Enterprise Architecture (EA) can mean different things to different people depending upon the role and responsibility of the individual within the organisation and depending upon the context of the organisation (either being a consultancy OR an end user). To many it is a framework, while others view it as a collection of rules, or a methodology for defining and designing infrastructure services. However the common aims are to improve alignment of the IT Infrastructure with business goals and to attempt to bring stability to an ever changing, chaotic and complex situation.
EA provides the essential backbone (framework) or blueprints for the communication, interpretation and implementation of corporate objectives throughout the organisation and enables the evolution of a strongly aligned IT environment. A plausible way of achieving this would be through creation of a number of interconnected architecture views. The various available frameworks (commercial and / or non-commercial) break the definition of Enterprise Architecture into a different number models and artefacts. EA at the most consists of three main elements viz. Business, Information and Operations.
An effective and pragmatic EA relies on having a common platform and systems infrastructure on which to base the organisations products and services. What we see is, an increasing need of convergence of multiple technologies into a platform providing components for building, managing and deploying services. The convergence platform should be centred on loosely-coupled integration at all levels – system, applications, information, processes and people and the ability to quickly reconfigure these elements to react to threats and opportunities in an organisation’s environment.
How do we achieve it?
Well we first look at some guiding principles which are very much like a lighthouse providing necessary direction and steer to the IT transformation ocean liner… and they are:
Security – The delicate balance between acceptable risk and usability. This is becoming one of the main issues that all public and private sector organsiations have to contend with. It is vital that an enterprise’s information is adequately protected and it will become a precondition of doing business in the future, especially with the inextricable move toward e-business and e-government. The pre-requisite is for security architecture to be considered and deployed at an enterprise level rather than a last minute consideration that this area often receives.
Adapatability – This is required to keep pace with the ever-altering internal and external environment organisations find themselves in. Solutions have to be flexible, catering to changes in requirements, procedures, processes and organisation. Flexibility is also important for successful IT projects and to ensure the robustness of IT services. An important facet of architecture must be the use of modularity to enable continual adaptation, to meet changing business needs and allow re-use of software.
Standards – for open interfaces and data models delivered thorough an Enterprise wide Governance framework are crucial if an EA approach is to succeed. The use of standards extends further than just being used for interoperability. Openness is important for protecting IT investments, both in short and long term by shielding against supplier dependency. The move to more componentisation relies on standardisation.
Performance – must be a critical part of the architecture design. As with security it is very costly to add scalability as an afterthought. Systems need to maintain efficiency and service levels regardless of demand. The whole operation is reliant on the performance of the weakest link!. The architecture must support the increase in users, transaction volumes and data capacity and prevention of bottlenecks.
Management – of the complete architecture process is another important factor. The need for such features such as version control, end-to-end visibility, and monitoring become even more critical. The administration focus should be on support on SLAs, policy-based management and supplying a method of measuring effectiveness.
EA facilitates a top-down , business objectives led approach, building up a coherent set of business, information, organisation and services architectures that provide different views of the organisation, relationships, proceses and data dependent upon the stakeholder requirements.
EA addresses the need to look at external factors such as market intelligence and exterior environmental events, rather than just looking at current portfolio of in-flight projects/ programmes. This enables the Enterprise Architect to strategise, draw synergies and evaluate opportunities and threats presented by these issues and to determine if changes are required to the enterprise blueprint
A services model utilises the logical-level deliverables provided by the other architectures (business and information) , expanding a platform-independent view of the business processes with associated data and presentation requirements, and using this to develop a platform and technology-dependent model, taking “cognisance” of technologies and utilising a services platform with common components and services. Approaches gaining significant traction in this area of SOA are enterprise class communications backbone like ESB, Model Driven Architecture and adoption of frameworks like TOGAF.
What are customers talking about?:
· A number of organisations have implemented an EA. Approaches vary: it can be top down or bottom up
· An EA model can have four levels: Business Architecture, Information Architecture, Applications & Systems Architecture, Technical Architecture
· It is important to have a common vision of where the business is going: this greatly influences application and hardware strategy.
· Key: model the business based on its services: processes can then be modelled within this
· Use templates for EA. Aim for reusability. Identify interdependencies
· Basic tools such as Visio plus Word, or Visio plus Office are commonly used (about half of delegate
· organisations only use these)
· EA is the technique for communicating with the business: methodologies and tools help this
· Tools can be used to document applications and business processes (not necessarily in one tool)
· Important: Consider how the information from the tool will be used to ensure it is fit for its purposes and aids communication
− The business strategy translates into the IT strategy.
− Have a planning period covering three years
− Review and update the plan regularly
− Have a decommissioning plan
− Expose projects at an early stage.
· Build governance from the board down. A strong CIO is needed to get support from the business
· Identify the IT elements of business budgets and aggregate them: this shows a total cost of IT
· Have some form of EA Policing / Auditing / Review. Always review pilots
· Achieving control: a lot can be achieved by making the adoption of governance part of personal appraisal objectives.
Increase the access to and ability to change the Application Services (based upon business need):
− Open published interface standards including XML data formats, Web Services, JMS, FTP and HTTP. Further WSDL and W3C Schemas as service definition” language, and SOAP as the “messaging protocol language”.
− The capability to selectively store message data in an external data store as it traverses the middleware
− Reduced impact of changes to IT Business services to the business
Improve the availability and reliability of the Application Services
− Access to additional (existing) services.
− Generic high availability interconnects facility between all supported system components
− Reduced technical risk of supporting IT Business services
− Load Balancing , fault tolerance and automatic scale up through configuration provisioning
What to consider when focussing on enterprise integration?:(See table)
Typical Offerings in this space:
Enterprise Architecture Maturity Assessment - An exercise that involves interviewing and work-shopping with key individuals of the organisation usually at the CXO level to enable addressing immediate needs and setting the direction for the “internal” enterprise (application, programme, organisation - portfolios) and for the “external” enterprise (partners, suppliers, sourcing strategies, selling strategies and most importantly customer retention and growth)
Envisioning – A technique that aims to align organisational stakeholders to business opportunities / challenges through a rapid, high impact and workshop enabled process. This alignment also takes into consideration the core elements or requirements of a solution that addresses this issue or opportunity, and a credible delivery plan. This approach can further be used to capture detailed requirements and to help with tactical and strategic decision making
Thought Leadership and Innovation around SOA – through a robust framework based upon the integration of Programme Management (MSP) and Enterprise architecture methods (TOGAF), EAI COE offerings around specific technologies and further through active participation of standards bodies like HL7 , W3C on Choreography to name a few.
This paper deals with some of the basics around why organisations are giving a serious thought to Enterprise Architecture and how these considerations play a major role in linking to initiatives like Enterprise Integration.
While it is important to focus on immediate programmes at hand – it is becoming increasingly imperative to also take a step back and view the enterprise from a “aircraft pilot’s viewpoint” to enable stronger linkage of IT initiatives to Business goals, strategies and measures.
Enterprise Integration through traditional EAI methods need to focus on distributed / federated architectures that span multiple geographies and disparate business processes.
A clear view on the definitions, policies and standards for EA and requirements for EI will help the architect on the ground to safely steer this ship to the target destination.