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Enterprise Architecture for beginners

Business architecture

Information architecture

Application architecture

Technology architecture

#Enterprise Architects Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

Answers General Questions

What is Enterprise Architecture:

The term "Architecture" defined as "science of designing and building structures; layout, formation, arrangement; building style or method; design of a computer and its components (Computers)". Architecture therefore is the art of finding out what are needed components and their relation in order to create a new structure (Building, Computer or software). Architecture outcomes are principles, constraints, standards and blue prints that will guide the actual building of the structure. We can also look at architecture as a holistic view of the structure, while design drills down into more details to each one of the needed components defined by the architecture.

In the IT world there are many types of architects. There's the system architect, data architect, infrastructure architect, solution architect and many other types of architects. What we can find in common between all kinds of those architects is the fact that they all should have holistic view in certain aspect of an IT project.

Enterprise architecture (EA) is simply another type of architecture. EA should have a holistic view of the enterprise and in order to do so EAs should have knowledge about the business, information systems and technology domains of the enterprise. If we're looking for equivalent from the building industry, EA is equivalent to city architecture while other IT architects are equal to other architects (like the building, roads and gardens architects).

How do enterprise architects getting this holistic view, what the enterprise architect should do to get this holistic view. Actually the technique is very simple and straight forward, just the way of doing this kind of work makes it complicated. The all idea behind holistic view is to define and then collect what are the building blocks and the relation between them to describe certain enterprise domain. A building block can be business goal, information type, system or certain technology. You also need to define what the relations between building blocks from other domains are, to get holistic view of the enterprise. You all probably familiar with the saying "One picture worth's 1000 words" and this principle works for EA as well. To get a clear holistic view we need to lay down visually building blocks and their relation into views.

Enterprise architecture is just other type architecture. It aim is to get a holistic view of the enterprise. To get this holistic view one need to define what the building blocks of the business, information, systems and technology domains of the enterprise, to set relations between those building blocks (inter and intra domain) and to define views of building blocks and relations. The hard work though, goes to finding out what are the actual building blocks and their relations.
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How enterprise architecture will help your business:

Today enterprises are facing many challenges such as compliance to regulations, improving the enterprise competitive position by enabling business and IT agility, managing of enterprise portfolio and turning CEO vision into enterprise reality. If we'll try to figure out what is the main obstacle which prevents enterprises from reaching those challenges, I think that we can all agree on complexity. There are many obstacles, but when you try to find out what is the common root - you'll end up with complexity.

So, if we'll able to reduce complexity as much as we can, we'll be able to achieve more and more of mentioned challenges. Complexity can be reduced by using architecture, or in other words by mapping all the building blocks that compose the complexity, and their relations. To manage the complexity of enterprises it's not enough to do just Systems and Infrastructure architecture. We need a holistic view of the enterprise, which eventually ends up with architecture of the Business, Information, Systems and Infrastructure domains. Or simply, Just enterprise architecture will let to manage the complexity and to achieve the mentioned challenges.

One of the good analogies to enterprise architecture is city planning. As enterprises cities are also complex, and in order to manage their complexity there's a need to encapsulate different architectures into a one holistic architecture, which encapsulate all of the composed architectures building blocks and their relations. In order to get a holistic view of the city we need architecture of electricity, usage of land (public, private and industrial zones), electricity, sewageand many other architecture types. (As illustrate in the following figure)

Enterprise architecture therefore is a solution to reduce complexity and achieve the enterprises challenges as we know them today. My next post will be dedicated to what is an enterprise architecture framework and the reasons to use one.

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Who are enterprise architects:

Enterprise architects look at the company from an architecture perspective. Some companies call and identify an enterprise architect as a "chief architect" or "chief enterprise architect"; however, we will solely use the term "enterprise architect" and define it as follows [HaWe06]:

The enterprise architect is responsible for leading the enterprise architecture process to develop, maintain, and evolve the enterprise architecture across the enterprise.

This definition is short; however, it implies a broad range of skills and authority for an enterprise architect. The enterprise architecture process describes the steps necessary to move the current architecture toward the target architecture.

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Why enterprise architects need a framework:

Enterprise architecture is a very complex task from two perspectives, content and process. From the content perspective you will need to know , in advance , what are all the ingredients necessary in order to map your entire enterprise (including business, information systems and technology domains). In addition to defining all the building blocks you also need to know how to show them visually so you can use them to communicate both with the business and IT side of the enterprise to achieve alignment of the IT to the business needs.

After getting an understanding about the content side you still need to tame the complexity of the process perspective. It is not enough just to know what are the needed building blocks and how to show them visually, you need to know what is the order of mapping those building blocks, who needs to perform which task , what should be the practitioners' skill sets, what are the tools that you can use, which questions you need to ask while conducting interviews and many other questions regarding the enterprise architecture process.

The first framework that was publicly available was named after the person who formulated it: Johan Zachman. The Zachman framework focused on the content perspective. Johan Zachman defined what were the views needing to be defined in order to get an holistic view of enterprise by using the six "WH" questions (What, Why, Where, When, Who, How) and six view points which defined 36 views to fully describe the enterprise. While the Zachman process deals with the content aspect it lacks the process perspective. In order to more fully support the process perspective a number of more practical framework made their appearance (such as TOGAF, Gartner, etc'). Those frameworks focused more on the process aspect and tended to show that they align to the Zachman framework. Another type of enterprise architecture framework is an industry specific framework (as NGOS, TEAF). Those frameworks deal with both the content and the process, but because they are industry specific they elaborate more on the content and on the process.

Enterprise architecture frameworks are tools that help us describe and know what should be the content of enterprise architecture work and how to reach this content. They are always a base suggestion that each and every enterprise tends to customize for their own needs and conditions . Still, enterprise architecture frameworks are tools that might greatly help you in reaching your enterprise architecture.

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What types of enterprise architecture frameworks exist:

There are several frameworks available for use, we'll just mention the most common ones.

  1. Zachman : more conceptual less practical - http://www.zifa.com/.
  2. DoDaf. : Defense oriented framework - http://www.defenselink.mil/nii/doc/DoDAF_v1_Volume_I.pdf
  3. TOGAF. : More private sectors oriented framework - http://www.opengroup.org/architecture/togaf/.

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Why SAP concerned about enterprise architecture:

SAP has been pushing Enterprise Service Oriented Architecture (e-SOA) for quite a long time. E-SOA is based on SOA principles and extends SOA with SAP assets in the business world, our business applications. E-SOA lays down an architecture that adopts SAP applications to SOA principles (Autonomy, Simple, well-documented interface, Flexibility and Unity). E-SOA enabled enterprises to create more flexible IT infrastructure to support more agile businesses using ASP applications and technologies.

To support SAP e-SOA architecture, SAP introduced set of technologies (such as NetWeaver), tools (such as CAF toolset), and services (such as ESA adoption program). Although SOA is pushed by the IT world it can be successfully adopted by enterprises without the acceptances, understanding and supporting of the business side. If we need to compose a list of successful SOA adoption points, the first point will be getting the business people involved in the process. The second point will be a holistic view of the enterprise. Developing a service required knowledge and understanding of all the service consumers (both humans and machines). Such knowledge is required to set currently the interface and implementation of the service. To reach such knowledge and understanding we need to get a holistic view of the enterprise. Furthermore, without knowing what your current architecture is, what should be your future architecture, what are the gaps and how you're going to close those gaps, you won't be able to succeed.
Another point that should be addressed to gain success with SOA adoption is the right level of services granularity. Ending up with thousands of services or with few services won't help the service oriented architecture adoption. Enterprises need to find out the right service granularity for them. This granularity should be wider enough to enable flexibility and narrow enough to enable people to use them and communicate between them.

If you'll look today for a methodology that will give you  a  holistic view of the enterprise and will guide you  as to  how to map your existing architecture, map your target architecture, identifying the gaps, set time-lined projects to close the  gaps  and governing the entire process; you'll find out that enterprise architecture is the methodology you  are  after. 

SAP is not just an application and technology provider; we are also partners of our customers, partners with deep knowledge and experience in 22 industries. As a partner with business oriented attitude we see both SOA and enterprise architecture as concepts, architecture and methodology that will help your business. Pushing enterprise architecture from our perspective has two objectives 1) Provides help for your business and for you to get a better understanding of current architecture and what needs to be changed. 2)  Provides help with SOA adoption. Those two objectives support the same goal: making   your business more agile and successful.
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