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insight 7 Essential Elements of EA
Follow this roadmap to engage your business, manage
complexity, and govern the implementation of your architecture
by David C. Baker and Michael Janiszewski
Enterprise Architecture (EA) can be either a cohesive force that binds
technology and business operations in support of strategic goals or a
misunderstood initiative that undermines the credibility of the entire IT
organization. The difference comes in successfully applying the seven
essential elements of enterprise architecture—proven principles that
should be a part of any EA undertaking.
Mention enterprise architecture (EA) to management concepts that are clearly representation that is traceable, actionable,
many CEOs or CIOs, and you often get a fairly relevant to architecture delivery). and communicable.
standard set of responses:
• Results of the EA effort are often difficult In this article, we’ll describe the seven
“EA costs too much.” to communicate over the range of the elements that provide a roadmap for
“EA simply isn’t a practical exercise for us.” organization’s various constituencies making your EA practice an asset to your
“There doesn’t seem to be much benefit.” (for example, CIOs, business staff, and organization. We’ll discuss them within
“Our stakeholders wouldn’t use our EA if we technical architects). the context of the architecture lifecycle as
had one.” shown in Figure 1. Executed successfully,
• Enterprise linkages and interactions are
these elements empower your architecture
Several factors keep many senior executives not well understood or documented, making
organization to engage the business, manage
from embracing the idea of EA. One reason is it difficult to use EA as a business enabler.
the complexity inherent in your information
that the management of information is not a
Those problems are serious, but not enterprise, and govern the implementation
well-understood science. Even at 50 years of
insurmountable. In fact, we’ve seen numerous activities that follow your architecture effort.
age, EA still is in its infancy, and practitioners
companies extract real value from EA
have yet to develop common definitions, The seven elements are:
initiatives. The chances of implementing
standards, processes, or tools for managing • Set the stage with guiding principles.
a successful EA effort are substantially
EA. Another reason is the organizational and
increased by managing the seven essential • Manage complexity with blueprints.
cultural barriers that block the acceptance of
elements of EA that occur in stages throughout • Organize for architecture success.
EA. EA is viewed as an ivory-tower playground
the architecture lifecycle (see Figure 1).
for technicians or academics, so organizations • Integrate through architecture processes.
miss the message that it’s the glue that ensures Managing these elements helps ensure the • Keep on track with architecture
the alignment of business and technology organization embraces EA and can answer governance.
within the enterprise. This misconception the important questions, from “Why are we
often arises from the pains many organizations • Use tools to model, analyze, and
building an EA?” to “How will we measure
experience when embarking on an EA effort: communicate your architecture.
and control the end result?” These seven
elements are essential in delivering an EA • Measure architecture success with
• Frameworks are often not readily
that provides real business value. It is a metrics.
actionable (that is, they lack architectural
For more information contact:
Dave Baker, Partner &
Engaging the Incomprehensible technical models and and are a necessary tool to unite business
Business arcane diagrams make it impossible to launch and technology constituencies.
a meaningful architecture discussion with
The second element, blueprinting, is
business stakeholders. That approach will
the art of documenting the EA models
simply collapse under the weight of engaging
and standards. As in civil architecture, a
the business to help create such detailed
good set of blueprints helps manage the
models. A better way to introduce a business
complexity associated with ongoing repairs
audience to EA is to begin collaborating with
and updates to intricate systems. However,
business stakeholders to develop a set of
unlike civil architecture, EA does not have
guiding principles, our first element.
a rigorous blueprinting methodology. You
Guiding Principles are a collection of can use frameworks such as the Zachman
definitive statements that provide guidance Framework, Steven Spewak’s Enterprise
on how the organization should conduct Architecture Planning, and the Federal
certain business and technical functions (see Enterprise Architecture Framework that
Figure 2). They serve as filters for decision identify blueprint contents, but do not address
making, eliminating possible solutions that how to go about developing the blueprints.
are not consistent with the organization’s
Start by engaging the business stakeholders
goals and objectives. Good guiding principles
in the development of business architecture
are unlikely to change within a short-term
blueprints. Architects work closely with the
period, and are clear, concise, and supported
business to document the mission, vision,
by rationale and implications developed
goals, objectives, and business capabilities
with business and technical staff working
required to enable the business strategy.
together. Consensus building and alignment
This strategic business architecture work is
are beneficial by-products of conducting
led by the enterprise architect, bringing an
a series of structured guiding-principle
engineering rigor to the process. The result is
discussions. In all cases, the results serve as
a set of linked architecture elements clearly
guideposts for the upcoming decision making
showing which capabilities are required to Next, engage IT to develop the systems The business and systems architectures
deliver the business goals and objectives. architecture. The systems architecture are typically created and updated during
Furthermore, business metrics are identified describes, in a platform-independent way, regular IT planning cycles. You use these
and associated with each objective, the high-level applications, information, architectures to identify the IT initiatives
providing a model that is used to periodically infrastructure, and interfaces that enable (and determine the funding) needed to
measure the progress toward attaining the the strategic and operational business implement the business vision—expressed
business vision. architectures. These models are useful in terms of the business capabilities, which
for linking technical elements (such as by now has become the common language
The business architecture also includes
applications, information, infrastructure, that binds business and IT.
an operational business architecture that
and interfaces) to the business capabilities.
defines the key processes, stakeholders, and The final level of blueprints is the technical
This linkage provides a language for
interactions that are needed to implement architecture, which describes the physical
discussing technology with the business—
the business strategy. Current state and implementation of the applications,
both in terms of impact (What happens
future state versions of the operational information, infrastructure, and interfaces.
to my technology when I change a business
business architecture allow architects to The technical architecture identifies the
goal?) as well as in terms of cost (What
assess the impact a new strategy would specific products, protocols, and wiring
does it cost to implement a particular
have on current operations. schemas that guide the implementation.
business strategy or capability?).
Organizing An enterprise architect requires a unique EA services—business, systems, and
for Success blend of skills. At various times he or she technical architectures. This organizational
needs to employ the characteristics of an structure establishes a foundation to give
artist, a guru, a coach, and a spy. As an artist, rise to EA capabilities, and allows architect
an enterprise architect needs to be creative involvement in enterprise planning activities
by looking beyond the “right” answers to such as business strategy development
uncover new solutions to old problems. and investment management. As the
The enterprise architect also needs to be EA organization matures, and individual
a guru—someone who understands some architect skills develop, the organization can
topics in depth, but can address a breadth swing back to a more distributed structure.
of business and technical topics. However, this new structure should maintain
a small central group of enterprise architects
As a coach, the enterprise architect must
to oversee the activities of the distributed
bridge both business and technology, be able
virtual community of architects. This virtual
to find points of influence in both camps,
architecture organization works because of
and ensure that technology stays off the
the EA awareness and skills gained by the
critical path. Finally, as a spy, the enterprise
architect must be able to work across the
enterprise, see patterns across disparate Understanding the need for true architectural
business needs, and define solutions that processes is our fourth essential element.
satisfy multiple business needs. Enterprise Architecture processes document how
architects grow from within the technical architecture design is performed and
architecture ranks, learning how to be artists, how architecture is communicated and
gurus, coaches, and spies as they work their implemented within an organization. They
way from being technical specialists, through provide the groundwork for leveraging
application or infrastructure architects, the architecture organization to get work
eventually to enterprise architects. done in a consistent and effective manner.
Sample processes can include blueprinting,
The third essential element of EA is
integration planning, and project architecture
organizing for architecture success.
checkpoints and signoff (see “Controlling the
Architect career paths should be nurtured
Effort,” page 7).
within an appropriate organizational structure.
An effective architecture organization Architecture processes should be centrally
ensures appropriate ownership of the maintained in an easily communicable format
architecture and correct sponsorship of the and accessible location. Clear, traceable
work, and provides an efficient structure for processes provide tremendous benefit to
solving problems. The organizational form the organization, reducing time to project
typically depends on an organization’s level completion and setting better expectations
of architecture maturity. Organizations just around what it means for an architecture
starting out on the EA path typically have effort to be complete. Developing
architects spread across various application architecture processes is essential to
and infrastructure departments, providing enforcing the EA big picture, to create
technical architecture services (products, architecture that concretely provides benefit
protocols, wiring diagrams). to the organization.
The first step is to centralize all those Physical creation of an EA requires a lot
architects into an organization delivering of doing. One of the biggest challenges
an organization faces with regard to its These tools also provide good versioning It is important to remember, however, that
EA is writing it down. When assumptions capabilities and recently have had an although tools are an essential element of
and tacit knowledge exist around an EA, enhanced focus on EA presentation— EA, content is important as well. Tools are
its capabilities as a business enabler are ameliorating some of the need for taking a means of storing and working with the
severely diminished. Therefore, it is critical EA elements and reformatting them to make artifacts created while working through the
that the EA is well-documented, current, them more consumable. With a solid EA other key elements of the EA. To record EA
and available for use by stakeholders. documented, stored, and updated within information in a tool requires careful analysis
an EA tool, business users should find and understanding of the relationships
The fifth element is that you should use tools
straightforward answers to questions such between the key EA elements. To do this,
to model, analyze, and communicate your
as “What happens to my business if the organization requires a level of maturity
architecture. Fortunately, the market for EA
I turn off that server right there?” or “If we regarding its development and use of
tools has been progressively evolving to meet
decide to expand our marketing efforts into architecture before implementing an EA
these challenges and to help the organization
new territories, what information assets tool and repository. Using an EA tool without
do architecture. Capturing EA requires
can be leveraged to reduce risk and cost this maturity provides minimal benefit to
an engineer’s rigor with the associated
while enabling greater impact and speed to the organization.
representations. Many EA tools now possess
market?” An EA tool allows the stakeholder
the capability not only to record and analyze
to work with the EA in an understandable
disparate information but also to import that
format and to realize real benefits from the
information for storage in a central repository.
effort to create the EA.
Controlling With an EA effort in full swing, it is proactively provides the basis for demonstrating
the Effort critical to maintain alignment between the value of your EA. Metrics associated with
program execution and the organization’s blueprints provide an ideal opportunity to
EA. This means ensuring that work tracks ensure program success. Good architectural
are accomplishing what the EA describes metrics provide insight into aspects of the
and that feedback loops exist for raising architecture that have meaning to the business.
architecture issues, updating the EA, and
For example, you can measure the EA for
measuring EA program success. Our sixth
the percentage of strategic capabilities that
and seventh essential EA elements, keeping
have been realized (capabilities that are
on track with architecture governance and
described in the blueprints) and percentage
measuring architecture success with metrics,
of existing enterprise architectural assets
address this need.
reused by a program. Architectural metrics,
Separate from traditional program used in conjunction with governance, inform
management office responsibilities of strategic planning and portfolio management
driving and measuring project progress, we programs, giving quantification to the return
believe that architectural governance on architecture assets achieved by the
is a key element to ensuring that the EA organization. They are critical to articulating
vision is maintained across the enterprise. the benefits of your EA effort and provide
Architectural governance refers to how an the information necessary to help your EA
organization makes decisions, sets priorities, organization provide guidance to the enterprise.
allocates resources, designates accountability,
Once in place, the seven elements establish
and manages its architectural processes. The
EA as a valuable asset for your organization.
governance body is responsible for reviewing
Engaging business resources in guiding
products produced from EA efforts to ensure
principles and blueprinting activities ensures
that they meet the goals of the EA (for
that the downstream implementation work
example, designs meet the to-be depiction
delivers the business vision. Building a strong
from the enterprise blueprints).
EA organization and integrating the EA
The governance body is also the forum processes in IT management activities allows
for raising and resolving issues through the architecture to guide investment and
established escalation processes, and for implementation activity.
providing inputs and updates to the EA.
The payoff comes from the clear linkage of
The governance organization should consist
business vision and technical architecture.
of a mix of subject matter experts and
That linkage allows EA to govern
senior leadership capable of representing
implementation activities and provides the
the organization from both business and
metrics to communicate progress toward
technical areas, and have the authority to
realization of the business goals and
make architectural decisions.
objectives. The seven elements are best
Architecture governance ensures organizational when executed in concert, but do not let
alignment and a place for the EA to remain that daunt you. Pick a subset of the business
a living asset. It is also an ideal place to strategy and get started with guiding
implement our final key element—metrics. principles or blueprints. You will learn much
Implementing and using architecture metrics and be on the road to achieving EA maturity.