Enterprise architecture should bring with it a number of benefits to the organisation. Which is why people spend time and effort in trying to get it right.

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