What Enterprise Architecture Does for Organizations

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Enterprise Architecture helps growing businesses and corporations to realize their strategic goals. It applies architectural principles to help large or growing organizations to navigate the changes that influence business, information, and technology in the modern world.

Enterprise Architecture supports businesses in creating competitive advantages, reducing risk, and promoting cost-efficiency and scalability.

Enterprise Architecture (EA) came about in the 1960s. In a series of papers, Professor Dewey Walker laid out the needs of, and possible solutions for, business systems planning. But it was his student, John A. Zachman, who developed the basic concept of Enterprise Architecture. His concept began receiving attention after he had an article on it published in 1987.

Digitalization (the conversion of pictures, sound, and text into a digital format) has had a significant impact on Enterprise Architecture. The large amounts of information being processed can be difficult to direct and organize intelligently. In a large organization, efficiency (and creativity) are often lost as a result of bureaucracy. Additionally, a large organization with a monolithic computer architecture can become difficult to manage. Enterprise Architecture provides a model of how data and information should flow and be stored. It essentially puts all staff of the same page and minimizes confusion.

Some businesses use EA, not just a description of their Data Architecture style, but as a functioning philosophy for improving how the business works. For these organizations, Enterprise Architecture provides a path to move from the present into a more desirable future. Enterprise Architecture helps to:

  • Provide a big picture, long-term view
  • Develop the organization’s systems and processes with a focus on business strategy
  • Develop a system of steps and procedures for staff to support the organization of data
  • Ensure consistency and integration
  • Develop a roadmap of projects that help to realize the organization’s goals

The Benefits of Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise Architecture helps large or growing organizations merge their IT infrastructure with their business goals. This practice promotes the translation of strategies into understandable, clearly defined procedures, processes, and technological requirements. This translation process is considered by many to be EA’s greatest strength.

According to Marcus Blosch, Vice President Analyst at Gartner:

“By 2021, 40 percent of organizations will use enterprise architects to help ideate new business innovations made possible by emerging technologies. EA and technology innovation leaders must use the latest business and technology ideas to create new revenue streams, services and customer experiences.”

In today’s complex world of multi-clouds and hybrid clouds, IT systems have become extremely complicated. A well-defined Enterprise Architecture promotes a comprehensive understanding of the entire business and has the potential to show the changes needed for optimizing an organization’s infrastructure.

An optimized infrastructure is more efficient and reduces costs. This type of architecture allows organizations to break down data silos and makes it easier to make changes, such as adding a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) or microservices architecture.

Business Architecture

Business Architecture organizes information to deal with a variety of business tasks and processes (end‐to‐end value delivery, capabilities, organizational structure, and information), as well as the relationships with these businesses. Business Architecture acts as a bridge between the enterprise business model and strategy, and the business functions of the enterprise. It should primarily focus on business motivations, operations, and analysis frameworks. Business architecture should be seamlessly integrated with Enterprise Architecture efforts within the organization.

According to Randy Heffner, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research:

“Simply positioning business architecture as a layer on top of existing EA domains is a mistake. Traditionally many organizations have pursued EA as Enterprise Technical Architecture (ETA). ETA is technology-centered. Business architecture is business-centered. Simply layering it on top of ETA will result in tech-centered silo implementation.”

Governance Architecture

The goal of EA Governance is to harmonize the components of an organization’s computer system with its policies, procedures, processes, and goals — thereby ensuring an organization’s plans and standards are used in projects and during business transactions. It is generally considered a good practice to proactively provide governance for projects and concepts during the early stages.

Shadow IT (an underground system built and used within an organization, but without its approval) has become a realistic concern. These underground systems may cause an organization to act against their own policies (such as GDPR).

Defining Enterprise Architecture can help to better understand whether an organization is meeting its compliance goals. Governance includes:

  • A Corporate Strategy: This defines the company, describing what it is and how it competes.
  • Product Strategy: Describes a company’s products/services, and how it markets them.
  • Functional Strategies: Defines how the company operates.
  • IT Tactical Plans and Execution: Implementation processes and tracking mechanisms.

Information Architecture

Information Architecture is often a part of Enterprise Architecture’s design, and deals with the information aspects describing the structure of an enterprise. The role of information architecture ranges from applying information science to designing the user experience. Understanding the interdependence of content, context, and users is quite important when implementing it. These interdependent aspects of information architecture can be defined as:

  • Content: content objectives, document and data types, volume, existing structure, governance and ownership
  • Context: business goals, funding, politics, culture, technology, resources, constraints
  • Users: audience, tasks, needs, information-seeking behavior, experience

Applications Architecture

Application Architecture is a common support system for Enterprise Architecture. It describes the performance and behavior of applications being used by an organization, with a focus on how the apps interact with one another and with users.

This architecture is concerned with the data being consumed and produced by the applications. The Applications Architecture is specified on the basis of business and functional requirements. This involves defining the interaction between application packages, databases, and middleware systems in terms of functional coverage. This helps identify any integration problems or gaps in functional coverage. A migration plan can then be drawn up for systems that are at the end of the software life cycle or have inherent technological risks.

Applications Architecture tries to ensure the suite of applications being used by an organization to create the composite architecture is scalable, reliable, available, and manageable.

Technology Architecture

Technology Architecture describes, in detail, the various components needed to meet an organization’s objectives and the rules governing them. This architecture is focused on three basic tiers:

  • The Server: This is generally hardware, and provides the basic computing power for the entire organization.
  • The Middleware: Typically software, and provides the infrastructure used to run the hardware and keep the information flowing. These are the tools used by the IT people.
  • The Client: Hardware and software provide accessibility to the user, allows them to access data and tools the business has available.

Additionally, many useful documents can be created with this architecture that provide descriptions of how the tiers are organized and administered. These are:

  • Products: The hardware and software that is used by the architecture.
  • Standards and Guidelines: Rules for the use of the various assets.
  • Services: The features and functions the architecture provides.
  • Principles: Guiding ideas the architecture is based on.
  • Policies: Rules designed enforce the principles used with the architecture.

Upgrades to Enterprise Architecture

Mars, Incorporated is a global supplier in food, confectionery, and pet nutrition, as well as veterinary services. They were faced with continuous marketplace disruptions. In 2017, they started a digital transformation, and instituted EA practices and a digital transformation roadmap, which included analytics, IT modernization, data, automation, AI, machine learning, and continuous improvement.

They invested in agile, user centricity, and next-generation technologies as the best way to deliver the solutions. Their strategy included a top-down approach that was fed from their business priorities, and a bottom-up approach based on rationalizing applications and legacy technology.

Areas where Mars, Inc., saw improvements within their organization included:

  • Improved Speed and Agility: Mars established a three-mode architecture designed to offer fit-for-purpose services, increased speed, and improved customer value. They provided workshops that developed strategic plans and solutions.
  • A Collaboration Culture: Mars’ architecture brought their IT teams, vendors, and integration partners together to foster “collaborative decision-making.”
  • An Outward-facing Approach: Mars partnered with external industry experts to broaden their perspective of digital business and IT leadership teams. The outside-in approach provides experience to better develop solutions, increase their operational efficiency, and to work with agility.
  • Aligning Digital Transformation: They designed a blueprint that successfully employed a digital reference model and connected capabilities, priorities, trends, and goals.

The Future of Enterprise Architecture Includes AI

Enterprise Architecture focuses on the relationships of people, information, processes, and technology within an organization. Artificial intelligence will be merged with EA, automating processes to improve business efficiency and reduce friction.

Gartner has predicted AI technologies will become widespread in nearly every new software product and service by 2020. They predict, by 2022, 50 percent of the Enterprise Architecture programs on the market will be using AI-enabled software for governance, assurance, planning, and IT asset management.

Image used under license from Shutterstock.com

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