Enterprise IT Consultant Views on Technologies and Trends

Aug 2 2010   8:31AM GMT

Enterprise Architecture today needs to be Agile

Sasirekha R Profile: Sasirekha R

Enterprise Architecture today needs to be Agile

Enterprise Architecture has been there for over two decades now and still means different things to different people. For some it is a graphical model which excruciating level of details, while in the other extreme it is viewed as a practice that brings in business value.

Zachmann, TOGAF, FEA and Gartner’s EA practice are the four significant EA methodologies that are there in use today and most others are a combination of these. Of various artifacts that dwell on Enterprise Architectures and their comparisons, I found “Comparison of the Top Four Enterprise-Architecture Methodologies” in http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb466232.aspx the effective one is bringing out the differences. In spite of the differences in the understanding and approach of what constitutes EA, the objectives are necessarily the same “Business-IT alignment”, Agility, Cost Reduction and Improved Value.

Enterprise Architecture, though seen as an IT initiative (probably due to the reason that it has been handled by IT personnel), has to do more with Business than IT. In general, the essential reasons for developing an EA have been and remain as:

•Alignment – ensuring the reality of the implemented enterprise is aligned with management’s intent

•Integration – realizing that the business rules are consistent across the organization, that the data and its use are immutable, interfaces and information flow are standardized, and the connectivity and interoperability are managed across the enterprise

•Change – facilitating and managing change to any aspect of the enterprise

•Time-to-market – reducing systems development, applications generation, modernization timeframes, and resource requirements

•Convergence – striving toward a standard IT product portfolio as contained in the Technical Reference

Right now, Enterprise Architecture has reached an interesting phase where it is no longer looked upon as a technology or infrastructure or even application related. With Enterprise Architects today reporting to CxOs, the EA charter today includes enabling Business Strategy and addressing business issues.

Though it sounds like an ideal situation, it definitely remains an uphill task for Enterprise Architects. A survey from Forrester points out that lack of support from business is a common concern and improving perception of EA as a common goal expressed by Enterprise Architects.

Both business and technology are changing at a rapid pace and even bringing paradigm shift. Businesses are expanding, merging, de-merging and time-to-market has been shrinking and shrinking. Similarly technology advancements like Cloud computing, Software-as-a-service, COTS are making Application and Technical architecture of lesser importance than hither-to they have had.

Business Architecture, Information Architecture and Integration Architecture are the areas which are to be focused at by Enterprise Architects. Significant progress in these areas coupled with delivering business benefits, that too quickly, is what is expected from Enterprise Architects today.

In most organizations, Enterprise Architects currently spend most of their time in arriving at detailed models which no one else are able to use effectively, in creating detailed level of standards and guidelines that result in frustration during implementation, in acting as enforcement agents of the EA guidelines created and in trying to meet the immediate need of the business – giving short term the priority at the expense of long-term goals.

To enable the level of detail which Architects where arriving at and also to handle localized requirements, most large organizations had Enterprise Architecture groups at local or national level. And this trend is again changing with the focus of Enterprise Architecture increasingly becoming global.

Global Enterprise Architects should streamline their focus and efforts on high impact, high priority areas that are in alignment with the business strategy. Most of what they are currently doing cannot be ignored altogether – and these activities can be relegated to local and regional Architecture groups.

With the improved EA charter, aligning to any single EA approach may no longer be feasible and the best thing to do is to use the right set of tools, producing artifacts at the right level of detail, and most importantly within the right time frame. Communication – that always was essential for the success of EA, has become crucial today.

Enterprise Architecture, as any other discipline, should adapt itself to the changing demands and trends and agility of the EA is what would ensure that EA provides the benefits it promises.

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