Why Enterprise Architecture

We are living in a era where CHANGE and Continual Improvement have become the norms.  The need to respond to change quickly and efficiently has become paramount but unfortunately this type of agility doesn't really exist.  

Most large organisations

  • are behemoths that turn very slowly
  • survive because there big enough to stomach the punches from the competition
  • are risk averse relying on smaller organisations to absorb the risks of entering into areas of work that would be deemed to be too risky and there would be little benefit to them yet
  • can generally deliver solutions that a small organisation couldn't deliver
  • have a brand and a reputation that is crucial to their ongoing success (this is true for smaller organisations to)
  • can be chaotically run and managed, surviving because of its sheer number of employees
  • be very poor in its management of its financial resources
  • can be littered with redundant and legacy systems, processes and assets
  • tend to be more risk-averse

Smaller organisations

  • willing and able to take risks
  • lack the resources (financially, people and tooling) to engage on major projects
  • may have a brand but are not as protective over it
  • can be run in a chaotic manner, at the mercy off the good will of its employees and owners
  • be very poor in its management of finances in terms of record keeping but highly nimble and efficient in its use of its finances
  • can be a a lot more pragmatic in its approach to its legacy systems, and will have very few redundant systems for very long

Both lists could go on for quite a while.  The point is, whether an organisation is large or small, they will both consist of an estate that needs to be managed at a level that supersedes programmes or projects.  They both consist of IT infrastructure (tins and wires, operating systems, supporting applications such as email and office products), core business applications that are crucial to the day to day running of those businesses as well as the human resource and financial management systems, data systems that require varying degrees of management and lastly, people, buildings, policies, processes, goals, drivers, objectives, politics, information about how they make money and spend money, a customer base that's crucial to their ongoing success, channels for connecting with those customers, partners and suppliers, a manufacturing base (stuff they create even if it's services), legal frameworks that they have to operate within, business life cycles that affect their spending power, and the list could go on.

This information is crucial if a business is going to respond quickly and accurately to change.  Organisations are on a journey, one similar to running your home, especially if you have children.  The desire of any reasonably minded parent is to create an environment and put in place things that will allow their children to get to a place where they mature into adults that take their place in society as citizens of that society (wherever that may be), engaged with that society through civitas.  Unfortunately things don't always turn out the way would like them to and we have to make adjustments through this journey in an attempt to reach our end point.  Some of the things that occur and are external forces and others are internal forces, the pressure points.  So the journey is one of continual monitoring and responding to those pressure points.  This pattern of behaviour is no different to what takes place to an organisation as it strives towards its target state, its vision.

A useful acronym for remembering these pressure points is PESTLE

  • (P)olitics
  • (E)conomics
  • (S)ocial
  • (T)echnology
  • (L)egislation
  • (E)nvironmental

But in actual fact, this journey is not as trivial as the diagram would lead you to believe, it more than likely resembles the diagram below

As can be seen in this model, the real path is shown as the dashed line.  It is one of continual adjustments, for small entrepreneurial business this would commonly be known as pivoting (this concept does have its opponents who believe small companies should simple realign, refocus on its core values and stop listening to the many voices pulling it different directions).  For much larger organisations this could be viewed as realignment to its goals but an adjustment in its strategies, objectives and tactics. 

Another view of enterprise architecture is that of a capability within an organisation that will allow a large seafaring tanker to turn effectively and speedily in response to a requirement for change.  Unless all components (bridge and engine room) within that tanker are working together as one, it becomes very difficult to turn that tanker, to respond to change requests.