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Thursday, September 13, 2007

What is Enterprise Architecture?

If you ask five persons, “What is Enterprise Architecture”, will you probably get five different answers depending on their background. My answer is that Enterprise Architecture is a way to support changes of Enterprises.

If you instead ask them, “What is architecture”, will they come up with similar answers. Architecture is for most of us are synonymous with the Opera house in Sydney, Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur or La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. It could also be our office where we work or our home where we spend a large part of our lives. The term architecture is for all of us tightly coupled with buildings or cities.

The fact that successful architecture needs a proper design and thoughts before starting the construction may not be aware to us before we try to renovate our own house. Architecture is the art of matching requirements with constraints in complex situations.

This is why the description of Enterprise Architecture should be to design an Enterprise so it can produce and deliver products and services to their customers. But an Enterprise is seldom built from scratch. It is more like an old house that have be build out during different time periods to fulfil the different needs of the owner. This is why the title for series of articles is The Changing Enterprise. Without changes in the surrounding environment, there is no need for major changes within the Enterprise.

One the other hand, without Enterprise Architecture an enterprise will probably fail if a major change in conditions occur. It will meet the same fate as the dinosaurs.

Enterprise Architecture is first of all a way of controlling change in a predictable manner and migrating risk. Second, it is also about creating support for more efficient ways of working and improving operational efficiency. Third and last, it is an enabler for new business opportunities with the help of Information and Communication Technology.

In order to achieve this in large complex organization, Enterprise Architecture has to handle questions about organization, processes, information management, applications and technical infrastructure.

EA is therefore not a technical issue for the technology department, but instead an important question for the CEO.

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