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Breaking down the enterprise architecture framework

By: Leanne Armstrong

If you’ve read our introductory guide to EA, you may recall that enterprise architecture is a vehicle for understanding how the various pieces of a business work together. It’s especially concerned with relationships that span the operational and tech-driven sides of an organization – and how those connections can be managed and improved to advance business goals.

As the map, plan, or blueprint that pulls your business system together, the enterprise architecture framework you build plays a pivotal role in:

It’s one thing to understand what enterprise architecture is all about and why it’s important, however, and quite another to figure out how you can put this lofty concept into practice.

Join us as we take a deeper dive into the mechanics of EA and talk about some common enterprise architecture frameworks that companies in various industries might use to keep their business solutions vital and relevant.

What is an enterprise architecture framework?

Every business is built around multiple components that must all work in sync for success: from your people, to your processes, to the technological underpinnings of your company.

Developing a formal enterprise architecture framework lets you:

  • Organize all that infrastructure
  • Manage its many inter-relationships
  • Strategize around your business structure in its entirety to meet challenges and leverage opportunities

Although enterprise needs and infrastructures vary, there are some key enterprise architecture components that your framework will need to take into account.

These include:

  • A management team to oversee your business architecture so all the moving parts stay aligned
  • A methodology for carrying out strategic projects in conjunction with your evolving IT infrastructure
  • A system for documenting business planning and workflow, and any associated changes
  • A dynamic collection of business rules, policies, or best practices that standardize operations, and ensure consistency and compliance across your organization
  • A storehouse of tools (like process reference models or maps, for example) to help teams in every department meet shared business goals

EA framework model blueprints or roadmaps are invaluable for both visualization and planning. And they’re especially important for anchoring stakeholder conversations around the best ways to maintain business and IT alignment while responding to change.

As fundamental as a framework is to business system organization, however, you’ll also need a solid set of enterprise architecture principles to help govern its design and evolution.

Why enterprise architecture principles are important

While an enterprise architecture framework serves as the model for utilizing business technology to meet large-scale objectives, EA principles are what transform that agenda into a functioning tool.

Without defining a set of working principles, your organization’s strategic decisions are likely to be unplanned, informal, even makeshift – a state that runs contrary to long-term success. By strategizing in an improvised manner, in fact, you risk chewing up valuable resources only to churn out inconsistent structural project results.

Here’s a simplistic breakdown of how EA principles fit into the bigger business architecture picture.

  • If you view business strategy as the way your company competes in a particular market, then it follows that your business mission will be driven by that strategy.
  • Enterprise architecture principles are typically derived from your company’s mission.
  • The way you control your IT infrastructure hinges on the EA principles you devise.
  • Any large-scale strategic decisions you make will inevitably be tied to the IT governance you’ve created.

Enterprise architecture principles guide your company’s structural work so it can transition and guide your organization’s future direction, in turn.

As the guidelines that help keep your company functioning smoothly, EA principles are essential for putting EA strategies into practice so your company can reach its highest potential.

What to keep in mind when creating EA principles

By laying out the underlying rules for positioning and utilizing IT infrastructure across your organization, EA principles help:

  • Align the development and use of information systems with your mission and goals
  • Define how company-wide technological services get designed, set up, and managed
  • Drive better decisions around technology-related matters

When it comes to creating these principles, however, there are a few integral points to keep in mind.

  1. Your EA principles should reflect all the various layers of your business structure (operations, information, application, and technology).
  2. It’s recommended to set out a ‘principle statement’ describing:
  • What each guideline is meant to improve
  • How it will contribute to reaching a specific business goal
  • Key actions for implementing each principle
  1. Make sure every principle you adopt is measurable in terms of results or outcome.

Many companies make it a point to gather employee input around developing or revising architectural principles – especially where the running or managing of company projects is concerned. This can prove especially helpful because it’s those teams “in the field” who are both responsible for following EA guidelines, and who frequently have a birds-eye view of their impact.

With that in mind, make sure the principles supporting your enterprise architecture framework are clearly documented and traceable in their relevance to your company’s mission.

Some common enterprise architecture frameworks

Let’s quickly review two of the biggest takeaways for designing or adopting an EA framework that’s practical and relevant to your organization:

  1. Enterprise architecture components span 4 key areas – business, information, application, and technology
  2. To ensure your framework advances all these structural areas together, it should be built from a common set of underlying principles

When it comes to the model you choose, there are several recognized enterprise architecture frameworks that could work for your business or be adapted to your needs.

Let’s take a quick look at each.

The Zachman Framework. You may remember the name John Zachman – one of the IBM systems planning specialists credited with founding EA – from our introductory guide. The framework named after him is basically a 6×6 template that matches up the What (data)-How (functions)-Where (location)-Who (people)-When (time)-Why (motivation) of enterprise structure with the various stakeholders involved.

With 36 descriptive boxes to work with, your business can use this framework model to address and simplify the different perspectives and outcomes relating to everything from business plans, processes, and rules to workflow models, data management, and security.

The Open Group Architecture Framework. TOGAF is probably the most popular outline for working with enterprise architecture because it allows companies to standardize their approach to planning, designing, implementing, and directing structural components – especially while adopting new technology.  

Developed by The Open Group in the mid-1990s, and adopted by a majority of today’s enterprises, TOGAF is often represented as a spoked wheel diagram where the central hub (Requirements) branches out to 8 major framework-based categories:

  • Architecture vision
  • Business architecture
  • Information system architecture
  • Technology architecture
  • Opportunities & solutions
  • Migration planning
  • Implementation governance
  • Architecture change management

As a well-established platform (complete with suggested standards, tools, compliance methods, and best practices), TOGAF lets you define and evolve your business goals – and ensure they align with IT development objectives – without having to re-invent the wheel.  

Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework. Originally designed for use by the US government (again in the mid-90s), many private enterprises have adopted FEAF as their architectural framework of choice.

Because it was developed with the notion of making it easier for different federal agencies to cooperate on strategy and management, this particular framework can offer your business benefits like:

  • Improved collaboration among stakeholders
  • Lower costs and better use of shared resources
  • Enhanced performance in terms of managing all the facets of your business architecture

Overall, FEAF is notable for the way it allows companies in various industries to streamline the integration of their strategy, business, and technology management.

Other types of EA frameworks

In addition to these widely used, more generalized frameworks, there are some lesser-known EA models that might be worth exploring as a means to inspire your approach.

Gartner’s Magic Quadrants, for example, can help you identify the best type of technology provider for your particular business goals.

There are also a slew of niche or industry-specific EA frameworks that incorporate a variety of practical elements.

These include:

  • MODAF – the UK’s Ministry of Defence Architecture Framework (a set of rules that support defence planning and change management activities)
  • ESA-AF – the European Space Agency Architectural Framework (this model delivers a solid base for enterprise architecting and systems of systems [SoS] engineering in the space domain)
  • SAP EAF – the SAP Enterprise Architecture Framework (developed primarily to support customers with a significant SAP – Systems Applications and Products software – footprint)

To succeed in an increasingly complex and fast-paced environment, enterprises must take an organized approach to supporting, analyzing, and adapting their business systems.

With the help of a high-level planning tool like MindManager, you can create the right enterprise architecture framework to take better control of your organization’s direction, edge out the competition, and keep your goals in step with advancing technologies.

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