The term enterprise can be defined as describing an organizational unit, organization, or collection of organizations that share a set of common goals and collaborate to provide specific products or services to customers. In that sense, the term enterprise covers various types of organizations, regardless of their size, ownership model, operational model, or geographical distribution. It includes those organizations’ complete socio-technical systems, including people, information, processes, and technologies.
As described in American National Standards Institute/Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (ANSI/IEEE) Std 1471-2000, an architecture is “the fundamental organization of a system, embodied in its components, their relationships to each other and the environment, and the principles governing its design and evolution.”
The main purpose of enterprise architecture is to guide the process of planning and designing the IT/IS capabilities of an enterprise in order to meet desired organizational objectives. The architecture of an enterprise is described with a view to improving the manageability, effectiveness, efficiency, or agility of the business, and ensuring that money spent on information technology (IT) is justified.
More specifically, the goals are to promote alignment, standardization, reuse of existing IT assets, and the sharing of common methods for project management and software development across the organization. The end result, theoretically, is that the enterprise architecture will make IT cheaper, more strategic, and more responsive.
Modern EA strategies now extend this philosophy to the entire business, not just IT, to ensure the business is aligned with digital transformation strategies and technological growth. EA is guided by the organization’s business requirements — it helps lay out how information, business and technology flow together. This has become a priority for businesses that are trying to keep up with new technologies such as the cloud, IoT, machine learning and other emerging trends that will prompt digital transformation.
Enterprise architects typically report to the CIO or other IT managers. They’re responsible for analyzing business structures and processes to see that they align with business goals effectively and efficiently. As an enterprise architect, you’ll also be responsible for ensuring these structures and processes are agile and durable, so they can swiftly adapt and withstand major change.
Changes considered by enterprise architects typically include:
- innovations in the structure or processes of an organization
- innovations in the use of information systems or technologies
- the integration and/or standardization of business processes, and
- improving the quality and timeliness of business information.
Enterprise architecture planning (EAP)
Enterprise architecture (EA) is the practice of analyzing, designing, planning and implementing enterprise analysis to successfully execute on business strategies. EA helps businesses structure IT projects and policies to achieve desired business results and to stay on top of industry trends and disruptions using architecture principles and practices, a process also known as enterprise architectural planning (EAP).
Figure 1depicts the macro view of the environment. On the left-hand side of the figure one can see external entities that may drive a firm. These include the customers, the market, the industry the firm is in, the opportunities that may exist or may develop, competitors, regulators, and investors, among others. A firm has an existing or newly developed business strategy. The firm also has an existing set of business assets. The goal is to develop the IT infrastructure to support an end-state IT environment that enables, supports, and facilitates the business strategy. To this end, the enterprise may have developed an enterprise architecture, which is a blueprint of its information, systems, and technology environment. The blueprint also specifies the standards as related to these three categories (e.g., equipment standards, protocols standards, interface standards, etc.)
The firm may have developed the architecture using the industry mechanisms shown in the lower end of Figure 1. These include IT industry techniques and methods to develop an enterprise architecture; architecture principles; enterprise architecture IT industry standards; IT industry enterprise architecture frameworks and models; and architecture development tools.
As a new business strategy is developed by the firm, a new or modified enterprise architecture may be needed (this could be determined by a gap analysis). This enterprise architecture needs to take into account (as seen in the figure) the existing embedded base of IT assets, the existing enterprise architecture, the existing enterprise architecture standards, the firm’s principles and practices, the desired business strategy, and the available frameworks/tools to develop a new enterprise architecture or modify the existing one.
The output of this synthesis will be a set of derived IT strategies, a new/modified enterprise architecture, a new/modified set of enterprise architecture standards, a roadmap describing the IT projects needed to effectuate (implement) the new architecture and achieve the target state, and a development/deployment plan. As the figure shows, there also are governance and effectiveness assessment capabilities as well as an environment-monitoring function.
Enterprise Architecture Frameworks
Enterprise architecture as a framework can be vague since it’s meant to address the entire organization, instead of individual needs, problems or business units. Therefore, several frameworks exist to help companies effectively implement and track EAP.
However, most frameworks contain four basic domains, as follows:
- Business architecture: documentation that outlines the company’s most important business processes;
- Information architecture: identifies where important blocks of information, such as a customer record, are kept and how one typically accesses them;
- Application system architecture: a map of the relationships of software applications to one another; and
- The infrastructure technology architecture: a blueprint for the gamut of hardware, storage systems, and networks. The business architecture is the most critical, but also the most difficult to implement, according to industry practitioners.
According to CompTIA, these are the four leading Enterprise Architect Planning (EAP) methodologies:
- The Open Group Architectural Framework (TOGAF): TOGAF provides principles for designing, planning, implementing and governing enterprise IT architecture. The TOGAF framework helps businesses create a standardized approach to EA with a common vocabulary, recommended standards, compliance methods, suggested tools and software and a method to define best practices. The TOGAF framework is widely popular as an enterprise architect framework, and according to The Open Group it’s been adopted by more than 80 percent of the world’s leading enterprises.
- The Zachman Framework for Enterprise Architecture: The Zachman framework is named after one of the original founders of enterprise architecture and it’s another popular EA methodology. It’s better understood as a “taxonomy,” according to CompTIA, and it spans six architectural focal points and six primary stakeholders to help standardize and define the IT architecture components and outputs.
- Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF): FEAF was introduced in 1996 as a response to the Clinger-Cohen act, which introduced mandates for IT effectiveness in federal agencies. It’s designed for the U.S. government, but it can also be applied to private companies that want to use the framework.
- Gartner: After acquiring The Meta Group in 2005, Gartner established best practices for EAP and adapted them into the company’s general consulting practices. While it’s not an individual framework, CompTIA recognizes it as a “practical” methodology that focuses on business outcomes with “few explicit steps or components.”
These are just four of the most commonly referenced and recognized EA methodologies, but others exist. For example, there’s the European Space Agency Architectural Framework (ESAAF), the Ministry of Defence Architecture Framework (MODAF) and the SAP Enterprise Architecture Framework. These frameworks are specifically targeted to individual industries or products, targeting more of a niche market than the more generalized EA methodologies listed above.