On one of the global electronic forums on Enterprise Architecture, Kaytek Consulting Director recently had interactions on the Importance of Enterprise Architecture with a Senior IT Manager of one of India's Top Private Sector Insurance Company.
This organization's group companies are one of most IT savvy in India both within their insurance vertical and other financial services.
Their Group Head looks after the IT function personally to the best of our knowledge as per press reports. These discussions are shown below.
Importance of Enterprise Architecture & Enterprise Architects for Organizations.
Enterprise Architecture (EA) (and Enterprise Architects) are critical to an organization's information systems functioning for many reasons.
A comprehensive EA has to be driven primarily by business drivers.
Organizations have life spans that are much longer than individual life times. Also, the current complexity of information systems in an organization necessitates a structured approach to documenting the same.
EA provides a uniform conceptual framework that remains consistently true across the organizational life.
1.0 - Scope of EA - Let us consider the words 'Enterprise Architecture'.
1.1 - All Organizational Resources
First, The Enterprise has to cover all the Organizational Resources. We refer to them as the M-Assets. They are :
Men (& Women) Methods Money Markets Materials Mortar-Brick Machines Messages More
Within each of the above M-Assets , you could have further categories based on your requirements.
e.g. One way to further categorize Men (& Women) would be the Types Of Organizational Stakeholders - Owners, Suppliers, Customers, Employees, Regulators & Others.
One could do similar categorization for the other M-Assets - the Methods, Money, Markets, Materials, Mortar-Brick, Machines & Messages based on specific business needs.
1.2 - Both Business and Technology
Second, The Architecture has to encompass both Business Architecture & Technology Architecture.
Business Architecture would be the structure of the organization (again organized as the above M-Assets resources). Technology Architecture considers the Computing & Communication technology areas (and components) in it's scope.
2.0 - EA as a Communication Platform
Let us consider EA's value as a communication platform that it provides to all stake holders - technical or non-technical in the organization.
EA should give the means to communicate 'The Architecture of the Enterprise' to all stakeholders.
2.1 - EA as a Communication Platform for Software Technologists
As an example, in the context of technical people, let us consider the area of Software Development.
Internal Stakeholders could be Business Analysts, Project Manager, User Interface Designers, Database Designers, Programmers, Testers, Implementers, etc.
These people should be able to easily use the EA artifacts (or deliverables).
They can only do so when EA enables them to communicate at a higher abstraction level than their individual specializations & skills.
There are 3 examples of EA's value as a communication platform shown below :
2.1.1 - EA as a communication tool for designers
EA should help communication of work knowledge between A Database designer & A User Interface designer working at different levels of software abstraction.
2.1.2 - EA as a communication medium for programmers
Between programmers, EA should help communication between a J2EE Java programmer & a MS .NET C++ programmer.
2.1.3 - EA as a communication vehicle for managers
Within a project, EA should help communicate the Business Analyst's business requirements to the technical requirements as understood by the Project Manager.
I hope the value of EA artifacts as communication vehicles is clear in the context of a software project.
3.0 - Where does one start EA within the organization ?
On the question of the starting area of EA within your organization, our suggestion would be to start with your Largest Pain Areas & Highest Pay-Off Areas. Pick the low hanging fruits first.
You should be able to easily identify those amongst the 3 key areas of Helping your Organization to either
3.1 - Raise Revenues / Increase Incomes
3.2 - Cut Costs / Eliminate Expenses
3.3 - Satisfy Stakeholders
Many times, enterprise architects debate on whether they should use enterprise data, information or applications as starting points.
For non technical senior managers, the above options may perhaps be meaningless.
"Where's the beef ? said an old burger advertisement in the US.
Similarly, (and especially so in today's ruthless cost cutting environment).
Any & every EA initiative must be immediately understood by decision makers as helping achieve one of the 3 business objectives mentioned above.
4.0 - What is the Enterprise Architect's Job ?
To provide a holistic picture (the so-called helicopter macro view) to the relevant stakeholders along with the discrete individual solution architectural pieces.
Also, these adhoc solution pieces need to be coherently assembled by Enterprise Architects like us into a larger jigsaw puzzle at a higher level.
EA helps you get both a A Top level Macro Helicopter Perspective & A Detailed Deep Dive Dirty Hands On Operational Issue Handling Capability.
It should help you spans the entire stack of the Enterprise Technology and Business Architecture either in a Top Down or a Bottoms Up fashion.
5.0 - Is EA linked to a specific technology ?
EA is technology agnostic.
It helps you work with whatever technologies your organization has invested in or you have the capabilities to work with.
e.g. As a building architect, I may design a house for you which does not specify the construction materials that you may use.
You may choose to build your house with twigs, stones or bricks.
Remember the Kindergarten story of the 3 little pigs ?
It is upto you to choose your technology instances or business solutions.
A caveat, though. It is always helpful to know technologies in depth so that you can always strive to optimize the technical architecture of your applications as you scale & grow. EA does not depend on specific technologies.
e.g. an aircraft designer need not be an airplane pilot or vice-versa.
6.0 - Is EA confusing ?
Not really. There is absolute clarity. What happens is that technology environments change rapidly leading to people getting confused & astray at times.
7.0 - Which is more important - An IT Strategy or an EA Strategy ? Where does on start within the organization ?
Choose whatever makes business sense to you. Decide the projects based on the business objectives mentioned in 3.1, 3.2 & 3.3 on the left.
However, the two (IT strategy & EA consultancy ) are not mutually exclusive.
Kaytek can surely provide some pointers on how EA can help solve both the integration & application redundancy identification issues (amongst others) in the enterprise's IT infrastructure.
We have developed proprietary business & technology templates, frameworks that can help your organization achieve it's business goals with EA. Kindly email us for more details.
Kaytek Director's Article on ITIL - Information Technology Infrastructure Library published by Microsoft earlier published by IASA - International Association of Software Architects, USA on their website.