Government Technology

Enterprise Architecture Demystified



September 24, 2008 By

  • some degree. So, while managers are always pushing themselves and their staff to look forward, an architect's plea to spend some time determining exactly what is already there doesn't always fly. Yet, without a good understanding of what is there and how it is used, it is all but impossible to plan a renovation, much less a new addition.
  • You can't wrap your arms around an enterprise architecture the same way you can a house. When a home is built, you can look at it, touch it and walk through the rooms. When an EA has been done well, you're able to get your work done but there's no thoroughly satisfying way to take a tour. Even worse, the only time an enterprise architecture (or its lack) usually becomes visible is when something breaks.
  • Enterprise architecture has its own set of terms and procedures which need to be understood: not understanding those terms acts as a false barrier to what is in reality a very simple idea.

Even people with no building experience know what a "blueprint" is and when they look at one, they can find the bathrooms, kitchen, bedrooms and family rooms. They can locate the windows and doors and would know immediately if a room had no door. By contrast, most people do not immediately know what a "Context Diagram" is, yet it is just a somewhat analogous type of diagram used in EA to specify how a computer application or system interacts with other applications or systems -- it shows the "doors" between applications or systems and allows one to see immediately if one is missing.

As pointed out by Bill Roth, chief information technology architect for the state of Kansas, the fact "that EA is not understood is the biggest barrier to its adoption. There is a lack of clarity of what EA brings to the business management and IT management." According to Roth this is more a failure to communicate than anything else. When EA is explained, its intent is obvious even to non-technical people. Roth has done 45-minute presentations to high level state executives about enterprise architecture and knew he'd succeeded when they suddenly said "Oh you're not describing technology problems, you're talking about helping me to do my business better!"

So, one of the key things to know about enterprise architecture is that it is not "just an IT matter" -- it involves the discussion and clarification of business processes and procedures. There is no sense building applications and an infrastructure that simply automate disorganized or inefficient processes, so defining and documenting business processes are key components of a full enterprise architecture undertaking.

Crossing the Terminology Barrier

As mentioned, enterprise architecture like any other professional practice, comes with its own set of terms which can act as a barrier to understanding. The following is not an exhaustive list of the terms by any means, but highlights two of the most important. For more details see some of the online EA resources.

One of the most commonly heard terms in enterprise architecture is "framework," a word that is used in other professions for other things and so is subject to not only non-comprehension, but also mis-comprehension. Within the enterprise architecture world, a "framework" is simply an agreed-upon way to organize the data about an enterprise or department. Since the data that is important to enterprise architecture includes everything from what an organization's goals and strategies are to its business processes to the applications it uses and how its network is connected, it is important to have a plan for organizing the data.

Enterprise architecture "frameworks" are plans for organizing data about the enterprise and, more important, they facilitate getting meaningful answers for business people. For example, when the finance director wants to stop


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Comments

J. Zepp    |    Commented September 30, 2008

EA's is predicated on a naive world view that ignores the dynamic and evolving environment for information needs and technologies, which is further complicated by the decentralized decisionmaking and year-to-year budget cycles that public agencies must cope with. Perhaps in a steady state, ideal world there would be enough time and resources to develop and successfully implement a broad EA plan. But this approach simply seems to be a rehash of the Grand Design projects that failed so miserably in the 1980's. It's a shame that this profession has learned so little from past mistakes. One possibility not explored in this article is that the low regard for EA could be deserved. Improving government through better IT capabilities is a worthy goal. However, a more practical and realistic approach may be incremental change that satisfies users' immediate needs and seizes on the occasional opportunities for broader impacts.

J. Zepp    |    Commented September 30, 2008

EA's is predicated on a naive world view that ignores the dynamic and evolving environment for information needs and technologies, which is further complicated by the decentralized decisionmaking and year-to-year budget cycles that public agencies must cope with. Perhaps in a steady state, ideal world there would be enough time and resources to develop and successfully implement a broad EA plan. But this approach simply seems to be a rehash of the Grand Design projects that failed so miserably in the 1980's. It's a shame that this profession has learned so little from past mistakes. One possibility not explored in this article is that the low regard for EA could be deserved. Improving government through better IT capabilities is a worthy goal. However, a more practical and realistic approach may be incremental change that satisfies users' immediate needs and seizes on the occasional opportunities for broader impacts.

J. Zepp    |    Commented September 30, 2008

EA's is predicated on a naive world view that ignores the dynamic and evolving environment for information needs and technologies, which is further complicated by the decentralized decisionmaking and year-to-year budget cycles that public agencies must cope with. Perhaps in a steady state, ideal world there would be enough time and resources to develop and successfully implement a broad EA plan. But this approach simply seems to be a rehash of the Grand Design projects that failed so miserably in the 1980's. It's a shame that this profession has learned so little from past mistakes. One possibility not explored in this article is that the low regard for EA could be deserved. Improving government through better IT capabilities is a worthy goal. However, a more practical and realistic approach may be incremental change that satisfies users' immediate needs and seizes on the occasional opportunities for broader impacts.

J. Zepp    |    Commented September 30, 2008

EA's is predicated on a naive world view that ignores the dynamic and evolving environment for information needs and technologies, which is further complicated by the decentralized decisionmaking and year-to-year budget cycles that public agencies must cope with. Perhaps in a steady state, ideal world there would be enough time and resources to develop and successfully implement a broad EA plan. But this approach simply seems to be a rehash of the Grand Design projects that failed so miserably in the 1980's. It's a shame that this profession has learned so little from past mistakes. One possibility not explored in this article is that the low regard for EA could be deserved. Improving government through better IT capabilities is a worthy goal. However, a more practical and realistic approach may be incremental change that satisfies users' immediate needs and seizes on the occasional opportunities for broader impacts.

Mossar    |    Commented November 18, 2008

I agree with J. Zepp about EA being predicated on a naive world view; I would add that this fact is by choice. I have practiced EA for decades and I've concluded that the two main reason for its acceptance is one, denial and two, mental constipation. The reasons driving an EA project differ by the environment in which one lives; in the Private Sector, ROI is the driving force and results are expected quickly, so introducing EA into the business becomes fragmented. In the Public Sector, there is none; the mentality that exist is constricted and any amount of reason requires strong softeners to produce fluidity. Government is plagued by continuity blindness and the inability to predict if a given initiative will produced the desired result. Simply because every effort is self-sustaining and lacks inner connection with similar processes. Most common is that in a given agency, businesses do not understand the power of the data resource and how to develop a fluidity among related processes; in fact, individual processes do not know there exist other processes that can easily share resources thus reduce costs and be efficient and productive. Management knows of the shortcomings but don't bring these out for fear either require lengthy involvements or effort will hamper their retirement plans. Clamor from lower ranks go unheeded, these are dwarfed and fall into the 'as-is-vain' and don't insist. Regardless, an EA effort must start by the simplification of the business; IT involvement is to capture the definition of a business and the interlaced data resource tying processes. Functional decomposition practices define the business functions and the resources necessary to accomplish each business function. One very prominent aspect of this is the absence of software and firmware for a given solution; these definitions are independent and must be isolated from a given product, they must rely on the definition process. Nothing else. EA Project team must be trained in this methodology and must the approval of upper management and vested with the required authority to engage in the investigative process. Business lines personnel must be instructed that participation is essential and necessary regardless of other commitments. Seriousness must prevail at-all times so focus is not lost. if necessary, sequestering during the definition process may be necessary in order to make gains and maintain continuity. This not a light issue to deal with and businesses must embrace the fact that the only way to understand own affairs is to dedicate the time to extract the knowledge its employees own. It requires the majority's participation and their contribution must be assured. The participation far exceeds the expense by the return through time. It is said that the Federal Government has taken the lead but one thing is traditional in averting participation is the dictatorial attitude of the feds which contradicts any good intentions with ridance or lack of participation that slows all efforts. State and Local governments' attitude is to 'show' me or no dice. EA to be successful, all entities must show willingness to participate and realize the benefits to be harvested.

Mossar    |    Commented November 18, 2008

I agree with J. Zepp about EA being predicated on a naive world view; I would add that this fact is by choice. I have practiced EA for decades and I've concluded that the two main reason for its acceptance is one, denial and two, mental constipation. The reasons driving an EA project differ by the environment in which one lives; in the Private Sector, ROI is the driving force and results are expected quickly, so introducing EA into the business becomes fragmented. In the Public Sector, there is none; the mentality that exist is constricted and any amount of reason requires strong softeners to produce fluidity. Government is plagued by continuity blindness and the inability to predict if a given initiative will produced the desired result. Simply because every effort is self-sustaining and lacks inner connection with similar processes. Most common is that in a given agency, businesses do not understand the power of the data resource and how to develop a fluidity among related processes; in fact, individual processes do not know there exist other processes that can easily share resources thus reduce costs and be efficient and productive. Management knows of the shortcomings but don't bring these out for fear either require lengthy involvements or effort will hamper their retirement plans. Clamor from lower ranks go unheeded, these are dwarfed and fall into the 'as-is-vain' and don't insist. Regardless, an EA effort must start by the simplification of the business; IT involvement is to capture the definition of a business and the interlaced data resource tying processes. Functional decomposition practices define the business functions and the resources necessary to accomplish each business function. One very prominent aspect of this is the absence of software and firmware for a given solution; these definitions are independent and must be isolated from a given product, they must rely on the definition process. Nothing else. EA Project team must be trained in this methodology and must the approval of upper management and vested with the required authority to engage in the investigative process. Business lines personnel must be instructed that participation is essential and necessary regardless of other commitments. Seriousness must prevail at-all times so focus is not lost. if necessary, sequestering during the definition process may be necessary in order to make gains and maintain continuity. This not a light issue to deal with and businesses must embrace the fact that the only way to understand own affairs is to dedicate the time to extract the knowledge its employees own. It requires the majority's participation and their contribution must be assured. The participation far exceeds the expense by the return through time. It is said that the Federal Government has taken the lead but one thing is traditional in averting participation is the dictatorial attitude of the feds which contradicts any good intentions with ridance or lack of participation that slows all efforts. State and Local governments' attitude is to 'show' me or no dice. EA to be successful, all entities must show willingness to participate and realize the benefits to be harvested.

Mossar    |    Commented November 18, 2008

I agree with J. Zepp about EA being predicated on a naive world view; I would add that this fact is by choice. I have practiced EA for decades and I've concluded that the two main reason for its acceptance is one, denial and two, mental constipation. The reasons driving an EA project differ by the environment in which one lives; in the Private Sector, ROI is the driving force and results are expected quickly, so introducing EA into the business becomes fragmented. In the Public Sector, there is none; the mentality that exist is constricted and any amount of reason requires strong softeners to produce fluidity. Government is plagued by continuity blindness and the inability to predict if a given initiative will produced the desired result. Simply because every effort is self-sustaining and lacks inner connection with similar processes. Most common is that in a given agency, businesses do not understand the power of the data resource and how to develop a fluidity among related processes; in fact, individual processes do not know there exist other processes that can easily share resources thus reduce costs and be efficient and productive. Management knows of the shortcomings but don't bring these out for fear either require lengthy involvements or effort will hamper their retirement plans. Clamor from lower ranks go unheeded, these are dwarfed and fall into the 'as-is-vain' and don't insist. Regardless, an EA effort must start by the simplification of the business; IT involvement is to capture the definition of a business and the interlaced data resource tying processes. Functional decomposition practices define the business functions and the resources necessary to accomplish each business function. One very prominent aspect of this is the absence of software and firmware for a given solution; these definitions are independent and must be isolated from a given product, they must rely on the definition process. Nothing else. EA Project team must be trained in this methodology and must the approval of upper management and vested with the required authority to engage in the investigative process. Business lines personnel must be instructed that participation is essential and necessary regardless of other commitments. Seriousness must prevail at-all times so focus is not lost. if necessary, sequestering during the definition process may be necessary in order to make gains and maintain continuity. This not a light issue to deal with and businesses must embrace the fact that the only way to understand own affairs is to dedicate the time to extract the knowledge its employees own. It requires the majority's participation and their contribution must be assured. The participation far exceeds the expense by the return through time. It is said that the Federal Government has taken the lead but one thing is traditional in averting participation is the dictatorial attitude of the feds which contradicts any good intentions with ridance or lack of participation that slows all efforts. State and Local governments' attitude is to 'show' me or no dice. EA to be successful, all entities must show willingness to participate and realize the benefits to be harvested.

Mossar    |    Commented November 18, 2008

I agree with J. Zepp about EA being predicated on a naive world view; I would add that this fact is by choice. I have practiced EA for decades and I've concluded that the two main reason for its acceptance is one, denial and two, mental constipation. The reasons driving an EA project differ by the environment in which one lives; in the Private Sector, ROI is the driving force and results are expected quickly, so introducing EA into the business becomes fragmented. In the Public Sector, there is none; the mentality that exist is constricted and any amount of reason requires strong softeners to produce fluidity. Government is plagued by continuity blindness and the inability to predict if a given initiative will produced the desired result. Simply because every effort is self-sustaining and lacks inner connection with similar processes. Most common is that in a given agency, businesses do not understand the power of the data resource and how to develop a fluidity among related processes; in fact, individual processes do not know there exist other processes that can easily share resources thus reduce costs and be efficient and productive. Management knows of the shortcomings but don't bring these out for fear either require lengthy involvements or effort will hamper their retirement plans. Clamor from lower ranks go unheeded, these are dwarfed and fall into the 'as-is-vain' and don't insist. Regardless, an EA effort must start by the simplification of the business; IT involvement is to capture the definition of a business and the interlaced data resource tying processes. Functional decomposition practices define the business functions and the resources necessary to accomplish each business function. One very prominent aspect of this is the absence of software and firmware for a given solution; these definitions are independent and must be isolated from a given product, they must rely on the definition process. Nothing else. EA Project team must be trained in this methodology and must the approval of upper management and vested with the required authority to engage in the investigative process. Business lines personnel must be instructed that participation is essential and necessary regardless of other commitments. Seriousness must prevail at-all times so focus is not lost. if necessary, sequestering during the definition process may be necessary in order to make gains and maintain continuity. This not a light issue to deal with and businesses must embrace the fact that the only way to understand own affairs is to dedicate the time to extract the knowledge its employees own. It requires the majority's participation and their contribution must be assured. The participation far exceeds the expense by the return through time. It is said that the Federal Government has taken the lead but one thing is traditional in averting participation is the dictatorial attitude of the feds which contradicts any good intentions with ridance or lack of participation that slows all efforts. State and Local governments' attitude is to 'show' me or no dice. EA to be successful, all entities must show willingness to participate and realize the benefits to be harvested.

EAnonymous practitioner chaffing at the waste!    |    Commented December 30, 2008

EA is misunderstood, I agree. It is also a possibility that at some govt sector EA itself has become a dinosauer! There are armies conducting EA work for 5-8yrs. Govt has a way of continuation.. Projects and people have a way of continuing, at the expense of ROI, real benefit to the business and IT operations!

EAnonymous practitioner chaffing at the waste!    |    Commented December 30, 2008

EA is misunderstood, I agree. It is also a possibility that at some govt sector EA itself has become a dinosauer! There are armies conducting EA work for 5-8yrs. Govt has a way of continuation.. Projects and people have a way of continuing, at the expense of ROI, real benefit to the business and IT operations!

EAnonymous practitioner chaffing at the waste!    |    Commented December 30, 2008

EA is misunderstood, I agree. It is also a possibility that at some govt sector EA itself has become a dinosauer! There are armies conducting EA work for 5-8yrs. Govt has a way of continuation.. Projects and people have a way of continuing, at the expense of ROI, real benefit to the business and IT operations!

EAnonymous practitioner chaffing at the waste!    |    Commented December 30, 2008

EA is misunderstood, I agree. It is also a possibility that at some govt sector EA itself has become a dinosauer! There are armies conducting EA work for 5-8yrs. Govt has a way of continuation.. Projects and people have a way of continuing, at the expense of ROI, real benefit to the business and IT operations!


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