How to Adapt an Enterprise Architecture Framework to Today’s Digital Environment?

Traditional architecture layers would be something like business processes, applications, information technology, and a data layer. These layers depend a bit on which framework you look at, but somehow, most frameworks are quite similar to each other or even build upon each other. As most of them are quite old (from the 80s and 90s), many companies ask for adaptions to it or even do not believe in the benefit of such frameworks at all. In this post, I will suggest a modernized framework that takes into account what today’s companies need to consider and that better fits to today’s business environment. 


What were the drivers to develop the framework?

1.     One big trend is a tighter linkage between business and IT, sometimes called alignment, business partnering, or business enablement through IT

2.     Another fact is that IT becomes more and more the source of revenue streams, instead of only a source for costs that business needs to minimize. Many new business models are located at the heart of IT itself, such as platform, cloud, or data provisioning

3.     The concept of business capabilities is strengthening its position in the heads of company leaders. Where earlier people talked about processes (the HOW), there is today the concept of business capabilities (the WHAT), which is better suited when an abstraction of a topic is desired. However, the term business capabilities is often defined differently, so that a clarification is needed

4.     IT has gained a lot of significance to a companies success and the focus has shifted to the topic of common platforms, OS independent containers, and integration, integration, integration

5.     The differentiation between a system of records and a system of engagement becomes more and more used. While the first needs stability and availability (e.g. an ERP system), the system of engagement is focused on customer interaction, “fanciness”, and providing the newest and coolest services and offerings

6.     Due to the broad establishment of standards and compatibility, there is a shift of priorities away from systems and infrastructures

7.     Due to new Digital opportunities and business models, as well as the invasion of new apps on the market, there is a shift of priorities towards the application layer as well as the data layer


What are the benefits of the framework? 

Overall, the framework provides a tighter linkage between business and IT and positions IT much stronger than other frameworks do. Due to a direct linkage of business to all horizontal layers, business demand can directly address e.g. the collection of specific data. Other frameworks e.g. provide only a linkage of the business layer to the neighbored layer, but do not recommend mapping business elements to all layers. The framework also helps to differentiate between IT areas that business is more interested in (e.g. Apps and Data) and that it is less interested in (“my ERP, WLAN, and laptop just have to work!”).  

Business capabilities are more prominently established in the framework including their components technology, process, and people. This allows a more differentiating view on the mapping of the business to its IT landscape. Compared to processes, business capabilities are the better choice for such frameworks: They provide comparability with others, they answer what (and not how) a company does something and are therefore more stable over time. I will talk more about business capabilities in one of my next posts.  

In this framework, the topic of enterprise architecture is clearly mentioned within the framework. Its components are the architecture (layers) itself (which is the core of most traditional frameworks) as well as the governance of it. Together, they form the enterprise architecture, which is relevant across the IT landscape. The framework provides therefore a more holistic view on the architecture and includes more business elements. 


How Does the Framework Look Like? 

The framework has a matrix form with six components vertically and four components horizontally crossing. The horizontal components are as follows: 

1)     Applications for end user interaction (incl. application ecosystem of engagement)
2)     Integration Platform Management (incl. topics such as iPaaS, SOA, ESB, and Containers)
3)     Infrastructure and Systems of Record
4)     Data (incl. topics such as data lakes)

The framework suggests a logical close alignment between the Integration Platform Management and the Infrastructure and Systems of Record and therefore combines both below the topic Systems, Platforms, Integration & Infrastructure (SPII). This leaves the framework with three horizontal clusters, which are Apps, SPII, and Data. 

On the vertical, the components are as follows: 

1)     Business Demand & Partnering
2)     Architecture
3)     Governance
4)     Technology
5)     Process
6)     People

As mentioned earlier, architecture and governance together build the cluster enterprise architecture and the components technology, process, and people build the cluster business capability. In addition, the component of Business Demand & Partnering describes the cluster Business-IT Alignment. Summarized, the framework has also three vertical clusters, which are Business-IT Alignment, Enterprise Architecture, and Business Capabilities. 


What is your opinion on the framework? Do you have suggestions? Would this framework work in your organization? I am curious to your ideas, discussion inputs, and to improve the framework further together!