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Guide: Enterprise Architecture Frameworks & Meta-Models

by Bunny Tharpe       • September 23, 2015

In much the same way as any building or infrastructure project requires different stakeholders and different plan views, enterprise architecture (EA) requires the same.

You wouldn’t build a house without understanding the building architecture, pipe-works, electricity plans, ground plans, all within the context of each other. It provides the plans for different views of the enterprise. Enterprise architecture frameworks describe the standard views that an organization can expect to see.

Enterprise Architecture Discipline

The discipline of EA, views an organization as an overall system of complex and intertwined systems. Effective management of such complexity and scale requires tools and approaches that architects can use. An architecture framework provides the tools and approaches necessary to abstract this information to a level of detail that is manageable.

A framework helps bring enterprise design tasks into focus and produces valuable architecture description documentation. The components of an architecture framework provide structured guidance that is divided into four main areas:

Architecture description:

How to document the enterprise as a system from different viewpoints. Each view describes one domain of the architecture; it includes those meta-types and associations that address particular concerns of interest to particular stakeholders; it may take the form of a list, a table, a chart, a diagram, or a higher level of composite of such.

Architecture notation:

How to visualize the enterprise in a standard manner. Each view can be represented by a standard depiction that is understandable and communicable to all stakeholders. one such notation is ArchiMate® from the open group.

Design method:

Processes that architects follow. Usually, an over arching enterprise architecture process, composed of phases, breaks into lower-level processes composed of finer grained activities. A process is defined by its objectives, inputs, phases (steps or activities) and outputs. Approaches, techniques, tools, principles, rules, and practices may support it. Agile architecture is one set of supporting techniques.

Team organization:

Guidance on the team structure, the governance of the team, the skills, experience and training needed. Kanban boards and agile architecture can help provide team structure, governance and best practice.

Enterprise architecture review

Types of Enterprise Architecture Framework

There are a number of popular enterprise architecture frameworks available:

  • ArchiMate – An open Group Architecture Framework – a widely used framework that includes a notation for visualizing architecture. May be used in conjunction with TOGAF®.
  • TOGAFThe Open Group Architecture Framework – a widely used framework including an architectural Development Method and standards for describing various types of architecture.
  • DoDAF – The Department of Defense Architecture Framework – the standard for defense architectures especially in the United states.
  • MoDAF – The Ministry of Defense Architecture Framework – the UK standard for defense architectures.
  • NAF – the NATO Architecture Framework – a standard adopted for NATO allies.
  • FEAF – A federal enterprise architecture framework issued by the US Federal CIO council.
  • FEA – the 2002 Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA) guidance on categorizing and grouping IT investments (issued by the US Federal Office of Management and Budget).
  • Zachman Framework – a classification scheme for EA artifacts launched in the early 1980s by John Zachman – often considered the father of enterprise architecture.
  • TM FORUM – Telemanagement forum – standard reference architecture models for the telecoms industry.

Enterprise Architecture Meta-Models

A meta-model is a description of a classification of a set of things. It describes the types of things (meta-types), the rules between them (associations) and the attributes that describe them. Meta-models can usually be built to describe any type of problem or scenario.

They are often graphical and are represented by boxes and lines. Boxes indicate the metatypes and lines represent the associations. Meta-models are used by end users to express models.

In the Figure 1 meta-model example below, we could describe the relationship between a Pilot, Airline and Aircraft.

Figure 1: Meta-model

In the model in Figure 2 below, we use the meta-model to guide the construction of the model. The meta-model provides the framework within which the model can be constructed. We call the instances of the meta-types – Concepts.

Figure 2: Model

Each enterprise architecture framework will usually have an underlying meta-model that describes its meta-types and associations. An example of a meta-model for innovation management is shown here in Figure 3.

Innovation management meta-model
Figure 3: Innovation management meta-model

In Summary

This article covered the core concepts for meta-models and associations. Meta-models are the core building blocks for any architecture framework. They provide the basis for rigor and consistency for model data. Without an enterprise architecture meta-model, the whole management of enterprise architecture becomes extremely difficult.

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