EA’s Merry-go-round

Preamble

All too often EA is planned as a big bang project to be carried out step by step until completion. That understanding is misguided as it confuses EA with IT systems and implies that enterprises could change their architectures as if they were apparel.

EA is a never-ending endeavor (Robert Doisneau)

But enterprise architecture is part and parcel of enterprises, a combination of culture, organization, and systems; whatever the changes, they must keep the continuity, integrity, and consistency of the whole.

Work Units

Compared to usual projects, architectural ones are not meant to address business needs but architecture capabilities. Taking a leaf from the Zachman Framework, those capabilities can be organized around five pillars supporting enterprise, systems, and platform architectures:

  • Who: enterprise roles, system users, platform entry points.
  • What: business objects, symbolic representations, objects implementation.
  • How: business logic, system applications, software components.
  • When: processes synchronization, communication architecture, communication mechanisms.
  • Where: business sites, systems locations, platform resources.

These capabilities are used by business, engineering, and operational processes.

Enterprise architecture capabilities

Defining architectural projects and work units bottom-up from capabilities will bring clear benefits.

Contrary to top-down (aka activity based) ones, bottom-up schemes don’t rely on one-fits-all procedures; as a consequence work units can be directly defined by capabilities and therefore mapped to engineering workshops:

Iterative development of architecture capabilities across workshops

Moreover, dependency constraints can be directly defined as declarative assertions attached to capabilities and managed dynamically instead of having to be hard-wired into phased processes.

That approach is to ensure two agile conditions critical for the development of architectural features:

  • Shared ownership: lest the whole enterprise be paralyzed by decision-making procedures, work units must be carried out under the sole responsibility of project teams.
  • Continuous delivery: architecture driven developments are by nature transverse but the delivery of building blocs cannot be put off by the decision of all parties concerned; instead it should be decoupled from integration.

Enterprise architecture projects could then be organized as a merry-go-round of capabilities based work units to be added, developed, and delivered according to needs and time-frames.

Work units & Time Frames

Enterprise architecture is about governance more than engineering. As such it has to ensure continuity and consistency between business objectives and strategies on one side, engineering resources and projects on the other side.

Assuming that capability-based work units will do the job for internal dependencies (application contents and engineering), the problem is to deal with external ones (business objectives and enterprise organization) without introducing phased processes. Beyond differences in monikers, such dependencies can generally be classified along three reasoned categories:

  • Operational: whatever can be observed and acted upon within a given envelope of assets and capabilities.
  • Tactical: whatever can be observed and acted upon by adjusting assets, resources and organization without altering the business plans and anticipations.
  • Strategic: decisions regarding assets, resources and organization contingent on anticipations regarding business environments.

Architectural projects could then be managed as a dynamic backlog of self-contained work units continuously added (a) or delivered (b).

EA projects: a merry-go-round of work units.

The role of enterprise architects will then to manage the deployment of updated architecture capabilities according to their respective time-frames.

Further Reading

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One Response to “EA’s Merry-go-round”

  1. caminao Says:

    Posted by Nicholas Nass
    “This approach is the way to go. It clarifies the role of the EA during the project(s) and ensures compliance to guiding principles concerning the Enterprise architecture.
    I agree on a hybrid approach to the formulating of the architecture to Ensure that operational concerns are given as much attention as the business concerns. I do feel that the EA should have the role of directing these discussions .”

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