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By Alan R. Earls
Kevin L. Smith, the creator of PEAF, the “Pragmatic” Enterprise Architecture Framework, has a challenge: explaining a relatively unfamiliar concept, namely that there are actually two types of enterprise architectures to which frameworks can apply.
First, of course, there are enterprise architectures that focus primarily on IT issues. “Probably 90 percent of the discussions involving EA focus on IT-oriented EAs. But the fact is that IT organizations find most of their problems stem from disconnects and discontents with the business. IT organizations would be smart to help the business engage in true enterprise architecture, which is really all about strategic planning,” he says.
That’s where the other kind of enterprise architecture frameworks (PEAF is one of them) come in. This second type of EA focuses on the businesses processes across the enterprise. By contrast, IT-oriented EAs have a focus that is more granular and more relevant in the project management arena.
According to Smith, IT departments often “feel the pain” of not having an enterprise architecture and of taking the blame for all the resulting problems. Now, as more and more organizations become familiar with the ideas of an enterprise architecture, more and more IT departments are realizing that they can’t make further improvements without one. This is why some IT departments are pushing an EA perspective up to the business leaders, he says.
PEAF is based on Smith’s 30 years in the IT industry, first as a software developer, then as a systems analyst, architect and consultant. In that last role, in particular, Smith said he had occasion to witness many organizations attempting to implement IT-based EA – and every one of them failing. “PEAF was not born out of success but out of an understanding of why people failed when they tried to do an enterprise architecture,” says Smith.
Smith realized his observations could be the germ of something new so, in late 2008, he began to try to put his observations into a common format and that, in turn, grew into an enterprise architecture framework.
In the case of PEAF, Smith says the framework approach addresses all the different parts of an enterprise and its many dimensions, even including its culture. “The relationship between the business and IT is considered but it is not limited to that.” In fact, notes Smith, PEAF all but requires the employment of a second framework that is highly focused on IT. Thus, PEAF and most other EAs – such as TOGAF – are in fact complimentary.
“TOGAF will tell you what to do and how to document what you do. But it doesn’t help with the relationship between IT and business, which is more about culture and communications than it is about IT,” he contends. Of course, information technology is important for the business “but to get the whole enterprise working together is a much different challenge.”