COMPUTER BUSINESS REVIEW

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Issue Date: November 2007

EA: common-sense and business imperative

November 2007
Stuart Mcgregor, MD, Real IRM

Enterprise architecture is required to transform a legacy of fragmented applications, organisational structures and processes (both manual and automated) into an integrated environment with optimised processes that are responsive to change and the delivery of the business strategy.

The enterprise architecture process fuses the business model imperatives and the IT portfolio. This provides vision alignment and a shared understanding of the business drivers behind technology initiatives and conversely how information technology can enable new and ­possibly even disruptive business ­models.
The enterprise (business focus) is any collection of organisations that have a common set of goals and/or a single bottom line. The term enterprise in the context of enterprise architecture can be used to denote both an entire enterprise, encompassing all of its information systems, and a specific domain within the enterprise. If the enterprise architecture objective is to integrate an extended enterprise, then the enterprise is comprised of the partners, suppliers and customers, as well as internal business units.
Stuart Macgregor, MD, Real IRM
Stuart Macgregor, MD, Real IRM
Enterprise architecture is the ability to describe and understand all of the different elements (including business organisation, processes, information and infrastructure) that go to make up a business and how those elements work together in supporting the business.
Governance and organisational change leadership are fundamental in entrenching enterprise architecture (essentially a new way of working) into an organisation. Without adequate governance, enterprise architecture will remain a theoretical concept that will fail to deliver the desired business benefits. This necessitates greater collaboration and cross-discipline understanding between the business process owners, strategic planning, compliance, audit, risk and security functions and the chief architect.
The detailed mapping between CobiT and TOGAF published in 2007 by The Open Group and the IT Governance Institute coupled with an organisational change leadership approach (eg, John Kotter) provide guidance in fostering a shared purpose, collaboration and driving organisational transformation.
The enterprise architecture practice focuses on modelling stakeholder views of the enterprise across the domains of business, information, data, applications and technology (BIDAT). These models are structured using a framework and enable the enterprise architect to design new solutions and support the organisation in managing complexity and the impact of change by understanding the ripple effect of change across the enterprise architecture domains. This capability provides the organisation with the strategic ability to conduct impact assessments, assess risk, analyse alternative scenarios and implement appropriate strategies.
Powered by EA
Enterprise performance management (EPM) is the flavour of the month right now, conferring as it does on organisations the ability to manage many critical aspects of their business against a single view of the business intelligence-informed truth. It has even more power when conducted within the context of enterprise architecture. However, too often EPM is conducted as a discrete exercise, run in such a way that it operates in a silo, running against aggregated operational data, but its conclusions reached in a unidirectional format. They have no way to tie back to strategy.
Enterprise architecture should set the direction for the business: the strategy, the plans, the means for operationalising these, the answerability, the measures, the team and individual goals, the roles and responsibilities. For without these, there can be no enduring value to EPM.
Taken within the context of enterprise architecture, EPM gains meaningful power. It can give effect to an organisation’s strategy, and translate it into action. As EPM tries to narrow the gap between leading and lagging indicators, it can help define the business model from several perspectives: conceptual, logical, process, business motivation. EPM has become a vital discipline. Today, business is drowning in data but starved of information. It needs the right information; and if EPM is viewed in its right place in the enterprise architecture, it helps to make the information architecture domain explicit.
In addition, it helps management understand the drivers of value, and link processes, roles, measures and applications; as such it helps management define processes and measure them for their value to the business.
Knowledge management, in turn, converts personal tacit knowledge into explicit organisational knowledge, bridging the divide between those who know and those who need to know. Using an enterprise architecture approach, it becomes possible to link role to process, information, product and RACI (the matrix which decides who is responsible, accountable, consulted or informed). Finally, it is comprehensive because of the Zachman Framework disciplines applied to modelling. The six questions of 'what, how, who, where, when and why' are asked from differing perspectives and are answered in the form of models that can be combined and structured in different ways in order to add value to the customer, such as job descriptions and skill requirements.
When used as an organising blueprint for models, these frameworks enable the EA practice to quickly package models to specific business needs; enabling value realisation which in turn drives business acceptance of the enterprise architecture discipline.
Experience has shown that organisations rapidly reach a critical mass of model content. At this stage, a virtuous feedback loop develops, as individuals perceive that they obtain more value than the cost of their personal contribution to the organisation’s knowledge base of models. Business models are, for example, re-used for package selection, development and implementation; the same models are also used by the audit and risk management functions or six sigma business process improvement initiatives. Leading EA practices facilitate the re-use of an existing model which results in a 90-95% return on the development cost of the model.
Enterprise architecture formalises the business model and codifies organisational knowledge in a format that is transportable, enabling the replication or merging of business models, operational innovation and standardisation of systems and processes across the globe. This EA service is particularly important as many leading organisations are moving to shared service centres with their business executives driving the pendulum swing from 'everyone does their own thing' to 'we are one business'.
Through enterprise architecture, companies can design optimal business process commonality and information standardisation. The Open Group’s vision of Boundary-less Information Flow is fundamental here, as e-commerce and security are delivered in equal measures, and trading partners can communicate with each other easily, within the overall enterprise architecture.
Enterprise architecture generally has a fundamental impact on IT. As companies digitise their core business processes, so their IT on the one hand assumes ever greater importance – in essence, many companies cannot survive without their information systems; and on the other, it needs to be aligned with the requirements of business. Importantly, it needs to be put into its proper context, where it is an enabler of business, rather than an end in and unto itself, and often a hindrance to business strategy.
Fundamentally, enterprise architecture enables alignment, integration, change and reduced time to market. It does so by producing a future-state architecture that supports the requirements of the business strategy and external environmental factors, documentation of the present architecture, a gap analysis that identifies the shortfalls in the current state in terms of its ability to support strategy, and a roadmap to take the organisation from its current state into the future, desired state.
BIDAT architecture domain definitions
Business architecture – the business policies, strategies, people, processes, business rules, products, services, customers, geographical span, energy, partners and competitors that define the enterprise. The business architecture is thus the context within which the business operates.
Information architecture – all the sources of information, supporting business and decision processes, including paper, graphics, video, speech and thought that define the sources and destinations of information, its flow through the organisation, as well as the rules for persistence, security and ownership.
Data architecture – as a subset of the information that drives the enterprise, the data architecture defines the types of data, their form, and the rules that govern their use. The elements of this layer are the only forms of information that must be stored by information technology.
Application architecture – this is a representation of the applications required to support the business and information strategies and their relationships to business processes.
Technology architecture – a representation of the business infrastructure and technology platforms required to support and enable the application and data architectures. It includes servers, client devices, databases, middleware, network and communication components.


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