Welcome!

Open Source Cloud Authors: Zakia Bouachraoui, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Microservices Expo, Open Source Cloud

Microservices Expo: Article

Enterprise Architecture’s Quest for Its Proper Identity

Is enterprise architecture primarily about IT or is it about the entire enterprise?

This guest post comes courtesy of Len Fehskens, Vice President of Skills and Capabilities at The Open Group.

By Len Fehskens

It is my impression, from what I read and hear in many enterprise and business architecture blogs and forums, that the enterprise architecture (EA) community comprises multiple factions, and which faction you are part of depends on how you answer two questions. These are fundamental questions that I suspect many in the EA community (present company excepted, of course) have not asked themselves explicitly, or, if they have, considered why they would answer them one way or the other.

I believe the answers to these questions color the way we talk and think about enterprise architecture, and until the EA community as a whole comes to a consensus regarding their answers, we risk talking past one another, using the same words but meaning significantly different things. [Disclosure: The Open Group is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

The two questions are:

  • Is enterprise architecture primarily about IT or is it about the entire enterprise?
  • Is enterprise architecture a “hard” discipline or a “soft” discipline?

My answers:

Enterprise architecture ought to be about the entire enterprise, because that’s what the name implies. If it’s really about IT, it ought to be called enterprise IT architecture. Whether or not you believe it’s possible or desirable to apply architectural thinking to the entire enterprise doesn’t change the fact that we ought to name things honestly. And when we name architectures, it seems reasonable to me to expect that if an architecture is implemented primarily in the [x] domain, it ought to be called an [x] architecture. Adding two more syllables (IT) to the seven (en-ter-prise ar-chi-tec-ture), or inserting two characters (IT) in the acronym (EA), isn’t an unbearable burden. Say it – “enterprise IT architecture.” Spell it – “EITA.”

Rarely has the cost of honesty been so modest. If you mean the architecture of an enterprise’s IT assets and capabilities, say EITA. Don’t say EA unless you really mean the architecture of the entire enterprise, not just its IT assets. Even if you consider the needs of the enterprise, or the structure of the enterprise’s processes, if the implementation of the architecture you’re developing will be mostly in the IT domain, it’s EITA, not EA. Even if you believe that architectural thinking can be meaningfully applied only to the IT function of an enterprise, it’s still EITA, not EA.

Soft discipline
M
y answer to the second question is that I believe enterprise architecture, as scoped above, is a
“soft” discipline. I think talking about “manufacturing” or “engineering” enterprises is just silly; it’s another example of the kind of aggrandizement that misnaming enterprise IT architecture represents.

Even calling an enterprise a “system” is risky. We use the word system in two senses. One is a very broadly inclusive idea, often expressed as “everything is a system,” in that many things can be viewed as assemblies or aggregates of smaller components. This concept of system is useful because it encourages us to take a holistic, rather than reductionist, perspective, acknowledging that the relationships between the pieces are as important as the individual pieces themselves. The other sense of “system” is the one engineers use – a system is an artifact that has been methodically designed and built from interconnected components. Calling something a system in the first sense doesn’t make it a system in the second sense; it doesn’t make its behavior and performance analytically tractable or deterministic.

It is simply not possible to specify an enterprise as completely, and to the same level of detail, as it is to specify a building or a locomotive or an airplane. And, for the purpose of enterprise architecture, i.e., to ensure that an enterprise’s assets and capabilities are aligned with its vision, mission and strategy, it isn’t necessary to do so, even if we could.

It may be possible to do so for EITA, and maybe that’s where the idea that the same can be said of the enterprise as a whole comes from.

Calling something a system in the first sense doesn’t make it a system in the second sense; it doesn’t make its behavior and performance analytically tractable or deterministic.


If the enterprise as a whole is a system, it’s a people-intensive system, and as such one might as well talk about manufacturing or engineering people.

After all, why do we call them “enterprises”? Consider the first definition of the noun “enterprise” in the Oxford English Dictionary: “A design of which the execution is attempted; a piece of work taken in hand, an undertaking; chiefly, and now exclusively, a bold, arduous or momentous undertaking.” Clearly implicit in this definition is that this is something undertaken by people. There’s a nod to this reality when we refer to an enterprise as a “sociotechnical system”, but the “socio” too often gets short shrift while the “technical” gets the bulk of the attention.

Yes, people play a role in other “systems” – they live and work in buildings, they drive locomotives and pilot airplanes. But people don’t just interact with an enterprise; in a fundamental sense, they are the enterprise. And unlike buildings and locomotives and airplanes, enterprises are continually adapting themselves, in the homeostatic sense of maintaining their integrity and identity in the face of internal and external change, and in the sense of deliberately repurposing themselves in response to such change.

How would you answer these questions, and why would you answer them that way? Our answers strongly influence what we believe is within the purview of enterprise architecture, how we address that scope, and what we imagine we can accomplish by doing so.

This guest post comes courtesy of Len Fehskens, Vice President of Skills and Capabilities at The Open Group.

You may also be interested in:

More Stories By Dana Gardner

At Interarbor Solutions, we create the analysis and in-depth podcasts on enterprise software and cloud trends that help fuel the social media revolution. As a veteran IT analyst, Dana Gardner moderates discussions and interviews get to the meat of the hottest technology topics. We define and forecast the business productivity effects of enterprise infrastructure, SOA and cloud advances. Our social media vehicles become conversational platforms, powerfully distributed via the BriefingsDirect Network of online media partners like ZDNet and IT-Director.com. As founder and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, Dana Gardner created BriefingsDirect to give online readers and listeners in-depth and direct access to the brightest thought leaders on IT. Our twice-monthly BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition podcasts examine the latest IT news with a panel of analysts and guests. Our sponsored discussions provide a unique, deep-dive focus on specific industry problems and the latest solutions. This podcast equivalent of an analyst briefing session -- made available as a podcast/transcript/blog to any interested viewer and search engine seeker -- breaks the mold on closed knowledge. These informational podcasts jump-start conversational evangelism, drive traffic to lead generation campaigns, and produce strong SEO returns. Interarbor Solutions provides fresh and creative thinking on IT, SOA, cloud and social media strategies based on the power of thoughtful content, made freely and easily available to proactive seekers of insights and information. As a result, marketers and branding professionals can communicate inexpensively with self-qualifiying readers/listeners in discreet market segments. BriefingsDirect podcasts hosted by Dana Gardner: Full turnkey planning, moderatiing, producing, hosting, and distribution via blogs and IT media partners of essential IT knowledge and understanding.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
The challenges of aggregating data from consumer-oriented devices, such as wearable technologies and smart thermostats, are fairly well-understood. However, there are a new set of challenges for IoT devices that generate megabytes or gigabytes of data per second. Certainly, the infrastructure will have to change, as those volumes of data will likely overwhelm the available bandwidth for aggregating the data into a central repository. Ochandarena discusses a whole new way to think about your next...
CloudEXPO | DevOpsSUMMIT | DXWorldEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Big Data Federation to Exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO, colocated with DevOpsSUMMIT and DXWorldEXPO, November 12-13, 2018 in New York City. Big Data Federation, Inc. develops and applies artificial intelligence to predict financial and economic events that matter. The company uncovers patterns and precise drivers of performance and outcomes with the aid of machine-learning algorithms, big data, and fundamental analysis. Their products are deployed...
All in Mobile is a place where we continually maximize their impact by fostering understanding, empathy, insights, creativity and joy. They believe that a truly useful and desirable mobile app doesn't need the brightest idea or the most advanced technology. A great product begins with understanding people. It's easy to think that customers will love your app, but can you justify it? They make sure your final app is something that users truly want and need. The only way to do this is by ...
Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...
Cell networks have the advantage of long-range communications, reaching an estimated 90% of the world. But cell networks such as 2G, 3G and LTE consume lots of power and were designed for connecting people. They are not optimized for low- or battery-powered devices or for IoT applications with infrequently transmitted data. Cell IoT modules that support narrow-band IoT and 4G cell networks will enable cell connectivity, device management, and app enablement for low-power wide-area network IoT. B...
The hierarchical architecture that distributes "compute" within the network specially at the edge can enable new services by harnessing emerging technologies. But Edge-Compute comes at increased cost that needs to be managed and potentially augmented by creative architecture solutions as there will always a catching-up with the capacity demands. Processing power in smartphones has enhanced YoY and there is increasingly spare compute capacity that can be potentially pooled. Uber has successfully ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...