For years, enterprise architecture (EA) has been readily accepted as a way to establish best practices for organizing an entire enterprise, experts said. But as an agile mentality seeps into organizations, EA now has to come up with the best way of enabling technology to meet changing business needs, “and it’s the changing bit that is really key to new developments in enterprise architecture,” said Jason Bloomberg, managing partner at consultancy firm ZapThink.
“The old approach was much more static,” he said. “It was, ‘Assume we have a fixed business model and how can technology meet its needs?’ to now saying, ‘Business needs always change, and it involves changing how we think about architecture.’ ”
Older frameworks, such as the Zachman Framework, only address “day one” and not the long term, he added. “Fundamentally, the Zachman Framework is ontology rather than a methodology. That is, it helps you organize concepts without telling you what to do with the concepts.” It leaves a gap between the artifacts and actually helping the business achieve what it wants to do, Bloomberg wrote in “The Beginning of the End for Enterprise Architecture Frameworks.”
He added that the addition of a methodology as a means for implementation of business goals could help, but he added that “a methodology will still not get you where you want to go. You still have a gap between the technology meeting the needs of the business when you assume they are always changing.
Colin Devonport, an enterprise architecture segment manager at IBM, said, “The premise is to make sure business goals become actionable plans that you can drive to obtain their benefits.”
Once an organization is clear on its goals, it has to look at individual options to see the impacts and decide what the best way is to go forward with the architecture, he explained. “But you can’t stop there. You have to be able to bridge these plans into the rest of the IT organization.
“It’s really about getting to the business value, and therefore you have to apply a long-lived method to associate with that,” Devonport added.
One approach that fuses ontology and methodology is Pragmatic Enterprise Architecture Framework (PEAF). Founded by software architect Kevin Smith, PEAF started in fragments in 2002 and has become a complete framework, with version 2 introduced in March of this year.
According to Smith, discourse in the enterprise architecture community about the best way to do EA comes from the confusion between what it is and what it really means. “A lot of people, when they use the word ‘framework,’ they mean a set of pegs on which you can hang things. Essentially, that is a metamodel. It describes the information that you might gather and put in an enterprise architecture,” he said.
“When I use the word ‘framework,’ I use it in a looser way. For me, it’s a collection of things, one of which is a metamodel, as well as processes, products, templates, etc.”
PEAF includes templates for preparation work, processes for the implementation stage (such as mitigating risk and setting up EA tools), to processes in the last phase (called “operate”), where EA is actually done, he said.
However, no matter how EA is defined or approached, there is no one right way to do it, and “though EA fundamentalists will argue that frameworks are an essential part of EA, I see them more as a tool,” said Jeff Scott, an analyst with Forrester Research.
He added: “I haven’t seen any data that suggests one or another framework has a significant impact on EA success. The real question is not how we build EA, but how we implement it.”
But to Bloomberg, new implementations of EA need to factor in constantly changing business needs. “Agility is a requirement just like other requirements,” he said. “Now it’s, ‘Build me something that changes as my needs change.’ ”