6 years, 9 months ago

The Beauty of Enterprise Taxonomy and Why it Matters….

Often we, the Enterprise Architects make life difficult for ourselves (legacy of complex system thinking?) Example? We label one of the most beautiful constructs in Enterprise Architecture with a dry, “medical sounding” term Taxonomy. This is probably not a well understood construct within our community let alone our business customer community. By the way contrary to popular belief Taxonomy is not about a tax which business pays for using IT services neither it needs to be taxing as a result of overbearing IT Governance function. On a more serious note, Taxonomy is single most important construct in Enterprise Architecture. 

To use industry terms, TOGAF defines Taxonomy as something which defines terminology, and provides a coherent description of the components and conceptual structure of an information system. This is a good definition though the problem is that TOGAF then embeds this as part of Technical Reference Model (TRM). John Zachman on the other hand calls his framework as Enterprise Ontology or classification framework which I think is more holistic way of managing it. In my personal opinion and experience of doing Enterprise Architecture over past fifteen years, Taxonomy is something bigger than a mere technology terminology. I think the following are the characteristics of a good functional Enterprise Taxonomy;
  • It is a common language used by diverse stakeholders from business, IT and operations teams
  • It is a single, consistent, coherent classification system of Enterprise Artefacts
  • It is not limited to technology but a business and operations classification
  • Key things it defines are business processes, applications, infrastructure, operations and service components of the enterprise
  • It is as individual as enterprise it lives in but generally speaking it defines architecture reference models, major components and sub-components and standards associated with them. 
  • Good Taxonomy also defines interfaces and dependencies between enterprise components
It is obviously a vast area of work to explore but just to make the concept real, here are some examples…first one is example of how “Information Management Domain Model” would look like. In this case I had placed this model as part of an overarching Domain Reference Model. 
Illustrative Information Management Domain Model
To demonstrate my earlier point that Taxonomy is not just about IT constructs, here is another example from my work in the area of Retail Reference Model. The below model is a much higher level model which maps how key business functions in a vertical industry such as Retail fit together. 
Retail Reference Model by Amit Apte
It would not be possible to show all the detail workings in a single post but hopefully you get an idea of how each components then can be drilled into to show other sub-components etc. 
The benefits of a good functional Enterprise Taxonomy to an organisation are many;
  • Provides fundamental backbone for Operating Model of an Enterprise
  • Common language facilitates easier communication
  • Better diverse stakeholder alignment and management
  • Consistent and cohesive planning, modelling, tracking framework
  • Technology independent mechanism of managing Enterprise programs / projects
  • Ease of onboarding partners, suppliers and customers for enhanced collaboration
  • Better way to manage governance, reporting, tracking
  • Enhanced way of managing lifecycle of key enterprise components. 
Hopefully this post highlights some of salient features of Taxonomy. Obviously this a large body of work and it is not possible to cover all dimensions in a single post. But I simply wanted to raise awareness and profile of Taxonomy which hopefully I have to some extent.