This article focuses on the basics around Enterprise Architecture (EA) and alignment to strategy with a view to then moving to some detailed thinking about certain ways of drawing synergies and bringing out best practices. This article starts with "re-defintion" / "re-alignment" of EA focusing on core areas like principles and points for consideration when recommending enterprise class solutions to customers in today's changing world.This article does not aim be the ultimate answer, but will enable the able architect to take into considerations all the different facets of EA and EI when architecting solutions.
Enterprise Architecture (EA) can mean different things to different people depending upon the role and responsibility of the individual within the organisation and depending upon the context of the organisation (either being a consultancy OR an end user). To many it is a framework, while others view it as a collection of rules, or a methodology for defining and designing infrastructure services. However the common aims are to improve alignment of the IT Infrastructure with business goals and to attempt to bring stability to an ever changing, chaotic and complex situation.
EA provides the essential backbone (framework) or blueprints for the communication, interpretation and implementation of corporate objectives throughout the organisation and enables the evolution of a strongly aligned IT environment. A plausible way of achieving this would be through creation of a number of interconnected architecture views. The various available frameworks (commercial and / or non-commercial) break the definition of Enterprise Architecture into a different number models and artefacts. EA at the most consists of three main elements viz. Business, Information and Operations.
An effective and pragmatic EA relies on having a common platform and systems infrastructure on which to base the organisations products and services. What we see is, an increasing need of convergence of multiple technologies into a platform providing components for building, managing and deploying services. The convergence platform should be centred on loosely-coupled integration at all levels – system, applications, information, processes and people and the ability to quickly reconfigure these elements to react to threats and opportunities in an organisation’s environment.
A services model utilises the logical-level deliverables provided by the other architectures (business and information) , expanding a platform-independent view of the business processes with associated data and presentation requirements, and using this to develop a platform and technology-dependent model, taking “cognisance” of technologies and utilising a services platform with common components and services. Approaches gaining significant traction in this area of SOA are enterprise class communications backbone like ESB, Model Driven Architecture and adoption of frameworks like TOGAF.
Achieving Business Outcome through a realistic EA appraoch:
How do we achieve it? Well we first look at some guiding principles which are very much like a lighthouse providing necessary direction and steer to the IT transformation ocean liner… and they are:
Security – The delicate balance between acceptable risk and usability. It is vital that an enterprise’s information is adequately protected and it will become a precondition of doing business in the future, especially with the inextricable move toward e-business and e-government.
Adapatability – This is required to keep pace with the ever-altering internal and external environment organisations find themselves in. Solutions have to be flexible, catering to changes in requirements, procedures, processes and organisation. An important facet of architecture must be the use of modularity to enable continual adaptation, to meet changing business needs and allow re-use of software.
Standards – for open interfaces and data models delivered thorough an Enterprise wide Governance framework are crucial if an EA approach is to succeed. The use of standards extends further than just being used for interoperability. Openness is important for protecting IT investments, both in short and long term by shielding against supplier dependency. The move to more componentisation relies on standardisation.
Performance – must be a critical part of the architecture. As with security it is very costly to add scalability as an afterthought. Systems need to maintain efficiency and service levels regardless of demand. The whole operation is reliant on the performance of the weakest link!. The architecture must support the increase in users, transaction volumes and data capacity and prevention of bottlenecks.
Management – of the complete architecture process is another important factor. The need for such features such as version control, end-to-end visibility, and monitoring become even more critical.
What is the need of EA in the business today?
A number of organisations have implemented an EA. Approaches vary: it can be top down or bottom up
An EA model can have four levels: Business Architecture, Information Architecture, Applications & Systems Architecture, Technical Architecture
It is important to have a common vision of where the business is going: this greatly influences application and hardware strategy.
Key: model the business based on its services through templates: processes can then be modelled.
Aim for reusability. Identify interdependencies
Basic tools such as Visio plus Word, or Visio plus Office are commonly used (about half of delegate
organisations only use these)
EA is the technique for communicating with the business: methodologies and tools help this
Tools can be used to document applications and business processes (not necessarily in one tool)
Important: Consider how the information from the tool will be used to ensure it is fit for its purposes and aids communication
The business strategy translates into the IT strategy.
Have a planning period covering three years
Review and update the plan regularly
Have a decommissioning plan
Expose projects at an early stage.
Build governance from the board down. A strong CIO is needed to get support from the business
Identify the IT elements of business budgets and aggregate them: this shows a total cost of IT
Have some form of EA Policing / Auditing / Review. Always review pilots
Achieving control: a lot can be achieved by making the adoption of governance part of personal appraisal objectives.
Increase the access to and ability to change the Application Services (based upon business need):
Open published interface standards including XML data formats, Web Services, JMS, FTP and HTTP. Further WSDL and W3C Schemas as service definition” language, and SOAP as the “messaging protocol language”.
The capability to selectively store message data in an external data store as it traverses the middleware
Reduced impact of changes to IT Business services to the business
Improve the availability and reliability of the Application Services
Access to additional (existing) services.
Generic high availability interconnects facility between all supported system components
Reduced technical risk of supporting IT Business services
Load Balancing , fault tolerance and automatic scale up through configuration provisioning
This article deals with some of the basics around why organisations are giving a serious thought to Enterprise Architecture. While it is important to focus on immediate programmes at hand – it is becoming increasingly imperative to also take a step back and view the enterprise from a “aircraft pilot’s viewpoint” to enable stronger linkage of IT initiatives to Business goals, strategies and measures. Enterprise Integration through traditional EAI methods need to focus on distributed / federated architectures that span multiple geographies and disparate business processes. A clear view on the definitions, policies and standards for EA and requirements for EI will help the architect on the ground to safely steer this ship to the target destination.
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