What is Enterprise Architecture and Why You Need it

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In recent years, organisations from medium to large size were seen embracing architecture as a discipline into their IT fold. Unfortunately, in many cases understanding and positioning of EA (Enterprise Architecture) is often confined to one of the many facets of EA, in fact a secondary facet – a technical delivery function. Nevertheless, Enterprise Architecture (EA) is becoming more prevalent than ever before as part of the Digital Transformation Journey.

In spite of establishing its role as a key function in any successful digital transformation initiatives, truth be told, EA often remained an unfulfilled act where it has traditionally been confined within the realms of IT and kept at a distance from the business. With more and more businesses – be it in the retail sector, wholesale sector, oil exploration, hospitality you name it – rapidly realising that IT is the key fabric of their business, CIOs are being more heard at the board than the CFOs and CMOs of the past. Such a paradigm shift in business thinking has seen EA function in many successful organisations gearing up to embrace the opportunity to be an active contributor on business decisions.

I have recently come across a very good youtube video published by Gerben Wierda which explains the fundamentals of EA “Why Enterprise Architecture?” It’s worth a watch before you continue this read.

Enterprise Architecture rightly implemented (as a discipline or a practise) will act as a powerful vehicle which enable organisations to have strategic alignment with all business areas. First step in achieving this is to think of EA beyond the confines of IT and be a strategic partner to the business with its fundamental capability for shaping a Business Architecture. From here evolves the other architecture disciplines, collectively known as known as BDAT or BIAT

B – Business Architecture

D/I – Data / Information Architecture

A – Application Architecture

T – Technology Architecture

The different disciplines of Enterprise Architecture

There is a long observed tendency where IT leadership often demand focus on the solutions for the problem at hand. Starting with solutions without a broader perspective will more often drive higher operating costs in the long run, and leave a disjoint and rigid enterprise IT landscape, for the benefit of some short-term wins.

In order for Digital Transformation programmes to have its impact felt throughout an organisation, it is fundamental to look into Business Architecture which will then produce the necessary artefacts to advise the scope and purpose of any impending Digital Transformation efforts. As such, establishing an EA practice within the organisations is the key for a successful digital transformation.

Enterprise Architecture Framework


EA Framework

Traditionally, any successfully functioning EA practices/disciplines adhered to one of the many well known frameworks or a custom combination of more than one frameworks. A list of the most popular frameworks are listed below

  • ArchiMate – The ArchiMate® Specification, a standard of The Open Group, is an open and independent modeling language for Enterprise Architecture that is supported by different tool vendors and consulting firms.
  • TOGAF – The TOGAF® Standard, a standard of The Open Group, is a proven Enterprise Architecture methodology and framework used by the world’s leading organizations to improve business efficiency.
  • DODAF – The Department of Defense Architecture Framework (DoDAF), Version 2.0 is the overarching, comprehensive framework and conceptual model enabling the development of architectures to facilitate the ability of Department of Defense (DoD) managers at all levels to make key decisions more effectively through organized information sharing across the Department, Joint Capability Areas (JCAs), Mission, Component, and Program boundaries.
  • MODAF – The MOD Architecture Framework (MODAF) is a set of rules that support defence planning and change management activities.
  • NAF – The aim of the NATO Architecture Framework Version 4 (NAFv4) is to provide a standard for developing and describing architectures for both military and business use.
  • Zachman Framework – A classification scheme for EA artifacts launched in the early 1980s by John Zachman, who is considered the father of EA.

Enterprise Architecture

A fully functioning governance structure is quintessential for any successful EA implementation. Make it go overboard and you’ll stall progress for the organisation, whereas under-governance will simply erode the benefits of EA. Hence, striking the right balance is key for success.

At ACS, we pride ourselves in our experience helping organisations adopt the right framework and balanced governance suited for their specific needs.

Finally, I am adding a poster from LeanIX, one of my favourites when it comes to Architecture tools, showing an example of EA governance in an agile world.

Smart Enterprise Architecture in an Agile World
Smart Enterprise Architecture Governance in an Agile World

Concluding Thoughts

In a fast expanding IT universe that demand more and more agility, a traditional approach to EA is not necessarily the right answer. EA has to stay relevant in today’s fast fail/fast learn environments. Nevertheless, the fundamental function of EA – maintaining a hawks eye view of the ever more intertwined Business-IT landscape and connect the dots together, helping the business to stay ahead of the game – remains the key reason to establish an EA practise as the axis of any digital transformation journey.

Contribution from EA should start from the early stages of building a business case for digital transformation to defining the business operating model, formulating digital strategies and solution architectures and governance structure to support a continuous transformation culture within the organisation.

It is inevitable to state that the future of EA will be a collaborative effort between business & IT towards shaping enterprises that

  • have a shared purpose
  • provide good experiences
  • operate on sustainably adaptive architectures

ACS can help businesses in establishing EA practice and in all aspects of Architectural requirements from defining strategies to producing a technical solution. Complete the form for a free consultation and we shall be in touch to understand your specific requirements.

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