As the world turns digital,traditional fences between social, businesses, and systems realms are progressively crumbling. That brings new challenges for enterprises governance, in particular when manifold business stakes and IT systems are concerned.
Supposedly, enterprise architecture would deal with the framing of enterprises and systems concerns into a single paradigm. Yet spirited controversies persist between bottom up and top down approaches, the former trying to upgrade the footprint of IT systems to enterprise level, the latter ready to downgrade these systems to equipment level. But dissent in that case means unfinished business: like diggers tunneling from opposite directions, both groups are to succeed together or fail together. For that to be achieved common sense dictates that both teams agree on target, with each one getting its specific orientation right.
What to look for
Issue (information systems) and circumstances (digitization of business environment) put the focus on the relationship between business processes and enterprises organization and how to capture, manage, and use information.
On that account, and not surprisingly, understandings differ between EA proponents:
- Bottom-up approaches are focused on the distinction between processes, applications, and data, overlooking key enterprise architecture concerns (a).
- Top-down approaches come with a better understanding of EA stakes but fall short of the conceptual bridge between organization and business environments (b) .
These shortcomings can be mended and approaches made to converge.
How to get there
As already noted, EA can only succeed as a discipline if systems and enterprise perspectives can be crossed, i.e if bottom-up and top-down approaches can be joined. That cannot be achieved along the outdated Process/Application/Data layers:
To begin with, the distinction between application and data, inherited from traditional programming, goes against both object-oriented design and service oriented architectures; then, processes don’t describe architectures but the way they are used.
On a broader perspective, if the impact of digitized business environments on EA is to be taken into account, data and information are to be redefined in a new paradigm, the former associated with a raw input, to be mined from the business environment and processed into the latter. It ensues that (1) data becomes irrelevant for architecture concerns and, (2) information becomes a key asset for enterprise architecture.
Merging applications and data into a logical/functional layer between business and engineering processes also critically redefines the perspective: instead of a being a collection of applications, business processes become the nexus of the architecture.
With a bottom-up EA perspective focused on business and engineering processes, a top-down counterpart has to be set from enterprise perspective that would ensure a meeting of minds around business processes.
That can be readily achieved by keeping processes as pivot between business environments and objectives on one side, enterprise organization on the other side:
Enterprise architects could then focus on the mapping of business functions to services, the alignment of quality of services with architecture capabilities, and the flows of information across the organization.
Why It Matters
A proper understanding of architecture layers is not an academic concern to be overlooked. As a matter of fact, what is at stake is the very practical purpose of EA: display of boxes and arrows or effective handling of the spindle between business processes and architectural assets. Whereas anything will do for the former, the latter cannot be achieved without a principled and effective coupling between enterprise models and systems engineering.
- Modeling Paradigm
- Modeling Languages: Differences Matter
- How to choose Frameworks & Methods
- Views, Models, & Architectures
- Caminao & UML
- Caminao & DoDAF
- Caminao & Archimate
- Caminao & EACOE
- Caminao & UAFP
- Focus: BPMN & EA
- Zebras cannot be saddled or harnessed
- Focus: Bounded Contexts & Open Concepts
- Event Oriented Analysis & Object Oriented Design
- NIEM & Information Exchanges
- Ontologies & Models
- Ontologies & Enterprise Architecture
- Ontologies as Productive Assets
- System Conceptual Thesaurus