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An Introduction to Enterprise Architecture and Modern Business

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The Basics Of Enterprise Architecture (EA) And Its Contributions to Modern Business

Enterprise architecture is a discipline and a process in which a holistic view of an entire organization is obtained. It’s also a set of models and diagrams describing an organization’s operations. The purpose of the enterprise architecture framework is to provide a big picture view of how a company’s business capabilities, information, and technology work together. Think of it as a blueprint that helps to strategically define and optimize your organization’s operations. A good enterprise architecture should allow you to identify the most effective ways to achieve your company’s current and future objectives and goals.

The Components of Enterprise Architecture

An effective enterprise architecture should provide a comprehensive view of your company, which means it should address all of the different components of your organization. A true enterprise architecture should consist of these five elements:

  1. Business Architecture – Business architecture defines your business capabilities and business functions (including finance, manufacturing, marketing, and sales functions) and how they relate to one another. 
  2. Process Architecture – Process architecture defines your business process streams and value streams, such as Prospect to Customer, Order to Cash, Manufacturing to Distribution, and Request to Service.
  3. Information/Data Architecture – Information architecture identifies and classifies the data that is important to your company, how that data is structured, how that data is related, and how it will be maintained. This data includes customer data, product data, and more in the form of document files, spreadsheets, databases, images, and more. 
  4. Application Architecture – Application architecture defines the application portfolio, which consists of the systems and applications required to support your business capabilities and value streams. It helps to define the interactions among your organization’s processes and standards. The application architecture will help you build application roadmaps and identify application lifecycles, which predicts when new applications will be needed or when existing applications will need to be upgraded, replaced, or retired. 
  5. Technical Architecture – Technical architecture defines your organization’s underlying technical infrastructure, including hardware, operating systems, networking solutions, and software components.

Together, these five components will allow you to define successful strategies that enable your organization to operate effectively and efficiently and to achieve your company’s objectives and goals. 

The Origins Of Enterprise Architecture

Although enterprise architecture focuses on the use of technology throughout an organization, the process has been around since the 1960s, before companies became significantly dependent on technology as they are in this day and age. The term “enterprise architecture” originates from a series of documents written by Professor Dewey Walker on Business Systems Planning. One of his students, John Zachmann, helped Professor Walker formulate his documents into the structured format of enterprise architecture. The framework was published by Zachmann in 1987 in the IBM Systems Journal.

In the 1980s, there was a significant increase in business technology, especially as computer systems became more commonplace in the work environment. Zachmann’s enterprise architecture framework was a response to the need for companies to begin considering long-term strategies that would support the rapid growth of technology. While the framework only addressed information technology (IT) in its original application, modern strategies use the architecture framework philosophy to ensure that their entire business is aligned with both technological growth and digital transformation strategies. 

Primary Focus And Goals of EA

Enterprise architecture might seem incredibly broad, but the primary goal should be to improve the efficiency, relevance, and reliability of your business information to facilitate better decision-making over the long run. This is done by using the business requirements of your organization to help evaluate and identify processes that require change, managing those changes efficiently, developing more effective business procedures, and promoting organization-wide communication.  

Organizational Structure Designing

Enterprise architecture planning will help you design the structure of your organization by identifying workflows, procedures, structures, and systems and determining whether they need to be realigned to fit current business goals. If they do require realignment, plans must be made to implement changes.

Business Processes Standardization

Enterprise architecture allows you to evaluate all of your business processes. You can then standardize your business processes based on how effective and efficient current processes are. Standardizing your processes establishes a set of rules that govern what processes your employees should use. The implementation of business processes standardization can:

  • Improve clarity and eliminate ambiguity among employees.
  • Increase productivity since employees will know what processes to use.
  • Improve quality since your processes will be pre-defined and optimized for the most efficient and effective result.
  • Improve the overall customer experience.

Project Portfolio Management

Project portfolio management is a process that allows you to analyze the potential return on a proposed project and that provides a big picture view of past, current, and proposed projects. Enterprise architecture can improve the effectiveness of your project portfolio management by encouraging collaboration and communication between project stakeholders. This will make it easier to identify the dependencies to the achievement of business goals needed for project planning. Enterprise architecture helps to facilitate project portfolio management by identifying the strategic application portfolio and by supporting investment decision-making and work prioritization. 

Engineering Design Process Requirements

The process of defining, documenting, and maintaining the requirements in your engineering design process is vital to the success of your software and systems development. Enterprise architecture will help define what those requirements are much faster and more accurately.

System Development

When developing and testing new systems, enterprise architecture will help to optimize your system designs as well as ensure the most efficient allocation of resources. 

IT Management

Enterprise architecture improves IT management by improving IT value, reducing IT complexity, and managing IT risk. This comes as a result of reducing the implementation costs and operational costs of a system, consolidating data and applications to reduce the complexity of your IT systems and to improve their interoperability, and by reducing the risks caused by system failures and data breaches.

 Benefits Gained From The Practice

In general, an enterprise architecture will help to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your business processes by providing you with a more comprehensive view of how technology is used and integrated throughout every facet of your organization. Your business can directly benefit from Enterprise Architecture in these specific ways:

Meet Business Objectives Faster

Enterprise architecture planning can help improve business processes and data management in a variety of ways, such as through integration agility, eliminating redundancies, implementing automation, injecting modularity, and standardizing processes. All of this will greatly improve your organization’s efficiency, agility, and ability to make quick, informed decisions, which, in turn, will allow you to meet business objectives much faster.

Reduce Risk and Regain Control Over Portfolio

Enterprise architecture planning will help to promote a clearer overall view of your application portfolio, which provides you with more control as well since you’ll actually be able to account for the applications you have implemented and what they’re supposed to be helping to achieve. You’ll also be able to choose new applications more effectively based on how they align with the strategic objectives and enterprise architecture of your organization.  You won’t be investing in unnecessary applications that do not help (or even worse, slow down) your business processes.

Remove Unnecessary Duplications In Application Portfolio

You may have redundant applications implemented throughout your organization. Through enterprise architecture planning, you’ll be able to take inventory of what applications are being used. You may find that two different departments within your organization are using two different applications that serve the same function. You can choose which application your business will use and then remove the other one. Removing unnecessary duplications in your application portfolio will help reduce costs and streamline your processes.

Enterprise Architecture Planning (EAP) Methodologies

Because enterprise architecture as a framework is a higher level of abstraction meant to address your entire organization, you’ll want to use different methodologies that help address individual needs and business units. There are many different methodologies that are being practiced today; however, we’ve compiled  a few of the methodologies that are commonly used for enterprise architecture planning:

The Open Group Architectural Framework (TOGAF)

The TOGAF framework is arguably the most popular enterprise architect framework currently on the market with over 80 percent of the world’s leading enterprises having adopted it. The TOGAF framework allows you to establish a standardized approach to enterprise architecture through the use of a common vocabulary, recommended tools and software, suggested standards, compliance methods, and a method to define the best practices. 

The Zachman Framework

Named after John Zachman, the use of the Zachman framework helps to standardize and define your organization’s IT architecture components and outputs using six architectural focal points and six primary stakeholders. The Zachman framework is often referred to as a taxonomy (practice of classification) by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CTIA), which is one of the top trade associations in the IT industry.

Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF)

In 1996, the Clinger-Cohen Act was passed, establishing mandates for improving how federal agencies obtain, use, and dispose of technology. In response to this new mandate, the FEAF was introduced. This framework was specifically designed for federal agencies to facilitate the shared development of common processes and information ; however, private companies can use it as well. 

Department of Defense Architecture Framework (DoDAF)

The DoDAF is a framework designed for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to facilitate the ability of managers to make better decisions at all levels through organized information sharing throughout the DoD. Because it was designed for the DoD, the DoDAF is built for bigger systems to help address complicated interoperability and integration challenges. 

Gartner

When Gartner bought The Meta Group back in 1995, it introduced its best practices for enterprise architecture planning. These practices were then integrated into their general consulting practices. Although they do not constitute a single framework, Gartner’s set of practices are recognized as a practical methodology for focusing on business outcomes by CompTIA.

Hybrid / Custom Approach

Every framework is different. They serve different purposes, are different in scope, are based on different principles, are supported by different approaches, and have different structures. Some companies may find that there’s no single framework that is capable of meeting all of their specific needs. If this is the case for your organization, you could choose a custom approach by building a hybrid framework. You can do this by choosing the components you need from different frameworks and leveraging those components to create the architecture, customize your framework to your needs, and then develop the principles for your practices. 

Your Enterprise Architecture is a Reflection of Your Entire Business Architecture

Modern businesses need to remain flexible when it comes to keeping up with and implementing new technologies across their organization. They also need to make sure that the technology that they do implement is done so in an efficient and effective manner that aligns with their business goals. Neither of these is possible without a clear view of your organization’s structure and how its information, business, and technology work together. It’s why enterprise architecture planning is such an important approach. A good enterprise architecture can reduce costs, improve processes, improve results, and help ensure that you’re running a sustainable business.

Need more information about how you can apply this to your business? Consult with our experts today!


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