Enterprise Architecture considers the enterprise as a system where information flows between groups, departments, divisions, or subsidiary companies, with the intent of providing the customer a timely and unique product or service.
Enterprise architecture looks at the applications, processes, and information as it moves through the organization to identify where additional information may be beneficial to the internal decision making, or could benefit the customer experience. Note that customers can be both internal and external, and that information access should be based on authenticated identity.
Enterprise Architecture must be able to answer the following questions:
- What is the organizations primary business / purpose?
- What are the organization's priorities?
- What are the organization's capabilities?
- What external regulatory requirements are relevant (GDPR, federal, state, local, etc.)?
- How does the organization effectively address and maintain regulatory compliance, while enabling the business to operate as securely and efficiently as possible?
- Where is the organization growing, and how can Enterprise Architecture facilitate the growth?
Developing an Enterprise Architecture (EA) is a significant effort that may take years to design and fully integrate into the business processes and culture. Because EA is a large effort that effects the entire enterprise by definition, it often helps to start with an initial target area that is well defined. This makes the initial efforts more manageable and allows the organization to observe the process and impacts to understand the benefits. Seeing results in the initial target area allows others in the enterprise to understand and consider what benefits they may be able to achieve in their own area.
Another way to accelerate the success of EA is by engaging an experienced consultant that understands the industry, regulatory landscape, and market direction. This can significantly decrease the design and planning time and increase the deployment & adoption speed.
There are several frameworks to develop and maintain an EA based on the industry and regulatory environment for the enterprise. Some examples include:
- FEA – Federal Enterprise Architecture framework; used in the US Federal government departments and agencies.
- Gartner - Developed by Gartner for private industry. It uses a custom framework and methods.
- TOGAF - The Open Group Architecture Framework. Developed over time across multiple industries to include tools and methods that can be adapted to most enterprises. The advantage is that it is well known. The disadvantage is that the practitioners have to select the appropriate tools to apply to the specific implementation.
- The Zachman Framework - Developed by John Zachman who was one of the pioneers of Enterprise Architecture. It describes the enterprise by developing a taxonomy of information within the enterprise and describes information connections across the enterprise. By analyzing how: data, function, network, people, time, and motivation are experienced through the perspectives of planner, owner, designer, builder, subcontractor, and enterprise; the Zachman framework illustrates how your company can optimize operations.
The above four examples are well established, but there are several other frameworks designed to optimize organizational functioning such as: DDAF (US) Department of Defense Architecture Framework, IT-COBIT, IT-ITIL, PEAF, and SOA. Each of these frameworks are designed to document & optimize functions within/across an organization or develop and illustrate a particular aspect of the organization.
Selecting the framework for your organization may seem simple based the industry. i.e. a federal agency may be required to use the FEA, however, if a majority of the agency work is performed via subcontracts, the EA may be more easily developed and more effective by using a framework that the subcontractor personnel are already familiar with. Surveying the environment to understand the population effected (who will be performing the architecture practices) and the existing knowledge base, may lead to an alternate framework selection.
The framework selection is important and should be deliberately considered and discussed within your organization's current context. However, the decision should not paralyze the organization while it is being deliberated. Many of the artifacts developed under one framework can be adapted to another.
The value of EA is in the creation, distribution, and use of information across the organization to reduce duplication of effort, rework, and increase the reuse of solutions already developed.