The Enterprise Architecture

Following on some of my recent posts, I would like to emphasize that the most important concern of leaders in their business enterprise in 2010 must be the renewal of their Enterprise Architecture. And also the resolve that this will be a renewable exercise. Without digging too deep into the philosophies, let us just understand in a simple and straightforward manner that it is impossible to underlay the renewed architecture all at one time. The critical aspect is to get the construct of the Enterprise Architecture right and then keep building upon it in a sustained manner. The Enterprise Architecture must be  headed by a Group Program Director with a dedicated Program Office reporting to the CEO of the organization, as this is directly related to the strategic outcomes for the enterprise. The most important qualification for the Program Director must be the ability to manage transformation / change successfully.

Modeling the Enteprise Architecture

Even in specialist Enterprise Architecture forums, there is a fair bit of confusion on what constitutes the Enterprise  Architecture. Allow me to de-mystify the construct here. There are five main branches to the Enterprise Architecture with each having its own sub-branch. Each of these branch and sub-branches have a mutual inter-dependency and a domino effect. When one gets affected, its corresponding impact on another branch and / or sub-branch needs to be addressed concurrently. Else, the entire structure becomes redundant.

Strategic Layer: The first Branch for an Enterprise Architecture is the Strategic Layer. This is further divided into three branches:

Strategic Intent: This will be the overarching business model that will have  meta data on the possible connections and interactions of an enterprise at the highest level of abstraction across the Customer Universe including Clients, Employees, Stakeholders, Shareholders, Vendors, Business Partners and Society. This sub-branch will reflect the what-of scenarios of business responding to Innovation and the  varying external environment, competitive demands and customer expectations.

Business Strategy: This will reflect the operative strategic model for which the business, its environment, customers and competition are optimally prepared. This will be the operative business model that will be measured for performance.

Cognitive Architecture: This will model all the interactions between the various entities in the business and define the most effective mechanisms to carry out the business transactions, creating a unique experience every single time.

The most important feature of the above branch will be the context modeling which will determine the Strategic Positioning of the Business Enterprise and therefore the success of the Enterprise Architecture. Just to simplify this term called “Context” let us use an illustrative example:

When I ask you to describe how an apple tastes, I am not asking for how an apple tastes. I am asking you for how it tastes on your palette? What are the words you would use to describe the taste? In the enterprise context, the words you use to describe your business becomes very important in the way in which you will model it to function and deliver performance. It must be clear here that no two people will describe the taste of an apple on their tongue in the exact same terms, though the taste of apple is universal.

The Business Process Layer: This is an inherited or dependent layer to the previous Strategic Layer and will consist of Four main branches for each of the Core and Support Processes including:

Level 0: This branch will be the highest level of Business Process Abstraction connecting the enterprise Core & Support Processes with all the other processes within and outside the business boundaries, establishing the Business Logic or Management Policies / Principles on which the business will operate.

Level 1: This branch will repost all the business activities across the business enterprise connecting across functions and driving business productivity.

Level 2: This branch will contain all the business tasks and their related transactions along with the business rules, algorithms, the straight flow, alternate flow and exception flow of transactions.

Roles: The process roles will be modeled for optimum performance of the process with key accountabilities and interventions required to make the process effective and measurable.

At the outset, the the design of the four branches will be driven by the description of the process responding to the business context, the critical success factors / process enablers, the key performance indicators / customer expectations and process measures (definitive performance expected from the process delivery). It is relevant to understand here the differentiation between the Business Logic and Business Rules and their relative inheritance nature impacting the efficiency / productivity impacting Quality, Cost, Delivery, Service and / or Flexibility of the enterprise to deliver its products and  / or services in the defined marketplace to a clear understanding of Customer Demography and Psychography.

The Enterprise Capability Layer: This third layer of the enterprise can often be the most definitive in terms of shaping the success of the Enterprise strategic initiatives. Derived from the previous two layers, it has two branches that define:

Capacity: The Change Readiness of the people of the enterprise to adapt and transform to the imperatives of the strategic and process design.

Ability / Skills: The critical skills requirement for the people of the enterprise to deliver to the imperatives of the business strategy and business processes.

It is relevant to pause and imbibe here the reality that often this is a pivotal layer that becomes the intermediating factor between optimally delivering strategic value and creating a unique business proposition as well as leveraging investments optimally made in the business with respect to technology, applications and infrastructure.

Business Applications & Technology Layer: This fourth layer of the Enterprise Architecture would basically be divided into two branches as follows:

The Business Application Branch will define all applications that will serve the business depending upon the design of the above three layers with decisions on Packages, Custom, Open Source and / or On-Demand Services  / Software.

The Business Technology Branch will define all the business technology required to serve the automated interactions across the customer universe that is synchronized with the business applications implemented by the business.

It is most fundamental to appreciate that unless the above three layers have been structured, it is virtually impossible to create an SOA framework or make on-demand software (SAAS or Opensource applications) productive for the enterprise. The interdependence is non-negotiable for the success of initiatives such as SOA and SAAS and needs to be addressed as not discrete software projects but as business projects.

The Infrastructure Layer: This final layer of the Enterprise Architecture is divided into three branches as follows:

The Physical & Virtual Real-Estate: This defines a the security, connectivity and Networking across the locations which are physical and Virtual of the enterprise, highlighting the uniformity with which customers may identify their business interaction experience.

The Data Branch: Will contain definitions of the Empirical and Analytical data storage and distribution for the process of Information.

The Intelligence Branch: Will contain the definitions of the Business Intelligence and Cognitive Intelligence sub-branches derived from the definitions of all the above layers of the enterprise to provide real-time business performance metrics.

Even as the trend for the Infrastructure Layer and the Technology and Applications Layer is moving towards Shared Services and Utility Computing, the definitions in the Enterprise Architecture  will assume greater criticality to conserve the uniqueness and differentiation of the business enterprise without compromising on the productivity and costs advantage. This will also serve as the critical bridge between the projects and operative environment of the enterprise bringing Time to Market and Mind to Market advantages to the Enterprise and its customers. The emphasis will be once again on deriving the benefit by maintaining the  connection across the five layers of the Enterprise Architecture.

About Subbu Iyer

Subbu Iyer is an Innovation & Transformation Leader as with 28 years of serving customers globally. He is currently the Chief Designer & Transformer at Energizing Innovation, an enterprise that is being founded to facilitate continuous growth in enterprises and as a consequence create societal wealth. The Radical Shift that this enterprise intends to employ is focusing on the Potential rather than the Performance of a business. He has been a serial entrepreneur and an intrapreneur in his past life, having founded Nihilent Technologies and Nandaki Systems besides being associated in senior leadership roles with firms such as Coopers & Lybrand, Cambridge Technology Partners, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro Technologies and Steria.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s