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What Is Enterprise Architecture? – Definition, Methodology & Best Practices

by Zak Cole       • August 20, 2020
Enterprise architecture (EA) is a strategic planning initiative that helps align business and IT. It provides a visual blueprint, demonstrating the connection between applications, technologies and data to the business functions they support.

In this post:

What Is Enterprise Architecture? Think City Planning

As the name implies, EA adopts the principles of architecture and applies them to a business/organizational context.

With this in mind, a useful analogy for understanding EA is city planning.

A city planner formulates a master plan of where people will live and the services they will need.

The plan must comply with regulations – such as zoning laws – and be mindful of the city’s current state and its infrastructure.

Due to their scope, cities tend to have a lot of moving parts that operate well and in coordination with each other. Many of these “moving parts” can go unnoticed, enveloped within the status quo. Therefore, any attempts to change or expand the city can go awry if the proper considerations have not been made  – and do-overs are expensive.

Through EA, organizations benefit from a context-rich, top-down and holistic perspective of their structure, including its limitations and potential.

This means organizations have a better understanding of what can and should change –  and how.

As a practice, EA involves the documentation, analysis, design and implementation of an organization’s assets and structure.

Over the years, EA has evolved. Building on its foundational duties, such as “keeping the lights on,” it is becoming a more proactive function that can identify opportunities, drive profits and steer transformation efforts, rather than simply reacting to external disruption.

This dynamic is also fuelling a demand for agile EA. As organization’s become increasingly complex, agile enterprise architecture can help organizations avoid over-analysis – often dubbed “analysis paralysis” – and take a “just-in-time”, “just-enough” approach to modeling.

Why Is Enterprise Architecture Important?

Through effective EA, organizations are better able to identify risks and opportunities, address redundancies and process gaps, and create roadmaps to bridge the gap between the current and desired future state of an organization.

With an  (EAMS), an organization can define and document its structure to more effectively determine how to achieve its goals.

Benefits of Enterprise Architecture

The benefits of EA include:

  • Better decision-making
  • Improved operational efficiency
  • Reduced risks and costs
  • A greater ability to anticipate and manage change
  • Better alignment between IT and the business
  • Improved collaboration
  • An enhanced perspective and ability to identify new value streams
  • Read more: The Top Three Benefits of EA

Common Enterprise Architecture Use Cases

Even if an organization isn’t changing, the world is changing around it. And thanks to data  –our need to store and process it, and the insights it provides – such change is happening faster than ever.

Due to EA’s holistic view of an organization, this acceleration in change and disruption makes EA increasingly relevant.

In the age of data-driven business, the most common EA use cases are:

Digital Transformation

EA helps organizations adapt to and implement new technologies to improve product offerings, the customer experience and services provided.

Data Governance

EA provides context and perspective as to how and where data is used, including the applications, policies and processes that leverage it.

Application Portfolio Management

An enterprise architecture management suite enables organizations to inventory their applications to identify redundancies and process gaps and formulate a cohesive plan for rationalization and/or modernization.

Data Security & Risk Management

EA empowers organizations to be proactive with security, instead of reactive, by identifying risks ahead of time.

Regulatory Compliance

An enterprise architecture management suite can help identify sensitive information, assign a sensitivity/threat value to it, and see such information in context of the systems where it is stored. This greatly speeds up the preparation for and response to compliance audits.

Mergers & Acquisitions

EA helps organizations more effectively manage mergers and acquisitions by helping to identify duplications in applications or processes, better plan for the consolidation of information, and phase out redundant systems.

Big Data Adoption

EA helps develop an understanding of where Big Data fits into operations and processes and prioritize these initiatives with data governance sources and analytics in mind.

Knowledge Improvement & Retention

By documenting and defining the structure of an organization and the processes it uses, organizations can ensure important knowledge isn’t lost when key employees leave. It also helps organizations take a structured approach to training new employees.

Data Center Consolidation 

EA helps simplify migration efforts by identifying and documenting hardware and software packages.

Innovation Management

From ideation to implementation, EA helps manage the funnel of ideas and the development of systems and processes to create new value.

Cloud Migration 

EA helps determine which applications to migrate to the cloud, including assessing the associated risks and operational impacts, as well as lift-and-shift strategies when moving from one provider to another.

Artificial Intelligence

Understand data, applications, lineage, impact and source history to determine how they connect to the rest of the business and the IT ecosystem.

Enterprise Architecture Methodology

Since no two organizations are alike, each organization’s approach to designing, defining and describing its enterprise architecture will have its own nuances.

To account for this, standardized EA methodologies are commonplace.

Often referred to as enterprise architecture frameworks, they help keep consistency between departments, people and projects. Meaning that if an enterprise architect leaves, the organization doesn’t have to teach a new architect how to communicate the EA.

Common EA frameworks include ArchiMate, TOGAF and the Zachman Framework.

What Makes erwin Evolve the Best Enterprise Architecture Tool?

With erwin Evolve, you’ll ensure your people, processes and technologies meet your business needs today and tomorrow – wherever business is done.

erwin Evolve provides organizations with a central source of truth and the ability to see how seemingly independent artifacts are actually interdependent. This gives organizations the clarity to understand relationships, the ability and agility to adapt, the foresight to recognize opportunities, and the confidence to knock down barriers.

With erwin Evolve, users benefit from an EAMS that addresses modern challenges. You can tackle all of the EA use cases described above with the added benefits of remote work and collaboration features.

erwin Evolve was included in Forrester’s “Now Tech: EAMS for Q1 2020” report.

What Is Enterprise Architecture

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