Introduction to Enterprise Architecture2015.12.22
Enterprise architecture is a bridge linking strategic directions and business goals with the steps and activities in the Information Technology that convey them into operations. Effective management and use of information enabled by the Information Technology is the key factor in building the competitive advantage. Enterprise architecture is the answer to this need, providing tools for management and planning of IT evolution as a response to changing business requirements. We should consider this in the context of several problems the modern organizations struggle with:
- Lack of homogeneous view of information important to the customer – same questions asked by the customer, give different answers from particular departments / business lines of the organization.
- Low organizational agility – new strategic initiatives (like modifying or integrating business processes, introducing new product) mean the organization supporting it is built from scratch.
- Low processes integration – the employees waste their time for adapting and moving data between different computer systems.
- Long Time to Market – long IT delivery times, cause introduction of innovations or new services to last too long, effectively causing organization inability to successfully compete on the market.
Solving the mentioned and many other problems is a domain of Enterprise Architecture. The key to proper definition and management of Enterprise Architecture is starting with accurate definition of business challenges and goals and then applying proven methods, tools and the process that will carry the organization through a current situation to the planned target point, addressing the challenges and changes that occur in the business environment. The key to success is tailoring the proven market frameworks like TOGAF or notations like ArchiMate to scale and maturity of the organization.
What are the key components of the Enterprise Architecture?
There are many frameworks for Enterprise Architecture Management. The leading and most popular one is TOGAF 9. Most Enterprise Architecture methods
consist of four key components that form the key layers of the Enterprise Architecture development in the organization:
- Business Architecture –the highest level of the Architecture being the key to the success of the whole program. Thanks to the proven tools (such as enterprise capability model, business process model, organizational and operational model, heat-mapping) it is possible to define the areas that need changes or investment. It’s a basis for building a framework of target Enterprise Architecture which is the foundation for further work at the next levels.
- Data Architecture –the goal of this stage is to understand WHAT is required for defined business capabilities. The main task is to understand and define what information are used and exchanged within the organization in the course of realized business processes and services.
- Application Architecture –the essence of this phase is the answer for the question HOW the organization works in terms of IT Applications while realizing the capabilities defined on the business architecture level. At this stage the application components needed for particular business functions and the interchange of information defined at Data Architecture level are described.
- Technology Architecture –at this stage the elements of Data Architecture and Application Architecture are mapped to particular technologies, the elements of systems architecture and the physical infrastructure.
Building the enterprise architecture knowledge base allows to construct views that show various aspects of the current state of the organization as well of planned changes. For example the heat-mapping technique can be used to validate the assumptions of the current IT strategy or to support creation of the new one. The Enterprise Capability Map and its functional decomposition can be a tool for defining priorities of application portfolio roadmap.
Enterprise Architecture Management can be realized with use of common Process and Enterprise Architecture modelling tools available on the market like: Software AG Alfabet, ARIS Platform, Sparx Enterprise Architect.
The Benefits of Enterprise Architecture Management
There are many reasons why organization should pay attention to Enterprise Architecture Management. Among others, these are:
- Data and process integration –reduction of the so-called Information Silos and establishing the clear and consistent view of information (such as client, product, order) and their flow within the organization
- Shortening of time required to introduce business changes –thanks to a lower IT complexity and better alignment to the business requirements the process of introducing innovations or new products becomes shorter and builds competitive advantage.
- Improved business flexibility and agility –using the proper business architecture improves capability of conducting mergers and acquisitions and enables harmonization of business processes.
- Business Modularity –thanks to the flexible architecture certain processes can be easily outsourced to external parties.
- Reduction of IT costs –decrease of IT complexity, introduction of architecture governance and the standards base brings significant reduction of the costs of running and maintaining IT services.