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Enterprise  Architecture

A conceptual blueprint that defines the structure and operation of an organization, in relation to its target and external environments.

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Concept of Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise Architecture (EA) has become a major focus area in medium and larger companies, but ask anyone who has been involved with Enterprise Architecture for a reasonable basic definition of Enterprise Architecture, you would probably get a different answer every time. If you read all the web blogs, articles and responses thereto on Enterprise Architecture one has to come to a conclusion - Enterprise Architects have a different opinion on about every facet of our profession.

Before we get to the detail, how best can we then explain what our concept is of Enterprise Architecture?

Enterprise Architecture or rather the lack thereof can best be explained through an example such as the Winchester Mystery House.


In 1884 Sarah Winchester moved to what was then a rural area near San José, California. There, she purchased an eight-room farmhouse on more than 160 acres of land. Very shortly, a work crew began a perpetual construction project which would ultimately last for nearly forty years.

Construction was continuous, with a team of 16 men always at work and well-paid. There was no plan for the house overall, although Sarah Winchester had sketched plans for a number of the rooms individually.

The clear lack of architecture resulted in the cost for such constant building being estimated at about US $5.5 million (if paid in 1922; this would be equivalent to over $71 million in 2010).

There are 160 rooms, including 40 bedrooms, 467 doorways, 950 doors, 6 kitchens, 2 ballrooms (one completed and one unfinished) as well as 47 fireplaces, 10,000 window panes, 17 chimneys (with evidence of two others), two basements and three elevators. Some of the awkward and impractical concepts included:

  • Columns being installed upside down.

  • A window in the floor.

  • Switchback staircase that has seven flights, forty four steps and rises only nine feet.

  • Grand Ballroom cost $9,000 where an entire house was estimated to cost less than $1,000!

  • A window that opened onto the top of a flight of steps.

  • 20,000 gallons of paint per year.

  • Front porch never used to receive guests, even President Roosevelt.

As systems become more complex, they generally require a bigger focus on architecting.

Why Enterprise Architecture

Why EA

The field of enterprise architecture essentially started in 1987, with the publication in the IBM Systems Journal of an article titled "A Framework for Information Systems Architecture," by J.A. Zachman. In that paper, Zachman laid out both the challenge and the vision of enterprise architectures that would guide the field for many years. The challenge was to manage the complexity of increasingly distributed systems. As Zachman said:

The cost involved and the success of the business depending increasingly on its information systems require a disciplined approach to the management of those systems.

The field initially began to address two problems:

  • System complexity - Organisations were spending more and more money building IT systems; and

  • Poor business alignment - Organisations were finding it more and more difficult to keep those increasingly expensive IT systems aligned with business need.

These problems, first recognized more than 20 years ago, have today reached a crisis point. The cost and complexity of IT systems, people, facilities, data, etc have exponentially increased, while the chances of deriving real value from those systems have dramatically decreased. Today's bottom line: even more cost, even less value. Large organizations can no longer afford to ignore these problems.

The current economic condition in which we reside has given rise to particularly challenging times. Events in the financial sectors and other corresponding industry sectors have had a substantial impact on our products and services. Although there is much debate by economists on the length, depth, and impact of the economic crisis, we can safely assume that it will not go away in the foreseeable future.

With this new economic condition, companies cannot allow their decision makers to be misaligned with their priorities as a business. Creating alignment with the business through its architects is imperative. The architect is at the centre of most major business decisions, by either making the decision or being an advisor to the decisions in question. This realignment will naturally shift the priorities for architects. This can be seen with the current trends and activities in the market, such as:

  • Doing more with less. Most organisations will have lower budgets, but they will need to continue to have better service-level agreements (SLA) as they did in the past.

  • Trimming existing project costs. In the same vein as “doing more with less,” trimming project costs are immediate and tactical activities that will determine the course of specific IT and business directions. Specifically, big projects will become more pragmatic and actionable, instead of ambitious and multiyear initiatives.

  • Mergers and acquisitions (M&A). As market conditions become more climactic, industries will consolidate. IT systems have proliferated through every aspect of the business. Typically, companies have various implementations of similar process and technologies; nevertheless, they are different. More than ever, architects are needed who can understand and provide insight into technologies in the M&A decision-making process.

  • Revitalizing the skills base. People are an asset; they represent the whole of a company. Decision makers have an opportunity to revitalize their leadership and technical acumen in these tough times to make better decisions, grow the business, and take advantage of the economic crisis as a time of innovation.

The history of the field goes back more than 20 years, but the field is still rapidly evolving, under-skilled, non-professional, lacks track record, lacks formality, lacks standards, is still not applied correctly, often fails to deliver success and is expensive, yet we cannot do without it.

Our opinion is that Enterprise Architecture is not about the art of drawing pictures or models of an organisation. It is about the art of turning the minimum models and related information into the maximum business benefit for the organisation. The rate of change in external- and target environmental factors is increasing exponentially; therefore change implementation capability has to be enhanced exponentially. Enterprise Architecture is about establishing control over change, rapidly, accurately, and efficiently effects the required change, and still ensures longevity of the solutions impacted by the change.

One could say that the mission of Enterprise Architecture is to provide, in full partnership with the business, a comprehensive view of the enterprise wide business architecture, its processes, information systems and technology requirements, through a formal methodology, state of the art tool-sets and expert facilitation skills, to enable the timeous delivery of integrated business solutions.

So, what value does it add to have control over Enterprise Architecture?

  • Enables understanding of the context of business activities by providing one common overview model of your business.

  • Impact prediction and quantification.

  • Explicit focus on strategic priorities to ensure fast paths for getting quick business results.

  • Making the “invisible” visible and manageable. Helps to better understand the business.

  • Defines the business’ processes, needs and relationships.

  • Well-represented rules to minimise risk of failure of business and change utilisation.

  • The intelligent scanning of the external environment and the controlled alignment of the internal environments with it.

  • Providing a “common language” for change management and taking quick control over business wide change management.

  • Enables you to contain the effect of business change; to accurately deliver business change and to affect it in a controlled manner.

  • Configuration management is implicit.

  • Business system re-development and maintenance are totally optimised.

  • Ensures natural boundaries between business processes. This implies the most optimal organisation structure with the most economical execution of business. It reduces redundancy, unnecessary overlap, unnatural gaps and chasms between components of business and systems, as well as ensures a seamless integration.

  • Enables one to spend quality time and focus on one’s own business area.

  • Provides a foundation on which to apply appropriate technologies.

  • Aligns opinions and understanding of business domain experts.

  • Ensures integrated solutions.

  • Required to scope and prioritise projects.

  • Build and maintain a repository for:

    • Business model and value chain.

    • Processes.

    • Information value chain and navigation.

    • Impact analysis.

    • All models.

    • Data warehouse.

    • Objects.

    • Technologies used.

    • Etc.

What does Enterprise Architecture Deliver

  • Designs of business, process, organisation, applications, technology and information.

  • Universally available Meta information.

  • Incrementally generated documentation and specifications.

  • Alignment of solutions to business requirements.

  • Migration priorities from existing to desirable future state.

  • Speedy, structured and accurate change management.

  • Change anticipation, initiation and scoping.

  • It also provides an audit trail of essential “documentation” for the entire change process.

  • Guardians of the methodology process (Continuous Business Engineering).

  • Guide the process from business need to implementation of integrated solution.

  • Viewpoints of any design component in the business in context with the components around it.


Who benefits from Enterprise Architecture 

Who Benefits
  • The Business. By ensuring that the business and organisation structure reflects the business’ strategy.

  • The Business. By ensuring that its processes and technology requirements are always aligned.

  • Project Management. By being provided the programme portfolio, the strategically derived priorities, expert facilitation skills, precise project scoping, impact analysis and modelling.

  • Application Developers. By providing comprehensive systems design, application and data analysis detail.

  • Solution Providers. By ensuring integrated processes and systems from a business need to implementation.

  • Technology Implementers. Through the timeous identification of future business requirements we can better facilitate implementations of technologies like data warehouse, workflow, enterprise resource planning, packaged solutions, etc. Through the custodianship of Configuration Management.

  • Executives. It enables information and decision support needs, by maintaining a comprehensive information repository.

  • Executives. By pro-actively determining the effect of the business intelligence it collects.

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