The Enterprise architecture (EA) practise uses collaborative design methods, standard architectural frameworks and general patterns to manage the complexity of large scale enterprise changes without losing sight of strategic context. It helps to identify opportunities for improvement and to define the desired future state of the business and its IT assets.

The most widely used practise is The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) with the recent version being TOGAF 9.1, released 1 December 2011

TOGAF is a high level approach to design. It is typically modeled at four levels: Business, Application, Data, and Technology. It tries to give an overall starting model to information architects, which can then be built upon. It relies heavily on modularization, standardization, and already existing, proven technologies and products.”

EA’s plans and designs help provide understanding of the impact of new business vision on the IT systems that support current business. It is used to operate and align IT systems with emerging business needs and also reduces the risk associated with large scale transformation projects.

The services provided by EA help to bridge the gap between business/IT strategy and execution. It helps to identify opportunities and gain cost effective efficiency through eliminating redundant business functions and IT systems.

There are 2 definitions of EA:

  1. A set of business system models and plans
  2. The practice that produces the models and plans

EA is a set of blueprints and roadmaps which represent the fundamental organisation of a business and its IT systems embedded in its components, their relationships to the environment and the principles guiding the business and IT system’s design and evolution.

From the blueprints, roadmaps are created to describe how to transition from the current state to the future state by identifying all the required projects. The projects can range from software and system enhancements to process improvements.

It comprises of two fundamental elements. The business architecture which aligns the business strategy with the business operations and the IT architecture which aligns the technology operations and the IT strategy.

Enterprises must adapt to align people, processes and technology with changing goals and resources. The enterprise value chain includes supplies, supply management, products and distribution, delivery channels and customers.

Assets that support IT are complex in their own right. This is called accidental complexity. This complexity is the divergence between business’ systems and IT adds a layer of complexity. EA produces IT blueprints that manage accidental complexity that is introduced by technology. It aligns the changes between the business blueprint and IT blueprint.

A large business is inherently complex and so are its processes. This is called essential complexity. Transformational solutions in large organisations cannot be too simple otherwise they risk losing sight of the essence of business. EA helps to manage essential complexity by capturing the essence of the business from strategy to operations to detailed processes.

Increased productivity in applying IT to solve business problems has caused enterprises to move from incremental to transformational change projects to adjust to the shifting environment.

There is a big challenge in translating technology investments into significant business benefits. IT is seen as a cost centre and not as a value adding component. Complexity and changes have undermined our ability to successfully deliver IT enabled transformation initiatives.

Now that we have an overall understanding of EA keep your eyes on your screens for the follow up edition of EA where we will delve into the different domains that build up this framework. Soon to follow will be the discussion on business architecture, applications architecture, technical architecture, security architecture and data architecture.