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A Guide to Enterprise Architecture

In this article, we take a closer look at enterprise architecture, enterprise architecture frameworks, and the benefits of implementing an enterprise architecture framework for your business. 

What is Enterprise Architecture?

Enterprise Architecture (EA) is a model of the structure, assets, and operations processes of an organisation that enables them to determine what they need to do to achieve their current and future goals for the business. The strategies are generally focused on digital transformation and the growth and improvement of the IT infrastructure within an organisation. 

In order to align EA with the business goals of an organisation, EA includes the practices of:

  • Analysis
  • Planning
  • Designing
  • Implementing of analyses

An EA is an effective means for organisations to embrace technological advancement within their industries and keep ahead of the curve. Additionally, there can be a specialised Enterprise Security Architecture model that focuses solely on the current or future structures of the security measures and processes in place. This is becoming increasingly popular with Fintech companies who are being hit hard by cybercriminals. 

It can be particularly beneficial for large businesses as part of a long-term effective IT strategy, or who are going through digital growth and want to create a seamless environment combining legacy systems, organisation, and processes.

What is an EA Framework? 

Having a robust EA framework in place can improve the reliability and efficiency of business information. Business systems are often complex, and an EA framework can unravel some of this complexity presenting it in a workable format, for all interested parties. 

An EA Framework is a compilation of standardised methodology which is used to create, change, and describe enterprise architecture. A framework also considers the latest technological innovations in business processes, so the organisation runs as efficiently as possible. 

An EA framework takes a holistic view of the enterprise, including the interests of the owner, designer, and builder in order to ensure there is a culture of:

  • Best practices for business processes
  • Common vocabulary and models
  • Organisational structure
  • Prescriptive guidance on processes
  • Integration or elimination of processes throughout the organisation

An EA framework will enable you to have an over-arching perspective of all the IT infrastructure throughout your organisation. It will focus on how this infrastructure is streamlined, and identify areas for improvement.

However, there is no template framework or even a formalised system and therefore EA frameworks are unique to each organisation, and even within an organisation the framework may be viewed as it is designed to span across different departmental and stake-holder interests. 

What is an enterprise architect?

Enterprise architects are responsible for maintaining an organisations’ IT infrastructure. Their role is to analyse the business structure and processes, in order to determine how well they align with the goals of the organisation. Additionally, their role is to ensure the structures are able to adapt to a changing digital world. 

Enterprise architectures work to improve, maintain, and upgrade the IT infrastructure of a business while ensuring new trends are considered. Business efficiency is a continuous consideration, with all decisions working to improve how a business operates. 

Enterprise Architecture Frameworks

During major re-organisations, mergers, or acquisitions of enterprises inviting an enterprise architect into the business to create an EA framework to standardise and consolidate processes across the board is advisable. 

This can make it easier for multiple disciplines including system development, IT management, and decision making as well as making complex IT structures more accessible throughout the business and more consistent processes throughout the enterprise. 

Benefits of introducing an enterprise architecture framework

  • Improved decision making.
  • Collaboration between IT and other business departments.
  • Reduced data silos within organisations.
  • Elimination of processes and systems which are no longer aligned with the goals.
  • The ability to prioritise investments.
  • Evaluation of existing applications against long-term goals.
  • Creation of processes to procure technology.
  • Enabling other departments an understanding of IT architecture.
  • Creating a benchmark for other organisations or business standards.

Without there being a formalised framework template, it is necessary to create one bespoke to your business from scratch. However, there are a number of Enterprise Architect Planning methodologies which can help organisations to create their own which is most beneficial to their business. These include: 

  1. The Open Group Architectural Framework (TOGAF) – This is beneficial for designing, planning, and implementing enterprise IT architecture.
  2. The Zachman Framework for Enterprise Architecture – It uses six architectural focal points and stakeholders to standardise IT architecture components. 
  3. Gartner – This is ideally for best practices for EAP. 
  4. Unified Architecture Framework (UAF) – Which is used primarily for government and military software development although it does adapt for the commercial market. 

There are also a number of industry specific frameworks which can be applied to individual organisations such as the Ministry of Defence Architecture Framework (MODAF) and the SAP Enterprise Architecture Framework.

It is difficult to identify the most appropriate framework for your business as this depends very much on the nature of your business and the processes in place as well as what you are hoping to achieve in the future. Most organisations however will benefit from an enterprise management system which is compatible with multiple frameworks to allow diversity. 

Layers of Enterprise Architecture 

There are various layers of enterprise architecture which are all interconnected and include:

  • Environment – External variants which have an impact on business infrastructure. 
  • Business – Business functions both internal and external and the processes and systems by which it carries out these functions. 
  • Data – All the data collected and stored within your organisation by classifying what is required to function on a day to day basis. 
  • Applications – Including the information services offered internally and externally and looks at applications and their relationship with the core business processes. 
  • Technology – Including hardware, software, network applications as well as platform services offered internally and externally.  

These layers can help to organise the framework by assigning processes and systems to a particular sub-group. However, all of the layers need to be incorporated in order to have a holistic approach to the organisation and its architecture and then be better placed to identify gaps in the systems and make informed decisions about moving forward. 

What next?

If you would like to discuss putting an Enterprise Architecture Framework in place or feel your processes and systems are no longer serving your business contact the team at CiS



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