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Enterprise Architecture is the practice of applying a comprehensive and rigorous method for describing a current or future structure for an organization's processes, information systems, personnel and organizational sub-units, so that they align with the organization's core goals and strategic direction. Although often associated strictly with information technology, it relates more broadly to the practice of business optimization in that it addresses business architecture, performance management and process architecture as well.

Enterprise Architecture is a significant practice within the U.S. Federal Government as a means of addressing persistent weaknesses in information technology investments. Companies such as BP, Intel and Volkswagen AG also have applied Enterprise Architecture to improve their business architectures as well in order to improve business performance and productivity.

Enterprise Architecture MethodologyEdit

The practice of Enterprise Architecture involves the application of a framework to describe an "as is" or a "to be" architecture. These frameworks detail the organizations, roles, entities and relationships that exist or should exist to perform a set of business processes. This framework will provide a rigorous taxonomy and ontology that clearly identifies what processes a business performs and detailed information about how those processes are executed. The end product is a set of artifacts that describe in varying degrees of detail exactly what and how a business operates and what resources are required. These artifacts are often graphical.

Given these detailed descriptions, decision makers are provided the means to make informed decisions about where to invest resources, where to realign organizational goals and processes, and what policies and procedures will support core missions or business functions.

A strong Enterprise Architecture process helps to answer basic questions like:

  • Is the current architecture supporting and adding value to the organization?
  • How might an architecture be modified so that it adds more value to the organization?
  • Based on what we know about what the organization wants to accomplish in the future, will the current architecture support or hinder that?

Implementing enterprise architecture generally starts with documenting the organization's strategy and other necessary details such as where and how it operates. The process then cascades down to documenting discrete core competencies, business processes, and how the organization interacts with itself and with external parties such as customers, suppliers, and government entities.

Having documented the organization's strategy and structure, the architecture process then flows down into the discrete information technology components such as:

  1. Organization charts, activities, and process flows of how the IT Organization operates
  2. Organization cycles, periods and timing
  3. Suppliers of technology hardware, software, and services
  4. Applications and software inventories and diagrams
  5. Interfaces between applications - that is: events, messsages and data flows
  6. Intranet, Extranet, Internet, eCommerce, EDI links with parties within and outside of the organization
  7. Databases and supporting data models
  8. Hardware, platforms, and hosting: Servers, and where they are kept
  9. Local and Wide Area Networks, Internet connectivity diagrams

Wherever possible, all of the above should be related explicitly to the organization's strategy, goals, and operations. The Enterprise architecture will document the current state of the technical components listed above, as well as a desired future state.

An intermediate outcome of an architecture process is a comprehensive inventory of business strategy, business processes, organizational charts, technical inventories, system and interface diagrams, and network topologies, and the explicit relationships between them. The inventories and diagrams are merely tools that support decision making. But this is not sufficient. It must be a living process.

The organization must design and implement a process that ensures continual movement from the current state to the future state. The future state will generally be a combination of one or more:

  • Closing gaps that are present between the current organization strategy and the ability of the IT organization to support it
  • Closing gaps that are present between the desired future organization strategy and the ability of the IT organization to support it
  • Necessary upgrades and replacements that must be made to the IT architecture based on supplier viability, age and performance of hardware and software, capacity issues, known or anticipated regulatory requirements, and other issues not driven explicitly by the organization's functional management.

On a regular basis, the current state and future state are redefined to account for evolution of the architecture, changes in organizational strategy, and purely external factors such as changes in technology and customer/vendor/government requirements.

Enterprise architecture is a key component of the Information technology governance process at any organization of significant size. More and more companies are implementing a formal enterprise architecture process to support the governance and management of IT.

Enterprise Architecture FrameworksEdit

Certification of Information, Enterprise and IT Architects Edit

More informationEdit

  • The information exchange area of the Institute For Enterprise Architecture Developments is delivering information about: EA standards, methods, tools, best practices, presentations, publications, certification, books, links, etc. More info about Enterprise Architecture
  • The US Government has mandated the use of a formal Enterprise Architecture process for all federal agencies with the Clinger-Cohen act of 1996.
  • Several Enterprise Architecture software tools exist to document and facilitate an Enterprise architecture process: Architecture tools list

See alsoEdit

Reading ListEdit

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