A New Blueprint For The Enterprise

Enterprise architecture is not just about mapping and standardizing hardware and software anymore. Now it's about services, events and-get this-good old ROI.

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Services and events do not define EA, but they can form its new core. CIOs who build enterprise architectures without a services-and-events approach will miss an opportunity to address the two most enduring—and accurate—complaints that the business has leveled at IT: slowness and inflexibility.

"We can now promise a new system in days or weeks instead of months," says John Studdard, CIO of Lydian Trust, a bank that has built both services and events into its enterprise architecture design.

Building the Foundation; Avoiding the Traps

The grail of EA is to create a map of IT assets and business processes and a set of governance principles that drive a constant discussion about business strategy and how it can be expressed through IT. There are many different suggested frameworks for beginning an enterprise architecture effort. (See "How to Get Started,") Most contain four basic slices:

  • Information architecture: identifies where important chunks of information, like a customer record, are kept and how people typically access them.
  • Infrastructure architecture: the jumble of hardware and networks.
  • Application architecture: maps the relationships of software applications to one another.
  • Business architecture: outlines the company's most important business processes.

This last piece is the most important, but also the most difficult to do. Even if IT can get businesspeople to sit still long enough to go through this exercise, it's often hard to get them to agree on which processes are most important.

And once IT gets the businesspeople to focus, then comes the bad news. EA is expensive—between $650,000 and $1 million per year for four to six full-time architects, and $100,000 for outside consulting to get started, estimates Forrester. (For ways to minimize those costs, see "EA on the Cheap.")

But enterprise architects are the future of IT. Grounded in technology but fluent in business, they should be crack consultants, patient diplomats, and able to provide the bridge between IT and the business that most IT departments today sorely lack. (For tips on what to look for, see "Wanted: Enterprise Architects.")

Value—and Value Only—Sells EA to the Business

When companies form architecture groups, the first thing they should expect is resistance, according to Hossein Moiin, vice president of technical strategy for T-Mobile International, the wireless phone company. T-Mobile's group of enterprise architects reviews projects to make sure they are soundly designed, meet business objectives and fit in with the overall architecture. "It's a challenge to get buy-in," says Moiin. "Businesspeople—and some IT people—see it as a bureaucracy. You need to give examples of the value."

For example, one T-Mobile project was to create a service that would let subscribers customize their ring sounds. The project group assumed that it would have to create most of the software from scratch. But the architecture group found code that had already been written elsewhere at T-Mobile that could be used as the basis of the development effort. The reuse reduced the development cycle time by a factor of two, says Moiin. "Show a few of these to the troops and they become convinced that architecture review is a good thing," he says.

At insurance company The Hartford, the review process helped prevent a new online agent portal from being built in an architecture that wouldn't scale with the business's plans for the system, says Ben Moreland, assistant director of application infrastructure delivery. "We anticipated adding more functionality to the portal and a higher volume of users than the project initially predicted," he says. "By doing the review early on, we were able to scale up the

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