So what does an “enterprise architecture” look like?

Hello! My name is Martin and my particular role in the team is to produce a security layer that will overlay the rest of the EA programme. To do this, of course, we need to know what the EA as a whole will look like. I also need to answer the question I now get asked most often: what does an Enterprise Architect do? So I want to take a short tour through the process of creating an architectural model.

I see EA as being a branch of strategy: a classical strategy formation process weighs the strengths and weaknesses of an organisation against threats and opportunities in its environment, and an EA effort is like a technology-enabled extension of this. I expect that most top-level strategy people aren’t necessarily totally up-to-date on the latest technology trends and what they might do for their businesses – EA can close this gap.

All strategic planning seems to entail the formulation of a vision that sets out where an organisation wants to be, where it is now, and a plan to get there.

formal strategic planning process

formal strategic planning process

We are using the Gartner model: other models exist but they all seem to end up in the same place. This view captures environmental trends and existing business strategies to create a set of requirements stating what the business needs to achieve and – in a large and diverse organisation such as ours – focusing on the common factors of this across all parts of the business. As Sue has alluded to in her previous post, we have created this “Common Requirements Vision” document through conversations with some of the leading strategy people in our organisation.

The next step also parallels some strategic planning models in that it looks at Principles. This is analogous to a set of corporate values but in our case they focus on the use of technology. An example of a principle could be something like “secure information and systems to gain public trust” – something quite close to my heart – and we have about 10 principles at the moment, although this work is still ongoing.

The final piece in the jigsaw of the top layer of this process is to develop models. At this level the model describes two things: what is or is not included in the architecture effort (we generally want to include areas that are common to the whole organisation, such as authentication and collaboration systems, and exclude line of business systems) and how we might slice up the enterprise (for example into business, information, and technical views).

These three items – requirements, principles, and models – together form a vision of the future enterprise. In Gartner terminology, this is our “future state”.

The views developed in the models phase each have their own requirements, principles, and models, future and current states, making the whole architecture like an onion progressing to greater and greater levels of focused detail.

EA process

EA process

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Welcome

Our first post. We have some catching up to do!

The team of six Enterprise Architects was officially set up in March 2008 to realise the ICT strategy in Devon County Council. Our main remit is to work closely with the business to discover their future plans and visions to enable us to build a “future state architecture”. If you have done Managing Successful Programmes you will be familiar with the concept of a blueprint – that’s what we are aiming for – a blueprint of the technology, business and information needs of the County Council. Once we have that picture we can start the gap analysis – how do we get from where we are now, to where we want to be in the future.

Can you see the inherant difficulty in that? That future state will constantly move. Things change. Change is what we do.

So, we need to start small and build a comprehensive picture that will be easy to maintain and update as those things change. It is a challenge, but one that we are all enthusiastic about taking. We look forward to taking you with us too.