9 years, 27 days ago

Five Hurdles in Implementing EA

Link: http://workitsmart.blogspot.com/2012/03/five-hurdles-in-implementing-ea.html

Photo credit: clappstar

What are the hurdles organizations face when implementing Enterprise Architecture?  This is the first part of a five-part series exploring this question.

Hurdle #1: Differing understanding of what EA is

“Enterprise Architecture” is big term: different people have different understanding of what it means.  When the term is mentioned, some people are referring to a design (e.g. have you updated your EA?), some are referring to a discipline (e.g. I am practicing EA), and there are even a few who use it to refer to physical systems.  An anecdotal example comes from my work experience: I was on a project to IT-enable an organization to improve the organization’s effectiveness.  My colleague asked me to “figure out the enterprise architecture”, while he worked on the project objectives and getting buy-in.  This was not an isolated incident, but I found many who would equate the term “Enterprise Architecture” to “complicated technical stuff” that computer software developers deal with.  Not only so, even EA experts have different definitions.  Figure 1 lists six definitions of EA from authoritative sources.  I tried to group them to tease out similarities, but they still look different from one another.
Objective of EA
Process or Design, and Key Elements
The process of translating business vision and strategy into effective enterprise change by creating, communicating and improving the key requirements, principles and models that describe the enterprise’s future state and enable its evolution.[i]
Realize business vision
Process: Create, Communicate, Improve
Key requirements, principles and models
MIT’s Nightingale and Rhodes (on Enterprise Architecting)
Applying holistic thinking to design, valuate and select a preferred structure for a future state enterprise to realize its value proposition and desired behaviors.[ii]
Realize business vision
Process: Design, Valuate, Select
MIT Center for Information System Research
The organizing logic for business process and IT capabilities reflecting the integration and standardization requirements of the firm’s operating model.[iii]
Realize business vision
Business process, IT capabilities,
Organizing logic
The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) version 9.0 (on Architecture)
A formal description of a system, or a detailed plan of the system at component level to guide its implementation; and the structure of components, their inter-relationships, and the principles and guidelines governing their design and evolution over time.[iv]
Guide system implementation
Component level plan, Structure, Inter-relationships, principles
John A. Zachman
The total set of intersections between the Abstractions and the Perspectives that constitute the total set of descriptive representations relevant for describing an Enterprise.[v]
Describe an enterprise
Abstractions, Perspectives
Institute For Enterprise Architecture Developments (IFEAD)
About understanding all of the different elements that go to make up the Enterprise and how those elements inter-relate.[vi]
Describe an enterprise
Process: understand
Elements, Inter-relationships 
Figure 1 EA Definitions from Difference Sources

Reasons for Difference

I see two main reasons for the different understanding and definition.  Firstly, architecture is not a simple concept.  A quick look at the definition of architecture on Wikipedia showed six definitions[vii], and like the term “Enterprise Architecture”, it can refer to a design, a discipline or a physical object.  Furthermore, many different words can be used to describe its key elements.  The definitions in Figure 1 used these words: Key requirements, organizing logic, structure, perspectives and inter-relationships.  Secondly, Enterprise Architecture came out from IT, thus it is often confused with IT system architecture, relating back to the earlier point that people equate the term to the ill-defined concept of “complicated technical stuff”.  The confusion is worsened by the fact that EA is often used to solve IT system related issues, as IT systems have become ubiquitous in business environments and they are often complex and difficult to understand.

Conclusion and My Definition

Without a common understanding within an organization of what
EA is, it is very difficult to form a common goal to build towards and thus making it hard to implement EA. 
For the purposes of subsequent discussions, I will provide my definition and I would be happy to get feedback on it.  I define Enterprise Architecture as: 
“A discipline that facilitates the active designing of enterprises, through providing clarity into the enterprise’s key components and their key interactions.”

[i]Gartner’s Enterprise Architecture website, http://www.gartner.com/it-glossary/enterprise-architecture-ea/
[ii] D.J. Nightingale and D.H. Rhodes, MIT ESD-38J Enterprise Architecting, Course Notes, 2007
[iii]MIT CISR’s Enterprise Architecture website, http://cisr.mit.edu/research/research-overview/classic-topics/enterprise-architecture/
[iv]TOGAF version 9.0, http://www3.opengroup.org/subjectareas/enterprise/togaf
[v]Architecture is architecture is architecture, John A. Zachman, http://www.zachman.com/ea-articles-reference/52-architecture-is-architecture-is-architecture-by-john-a-zachman
[vi] http://www.enterprise-architecture.info/Images/Presentaties/How%20valuable%20is%20EA%204U-06-2005.PDF

[vii]Wikipedia’s page on “Architecture”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architecture