Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise Architecture is a comprehensive, strategic discipline aiming to describe and understand the structure of an enterprise

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What is Enterprise Architecture?


Enterprise Architecture (EA) is a rigorous approach for describing the structure of an enterprise. A well-managed enterprise architecture results in an effective and sustainable enterprise.

A good enterprise architecture creates a sustainable organization that is able to achieve its current business objectives. Enterprise architecture also safeguards for the future, and enables the execution of strategic change by mapping the best, most cost-effective way to reach the desired future state.

EA can be regarded in three ways:

  • A Discipline. It is the way of thinking about the structure of an enterprise.
  • A Process. There are processes for architecting an enterprise, covering how architectures are created, how they change and evolve, and how architectures are managed.
  • A set of work products. A set of models and diagrams that represent and describe the structure of an enterprise.

Developing and sustaining an enterprise architecture is a complex process, involving many stakeholders and decision processes. TOGAF ® is a popular enterprise architecture framework. TOGAF ® helps by documenting the enterprise architecture discipline, process, and work products.

By using a standard framework, organizations can develop an enterprise architecture that is consistent, reflects the needs of stakeholders, employs best practice, and gives due consideration to current requirements.


The Benefits of Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise Architecture is a varied field, with a wide variety of potential uses. When speaking of benefits much will depend on what an organization chooses to do with their EA practice. The prime use of enterprise architecture is to drive digital transformation. Creating short and long term roadmaps, assessing the impacts of changes, gathering stakeholder views, and executing change are all possible through the application of EA. In general, EA will make firms more agile, able to react quickly to external events, and deal with shocks. Digital Transformation is a key factor to business success, and indispensable, to achieving competitive advantage.

Enterprise Architecture provides a holistic view of the current status of the organization's structure, enabling a simple understanding of where to change and its impacts. Architects can show the options that exist to change or make improvements in response to the constantly changing needs of the business environment. There can often be a disconnect between the business and IT, which hinders change, but EA helps to align Business and IT for successful digitalization.

At the same time, EA allows organizations to identify constraints and limitations imposed by the structure of the enterprise, which can then be alleviated to smooth transformation efforts.

Enterprise Architecture Methodologies

Developing and sustaining an enterprise architecture is a complex process, involving many stakeholders and decision processes. The majority of organizations use frameworks developed by third parties to help implement their EA practices.

By using a standard framework, organizations can develop an enterprise architecture that is consistent, reflects the needs of stakeholders, employs best practice, and gives due consideration to current requirements.

There are 4 main EA frameworks:

  1. The Open Group Enterprise Architecture Framework (TOGAF)
  2. Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA)
  3. The Zachman Framework
  4. The Gartner Methodology

TOGAF is the most popular framework in use, developed by The Open Group since 1995. TOGAF divide the architecture into four categories: Business, Application, Data, and Technology Architecture. Each one of them describes a specific part of the organization. The most widely used architectural process, the TOGAF ADM (Architecture Development Method) provides the mechanism to move from the enterprise-generic to the enterprise-specific architecture and solution(s). The most recent version of TOGAF is 9.2, which was made available in 2018.

Federal Enterprise Architecture (sometimes called FEAF) is a framework for EA by the US federal government, designed for government enterprises. Version 2 of the FEA was published in 2013. This framework is distinguished by its purpose; businesses will not get as much out of it compared to government organizations.

The Zachman Framework was created by John Zachman for IBM in 1980. Zachman essentially invented the concept of enterprise architecture when he published "A Framework for Information Systems Architecture" in 1987, with an update in 1992. Zachman’s framework is still maintained today and available for implementation, though it has largely been superseded by newer frameworks.

The Gartner Methodology, created by the company of the same name, is different from the other frameworks and in some sense is not really a framework at all; it doesn’t define architectural artifacts or provide a reference model. The methodology is available to Gartner customers or to be implemented by its consultants.

Enterprise Architecture: Viewpoints that Matter

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Enterprise Architecture: Viewpoints that Matter

Enterprise Architecture Tools

Though Microsoft Visio and Excel can take care of many EA issues, the complexity and range of goals of EA are beyond general purpose software. It should come as no surprise that most EA practices will turn to purpose built software in order to create and maintain their architectures. Formally known as Enterprise Architecture Management Software (EAMS), there are a number of products on the market, including Orbus Software’s iServer and  iServer 365.

EA tools will typically have the following features and benefits:

First is data storage. iServer and similar tools will have a central repository to store enterprise data, keeping it all in one location and widely accessible to architects and other stakeholders.

This central repository enables collaboration. People from across the organization can access files, contribute more data and stay informed of company operations.

An important part of enterprise architecture is adherence to certain standards and frameworks – such as the TOGAF framework or ArchiMate notation.

Analysis is another key feature; with all the data that is available, offering a way for architects to provide insight, make informed decisions, and present them to stakeholders, is very important.


The 5 EA Maturity Levels

Enterprise Architecture is still a relatively young discipline, with many organizations having only started their practices in the past few years. When it comes to understanding what EA can deliver, it is not just about business strategy or stakeholder aims, but also the ability of an EA practice to deliver. This is where maturity level is important.

  1. Emergent:
    Your enterprise architecture program is nascent - mostly undefined and non-functional. Agreeing and articulating a clear mission statement and principles, forming the basis of measurable objectives, is a key task at this stage.
  2. Developing:
    Your enterprise architecture program is developing – some basic definition has been undertaken, but the practice is not at a fully operational state and development may not be balanced across the measurement domains required to ensure a successful program.
  3. Functional:
    Your enterprise architecture program is at a moderate state of maturity. While the EA practice is likely to be functional and offering some business value, there is still much work to be done.
  4. Performing:
    Your enterprise architecture program is performing, but there are still gaps and areas for advancement. Common challenges at this maturity level are the ability to measure success with clear performance indicators.
  5. Optimized:
    The highest level of EA maturity. Strive to continuously review and improve the way your EA operates, and its measurable impact on the business, to keep pace with rapid change in both the business environment and the technology landscape.


Further Reading

Enterprise Architecture is, by necessity, a vast discipline. It needs to be able to capture and describe entire organizations while still providing granular benefits. As such, this article only skims the surface for EA.

A good place to start for further reading is to head to our page on TOGAF. Understanding and implementing a formal meta-model is normally the first step in establishing an EA function and TOGAF is the most popular choice for a reason.

Another option is to look directly into applicable products for EA. iServer 365 is a market-leading digital transformation tool, with support for every facet and use case of EA. The Orbus team can give a better demonstration of the benefits of EA than any possible article.

What Are The Benefits of EA Tooling?

Interested in learning more about EA Tooling? This free eBook goes into detail about the key benefits to organizations


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