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What is Enterprise Architecture?

The word "Enterprise" does not necessarily mean a huge organisation. An Enterprise is basically a combination of groups/teams/companies/organisations with shared or common goals. For better understanding, you could replace “Enterprise” with “Business Unit” to get Business Unit Architecture, which means that a Development Team & Infrastructure Teams can be classed as an Enterprise, provided they have a common goal and need to be integrated. This means that EA is just a way of structuring a Business Unit to function better, be more efficient and grow faster. There are other EA frameworks, but as a TOGAF certified professional, this explanation is limited to TOGAF.

Just like Scrum is a framework for practising agile delivery of products, TOGAF is also a framework for better business-IT collaboration and efficient delivery of digital transformation, which helps an enterprise to derive the most value from investments, promote innovation, lower operation costs, reduce complexity of IT practice & Business productivity and employ best-practices to foster evolution. It promotes considerations such as storage & reuse of assets, integration (interoperability) of systems, better IT governance, SOA & boundary-less information, Security, and a focus on domains (Business, Data, Application and Technology), which are often overlooked.

How to Practice EA

The focal point of TOGAF is its ADM (Architecture Development Method), which is a method that helps enterprises develop their architecture.

The ADM begins with the Preliminary stage where Architects look into the enterprise’s ability to practice EA, setting up an implementation team/governance, scope of architecture, etc. Following this, is the Vision stage where the domain experts such as Business/Data/Application/Technology Architects give a high-level report of the current state of their domains, to ease identification of inefficiencies/improvement opportunities, and where stakeholders’ views are compiled.

The next 3 stages focus on in-depth analysis into the current stage and desired state of the above listed domains. This will allow a gap analysis to be performed, and based on the gap identified, a road map will be created. The components of the road map are then signed off by the stakeholders and handed over to the Solutions Architect for further analysis. The solution architect, who functions in the Opportunities and Solutions stage, consolidates the Roadmap components from all the domains and, where possible, plans the solution delivery into transition phases. The cost of buying/re-using/developing the solution, as well as potential benefits of the solutions, are considered next.

The next stage is where the Architects handover the transition/migration plan to a delivery team (which could consist of Project Managers, Devs, BAs, QAs etc) and a contract is drawn out for the delivery team. The delivery team then, make the decision to deliver the solution using Waterfall, Agile or Prince2. The delivery is monitored by the Architects and compliance tests are performed until delivery is finalised. The final stage occurs after delivery, where the EAs monitor the value being derived, and the architecture landscape is inspected for changes that could affect the delivery, or triggers which indicate the need to begin a new ADM cycle.

There are some tools used during the ADM cycle. These include:

  • Business Scenarios: which communicate the current state and problems to stakeholders for easy understanding.

  • Principles: which are agreed to in the Preliminary and Vision stages, to make decision-making on solutions easier and faster (it reduces stakeholder/requirement conflict).

  • Enterprise Continuum & Architecture Repository: which teaches how to organise assets/contents/documents in a way that can be easily retrieved for re-use (from a general view to a more adapted & specific view)

  • Maturity models: which tell how proficient an enterprise is in practising EA, to limit expectations and identify areas of improvement. It explores staff expertise and fosters continuous learning.

  • Business Transformation Readiness Assessment: which encourages the analysis of an organisation’s readiness for change and acceptance of change.

  • Governance: which promotes a structured way of making decisions and ensuring compliance with architecture best-practices.

  • Capability-based planning: which focuses on the delivery BUSINESS outcome.

  • Building Blocks: which promotes the view that assets or deliverables can be re-used, which reduces the time spent developing solutions.

  • Patterns: which encourages empirical decision making; “if this method worked before, it may work again

To learn more about EA, you can look up Enterprise Architecture on The Open Group website.