by Peter B. Nichol

Why enterprise architecture maximizes organizational value

Feb 06, 2018
CIOEnterprise ArchitectureIT Strategy

Increase agility, reduce solution delivery time and create a shared vision using the patterns of enterprise architecture.

abstract architecture blue green purple
Credit: Thinkstock

Enterprise architecture (EA) defines how your organization will meet future business problems. Begin to build stability into your organization by creating an enterprise architecture.

Architecture details multiple layers of abstraction to form a complete and common view of information, guidance, and direction. Together these benefits form the guardrails for solutions—considering what’s best for the organization—by adding guides and constraints to those solutions.

EA organizational benefits

Enterprise architecture forces a decision based on outcomes. Does the organization limp along within the confines of the existing architecture, or does the organization make a strategic decision to be better? This is the beginning of EA.

Shifting from silo-based systems, curating business value, and measuring outcomes will drive your organization away from domain and system silos toward a unified and, more importantly, integrated enterprise ecosystem.

CIOs have recently moved their attention toward blockchain, artificial intelligence, and cognitive computing. Why? Because they’re sexy. What’s not sexy? You guessed it—enterprise architecture. However, there’s an equally powerful reason for CIOs to spend time talking about enterprise architecture, enabling applications, host infrastructure, business services, and reference architecture: a rock-solid enterprise architecture can transform an organization.

Enterprise architecture can affect any architectural domain:

  • Strategy
  • Business
  • Data
  • Applications
  • Infrastructure
  • Security

Each domain can be used to capture, analyze and visualize plans for change.

EA business-model benefits

What you sell today may not be what you sell tomorrow. Avon started selling books before shifting to beauty products. Nokia sold paper before experimenting with phones in the 1960s. Wrigley pushed soap and baking powder before shifting to chewing gum. There’s one common element in each of these fundamental business model changes—enterprise architecture. Each company drastically had to shift its strategic goals, business model, data, applications, and technology. A sound enterprise architecture either enables or inhibits organizational agility.

There are five common areas that benefit from implementing EA: data management, application development, IT infrastructure, business process, and organizational impact

Data management, application development, and IT infrastructure—when combined with enterprise architecture—influences cost, redundancy, integration, agility, reuse, and standardization. Business process injects modularity, automation, integration agility, and address redundancy. Typically, business-process benefits impact enterprise architecture maturity and governance. These controls act as a supporting framework for decision making.

Enterprise architecture improves organizational impacts through productivity, agility, product and service timeliness, revenue growth, and cost reduction. Each of these individually can make your case for enterprise architecture. However, combined, these benefits form a compelling business case.

A methodology for collaborative EA planning

The Common Approach to Federal Enterprise Architecture defines the Collaborative Planning Method. The methodology is business-partner centered and is broken down into two phases: (1) Organize and Plan and (2) Implement and Measure.

Organize and Plan comprises the first three phases, followed by two phases of Implement and Measure:

  1. Identify and validate: Engage sponsors and access business-partner needs, analyze and validate needs, formulate a case to address these needs, and identify and engage governance.
  2. Research and leverage: Identify organizations and service providers to engage, analyze opportunities to leverage, and determine whether to leverage.
  3. Define and plan: Formalize collaborative planning-team and launch planning; define the vision for performance and outcomes; analyze the current state, determine adjustments, and plan the target state; formulate the integrated plan and roadmap; and initiate execution governance.
  4. Invest and execute: Define the funding strategy and make a decision, obtain resources and validate the plan, and execute the plan.
  5. Perform and measure: Operate with the new capabilities, measure performance against metrics, and analyze and provide feedback.

Identify and validate captures the major business needs and priorities objectives between business partners. Research and leverage aligns challenges across the organization (including service providers) and assesses if capabilities can be leveraged to address these needs. Define and plan establishes an integrated plan that could cover any or all of the architecture domains including strategy, business, data, applications, infrastructure, and security. Invest and execute provides the investment decision required to implement changes as specified in the integrated plan. Perform and measure integrates plan objectives and measures performance outcomes against identified metrics.

A framework for investment

The Common Approach to Federal Enterprise Architecture also defines a Consolidated Reference Model. This framework establishes a common language to describe and analyze investments. The framework is made up of six reference models that can be used with some latitude to apply to private sectors:

  1. Performance reference model: links business-partner strategy, internal business components, and investments to measure the impact of those investments on strategic outcomes
  2. Business reference model: describes an organization through a taxonomy of common objectives and service areas instead of through a siloed organizational view, thereby promoting co-opetition
  3. Data reference model: facilitates discovery of existing siloed data holdings to enable understanding of the data, how to access it, and how to leverage it to support performance results
  4. Application reference model: categorizes the system and application-related standards and technologies that support the delivery of service capabilities, allowing business-partners to reuse common solutions and benefit from economies of scale
  5. Infrastructure reference model: categorizes the network, cloud-related standards and technologies to support and enable the delivery of voice, data, video, and mobile service components and capabilities
  6. Security reference model: provides a common language and methodology for discussing security and privacy in the context of the business partners’ business and performance goals

Reference models deconstruct enterprise architecture into useable and tangible assets that encourage organizational reuse. The performance reference model (PRM) focuses on goals and objectives, capturing unique performance indicators. The business reference model (BRM) concentrates on intra- and inter-business partner shared services and customer partners. The data reference model (DRM) targets business-focused data standardization and cross-business partner information exchanges. The application reference model (ARM) details the software that provides functionality including enterprise service bus (ESB) or microservices interactions. The infrastructure reference model (IRM) looks at the hardware providing functionality and the hosting, data centers, cloud, and virtualization components. Lastly, the security reference model (SRM) defines risk-adjusted security and privacy protections, identifying security controls and how these controls are implemented. To summarize:

  1. PRM: goals, measured areas, and measured categories
  2. BRM: objective, business function, and services
  3. DRM: domain, subject, and topic
  4. ARM: system, application components, and interfaces
  5. IRM: platform, network, and facility
  6. SRM: purpose, risk, and control

Enterprise architecture and the use of applied reference models allows more effective management of information technology portfolios to deliver more consistent positive outcomes.

Enterprise architecture adoption improves business modularity. This additional flexibility supports faster responses to market conditions that change your competitive landscape.

Use enterprise architecture wisely. Why? Because it changes how you do business.