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Exploring (enterprise) architecting

I outlined some of my thinking and understanding of what constitutes the concept of architecting an enterprise in “Enterprise architecting”.  

Enterprise Architecture 3.0

More recently, I have been engaged in discussions with Len Fehskens as I have sought to understand the ideas and thinking that he has documented and has been sharing under the banner of “Enterprise Architecture 3.0”.  Len has done a sterling job in putting together a rigorous outline of a number of concepts to build a clear outline of the concept of “architecture” in a manner where each concept is related to other concepts clearly and consistently.  This provides a much sounder platform for discussing and exploring the concept, when the surrounding thinking has been expressed with the aim of making sure there are no conflicts in use.

Len has done this with the aim of getting people to think about (but not necessarily adopt) his ideas and then think about their own ideas about EA and why they believe them.  His goals are to derive a concept of architecture that has three properties:

  • it is applicable to any form of human endeavor
  • it has a readily apparent and compelling value proposition
  • it can serve as the foundation of an umbrella profession that includes as specializations all extant concepts of enterprise architecture and business architecture practiced today.

I have found in this process that I hold some different ideas about architecture and architecting.  This article seeks to explore these ideas as an extension to my previous article, identifying characteristics in common across different architectural domains and applying these to enterprise architecting.

Integration

My observation is that all domains of architecture have a common theme of achieving integration as one of the purposes.  Whether the entity being architected is:

  • a building
  • software
  • an IT system
  • a submarine
  • an enterprise

one of the goals of architecture is to establish the necessary guidance such that subsequent design decisions made by independent designers will result in the created components connecting together, integrating and/or interacting successfully.  In other words:

Architecting enables successful integration of independently designed components.

For many domains, the integration is between interacting parts and becomes a definition of the interface between the designated parts. Even for non interacting parts (think of inert parts of a building), the parts are connected and architecture plays a role in enabling them to be connected successfully during construction. When we bring people into the mix, then we can talk about integration, connection and relationship.

Outcomes

Another aspect of architecting relates to the integrity of design and construction activities such that the intended outcomes of the entity are realised when it is constructed and subsequently used or operated.

The interest is in the outcome of the existence, use or operation of the entity, not just the entity as the output of the construction and realisation activity.  A separate article explains in more detail the distinctions between output and outcome and the rationale for making the distinction – see outputs and outcomes.

In identifying and articulating the outcomes sought by the owners and funders of the design and creation of the architected entity, the architect is mindful that:

  • the use of the entity may be by independent parties
  • the design, construction and maintenance of the entity may also involve independent parties

In so doing, the architecting activity entails the prescribing of models, principles and other guidance which aims to ensure that subsequent design and construction activities do not compromise the realisation of the intended outcomes.

Architecting connects capabilities critical to realising intended outcomes

For a building, the architect prescribes sufficient guidance to ensure the occupants and users find the building to be comfortable, convenient, accessible, and other outcomes sought by the owner and funder.

For an enterprise, the architects prescribes sufficient guidance to ensure that the enterprise offers and maintains products and services that are valued in their designated markets, in combination with the enterprise being commerically viable, organisationally sustainable and socially responsible.  This is most simply put by Len Fehskens as “being successful”, however that might be defined by the relevant enterprise stakeholders.

Risk

Another goal of architecting relates to reducing design and realisation risk. If architectural information is not provided to designers of related elements, there is an increased risk that there will be a need to re-design and re-build one or more elements in order to enable the elements to be integrated.  This constitutes an additional cost to the design and construction of the complete entity.  The later in the process of realising the entity, the higher the cost of re-design and re-building.

To this end, architecting entails identifying and making those design decisions that:

  • need to be made early in the process so as to avoid the necessity to undertaken re-work
  • can be left to later in the design and realisation process, offering greater flexibility and greater certainty when ultimately made

Common mechanisms for establishing appropriate guidance for subsequent activities include development of:

  • principles and values which are shared across the enterprise
  • conceptual and logical models which reflect interactions that are critical to realising outcomes sought by the prospective enterprise

Architecting reduces design, construction and maintenance risks

 

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