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University Enterprise Architecture Guiding Principles: 3 Examples

by Bunny Tharpe       • June 11, 2015

Enterprise Architecture Guiding Principles are high-level definitions of the fundamental values to guide Business Information and Technology (IT) decision-making activities. They provide a foundation for both business and IT architectures, standards and development policies.

Each EA Principle should focus on business goals and key architecture applications. They are intended to be enduring and not subject to frequent changes. However, they may be amended as the organization refocuses its mission and objectives over the long-term.

This blog post shares some real-life examples specifically from the University sector. Use them to review your own set of Principles. But before we get into all that, lets take a look at how they are formed.

Writing Enterprise Architecture Principles

Each Principle should be formally stated. What’s interesting is that the format in which they are stated can vary quite a lot between organizations; some explain in great detail following The Open Group recommendations for example, and others chose a lighter approach. Typically, Principles are made up of the elements Name, Description, Rationale, Implications.

The name should represent the essence of the principle and ideally be easy to remember. It should not reference any specific technology platform.

The description should convey the fundamental rule in a short and to-the-point manner. It should not reference any specific technology platform.

The Rationale should highlight all the business benefits achieved by adhering to the principle. It must also describe its relationship to other principles and any situations in which a principle would take priority over another if there is any conflict in the decision-making process.

This section explains how the business and IT are required to comply with the principle when it comes to resources, costs and activities. As the name suggests, it should list potential related outcomes of making decision inline with the principle.

Guiding Principles should span all Enterprise Architecture Domains and are often grouped as such:

  • Business Architecture Principles
  • Information Architecture Principles
  • Application Architecture Principles
  • Technology Architecture Principles

3 Different Examples of University Enterprise Architecture Principles

Now let’s get to the interesting bit and dig into some real life examples of EA Principles. By sharing these examples I hope to provide you with insight and inspiration for refining your own Guiding Principles. Many can be re-used across organizations, but every organization should define a set that is aligned to its specific requirements, mission and strategic direction.

I’ve selected 3 different Universities that publish their EA Principles in slightly different ways but all with the same objective of guiding decision-making to ensure IT strategy is aligned the overall goal and mission of the organization. The idea is to show the different styles, but ultimately it comes down to whatever works for each of them.

EA Principles at the University of Washington (United States)

The University of Washington defines 9 short and succinct Principles in which it uses to govern its IT decision-making. A relatively short set of rules but each is well defined in terms of its Rationale and Implications.

  • Standards Based
  • Simple
  • Scalable
  • Service Oriented
  • Strategic
  • Reliable
  • Data Driven
  • Sustainable
  • Secure

Use this link to visit the University’s EA web pages and explore in greater detail:

EA Principles at Plymouth University (United Kingdom)

Plymouth University separates its principles by EA domain as outlined above, listing 18 Guiding Principles to “inform and support the way in which Plymouth University sets about fulfilling its mission.”

Business Principles: “Provide a basis for decision making throughout the business”

  • Primacy of Principles
  • Compliance with Statutory Obligations
  • Maximize Benefit to the Enterprise
  • Information Management is Everybody’s Business
  • Business Continuity
  • Common use Applications
  • IT Responsibility

Data Principles: “Provide guidance of data use within the enterprise”

  • Data Security
  • Data is an Asset
  • Data is Shared
  • Data is Accessible
  • Data Trustee
  • Data will be Analyzable

Application Principles: “Provide guidance on the use and deployment of all IT applications”

  • Technology Independence
  • Ease of Use
  • Purchase rather than Develop

Technology Principles: “Provide guidance on the use and deployment of all IT technologies”

  • Requirements-Based Change
  • Control Technical Diversity

For the full set of principles visit the following web page:

EA Principles at Brigham Young University (United States)

Brigham Young University describes the purpose of Business Architecture Principles is to “guide developers’ approaches to technology products created for a business unit.”

  • BA is about the Business – not IT
  • BA is about Examining Processes
  • Enterprise Business Process Drive Architecture
  • BA is Reusable

The University sets out a very extensive set (too many to include here). So it’s well worth taking a quick look. For the full set of principles visit the following web page:

All the examples listed above are published online so you can read and review at your leisure.

EA for an Agile Organization

One final note – something important to add here is HOW these rules are applied to the decision making process. It’s essential for the University’s EA team to be able to act with agility and be able to effectively collaborate on EA assets with all stakeholders. Through this, architects can present just the right amount of enterprise architecture assets required by the CIO or EA Board for making decisions in a timely manner.

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