Monday, March 24, 2008

Can EA ever work?

A few months ago, I was sitting with my supervisor, who is an Enterprise Architect (eArchitect), and Gartner consultants discussing on how to sell the concept of Enterprise Architecture (EA) to our organization's senior management and how to create a successful EA in our enterprise.

Before we talk about whether EA can work, lets define the term Enterprise Architecture.
the description of the current and/or future structure and behavior of an organization's processes, information systems, personnel and organizational sub-units, aligned with the organization's core goals and strategic direction
- Wikipedia

To capture the true essence of EA, states the following about EA: "For the first time there is a methodology to encompass all of the various IT aspects and processes into a single practice.

As you can see, capturing every process and nuance in an enterprise is a daunting task. An enterprise can have mature documented processes which are known and recognized by the enterprise's resources. These processes are easy to document. There are other processes which are well known but no one has documented. There are also processes which exist but they are known by the select few. And lastly there are processes that no one is aware of but they do exist.

So who do you work for? What do you do? What projects are you working? What is your skillset? These are the typical questions an eArchitect has when he is tackling the resource view in the overall EA. The questions might be simple ones to answer however they are quite hard to ask. eArchitects don't want to invade in someone's space however they need to collect the information to complete their model and render different views of the EA to their management folks. It would be alot easier if the eArchitects went to the Enterprise's Human Resources (HR) Manager. The HR Manager might even be cooperative to share his or her information however their information might not tell the actual picture. For example, my official title in the enterprise I work for is "Computer Specialist" but my functional title is "SOA Technical Lead". Our Enterprise's HR Manager does not capture our functional titles. Therefore just going to the HR Manager and getting information from them does not give the real picture. There needs to be actual discussions between the EA team and low level managers.

What operating system is running on your operating system? Do we have licenses for this software? How come we have four versions of Microsoft Word? As you can see, assets are a big deal in an EA. Capturing assets in an EA is important since it shows an enterprise view on what, where and how did the enterprise obtain these assets. This information may be great for asset inventories however eArchitects need to make data calls with various groups to capture this information. Without understanding an enterprise's business processes, eArchitects will not be able to infer why certain assets are higher than others.

eArchitects have to spend time with enterprise applications to determine if the applications are meeting some critical requirements in the enterprise. eArchitects have to work with application Subject Matter Experts (SME)s to obtain this information. (Once again eArchitects are doing a data call)

As you can see for a successful EA, eArchitects have to capture lots of information and then synthesize the information. This becomes extremely hard when other groups don't see immediate rewards in sharing their group's information. If there is no information, there is no EA and when there is no EA then the enterprise cannot be improved. For organizations to get a better view of their enterprise, they need to mandate their internal groups to share their information. If the internal groups don't share their information then the consequences are, frankly speaking, dire.

In summary, EA can work however EA will not work with extremely bright and talented eArchitects, buying the state of the art EA software nor simply creating numerous EA models. EA will work if the upper management take time and creates policy which will give power to the EA teams to capture their organizations critical information. The upper management should also investigate ways on how to automatically capture some of the EA information in their processes.

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