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Enterprise architecture (EA) is "a well-defined practice for conducting enterprise analysis, design, planning, and implementation, using a holistic approach at all times, for the successful development and execution of strategy. Enterprise architecture applies architecture principles and practices to guide organizations through the business, information, process, and technology changes necessary to execute their strategies. These practices utilize the various aspects of an enterprise to identify, motivate, and achieve these changes."
Practitioners of EA call themselves enterprise architects. An enterprise architect is a person responsible for performing this complex analysis of business structure and processes and is often called upon to draw conclusions from the information collected. By producing this understanding, architects are attempting to address the goals of EA: Effectiveness, Efficiency, Agility, and Durability.
The MIT Center for Information Systems Research (MIT CISR) in 2007 defined enterprise architecture as the specific aspects of a business that are under examination:
The Enterprise Architecture Research Forum defines enterprise architecture as
Gartner, a leading IT analysis firm, defines the term as a discipline where an enterprise is led through change. According to their glossary,
Each of the definitions above underplay the historical reality that enterprise architecture emerged from methods for documenting and planning information systems architectures, and the current reality that most enterprise architecture practitioners report to a CIO or other IT department manager. In a business organization structure today, the enterprise architecture team performs an ongoing business function that helps business and IT managers to figure out the best strategies to support and enable business development and business change – in relation to the business information systems the business depends on.
In the EA literature and community, it is possible to distinguish various perspectives with regards to the meaning of the term “enterprise architecture”. As of yet, no official definition exists; rather, various organizations (public and private) promote their understanding of the term. Consequently, the EA literature offers many definitions for the term enterprise architecture; some of which are complementary, others nuances, and others yet are in opposition. Current perspectives, or beliefs, held by enterprise architecture practitioners and scholars, with regards to the meaning of the enterprise architecture, typically gravitates towards one or a hybrid of three schools of thought:
Enterprise IT architecting – According to this school, the purpose of EA is the greater alignment between IT and business concerns. The main purpose of EA is to guide the process of planning and design the IT/IS capabilities of an enterprise in order to meet desired organizational objectives. Typically, architecture proposals and decisions are limited to the IT/IS aspects of the enterprise; other aspects only serve as inputs.
Enterprise integrating – According to this school, the purpose of EA is to achieve greater coherency between the various concerns of an enterprise (HR, IT, Operations, etc.) including the linking between strategy formulation and execution. Typically, architecture proposals and decisions encompass all the aspects of the enterprise.
Enterprise ecological adaptation – According to this school, the purpose of EA is to foster and maintain the learning capabilities of enterprises so that they may be sustainable. Consequently, a great deal of emphasis is put on improving the capabilities of the enterprise to improve itself, to innovate and to coevolve with its environment. Typically, proposals and decisions encompass both the enterprise and its environment.
One’s belief with regards to the meaning of enterprise architecture will impact greatly how one sees the purpose of EA, the scope of EA, the means of achieving EA, the skills needed to conduct EA, and the locus of responsibility for conducting EA
The term enterprise covers all kinds of business organization, public or private, large or small, including
The term enterprise includes the whole complex, socio-technical system, including people, information, processes and technologies.
The term architecture refers to a high-level or abstract description of the enterprise as a system – its boundary, the products and services it provides, and its internal structures and behaviors, both human and technical. It is assumed that designers, developers or engineers will complete the most detailed and concrete descriptions of specific enterprise systems, and the architect will retain responsibility for governing that lower level work.
According to the international standard ISO/IEC/IEEE 42010, the work product used to describe the architecture of a system is called an architectural description. In practice, an architectural description contains a variety of lists, tables and diagrams. These are models known as views. In the case of Enterprise Architecture, these models describe the logical business functions or capabilities, business processes, human roles and actors, the physical organization structure, data flows and data stores, business applications and platform applications, hardware and communications infrastructure.
The UK National Computing Centre EA best practice guidance states
Normally an EA takes the form of a comprehensive set of cohesive models that describe the structure and functions of an enterprise... The individual models in an EA are arranged in a logical manner that provides an ever-increasing level of detail about the enterprise.
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.
Paramount to changing the enterprise architecture is the identification of a sponsor, his/her mission, vision and strategy and the governance framework to define all roles, responsibilities and relationships involved in the anticipated transformation. Changes considered by enterprise architects typically include:
A methodology for developing and using architecture to guide the transformation of a business from a baseline state to a target state, sometimes through several transition states, is usually known as an enterprise architecture framework. A framework provides a structured collection of processes, techniques, artifact descriptions, reference models and guidance for the production and use of an enterprise-specific architecture description. See the related articles Enterprise Architecture framework and architecture domain for further information.
As new technologies arise and are implemented, the benefits of enterprise architecture continue to grow. Enterprise architecture defines what an organization does; who performs individual functions within the organization, and within the market value chain; how the organizational functions are performed; and how information are used and stored. IT costs are reduced and responsiveness with IT systems is improved. However, to be successful, continual development and periodic maintenance of the enterprise architecture is essential. Building an enterprise architecture could take considerable time and proper planning is essential, including phasing the project in slowly, prior to implementation. If the enterprise architecture is not kept up to date, the aforementioned benefits will become useless.
Companies such as Independence Blue Cross, Intel, Volkswagen AG and InterContinental Hotels Group use enterprise architecture to improve their business architectures as well as to improve business performance and productivity.
For various understandable reasons, commercial organizations rarely publish substantial enterprise architecture descriptions. However, government agencies have begun to publish architectural descriptions they have developed. Examples include
Enterprise architecture is a key component of the information technology governance process in many organizations, which have implemented a formal enterprise architecture process as part of their IT management strategy. While this may imply that enterprise architecture is closely tied to IT, it should be viewed in the broader context of business optimization in that it addresses business architecture, performance management and process architecture as well as more technical subjects. Depending on the organization, enterprise architecture teams may also be responsible for some aspects of performance engineering, IT portfolio management and metadata management. Recently, protagonists like Gartner and Forrester have stressed the important relationship of Enterprise Architecture with emerging holistic design practices such as Design Thinking and User Experience Design. Analyst firm Real Story Group suggested that Enterprise Architecture and the emerging concept of the Digital workplace were "two sides to the same coin."
When considering the relationship between EA and SOA, there are a number of issues to consider. Not the least of these is what the enterprise understands EA and SOA to mean. Some guidelines can be found at this reference:
|Product||Vendor||Headquarters||Latest stable release||Stable release date|
|ADOit||BOC Group||Austria||6.0||June 2014|
|BiZZdesign Architect||BiZZdesign||Netherlands||4.1.1||December 2012|
|ARIS||Software AG (formerly IDS Scheer)||Germany||9.0||March 2013|
|Corporate Modeler||Casewise||United Kingdom||2011.4||August 2013|
|Enterprise Architect||Sparx Systems||Australia||10||December 2012|
|Mega Suite||Mega||France||Release 7||August 2012|
|planningIT||Software AG (formerly alfabet)||Germany||8.0||November 2012|
|ProVision||OpenText (formerly Metastorm)||Canada||9.0||September 2012|
|System Architect||IBM (formerly Telelogic)||United States||11.4.2||June 2012|
|Troux||Troux Technologies (formerly Computas Technology)||United States||9.1.2||March 2013|
|Product||Vendor||Headquarters||Latest stable release||Stable release date|
Despite the benefits that Enterprise Architecture claims to provide, for more than a decade a number of industry leaders, writers, and leading organizations have raised concerns about Enterprise Architecture as an effective practice. Here is a partial list: