Enterprise Architecture Concepts

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In this article by Habib Ahmed Qureshi, Ganesan Senthilvel, and Ovais Mehboob Ahmed Khan, author of the book Enterprise Application Architecture with .NET Core, you will learn how to architect and design highly scalable, robust, clean, and highly performant applications in .NET Core 1.0.

(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)

In this article, we will cover the following topics:

  • Why we need Enterprise Architecture?
  • Knowing the role of an architect

Why we need Enterprise Architecture?

We will need to define, or at least provide, some basic fixed points to identify enterprise architecture specifically.


Sketch

Before playing an enterprise architect role, I used to get confused with so many architectural roles and terms, such as architect, solution architect, enterprise architect, data architect, blueprint, system diagram, and so on.

In general, the industry perception is that the IT architect role is to draw few boxes with few suggestions; rest is with the development community. They feel that the architect role is quite easy just by drawing the diagram and not doing anything else. Like I said, it is completely a perception of few associates in the industry, and I used to be dragged by this category earlier:

Enterprise Application Architecture with .NET Core

However, my enterprise architect job has cleared this perception and understands the true value of an enterprise architect.

Definition of Enterprise Architecture

In simple terms, enterprise is nothing but human endeavor. The objective of an enterprise is where people are collaborating for a particular purpose supported by a platform. Let me explain with an example of an online e-commerce company. Employees of that company are people who worked together to produce the profit of the firm using their various platforms, such as infrastructure, software, equipment, building, and so on.

Enterprise has the structure/arrangements of all these pieces/components to build the complete organization. This is the exact place where enterprise architecture plays its key role. Every enterprise has an enterprise architect.

EA is a process of architecting that applies the discipline to produce the prescribed output components. This process needs the experience, skill, discipline, and descriptions. Consider the following image where EA anticipates the system in two key states:

Enterprise Application Architecture with .NET Core

Every enterprise needs an enterprise architect, not an optional. Let me give a simple example. When you need a car for business activities, you have two choices, either drive yourself or rent a driver. Still, you will need the driving capability to operate the car. EA is pretty similar to it.

As depicted in the preceding diagram, EA anticipates the system in two key states, which are as follows:

  • How it currently is
  • How will it be in the future

Basically, they work on options/alternatives to move from current to future state of an enterprise system. In this process, Enterprise Architecture does the following:

  • Creates the frameworks to manage the architect
  • Details the descriptions of the architect
  • Roadmaps to lay the best way to change/improve the architecture
  • Defines constraint/opportunity
  • Anticipates the costs and benefits
  • Evaluates the risks and values

In this process of architecting, the system applies the discipline to produce the prescribed output components.

Stakeholders of Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise Architecture is so special because to its holistic view of management and evolution of an enterprise holistically. It has the unique combination of specialist technology, such as architecture frameworks and design pattern practices.

Such a special EA has the following key stakeholders/users in its eco system:

S.No.

Stakeholders

Organizational actions

1

 Strategic planner

  • Capability planning
  • Set strategic direction
  • Impact analysis

2

 Decision makers

  • Investment
  • Divestment
  • Approvals for the project
  • Alignment with strategic direction

3

 Analyst

  • Quality assurance
  • Compliance
  • Alignment with business goals

4

 Architects, project managers

  • Solution development
  • Investigate the opportunities
  • Analysis of the existing options

Business benefits

Though many organizations intervened without EAs, every firm has the strong belief that it is better to architect before creating any system. It is integrated in coherent fashion with proactively designed system instead of random ad hoc and inconsistent mode.

In terms of business benefits, cost is the key factor in the meaning of Return on Investment (RoI). That is how the industry business is driven in this highly competitive IT world. EA has the opportunity to prove its value for its own stakeholders with three major benefits, ranging from tactical to strategic positions. They are as follows:

  • Cost reduction by technology standardization
  • Business Process Improvement (BPI)
  • Strategic differentiation

Gartner’s research paper on TCO: The First Justification for Enterprise IT Architecture by Colleen Young is one of the good references to justify the business benefits of an Enterprise Architecture.

Check out https://www.gartner.com/doc/388268/enterprise-architecture-benefits-justification for more information.

In the grand scheme of cost saving strategy, technology standardization adds a lot of efficiency to make the indirect benefits. Let me share my experience in this space. In one of my earlier legacy organization, it was noticed that the variety of technologies and products were built to server the business purpose due to the historical acquisitions and mergers. The best solution was platform standardization.

All businesses have processes; few life examples are credit card processing, employee on-boarding, student enrollment, and so on. In this methodology, there are people involved with few steps for the particular system to get things done. In means of the business growth, the processes become chaotic, which leads to the duplicate efforts across the departments. Here, we miss the cross learning of the mistakes and corrections.

BPI is an industry approach that is designed to support the enterprise for the realignment of the existing business operational process into the significant improved process. It helps the enterprise to identify and adopt in a better way using the industry tools and techniques.

BPI is originally designed to induce a drastic game changing effect in the enterprise performance instead of bringing the changes in the incremental steps.

In the current highly competitive market, strategic differentiation efforts make the firm create the perception in customers minds of receiving something of greater value than offered by the competition. An effective differentiation strategy is the best tool to highlight a business’s unique features and make it stand out from the crowd.

As the outcome of strategic differentiation, the business should realize the benefits on Enterprise Architecture investment. Also, it makes the business to institute the new ways of thinking to add the new customer segments along with new major competitive strategies.

Knowing the role of an architect

When I planned to switch my career to architecture track, I had too many questions in mind. People were referring to so many titles in the industry, such as architect, solution architect, enterprise architect, data architect, infra architect, and so on that I didn’t know where exactly do I need to start and end. Industry had so many confusions to opt for. To understand it better, let me give my own work experiences as the best use cases.

In the IT industry, two higher-level architects are named as follows:

  • Solution architect (SA)
  • Enterprise architect (EA)

In my view, Enterprise Architecture is a much broader discipline than Solution Architecture with the sum of Business Architecture, Application Architecture, Data Architecture, and Technology Architecture. It will be covered in detail in the subsequent section:

Enterprise Application Architecture with .NET Core

SA is focused on a specific solution and addresses the technological details that are compiled to the standards, roadmaps, and strategic objectives of the business. On comparing with SA, EA is at senior level. In general, EA takes a strategic, inclusive, and long term view at goals, opportunities, and challenges facing the company. However, SA is assigned to a particular project/program in an enterprise to ensure technical integrity and consistency of the solution at every stage of its life cycle.

Role comparison between EA and SA

Let me explain the working experiences of two different roles—EA and SA. When I played the SA role for Internet based telephony system, my role needs to build the tools, such as code generation, automation, and so on around the existing telephony system. It needs the skill set of the Microsoft platform technology and telephony domain to understand the existing system in a better way and then provide the better solution to improve the productivity and performance of the existing ecosystem. I was not really involved in the enterprise-level decision making process. Basically, it was pretty much like an individual contributor to build effective and efficient solutions to improvise the current system.

As the second work, let me share my experience on the EA role for a leading financial company. The job was to build the enterprise data hub using the emerging big data technology.

Degree of comparisons

If we plot EA versus SA graphically, EA needs the higher degree of strategy focus and technology breath, as depicted in the following image:

Enterprise Application Architecture with .NET Core

In terms of roles and responsibilities, EA and SA differ in their scope. Basically, the SA scope is limited within a project team and the expected delivery is to make the system quality of the solution to the business. In the same time, the EA scope is beyond SA by identifying or envisioning the future state of an organization.

Summary

In this article, you understood the fundamental concepts of enterprise architecture, and its related business need and benefits.

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