Enterprise Architecture (EA) is a comprehensive subject. Even with knowledge of methods like TOGAF, it can take several years of experience before a candidate can find a role as a fully-fledged ‘enterprise architect’, and it isn’t hard to see why.
Businesses are highly complex in terms of structure, and an enterprise architect needs to be able to read them like a book. They must be aware of elements to do with corporate strategy, technology, communications, outsourced services, stakeholder priorities, and more, not just for a business’s current ‘architecture’, but also for the state the business wants to reach in the future.
An EA specialist can create a comprehensive picture of their organization, providing a level of clarity that drives optimization, decision-making, and, ultimately, value creation. Even so, the skills of an enterprise architect are diverse and this is certainly reflected in the architectures they create.
Enterprise architectures are typically made up of several different domains denoting various elements of a business. These include:
- Business architecture – This outlines elements of the business’s strategy, such as governance, business processes, and other organizational aspects. This can be a particularly specialized area for architects. The Open Group, one of the world’s most well-known enterprise architecture certification providers, even released a ‘TOGAF Business Architecture (TOGAF BA)’ syllabus to complement the wider TOGAF framework
- Data architecture – This denotes how an organization is structured in terms of physical and logical data assets. It also covers any other resources related to data management
- Applications architecture – This outlines different elements of an organization’s systems and the interactions between them, as well as how they relate to and support essential business functions. This can be particularly important when it comes to integrating business functions
- Technical architecture – This looks at network infrastructure, along with hardware and software. It is important for deploying applications that support business functions
What about different enterprise architecture frameworks?
With a topic as old, expansive, and crucial as enterprise architecture, you’d be right to assume that there are several related frameworks to choose from. Most qualified enterprise architects will be qualified, or at least familiar with, several of them and will know precisely how to adapt them in order to suit individual organizations.
Broadly speaking, these frameworks fall into several categories. Two of the most well-known are:
- Enterprise architecture content frameworks – This helps users understand which artifacts need to be produced and how to do so. The most well-known example would be ‘The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF)’, which uses the ‘Architecture Development Method (ADM)’. This flexible approach has several phrases for defining, creating, and deploying artifacts and deliverables, which can then be reused for future projects
- Enterprise architecture template frameworks – These options focus on the collection, management, and use of information. Options like the Zachman framework help categorize artifacts based on who requires them and what issues they are designed to address
In addition to TOGAF and Zachman, there are also several other well-known options:
- Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEA)
- The Department of Defence Architecture Framework (DODAF)
- The ministry of Defense Architecture Framework (MODAF)
- The NATO Architecture Framework (NAF)
There are also complementary frameworks, such as ArchiMate 3.0. This is a graphical language (also developed by The Open Group) that helps architects to create visual representations of architectures that are easier for non-architects to understand.
What kind of enterprise architecture is best for me?
Ultimately, the choice of what type of enterprise architecture to focus on really depends on the requirements of your organization. Frameworks vary in terms of complexity and purpose. If you simply want to be aware of the artifacts within your organization, Zachman may be an easy choice.
For a fully rounded and comprehensive approach, however, the best option would be the TOGAF framework. It has long set a standard in enterprise architecture and has the advantage of being adaptive enough to be suitable for businesses in virtually any industry or location.
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