Actionable Enterprise Architectures

Compared to its bricks and mortar counterpart, enterprises architecture is a work in progress to be carried out all along enterprises life cycle; hence the need of actionable representations of environments, organization, assets, and processes.

As any artifact, actual or symbolic, models must serve some purposes which for systems architectures can be of two kind, descriptive (e.g analysis) or prescriptive (e.g design). Although that distinction often remains implicit at the systems level, it becomes critical at the enterprises level, when business objectives and organization take center stage. Compared to systems modeling, that would induce two key differences:

  • Architecture blueprints: enterprise architecture modeling has to be supported by a built-in distinction between business objectives and systems capabilities.
  • Engineering Processes: the modeling paradigm must ensure the integration of architecture blueprints and architecture changes.

A Taxonomy

Blueprints (models in systems parlance) can be characterized by a combination of targets and purposes:

  • Descriptive models cover all relevant aspects of environments and the ways to deal with them.
  • Prescriptive models aim at managed elements (organization, processes, products, or systems), and how they can be defined, designed, or built.
  • Predictive models add a virtual dimension to actual descriptive and prescriptive ones.

From a formal point of view these distinctions can be expressed in terms of modal logic:

Descriptive representations are meant to provide serviceable models of the business environment; such models are said to be extensional as their objective is to classify observations of objects and phenomena (or extensions) into categories. Actual descriptive (or analysis) models are used to organize the relevant features of domains; virtual ones (or analytic models) are used to extrapolate from actual observations.

Prescriptive representations go the other way as their purpose is to define presumptive artifacts or activities; they are said to be intensional as they denote sets of features meant to be supported by individuals instead of set of individuals. Actual prescriptive (or design) models deal with artifacts to be built, virtual ones with intended objectives or behaviors .

Digital Immersion & Emerging Architectures

Such a formal understanding of models has practical consequences for enterprise architecture as it provides a principled and integrated governance framework:

  • Strategic planning: integration of prescriptive representations between organization and systems, and of descriptive ones between expectations (business environment) and observations actual environment).
  • Systems engineering: integration of portfolio management and projects planning and development combining model based and agile solutions .
  • Business intelligence: integration of strategic and operational decision-making.

That alignment of systems and knowledge architectures is to be critical for enterprise governance, especially with regard to managing changes in digital environments.

FURTHER READING

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