Why Enterprise Architecture is a Corporate Responsibility


I ran across a great post by Dave Linthicum called Why Enterprise Architecture is a Corporate Responsibility. He made some very good points and would encourage you to take a look at what he has to say.

I would like to expand on some of Dave’s thoughts in the article. As he mentions, building proper architecture can influence the bottom line of any business. You may be wondering , well what are the specifics here that I need to be concerned with? Below are just a few of the top items that come to my mind.

  • Risk – We like in a world where "The Media" reports on business naughtiness such as customer data breaches, hacking activities, fraud, insider trading and cooking the books all the time. EA combined with other enterprise activities provides ways to mitigate risks across the enterprise. Whether this risk is reputational or operational risk management is essential for businesses.
  • Compliance – In many industries such as Financial Services, Healthcare and Government which are heavily regulated EA provides a necessary function to make consistent and rational decisions across the enterprise. These business spend a great deal of time on compliance as they would be shut down if they were not. EA can help off load many of the compliance issues by fostering good architecture practices. This will provide some necessary relief so organizations can focus on what is core to their business.
  • Technology becoming core to business offerings – Computerized systems and processes have never been more prevalent in business than it is today. With the mobile web, online auctions, online banking, minority report like coffee tables (surface) and the integrated life style components in social networking consumers demand technology that changes their life. Since this is the case, businesses must understand that they can not build software in a vacuum any longer as it will hinder their ability to offer technology products and services to their customers in the future. Companies that struggle will have high costs for their products and will have poor quality.
  • Business Efficiency – The company with a lower efficiency will inadvertently have higher product and services costs. This also adds unnecessary lengths to business processes that impact customer satisfaction. Obviously there are many ways to compete, however who doesn’t want a higher efficiency ratio in their operations. 

I like Dave’s analogy about archaeology in relation to enterprises application portfolio. I use one as well but I use the tree ring analogy:

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Dave talks about the EA role within enterprise and posses his thoughts on what is and is not working:

In reaction to this dilemma, enterprises created positions called enterprise architects. These are single individuals, or groups, within the organization who have the responsibility to drive the enterprise architecture strategy going forward. While a good idea in theory, the reality is that many of these enterprise architects simply don’t have the political or budgetary authority within their companies or government agencies to make much of a difference. In many instances, they have been relegated to those who create reports and presentations that nobody reads, and provide direction and guidance that’s easily ignored.

I have seen a great deal of this in the EA space and is a huge challenge. I hear these challenges from customers and from personal relationships in the industry. The trend here though is that EA is evolving from this Ivory Tower approach where EA’s are traffic cops making sure you are building the right systems to a more collaborative and self empowering governance model. The challenge with the political and budgetary is an issue as we move into matrix style organizations where separation of duties force logical separation of roles. As far as EA’s are concerned, this is addressed in two ways. First, there needs to be buy-in by CIO and there needs to be "Teeth" in the process. Secondly EA’s should have great people skills. I think it is good that EA’s do not have a budget it keeps the EA honest. To be clear, this issue is not to be taken lightly as it hinges on your business model, culture and organizational maturity, there is no easy fix here.

In summary this post does a great job at the overview of the issue. I do think that this is a very serious problem in the industry. There is no easy fix to this. Enterprise Architecture alone will not save the day but does offer a compelling set of methodologies and frameworks to mitigate these risks as much as possible.

In so many cases the problems we have today is as much of a people issue as it is a technology issue. If you look at the history of "real" architecture we see the same trends. However, in physical architecture many times forward progress means tearing down a building but in IT it means let’s add on to the environment with another server. This is a big problem!

On a side note, I do like where Dave is going with EA in relation to SOA. In the beginning it was unclear but it looks like he is starting to position EA and SOA as complementary disciplines rather than competing. In my opinion SOA is a subset of enterprise architecture concerns and the two topics do not compete as they are at differing levels of abstraction. The large enterprises I talk to have structured SOA architects as a specific domain architect.

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Comments (4)

  1. I had a lot of reaction around my post last week "Why Enterprise Architecture is a Corporate Responsibility." This is also the topic of my ZapFlash I wrote the week before. Mike Walker liked the post, and had a great follow up post here. I urge you to

  2. Welcome to the July 1, 2008 edition of Carnival of Enterprise Architecture (Issue #10). Business Process Management Stephan Grindley presents Enterprise Asset Management Software – a Great Way to Manage posted at Asset Management Articles. Bozidar Spirovski

  3. I took Heather and the family up into Manhattan so that Heather could go to the American Girl Doll store. What a mob scene! The things a Dad has to do for his daughter :)). We did get to Rockfeller Center, and my personal fave, Cannoli and Double Espresso

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