Enterprise Architecture: A Different Perspective

I had the pleasure to host a session by Dr Tim O’Neill at the BCS Enterprise Architecture Specialist Group a few weeks ago.

Dr O’Neill is the faculty of Engineering and IT at the University of Technology, Sydney, though currently he is based at Oxford, UK. Dr O’Neill offered some fresh perspectives on the practice of Enterprise Architecture which in turn triggered some thoughts and impressions in my mind. Summarising those thoughts in this post for the Enterprise Architecture community referencing purposes

Wooden Dollars of Business & IT Engagement - Enterprise Architecture is often seen as an enabler or framework for business and IT alignment. But should we really stick with this view going forward? The very notion sends wrong message that business and IT are not aligned. May be this also creates an ‘us and them’ culture unintentionally as IT attempts to bridge the so called gap with ‘them - the business’. Business does not need Enterprise Architecture, it needs value and outcomes from the EA function. I have been writing about this flawed concept for some time now. Additional references - The flawed concept of business and IT alignment.

Enterprise Architect vs. Enterprise Modeller - Can we look at Enterprise Architect as an Enterprise Modeller? Does the ‘Architect’ word association drag Enterprise Architecture function towards IT orientation? Enterprise consideration should span beyond IT to include business, operations, finance and other vital organisation functions. Enterprise Architecture modelling versus actual Enterprise Architecture should be a consideration in this engagement. If CIO walks in your office and asks for recommendation on Hardware Strategy by end of the week, you will likely be doing brief modelling activity than an elaborate architecture effort.

Overcoming barriers for the Enterprise Architecture Program - The barriers to succeed for Enterprise Architecture often are lack of value perception, lack of dedicated or enough funding, insufficient or inappropriate resources and lack of understanding by stakeholders. In order to make a case for Enterprise Architecture an organisation needs to setup Enterprise Architecture Practice comprising of Process, Roles, Steps, Governance, Waivers / Design Process. Such a practice will need to automate process using frameworks, build repository. More importantly it will need to measure the benefits of Enterprise Architecture delivery. Finally communicating the value effectively (charts, dashboards etc) is vital to secure visibility in positive light for the EA effort. Additional reference - Repairing the broken Enterprise Architecture Program

Purpose and Mission of Enterprise Architecture - Boosting cost efficiency or lowering costs of an Enterprise still appear to be one of the biggest Enterprise Architecture drivers. However, Enterprise Architecture is more of a risk mitigation strategy and approach rather than a cost savings tool. Enterprise Architecture enhances predictability. It leads to more reliable planning. A solid proof of this found in popular case study published by Tony Brown where he compared the State of Ohio compensation system development with another state system of similar kind. Ohio State used an approach of Enterprise Architecture while the other state did not. The Brown study established that the architected system of Ohio was built four times faster and the total cost was fraction of the other system. To read more about the Brown study click on http://www.modaf.com/Documents/ and search for Tony Brown. Additional reference - Zachman at BCS, Complexity and Change.

Roles and Partnerships - Enterprise Architect needs to wear different hats in different situations. For instance he or she may play various architecture roles such as Business Architect, Solution Architect, Service or Application Architect while acting as Enterprise Architect. Project Management or Program Management function is a strong partner and ally to make Enterprise Architecture successful. Another influence which Enterprise Architects should use is our friends in Business Intelligence or Management Information department who have mastered the art of presenting right information in right format to right stakeholders.

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  • 1
    malcolm wrote on 16th Mar 2011

    I offer the following observation:

    Systems thinking says

    1) that an enterprise is a complex social system comprising people, technology, structures, purposes etc. (Definition: “system” = “enterprise”)

    2) Any system is best managed as a whole. To adapt and survive an enterprise has to change. For most effective change an understanding of the system is required as well as knowledge of its parts and their interrelations. (Definition: “model” = “simplified abstraction of reality”)

    Thus, when making changes in an enterprise/system an EA model could potentially help the mangers responsible for the changes to identify those likely to be affected by the change. (Note: Assuming the model is static and not dynamic it will be a poor predictor of future performance). So an EA model has potential value as a planning and communications tool.

    However, is it the case an EA model provides a widely accessible and universally adopted representation of the enterprise system and its inherent complexity? Or is just a tool used by IT to plan and execute their technical projects?

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  • 2
    Julian Cox wrote on 16th Mar 2011

    It was unfortunate I missed this presentation, however many of these points were also reflected in this week's presentation by Conrad Thompson and Robert Walker (both PA Consulting) called "How do you really join the Business with IT?".

    1. Business and IT are not 2 separate entities that need joining, however...
    2. Most EA frameworks have 'business' as a box in the corner with many more boxes dedicated to IT aspects, reflecting their IT origins...
    3. Whereas many Business Analysis/Archiotecture frameworks do the reverse - IT is a box in a corner.
    4. What is needed is a balance between and across the two areas.
    5. Architectures don't just change through planned, scoped change activities - they also change over time through operational improvements.

    Just a few summarised points from this week's presentation - hopefully slides will be up on the site soon!

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  • 3
    Dave Sutton wrote on 16th Mar 2011

    Unfortunately I missed the presentation. It would be interesting to know how many of you have considered the wider aspects of an Enterprises Architecture.

    It is understood that IT should be treated as both a Business Unit and also as a provider of systems and infrastructure that support business functions and capability. However I am more concerned with how IT and the common view of EA relates to the wider Enterprise Architecture. Take for example a Utility that undertakes major infrastructure programmes. In addition to modelling the Business Processes and Functions, and IT System and Infrastructure it also needs to model the Business Infrastructures and Information i.e. its Enterprise Architecture.

    A wider Enterprise Architecture would include objects such as The Utility's Connectivity Model, GIS Connectivity Models, Automation Infrastructure, key End User Infrastructure such as Video, Photo, Voice Recordings, GPS, 3G and IT Mobile devices.

    Information models also need to relate to the wider Enterprise and include facilities to support structured and unstructured data, GIS connectivity, Spatial Groupings, Visualisations, Network connectivity, and a range of Hierarchies.

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  • 4
    Robert Walker wrote on 3rd Apr 2011

    The presentation is available on the BCS EA SG secure area (login required).

    https://wam.bcs.org/wam/MenuLoadMaint.exe?LDGP=21415&LDITY=F&LDPID=2539 > Event Presentations > Join Business with IT

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About the author
Amitabh is a senior enterprise architecture practitioner who specialises in business and technology strategy definition, governance, architecture as well as methods and tools. He is an active industry networker, blogger, speaker and contributor to the advancement of enterprise architecture discipline. Currently he is the Chief Technology Officer in Fujitsu Services Private Sector Division.

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