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On Enterprise Architecture

This page marks the beginning of a new series that aims to introduce some pragmatic dimensions to enterprise architecture, aiming to address the gap between enterprise and technical architecture.

Pragmatic enterprise architecture supports a systematic view of the enterprise that reduces redundancy and serves the organisations objectives. A pragmatic architecture serves to help the business stakeholders describe their needs, understand their cost and significantly understand the capabilities they already have. Significantly it doesn't only achieve this. Whilst enterprise architects strive to assist the business in leading change, they also can only succeed if they can truly guide, lead and support development.

 Guiding Concerns

The Architecture of an enterprise is defined by three key concerns. These are

  • Views The Architecture must communicate information about the architecture in a way that is easy to understand
  • Methods Enterprise Architects analyze and interpret the architecture in a way that ensures its integrity, accuracy, correctness and relevance. They must use multiple views and complementary analytical techniques.
  •  Mentoring Enterprise Architects must support the realisation of the architecture through methods, process, notation and tools

An overriding concern of enterprise architecture is to support decision making. Consequently, it is insufficient to characterise enterprise architecture as merely defining a transition from today's problem state to tomorrow's future planned situation - enterprise architecture is concerned with creating an organisational context for continuous improvement.


Many large organisations are establishing dedicated Enterprise Architecture teams. Other organisations with mature governance are organised in matrix models where the ownership of the enterprise architecture is devolved to the senior technical architects and software engineering specialists in the organisation.

Regardless of the structure, the enterprise architect must exhibit the skills of the developer, the designer or solutions architect - expertise and professionalism in design and delivery. After all, the enterprise architect is a technical practitioner, skilled in the state of the art and adept at mentoring designers and developers at the tip of delivery. This alone is not enough - the enterprise architecture is skilled at interpreting the needs of the business, and experienced in upward as well as downward communication.

In an organisation with dedicated enterprise architects, a particular challenge is to instill the practice and involvement in enterprise architecture across the organisation. Conversely, many organisations lack dedicated enterprise architecture capacity. In these organisations developers and solutions owners lead this activity.

Why Architecture?

Whilst architecture has become a standard - albeit overused - term in an industry used to using titles as a badge of experience, the term detracts from the true holistic nature of the activities that architecture encompasses. In buildings architecture, the architect is the visionary of a team and relies on many specialists, most importantly structural engineers, to realise the design. Whilst it is true that the architecture of large scale software systems is a team activity, the enterprise architect, like other technical team members, must take a multi-disciplinary approach and participate in all stages of design and delivery.

I prefer the term enterprise design to describe the activity of an enterprise architect. During enterprise design, incremental improvements and strategic selection takes centre stage; the objective is not only to achieve a final state but to establish capabilities within the organisation (and particularly the IT organisation) to deliver ongoing and continual change.

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