What is enterprise architecture?

A new landmark paper from the Federation of Enterprise Architecture Professional Organizations (FEAPO) has found, quoting Michael Porter’s research, that more than 80 per cent  of organizations do not successfully execute their business strategies.  In over 70 per cent of these cases, the reason was not the strategy itself, but ineffective execution.

Moreover, poor strategy execution is the most significant management challenge facing public and private organization compounded by escalating complexity and rapid change. The field of Enterprise Architecture (EA) addresses these challenges, but confusion reigns.

Beginning in 2007 and over ten months, I keynoted 10 IT Executive Alignment conferences, the Strategic Architecture Forum (SAF) and the government House of Commons IT group summit in Ottawa. The hour-long presentations to senior business and IT executives focused on aligning IT with business including discussing questions about EA.  What I noticed from the audience interaction was the lack of conformity in EA contributing to confusion about the field.  Other problematic themes were spotlighted:

  • What is the international unambiguous perspective on EA, the value to the business and what does the term mean?
  • What is required for the professionalization of EA?
  • What are architects, what do they do?
  • Why is there a common EA misconception that it only addresses the information technology (IT) functions in an organization?
  • Does EA lead to big system failures since it can be perceived as rigid, time consuming and out of touch with Agile trends?
  • Is EA too centered on artifacts and not enough on process where real change value is driven?
  • Where does EA sit in the Enterprise and does it fit with the office of the CIO or CTO?

We are now moving into 2014, and the same confusion and questions are still actively debated in forums, conferences, articles, public discourses on EA definition. Do the issues with healthcare.gov in the US come from insufficient EA ?

Bringing Order to Chaos

To bring order to this chaotic scene, FEAPO just published the paper “A Common Perspective on Enterprise Architecture”, to address the questions. This is of high importance in 2014 since an increasing number of organizations are turning to EA to deal with the rapid pace of change ensuring optimum value to the organization.

From Brian Cameron, FEAPO president and executive director of the Penn State Center for Enterprise Architecture, “This is the first time that 17 [non-profit] professional organizations from around the globe have come together and ratified something of this nature …We’re trying to get past all the fragmentation and noise and start to form some international consensus and perspective.” Principal co-author Nick Malik, enterprise architect with Microsoft Consulting Services, goes on to say, “The paper was born out of a need to create a notable and trusted description of enterprise architecture for non-architects. The goal of FEAPO is to create a single voice for enterprise architecture, and this paper is the first thing that that voice has uttered. It is more than one person’s opinion. This paper has been accepted by over a dozen professional organizations representing thousands of architects, engineers, and analysts of all stripes. ”

“Enterprise architecture” describes the range of activities and artifacts for translating business vision and strategy into effective enterprise. Those components include creating, communicating and improving the key requirements, principles and models that describe the enterprise and enable its evolution.

“The EA perspective article is a broad statement of consensus among a very diverse group of organizations composed of EA professionals and a significant achievement toward ‘one face’ for EA given that diversity,” says Richard Martin, delegate to FEAPO from the International Council on Systems Engineering and a member of the FEAPO Board of Directors. “One of the challenges for enterprise architects and a topic that comes up in many discussions is “What do enterprise architects do?,” according to Mark Lane, president of the Center for the Advancement of the Enterprise Architecture Profession, a founding FEAPO member and co-chair of the Strategy and Roadmap committee. “This paper presents an unambiguous perspective on the boundaries and differentiating factors, which enable the EA profession to mature and prosper.”

“It is next to impossible to have 17 people agree on anything on any given day,” adds Andy Chen, past CTO and vice-president Ontario Power Generation, president of Catronic Computer Consultant Services, delegate to FEAPO from the IEEE Computer Society and a member of the FEAPO board of directors. “It is truly amazing that 17 international organizations representing different aspects of enterprise architecture came together and agreed to share a common perspective of this emerging field.”

Notable Organizations

Take a moment to survey a few of the notable organizations who play such a key role with FEAPO: The Association for Enterprise Information, Australian Computer Society, The Business Architecture Guild, Business Architecture Society, CIPS – Canada’s Association of I.T. Professionals, The Center for Advancement for the Enterprise Architecture Profession, Data Management International (DAMA International), DAMA International Education & Research Foundation, The Enterprise Architecture Shared Interest Group from the Industry Advisory Council, The Global IT Community Association, IEEE Computer Society, Institute of Information Technology Professionals New Zealand, International Institute of Business Analysis, International Council on Systems Engineering, The International Federation for Information Processing International Professional Practice Partnership, The National Association of State Chief Information Officers, The Network Professional Association, Netherlands Architecture Forum.

CIPS played a part in the paper as a FEAPO founding member — the history of CIPS, FEAPO and the paper will appear in an upcoming November 2013 issue of CIPS Connections. Watch for it. Director architecture & planning TransCanada, past CIPS board chair and newly inducted CIPS fellow, Trekker Armstrong, is the CIPS FEAPO delegate, and chairs one the committees.

The paper is the result of an 18-month effort culminating in a two-day 2013 FEAPO summit sponsored by Troux Technologies and EMC Corporation. “Enterprise architecture is now a strategic component of every forward-thinking organization around the world,” said Ben Geller, vice-president of marketing at Troux. “EMC is pleased to support this paper and support the work of FEAPO,” said Mike Warner, advisory technical education consultant for EMC.

Brian and Nick’s Interview and Links to the Paper

Brian and Nick in an intensive hour-long interview talk about the paper, work on another paper on Career Paths, the EA body of knowledge and controversies in EA and about FEAPO. The interview also contains links to the full paper which should be studied carefully. The FEAPO web site will have links to provide feedback and commentary so you can continue to shape EA.

Excerpt from the Paper

Section III:  What Value Does Enterprise Architecture Bring to an Organization? 

An EA practice delivers business value by producing several results, including but not limited to:

An articulation of the strategic requirements of the enterprise

  • Models of the future state, which illustrate what the enterprise should look like across all EA viewpoints in support of the business strategy
  • A road map of the change initiatives required to reach that future state
  • The requirements, principles, standards and guidelines that will steer the implementation of change initiatives

While these outputs are often the visible “things” created by Enterprise Architects, they are created in service of specific outcomes.  Enterprise Architecture exists to help deliver an array of outcomes including, but not limited to:

Improvements to the effectiveness, efficiency, and agility of the enterprise

  • Innovations in the structure of an organization
  • Improvements in the capability of continuous organizational innovation and change competency
  • The rational centralization or federation of business processes
  • Improvements to the quality and timeliness of business information
  • Clarification and articulation of business rules
  • Alignment of spending so that money spent on business initiatives and systems actually delivers on the strategic intent

There are many different ways to use this information to improve the functioning of an organization. One common approach is to maintain a description of the enterprise that represents a “target” or “future state” goal.  A set of intermediate steps is created that illustrates the process of changing from the present situation to the target future state. These intermediate steps are called “transitional architectures” by some in the field. 

The value of Enterprise Architecture is measured in many ways.  In most cases, the notion of “value” includes measures that are non-financial as well as financial measures.  When discussing the value of strategically oriented functions like strategic planning or urban planning, a longer-term value understanding is essential.  Strategic planning alone does not produce a directly measurable return on investment (ROI).  However, the successful execution of the strategic plan in the form of projects that are well aligned with the strategic plan produces benefits on many levels to the enterprise.

A formal Enterprise Architecture practice or group can provide for the efficient, effective, and consistent analysis, planning, design, and implementation of strategic needs.  The lack of a formal EA practice implies that the needed bridge between strategy and execution either does not exist at all or exists in fragmented pieces in the organization.

The Enterprise Architecture practice can have a unique vantage point across an enterprise.  That insight and viewpoint is necessary to help identify and develop areas of possible innovation.

More than a fad

The trends and needs of business are constantly changing.  Just a few years ago, organizations were focused on agility and manageability as core issues.  After that, the focus shifted to security.  The current management trend is around innovation.  Regardless of which one of these trends may be motivating change in an organization or what trends may emerge in the future, Enterprise Architecture is a key element enabling rapid and rational changes in businesses, government, non-profit organizations, and any other kind of human enterprise.

Enterprise Architecture is a useful and unique practice.  It is quickly becoming a core competency for organizations dealing with the complexity of overwhelming change.  The continuous and ongoing application of Enterprise Architecture solves one of the most difficult challenges of modern enterprises: making sure that senior leaders can bring about the changes needed to deliver the strategies they have promised to their stakeholders.  The unique blend of skills demanded by Enterprise Architecture, including business, information, and technology competencies, and the carefully engineered and proven methods they employ allow Enterprise Architects to address the obstacles to strategic change.  Commercial, government, and non-profit organizations throughout the world are successfully using Enterprise Architecture to adapt to the ever-increasing demand for change. 

The seventeen professional organizations of FEAPO authored and developed this paper.  A worldwide association of professional organizations, it was established in 2011 to provide a forum to standardize, professionalize, and otherwise advance the discipline of Enterprise Architecture.

This paper is the first of a planned series on the Enterprise Architecture profession that will progressively dive deeper into various aspects of this evolving field.  The initial papers will explore current and emerging issues and trends surrounding many of the topics highlighted in this paper.  For more information on FEAPO and how to become involved in these and other initiatives see  http://www.feapo.org/.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Stephen Ibaraki
Stephen Ibarakihttp://www.stephenibaraki.com/
Stephen Ibaraki Chairman and Managing General Partner REDDS Capital, Founder chair outreach UN ITU AI for good Global Summit. Globally unique with Chairman, Founder, Board roles in: Business/finance, successful Entrepreneurship / startups / investments / VC, no.1 global Science orgs, UN innovation progs, top CEO Industry-orgs/think tanks, no.1 Summits (acronym BE-SUNIS). 300+ global engagements impacting $100+ Trillion in sustainable investments. For more information see Ibaraki's official CIPS Fellows profile: http://www.cips.ca/stephen-ibaraki --- For Microsoft Awards profile: https://mvp.microsoft.com/en-us/PublicProfile/33272?fullName=Stephen%20Ibaraki ----- For a personal profile see Ibaraki's LinkedIn profile: http://ca.linkedin.com/in/sibaraki

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