The 4 types of Enterprise Architecture
Wherever there is a business, some form of Enterprise Architecture exists. Sure, it might not be a formal type of idealized EA, but it is likely trying to fulfill that same role. This is because all businesses / enterprises require organization and careful planning in order to execute their goals and strategies; it’s really just common sense. However, a formalized approach to Enterprise Architecture is anything but simple, in fact, there are individuals who devote their entire careers to this end and pride themselves in their abilities to transform virtually any company into an efficient one.
What defines Enterprise Architecture, you ask? If you can imagine that there is a business (solid, but not very well organized) with a very specific set of short and long-term goals to reach, not to mention capabilities; EA seeks to align all these elements in a way so that they can function together in an optimal manner. Needless to say, this is a very complex subject that require a lot of careful though and planning (not to mention study and knowledge of many different fields), it’s a bit like playing an involved game of chess, where each move will influence other potential strategies down the line in ways one might not expect or even readily understand. Nevertheless, there are some very solid approaches to Enterprise Architecture which are currently in use by many companies.
Here are the 4 main types of EA that are in widespread use:
The Gartner Methodology
The Open Group Architectural Framework
The Federal Enterprise Architecture
The Zachman Framework for Enterprise Architectures
The Gartner approach is radically different when compared with the other examples. It takes more of an inclusive and active approach to EA (whatever works in practice). Bringing together the right people are the right time who have expertise in the right fields is what the Gartner methodology is really all about.
The Open Group Architectural Framework incorporates 4 individual components into its approach to EA; Application, Business, Technical and Data architectures to be precise. Each one of these individual areas helps to paint a picture of the architectural landscape so that more informed decision-making can take place.
If you were to ask many in the field of EA what the most solid approach is, they might mention our third example, the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA). In terms of exhibiting the widest set of considerations, the FEA is widely seen as the most comprehensive of all the methodologies. This is because it takes advantage of the knowledge of all other approaches.
Lastly, we have the Zachman Framework for Enterprise Architectures. What makes the Zachman Framework so special is its “catalog-like” approach to EA. In other words, the Zachman Framework is more interested in applying its approach to each situation, organizing items according to classifications to suit the interests of all involved parties.
Each one of these approaches has its unique advantages and disadvantages, and might be applied to certain types of situations. However, there are certain issues that all businesses face that are more-or-less universal. For example, most problems tend to emerge in the relationship that a business has with its IT department. Often times those who are in control of business operations tend to not communicate with those employed on the technical side (and vice-versa). Naturally, this is a problem because modern business is becoming increasingly reliant on technology and IT services; so if your business heads and IT gurus aren’t on speaking terms / level ground, there’s going to be some big problems. An Enterprise Architect will find ways to bridge the divide between these two groups.
However, this can be severely complicated when the IT elements of a business are failing to meet their expectations. Often times this is not due to the fault of the IT personnel, but perhaps their out-of-date equipment, software, or systems. Likewise, it is not uncommon to find that certain IT departments are grossly under-funded when compared with other sectors of an organization. This is a problem that only EA can solve because business-minded individuals don’t often grasp how important and intricate an IT operation truly is, ergo, this is part of the reason why they often remain under-funded.
On the other side of the coin, sometimes an IT group builds an operation that is so vast and complex that it simply cannot function in any standardized capacity. This is a bad situation because there may very well be components of more advanced systems in use that are vital, but are incapable of being separated from the costlier system that contains them. For situations like this involving specific components, an approach involving cloud computing is arguably the way to go.