Saturday, March 01, 2008

What is the purpose of Enterprise Architecture in your company?

Nick Malik challenged his readers by asking:

What is the purpose for EA in your company? How do you answer the question: "This is the measurement that we are paid to improve?"

First of all: what is architecture at all? As I posted before, I think architecture can be defined as "purposeful composition" or, in other words, "meaningful arrangement". No more and no less.

As most architectures Enterprise Architecture has more than one purpose. Those purposes may be conflicting and it is the architects job to balance them.

Back to the question of Nick: The most important purpose of EA - in my opinion - is to offer business continuity in an ever changing context from a holistic point of view. So:

The ability to smoothly follow change, measured in the rate of business continuity being agnostic to change.

Not the ability to change the internals of the distinct components, but the ability to follow changing contexts of the organization as a whole.

Recognized aspects - among others - of change in a business context are:

Changing vision and business scenario’s; marketing strategies and campaigns; propositions

Changing process chains and dataflows

Changing responsibilities; reorganizations; merging; splitting; out-sourcing; in-sourcing

B2B: connections with changing external environments and partners

B2C and C2B: Application access by ever changing intelligent user-devices

Contracts with changing facilitators and service providers


Compliancy to changing regulations; improvements because of security incidents


Growth of volume, frequency, functionality and geography

Innovation; new generations of software products and devices

Strategic design-to-change is what EA is about, in contrast to the tactical design-to-release approach of solution architectures, where the purpose is deployment of "function". A strategic design-to-change cycle has focus on guidance. A tactical design-to-release cycle has focus on version deployment.

I see Enterprise Architecture as the layer of indirection between the business and changing contexts.

I depicted this idea in the "donut" below.

The EA Donut

The importance of Enterprise Architecture from the perspective explained above is higher than ever before. The current increasing pace of IT-driven technology evolutions changes the world more rapidly and more globally than ever before, socially as well as technologically. A design-to-change strategy is key to guarantee business continuity - or even business survival - in the current era of exponential rapidly and continuously changing contexts and enforcing compliancy regulations.

From an application and application infrastructure perspective the "donut" may be populated - as illustratively depicted below - with currently available technologies that all support ease of change.

IT-populated Donut


Nick Malik said...

First off, Jack, I want to say that I would relish the idea of working with you someday. That's a rare statement for me, being a bit of a crusty dog myself, but you and I think alike.

So I agree that, the way in which we make the business better, is by smoothing out the changes.

Your diagrams are clear to me. Very nice. (I may adopt bits).

That said, the business doesn't ask for "smoothing out the changes" although they clearly need it. So I'd like to know what output we can point to in a business process that changes when EA is in the picture.

For example: the business that puts out an online service doesn't ask for software testers. What they want is for the loyalty of the customers to be high, because if loyalty is high, they can directly tie that result to financial gains.

So the business strategy is "Maintain High Loyalty". The Business Goals, therefore, include "insure a high quality, usable, secure, reliable product".

The business measurements, down below that, would include things like defect rates reduced, and service continuity tests, usability results, and security review results. Those are what six sigma geeks call the "little y's" (think y=f(x)... the little 'y' is the direct result of the formula. The big Y is the result of a formula that is so complex that it has not been modeled in math, but the business believes the conclusion to be 'true.')

So, that's the analogy. Now back to the question: what's the big Y. For testing, it is "Maintain High Customer Loyalty". For EA, what is it? What number, tied to the financial results of the company, can you use to measure the results of the existence of EA?

--- Nick

Jack said...


What number, tied to the financial results of the company, can you use to measure the results of the existence of EA?

However very important, I think the benefits of EA go beyond financial results or numbers tied to that. If it were about financial results that would mean that - hypothetical - companies with unlimited money would not need an EA. I don't believe that is true.

I think EA is more about staying into business at all. But I agree that it is difficult to find appealing measures to convince financial oriented folks. People who know that innovation is not an exotic anymore, but mainstream nowadays will be easer to be convinced of EA.

But I will give it a thought to find the Y for EA.

Thanks for your reaction, Nick.

Nick Malik said...

Hi Jack,

Just in your reply, you hit on one. Business people understand the notion of "reducing risk" because risk is part of the equation that selects a company stock in the first place. By reducing risk, the value of the stock can go up, because it is less risky for the investors to earn dividends (or to gain the benefits of rising stock values).

So if you feel that "reducing risk" is one, that is cool. Do you think that, in companies that have adopted EA, that they can, over time, show that risk has been diminished?

Are there any other measures that you think would apply?

--- Nick

Anonymous said...

Excellent post ! You have brought across the essence of EA in an easy to comprehend, easy to express manner !

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