Transformational View of EA

OK, so you think you are practicing Enterprise Architecture, right? As I have pointed out before, the key is the answer to the question, “Are you architecting the enterprise, or are you architecting IT?”

As I dare say, most of you (if not all) would answer honestly that you are architecting the IT environment (apps, data and infrastructure), albeit with a significant alignment with the business of your enterprise. In any case, as I have been having this conversation with audiences, practitioners and clients over the last couple years (or even longer as a client of mine pointed out yesterday – Thanks, Marc!), I have been suggesting that true EA requires business-owned Enterprise Business Architecture (EBA) and Enterprise Information Architecture (EIA).

The implication of this suggestion is that the EBA thought of in the traditional sense is not within the domain of IT; but rather owned, driven and primarily developed and maintained by a group of business professionals within the enterprise. Further, there is also a separation of EIA and Enterprise Data Architecture, with the former under business direction and the latter under IT direction, joining EA efforts for application and technology. Figure 1 depicts the relationships described above.

There is a role for IT EA professionals to play. As the figure suggests, a relationship exists between the business domain and IT domain. Initially, the IT architects must translate the impact of the business and information domain upon the architectures within the IT domain. This is done primarily through modeling and capabilities analysis, a topic for another time. IT professionals have the modeling experience, plus a vested interest in the outcome of the business and information architecture efforts, to be valuable members of the team working on the business domain architectures.

Recently, I have been working with an organization going through a significant transformation and they decided to do exactly what I have been suggesting. A group of business representatives including IT representation, lead by a representative of the executive leadership team, has taken ownership of business and information architecture to define how the business will transform. It will then become the IT Chief Architects responsibility to lay that business blueprint on the IT landscape to translate the changes necessary within IT to support the business transformation.

Let’s hope this is the beginning of a trend.