I actually credit the topic of this post to a quote by a client last week. We were working with him on the PMO he was setting up, when he made the point in the headline. I thought it was provocative, and made an important point, so I want to explore it.
What Is Meant By Enterprise Architecture?
MIT Sloan School Professor Peter Weill defines Enterprise Architecture as “The organizing logic for business processes and IT infrastructure reflecting the integration and standardization requirements of the firm’s operating model.”
There’s an important distinction I see between the contemporary discipline of Enterprise Architecture, and its more traditional roots in IT architecture. The former tends to be driven by business model aspects, concerned with business processes and information. As such, it tends to be “top down” and business or even ecosystem-centric, concerned with what is shared and common versus unique and differentiated. The latter tends to be driven by the more technical aspects of IT infrastructure, concerned with models and standards around the technology components of IT infrastructure. As such, it tends to be “bottom up” and “IT-centric.” Ultimately, IT architecture is a level of detail within Enterprise Architecture, but is concerned with very different issues and stakeholders.
The Role of Enterprise Architect
According to Wikipedia, the role of enterprise architect is to “work with stakeholders, both leadership and subject matter experts, to build a holistic view of the organization’s strategy, processes, information, and information technology assets. The role of the Enterprise Architect is to take this knowledge and ensure that the business and IT are in alignment. The enterprise architect links the business mission, strategy, and processes of an organization to its IT strategy, and documents this using multiple architectural models or views that show how the current and future needs of an organization will be met in an efficient, sustainable, agile, and adaptable manner.” Wikipedia goes on to say, “Enterprise architects operate across organizational and computing “silos” to drive common approaches and expose information assets and processes across the enterprise. Their goal is to deliver an architecture that supports the most efficient and secure IT environment meeting a company’s business needs.”
So, What’s An IT Professional Good For?
To my recent post on “The Role of the IT Organization is Deeply Flawed“, Enterprise Architecture will become, I believe, a critical value-add for the IT profession. With Web 2.0, the Internet becomes the computer. While running the data centers and networks was an important IT organizational contribution in the pre-2.0 world, Web 2.0 (with its tools, cloud computing, and software services) largely obsoletes this role. While package installation, configuration and system development were crucial ingredients of the pre-2.0 world, mash-ups and end-user computing largely obsolete this role too.
So, what is left for the IT professional? We must be the master enterprise architects, working with techniques such as strategy mapping and business-IT principles to integrate and differentiate across the business and ecosystem operating model. We must be masters of functional decomposition, using rigorous techniques such as IDEF0 and SADT). We must be the masters of Metadata and conceptual and logical data models. We must be the keepers of the grand application blueprint and the interfaces between applications tracking events, messages and data flows.
As “computing” migrates away from the traditional IT organization and integrates into the business, enterprise architects will play the important role of ensuring a coherent whole – exposing services and providing integrating frameworks. The specifics of the role are being discovered and defined over time, as technology evolves and as new tools and methods mature.
Enterprise Architecture Is Not For Everybody – A Personal Reflection
The conceptual skills for enterprise architects are not universally available. Many current IT professionals will not make good architects, and would not be happy in an enterprise architect role. Early in my own career, with experience as a child electronics hobbyist, repairing televisions for friends’ parents, and making tube (valve) guitar amplifiers, I got a degree in Electrical Engineering and took my first job as a computer hardware designer. While I’d been at University, the vacuum tube had given way to the transistor and the first integrated circuits. Suddenly my love of basic electronics was replaced by the need to be an architect. Hardware design was an exercise in architecture, literally sitting all day at a drawing board laying out logic diagrams. Once drawn, the only task that remained was to find the appropriate integrated circuits for each logic component (e.g., 8-way and-gate, 4-way exclusive-or gate, dual flip-flop) from a supplier’s manual, and to turn the whole thing into a circuit board layout. Within 6 months, I left my job as a hardware design engineer, and moved into software engineering. Now, some 40 years later, the software engineer is going the way of the hardware engineer!