The business world can be a confusing place. Businesses are constantly inundated with theories, strategies, and frameworks that are supposed to be the “next big thing” for optimizing your business. Articles discussing these topics are often filled with unintelligible jargon difficult for your average businessperson to parse out. One business term that embodies this issue is “enterprise architecture”.
If you peruse sources on the term, you may find that enterprise architecture is difficult to understand, let alone utilize. Nonetheless, this concept is vital for fulfilling an enterprise’s goals and planning for the future. Every business should take the time to identify and analyze their enterprise architecture and develop strategies for effectively implementing it.
The aim of this article is to clear up the fog surrounding enterprise architecture and make the term easier to understand and implement. Following this endeavor, first we will answer the question “what is enterprise architecture” with an intelligible definition. Then, we will discuss how to structure your architectural framework for your business. Finally, we will cover some of the top enterprise architecture tools available to purchase online to better visualize your business and execute corresponding strategies.
What is Enterprise Architecture?
If you google “what is enterprise architecture?”, you will find a lot of long and confusing explanations. These definitions overcomplicate the central concept of the discipline. The most simple and useful definition of enterprise architecture is “the alignment of business strategy with operational and strategic technology” (Andriole). The goal of this alignment is to enable a business to reach its goals now and in the future.
As such, enterprise architecture involves analyzing what structures, operations, and technology are used by a business to achieve its goals and how these can be used more effectively. In particular, it tends to focus on IT infrastructure and practices. Enterprise architecture also considers the business’ future goals and analyzes what technology and strategies a business must implement to achieve these goals down the road. It takes a holistic view of a business and identifies which of its components are contributing to fulfilling the business’ goals and how they are doing it.
Because enterprise architecture approaches a business from the top-down, high-level employees such as executives and business strategists should be the most involved in identifying and analyzing it for their organization. There are several tools that can assist in this endeavor, which we will discuss further along in this article.
How to Create an Enterprise Architecture Framework
To effectively utilize enterprise architecture, you need to build a framework through which to understand and define it for your company. About 66% of enterprise architecture initiatives fail, so it’s incredibly important to approach this process using a defined framework. There are lots of already-established frameworks such as TOGAF, the most commonly used by businesses, and FEAF, the U.S. federal government’s framework. However, these frameworks can prove complex and may include elements that aren’t applicable for your business. If you want to adopt one anyway and adapt it to your business’ needs, then we recommend using software that operates using the given framework.
If you want to build your own framework, we advise starting by defining the four components of enterprise architecture as used by your business. These four components are:
Define your business’ strategy and organization, key processes, and governance standards. Or, put more simply, define how your business makes money and what processes make money.
Application Systems Architecture
Identify what software applications are used to support business processes and how they interact with one another. Consider how software will be deployed to meet future goals.
Identify the data assets used to fuel your company’s software and business processes as well as data management resources.
Identify the hardware, software, and network infrastructure necessary to deploy the application systems defined above.
Once you have defined the architecture above, you can build on this framework and start developing specific strategies for aligning critical architecture and improving the execution of your business’ goals. You can better develop and implement these strategies by:
- Developing a decision and communication plan with all stakeholders
- Begin with the foundation of the framework (business architecture and strategy) and build outward
- Clearly defining goals for your business’ present and future
- Setting up a measurement program to determine progress
- Define and implement governance and compliance at every step
- Treat each step of the plan like its own project
Since enterprise architecture involves a lot of moving components, the simplest way to keep track of everything is to invest in an enterprise architecture tool. These tools help you define, design, and implement your enterprise architecture and business plan. In this article, we cover three of the best online software for this endeavor.
LeanIX focuses on enterprise architecture as it is related to your business’ IT landscape. The software can analyze your IT’s performance and speed up data collection, identify redundant technology and save costs, and identify and mitigate technology risks. It keeps track of all of your IT hardware and software and collects data in one place. LeanIX also tracks how your applications interact with one another. Finally, you can use roadmaps, heatmaps, and bubble charts to get an overview of your whole business and plan for the future.
BiZZDesign uses the TOGAF framework to formulate a holistic approach to enterprise architecture. With BiZZDesign, you can visualize your entire architecture by combining data integration, insight graphs, roadmapping, and real-time analytics. The platform can give you insights into making the best decisions for the future of your business as well as how to successfully implement these decisions in relation to everything else in your business. BiZZDesign can also be used to manage security risks, align IT to business strategies, prioritize projects, and allocate investments.
ADOIT provides a professional enterprise architecture suite that is frequently recognized as one of the best in the business. With ADOIT, you can create a digital blueprint of your enterprise architecture and visualize how different parts work together. From there, the platform can provide insights into your business’ operation and which IT solutions are best for meeting your goals. You can also send data insights to all relevant stakeholders from the platform. In all, by providing a portfolio of your entire enterprise, ADOIT can help you operate more efficiently, eliminate redundancies, accelerate processes, reduce costs, and improve governance.
Though the above tools are great for any business, they are not the only software you need to thrive. Check out the top enterprise software in all categories for optimizing growth and achieving your business goals.