Sunday, July 4, 2010

It is not my intent in writing to this Enterprise Architecture blog to spend any time getting caught in the old-school EA mentality of thinking in an Enterprise Architecture-centric way. I share Mike Rolling’s of Burton Group's perspective in this regard. Instead I want to focus my commentary about Enterprise Architecture on creating value for businesses, achieving planned outcomes and supporting key business decision making.

Far too much of the conversation amongst Enterprise Architects is about defining Enterprise Architecture, distinguishing EA as a business discipline from Enterprise Information Technology Architecture (EITA), distinguishing EA from any other perversion of the term architecture in general or distinguishing it from any other discipline. I can't help but think that EAs are a particular Myers-Briggs personality type and out natural inclination for abstraction is both what created Enterprise Architecture as a discipline but is also responsible for the Enterprise Architecture community to have an attribute that I like to call the "self-licking ice cream."

Far too much time is spent by Enterprise Architecture framework evangelists and zealots, trying to convince others that one Enterprise Architecture framework or methodology is singularly the best, when any serious Enterprise Architecture practitioner knows that definitions do not create value and that each Enterprise Architecture framework or methodology contains something that can be useful given the right context.

Experienced Enterprise Architecture practitioners know that it is almost definitive of the Enterprise Architect that they know and are able to select the right combination of the various components of various Enterprise Architecture frameworks, the various parts of related disciplines such a project management, business process modelling, information management and so on, the right combination of Enterprise Architecture techniques and probably most importantly have the right 'soft skills' to achieve positive business outcomes through the medium of Enterprise Architecture.

So having completed that little tirade I now intend to completely contradict what I just said by quoting a definition of Enterprise Architecture. The reason is that I hope some potential Enterprise Architecture practitioners will visit this blog and find my World view, the view of an experienced practitioner, useful in understanding Enterprise Architecture practice. So I am going to put up some definitions of Enterprise Architecture as I inevitably come across them in my work and research but I am doing so to provide context for this blog and the comments within. There are other views and closely related disciplines, all of which are important and have merit so long as they are applied in such a way as to create positive business outcomes.

So this definition is from Jamie Roberts' Enterprise Architecture blog at

I chose to post this definition because I am a very firm believer in taking a holistic view of each business and generally think through business problems in the sequence business, information, application, technology. I tend to focus on business models, processes, mechanisms, service lines and information management issues more than I focus on technology. I have a background in IT but these days spend much more time dealing with executives talking about business problems in business language. When it comes to hard core technology stuff, these days I start looking for people with big foreheads and spectacles to do what they do best. I tend to maintain my IT knowledge to the level that allows me to ask the techno gurus the right questions, to know when they are telling the truth and to be able to translate what they say into business language.

So yes... I liked the business view of Enterprise Architecture that Jamie Roberts published.

"Enterprise Architecture is the practice of applying a comprehensive and rigorous method for describing a current and/or future structure and behaviour for an organization’s processes, information systems, personnel and organizational sub-units, so that they align with the organization’s core goals and strategic direction. Although often associated strictly with information technology, it relates more broadly to the practice of business optimization in that it addresses business architecture, performance management, organizational structure and process architecture as well."

Alex Matthews is a consulting Enterprise Architecture expert. Please get in touch via LinkedIn.

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