I frequently discuss EA as a business function, including in my last post. However, one request that comes up sometimes is the view of Enterprise Architecture as a thing… a noun. Many papers and some books refer to ‘the" enterprise architecture. But what is this thing, and how would you share it?
A little context. Back in high school, I was planning to become a (building) architect. I was fascinated by the subject and spent two years in vocational training. I became a fairly good draftsman. At the same time, I discovered that the community college had a course in programming in BASIC, which I took. I fell into technology and the rest is history. But I still think back on the days spent drawing house plans, and I occasionally reflect on the lessons I learned.
If someone were to ask me to describe the architecture of my house, the best I would be able to do is produce a SET of house plans, not a single image. There would be elevations and floor plans and detail plans that highlighted plumbing and electrical. There would be "wall sections" and specifications for fixtures, surfaces, and materials. All of it, together, is necessary. Any one view, without the other views, is incomplete.
Yet, for some key audiences, and in some situations, a single view is necessary. When you want to get agreement on high level goals, or set a vision for an entire organization, you need one picture. One image to rally around.
For house plans, I’d produce a rendering (a color perspective drawing). If someone wants more information, then the elevations (each side, directly) and the floor plans with minimal detail could be produced.
This is plenty for anyone who just wants to compare or understand, but doesn’t need to actually construct the house. This level of detail allows you to review choices. Add some detail, and this is sufficient for a ballpark estimate. You’d need a LOT more detail to build it. (Special thanks to HouseOfTheWeek.com where you can see this house, and buy these and many other house plans).
By comparison, there is no standard approach for Enterprise Architecture. Has anyone tried to create a consensus about what is in a single-picture representation of an enterprise architecture? If so, I’d love to see that attempt. There has been an attempt at describing the entire set, many attempts in fact. The Zachman framework stakes the most comprehensive position. Yet, even then, there is little consensus on what a single view of an enterprise architecture should have in it, and we have a fairly uneven track record for setting standards for any one view, even in something like the Zachman Framework.
For an all-up view, I believe the requirements are as follows: sufficient detail to allow top-level people to understand the problem and make choices about a solution. Simply representing information is not sufficient, if it doesn’t lead to hard choices. In other words, it is not sufficient that we present a model that indicates that "water is wet" or that we store customer information in a database. We must be able to present many different models, and have the business react to what they see, selecting one.
If you were to do that… if you were to present a single model that represents your enterprise architecture, what details would you put on it? What detail would you leave off?
I’d like to hear your opinion.