EA Principles April 2012

Our enterprises evolve continuously. As a result, their architectural structures are transformed and extended continuously. Without control, such changes are bound to lead to an overly complex and uncoordinated environment. Such a structure is hard to manage and may resist future changes in the desired direction.

Enterprise Architecture (EA) aims to proactively manage and share this structure. One main purpose of EA is to simplify the structure to make the enterprise agile and prepared for change and transformation. The other main purpose of EA is to simplify the IT solutions and the system architecture.

A number of architecture principles form the cornerstone of EA. These principles provide a means to direct a successful transformation of the enterprise and achieve simplicity beyond the complexity.

BackgroundEA has been around since Zachman introduced his Framework in the 1980s. EA was introduced to management in Enterprise Architecture as Strategy written by Ross, Weill and Robertson published in 2006. Today the Open Group is introducing EA globally with their TOGAF Framework.

In Scandinavia more than 150 Architecture Plans have been developed since 1982, starting at SAS and SKF and recently at Scania, Statoil and IKEA to mention a few important examples. More than 800 Enterprise Architects have been certified at an academic level since 1994.

ContributionA large number of global experts have been visiting us in Sweden and generously shared their knowledge and experience contributing to these EA principles. Among them are Michael Brackett, Chris Bradley, Malcolm Chisholm, Steve Conway, Larry English, Thomas Erl, Danny Greefhorst, Steve Hoberman, Dirk Krafzig, Rick van der Lans, Stuart MacGregor, Jan Henderyckx, Dave McComb, Daniel Moody, Alexander Osterwalder, David Robertson, Jaap Schekkerman, Bob Seiner, Len Silverstone, Graeme Simsion and John Zachman.

A number of very professional certified enterprise architects in the DAMA Scandinavia network have been very supportive with helpful proposals and critics.

A special thanks to Len Fehskens and his very inspiring thoughts in “Re-thinking Architecture.”

What is a Principle?In Wikipedia, a principle is defined as follows:

A principle is a law or rule that has to be, or usually is to be followed, or can be desirably followed, or is an inevitable consequence of something, such as the laws observed in nature or the way that a system is constructed.

Why EA Principles?Now when EA is globally accepted, we may continue our effort to reach maturity. We all know that adding complexity is a short-term solution to many problems. On the other hand, creating simplicity is a long-term solution, which requires a lot of knowledge, experience and resources. Is there any way where we can work proactively toward long-term solutions when we solve our short-term problems? Yes, we think so. Reusing or creating simple solutions is often easier than adding complexity.

The EA principles I want to discuss in this column aim at finding more long-term simplicity when finding solutions to our problems.

“EA must include everything you need and nothing you don´t need” is one of the most important thoughts from Len Fehskens. “Simplicity is a virtue” is stated by Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA.

List of EA PrinciplesOverall EA Principles:

  1. Manage information as a resource and capture data only once
  2. Create simplicity to overcome the complexity

EA Principles:

  1. Create a business-driven architecture
  2. Develop and manage an overall business information model 
  3. Develop and manage an overall business process architecture 
  4. Achieve traceability from the overall architecture to the solution → details and vice versa
  5. Start at the top and keep the overview
  6. Support transformation, give assistance and share the EA knowledge
  7. Relate EA to the business innovation models
  8. Invest in reusable components
  9. Develop and manage  an EA project agreement for new IT solutions
  10. Establish EA governance supporting the desired transformations

Overall EA Principle 1:
Manage Information as a Resource and Capture Data Only Once

Information is a unique resource because you don’t consume it when using it. But it is also a very difficult resource to manage. Ted Codd, an English mathematician, made 1970 a groundbreaking development with his “Normalization theory” published and spread around the world by Chris Date.

In Scandinavia Bo Sundgren, a Swedish IM-professor, has made it operational and created a workshop approach. A number of business experts together with a professional facilitator can achieve a high quality information model, often named data model by IT professionals.

At architecture level, we want to find a number of overall information groups, where an entity is only allowed in one single information group. Normally we find 25 – 40 information groups. These groups are gradually detailed when developing new IT solutions. This is a way to create reusable components in the business creating simplicity and reducing complexity. Read more at http://www.tdan.com/view-articles/12655

Still this requires knowledge and experience, and many enterprises have not yet made this investment. Let us compare with the car and truck industry. Today this industry has invested heavily in modularity, but it has taken them more than 50 years to reach this maturity stage. Volkswagen calculates savings around 5 billion Euros yearly, since many car models use the same components or platform. When Scania or Volvo deliver a truck, it is often unique, but it is built only using standard modules. In EA we have only just started such a journey.

Overall EA Principle 2
Create Simplicity and Overcome the Complexity

Our world is growing more and more complex. We have many driving forces adding to this complexity and very few creating simplicity. Companies like IKEA, where “simplicity is a virtue,” are very rare.

In a new book Managing Complexity in our Organizations, Ulrich Steger at IMD in Lausanne tells us a lot of how complexity is still driving us away from a useful simplicity. Standardization of core processes is important when reducing complexity. There is a diversity of systems within a company that are often incompatible and resemble a patchwork of undisciplined IT-enabled business processes and redundant databases. The information itself is often quite diverse and is an important complexity driver. The complexity drivers in the innovation process are described in detail and are shown in a case study from LEGO, by Robert Davidson.

Our experience is that creating simplicity may start with the overall information modeling and the development of common definitions of important entities. The information structure and the common definitions are very useful when developing the overall business process architecture. It is a good way to reduce complexity in the enterprise structure. To start with the processes avoiding the information itself is attractive, but it’s a shortcut is often the longest way around!

”It seems that perfection is reached,
not when there is nothing left to add,
but when there is nothing left to take away”

Antoine de Saint Exupéry, French author and pilot, 1900 – 1944.

Introducing the EA Principle Approach

In the center of Figure 1 above, we have the City Plan (EA) describing the structure of the enterprise, mainly the business processes and the information resource. To the left we may have a number of Business Model Canvas, where we have a binary alignment to the City Plan. Like a sun, up to the right, we have the reusable components (modules) also binary aligned with the information resource in the City Plan. To the right, we may have a number of development projects based on the structure in the City Plan and giving feedback to the architectural structure.

Overview of the EA Principles

As shown in Figure 2 above, the EA Principles No 1-6 are guiding the development of the Enterprise Architecture to make it fulfill the purpose. No 7 is the binary alignment to the Business Innovation Model. No 8 is about how to develop reusable components. No 9 is the agreement between EA and Projects guiding the implementation of the Architecture. No 10 is the EA Governance needed to manage the transformation to the desired structure.

Feedback Requested!Please give your feedback about these hypotheses. Have we included everything you need and nothing more? Read more about it in the book Architecture Principles – The Cornerstones of EA, by Danny Greefhorst.

In an upcoming article, we will present each EA principle in detail. Feel free to mail me if you want to share your knowledge and experience.

My next column will discuss the pros and cons of creating an agile business-driven enterprise architecture, where the architects facilitate a group of business experts covering the overall enterprise structure.

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About Eskil Swende

Eskil is main partner at IRMÊ, a Scandinavian consulting company focusing on Enterprise Architecture and the Innovation Process. He is also a partner at IRM UK, a strategic education company in London that provides seminars and arranges yearly conferences on EA, IA, MDM and BPM. Eskil is President of DAMA Chapter Scandinavia and has developed a global wisdom network of leading experts inside and outside DAMA, inviting them to give presentations and tutorials in Scandinavia. He can be reached at Eskil.Swende@irm.se.

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