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So what is Enterprise Architecture (or EA for short) ?

Before you reach for the Wikipedia definition which will just leave your brain hurting, try this on for size as your elevator pitch:

"Enterprise Architecture is the practice of applying methods for describing current and future technology and supporting practices to align them with your organisation's core goals and strategic direction."

Yep, you guessed it, Enterprise Architecture is about Strategy and that's it in a nutshell. As usual in the IT industry we like to dress it up put it in a package and give it a grandiose  name that sounds like someone at a research company has swallowed a dictionary and spat out some random gobbledygook all so it's easier to sell. In reality, terms like 'Enterprise Architect' don't really help because it sound like another buzzword and we are getting jaded with these, so there is a danger when using the words 'Enterprise Architecture' as it does sound pompous!

The main focus on good strategy isn't about applying technology, it's people, helping them do more that helps them move their part of the business forward and less of the day to day. Automating core activities of what a business does allowing people to do more time in investing in move a business forward is the difference between a fighting to stay in business and having extra time to invest in making a successful business, this is technique is called establishing the 'Foundation of Execution' which I will cover in greater depth in a future post.

So shall I start talking about Zachman framework, TOGAF or Gartner EAF? No not in this post as they are all means to an end and this is what I want to talk about in this post. The danger with these things is to be TOGAF or Zachman compliant can end up being the goal and not forming strategy specially as these things are more or less works in progress.

All sounds very high-level, well that's the point as this is the first place where you have to get things right. Understanding why an organisation can benefit from adding some strategy sugar to the company coffee is a hard sell, so try some of these benefits on for size ...

  • Facilitating change – quickly
  • Re-use of existing architecture components
  • Mapping/harmonisation of business function
  • Proactive control, monitoring and management mechanisms for project work
  • Increased visibility of the support for the internal processes
  • Reduce costs – better foundation, accelerated decision making
  • Flexible & responsive – increase revenue
  • Effective management through monitoring, measuring, evaluation and feedback
  • Links IT to organisation's core goals and strategic direction
  • Improves interoperability and integration
  • Enables agility
  • Reduces costs
  • Improves security
  • Reduces technical risk

All sounds to good to be true? Well it is, the changes that have to be made to even start EA are significant and the whole concept of strategy is quite alien to many parts of IT and business even if the principle is easy to sell, the actual practice is harder and is full of pitfalls which I'm still discovering.

I found a signature resource on EA is this book by the Harvard Business School called "Enterprise Architecture as Strategy", this book is an essential and in future posts I will refer to it often.

Posted on Saturday, September 1, 2007 7:20 PM Main , Technical Architecture , Enterprise Architecture | Back to top


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