EA Principles July 2013


When we developed our first Business Architecture in 1984 for SKF, the Swedish Global Ball Bearing company, we based it on knowledge from global experts. James Martin taught his Data Planning Strategies all over the world and our Swedish professor Bo Sundgren was the first to adopt the Codd normalization theories. He developed a two day workshop where data modeling experts facilitates a group of business experts. We have used it for 1000+ data modeling seminars and it still works! Data Model number 1000 was facilitated for the City of Stockholm.

Developing +100 Business Architectures since 1983 at SKF, IKEA, Statoil, Scania, Telia Sonera and other private and public business’, we have met all sort of problems, where our heroes have inspired us to continue our learning and development. Today we have established a Global Competence Network with a number of EA Maturity Heroes. We find them by reading their books, articles and web-sites. We try to study them at our EA Conference in London and at the DAMA Europe Conference also arranged by IRM UK in London. The most successful experts are invited to Stockholm for seminar presentations at the DAMA Scandinavia Conferences held twice a year.  In October we will arrange our Conference #43 attended by 100+ Enterprise Architects and Data Modeling experts.

The knowledge from our heroes is sometimes hard to understand, but then easy to use. There are no formal rules to be a member of our network but a number of criteria are important:

  • Their knowledge is well structured and based on well-defined concepts.
  • Their knowledge adds to our “Core Knowledge for EA”. We try to formalize this knowledge in a normalized meta model.
  • Their knowledge relates to our EA Principles.

The EA Heroes are organized in four groups:

  • The Question Heroes are John Zachman and Len Fehskens
  • The Artifact Heroes are Ted Codd, Michael Hammer and Alexander Osterwalder
  • The Communication Heroes are  Peter Weill/Jeanne Ross/David Robertson, Chris Potts, Martin Sykes and Steve Hoberman
  • The Knowledge Heroes are Ikujiro Nonaka, Don Marchand and Malcolm Chisholm

Our Question Heroes

To establish a Core Knowledge for EA you need to ask the right questions. Ever since I met John Zachman 30 years ago his questions and interrogatives have always been very inspiring. He started with what, how and where, added why, who and when. His energy is fantastic and no one has done more to establish the practice of Enterprise Architecture worldwide. Our intense discussions always end up with his favorite dinner – lamb and ice cream! Today we focus on his interrogatives why, how and what as our main artifacts. See more below. 

Our second Question Hero is Len Fehskens at The Open Group. For the past several years he has been “Re-Thinking Architecture”. He is very abstract and you have to work hard to understand him, but you are well paid. We have met several times discussing his thoughts and analysis. He supports the “why, how, what” concept and the ideas behind the EA Principles. He will be an excellent Chief Editor of the Journal of Enterprise Architecture, promoting the Core Knowledge for EA and the work to establish a global EA Maturity. We wish him good luck.

His proposed definition of EA is the best we have seen so far:

“The Enterprise Architecture ensures that the enterprise as a whole is always fit for purpose of achieving its vision, mission and strategies.”

It means that the lifecycle of the business architecture starts when the business is established and ends when the business is closed. The lifecycle of a vision, mission, strategy, IT solutions, and business innovation may have a much shorter lifecycles. That implies that the business architecture should not be made dependent on shorter lifecycles, but only based on the business itself. The artifact of the Information Resource is the most stable one and an architecture based on the information structure may reach a stability needed to achieve Len’s definition.

Shorter for this is “keep your artifacts in good order.” Maintain your Information Resource, Business Processes and Business Model Canvas in good order and you are well prepared for future unknown changes – internal and external.

Still most enterprises focus on just one of them – the Canvas, the Processes or the Information. To achieve a high quality Business Architecture you have to bring all of these artifacts in good order and relate them to each other!

Our Artifact Heroes

Important breakthroughs of the main Artifacts are:

  • Ted Codd during the 1970s
  • Michael Hammer during the 1990s
  • Alexander Osterwalder during the 2010s

The development of these Artifacts started with Ted Codd’s normalization theories. He was an English mathematician supported by Chris Date, who made his theories easier to understand. In Sweden Professor Bo Sundgren developed a workable approach for data and information modeling, where experienced data modelers facilitate a group of business experts to develop a business driven data model.

Read more at Defining and Naming Data Models Related to the Zachman Framework.

Our second EA Artifact hero is Michael Hammer. His second book, The Agenda, describes his view on Business Processes. Michael Treacy explained how to put focus on our customer and discussed the customer value in his book The Discipline of Market Leaders. (His title did not support his message!).

An overall Process Architecture in the Business Architecture consists of 25 – 50 processes where the majority are part of the operational process delivering value to the external customer. The infrastructure process consists of all processes like personnel, finance, IT, EA that handle the infrastructure in the business. The innovation process develops the business information Canvas and delivers new products and innovation models.

After many years of waiting for a structured approach to the business innovation Alexander Osterwalder presented his approach based on three years of academic research at the University of Lausanne and two years intense work with his book Business Model Generation.  He describes his Business Model Canvas consisting of 9 Building Blocks in detail and in a very easy to understand way. It was immediately very well accepted globally. It is very easy to relate to the Overall Business Information Groups adding a lot of value to the Business Architecture.

Our Knowledge Heroes

Ikujiro Nonaka‘s book The Knowledge Creating Company was published in 1995 and attracted much attention, when he stated that tacit knowledge is not respected any longer in the West. But his statement has gradually been accepted. For example if we don’t respect the tacit knowledge needed to develop a high quality and normalized data model the Business Architecture will fail. The transformations of knowledge named socialization, externalization, internalization and combination are important to understand and respect. 

Don Marchand, now Professor of Strategy Execution and Information Management at IMD in Lausanne published his first book “Infotrends – profiting from your Information Resource”  in 1986. He and his colleagues established IRM (Information Resource Management) as a key concept and inspired us to name our company IRM. He is still published in Harvard Business Review, and his latest article published in Jan/Feb 2013 tells us that “discovering new knowledge is a function of the question asked and the data used. When the question is defined and the data is known, it is an exploitative undertaking with a clear objective and a known process.”

Malcolm Chisholm is in our view the world leading expert within Master Data Management – MDM. His articles on Information Management are always worthwhile reading and his seminars in Stockholm are always well attended and highly valued. His book “Definitions in Information Management” is important. “Data – the raw material of information – can be managed and used only if it is understood, and it can be understood only if it has adequate definitions”.

Our Communication Heroes

Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill and David Robertson published their book Enterprise Architecture as Strategy in 2006. It was very well received by the EA Community and I think their analysis of Architecture Maturity Stages exactly matches our own experience going from “Business Silos”, “Standard Technology” (IT driven), “Optimized Core” (business driven) to “Business Modularity”. So far very few if any businesses have reached the Business Modularity stage. I met Robert several times and his seminar in Sweden is still remembered, mainly for his analysis about the alternative ways to reach standardized processes in a business. 

Their book IT Savvy describes very well how to reach the Business Modularity stages, but I don’t understand their choice of title. Also their message has not yet been adapted by any top management I know of. The transformation from one stage to the next stage is almost impossible without top management fully understanding and support.

I like to compare this with the car industry where they have been able to reach the “business modularity” stage in product data. The result when reusing product data describing standard components is reduced time to market by more than 50% from 5 years to around 2 years. This change has only been successfully made by the CEOs of Volkswagen and Toyota. Today most car designers are happy that their new cars reach the market within two years. Only very few car producers are competitive without reusing product data of standard modules! The car industry has been around 100+ years and only recently  have they reached the “Business Modularity” stage for their product data!

Chris Potts is our next communication hero. He has published a trilogy: FruITion, RecrEAtion and DefrICtion. They are basically story telling in a way very easy to read and understand. Each chapter ends with some very good and well-structured observations. Read his books and learn how to communicate with your CEO. Chris has accepted the role as chairman for the EA Conferences taking place in London every June. We wish him good luck in his new role!

Martin Sykes has recently published his book on Story Telling – Stories that Move Mountains. He has learned thru many years of experience that good stories are always based on hard work and he knows how to do it.  It will take at least several months to create a good story.

Steve Hoberman is the communication hero of Data and Information Modeling. Based on his visits in Scandinavia he kindly states that Sweden has more data modelers than the rest of the world! Steve is an excellent data modeling teacher (watch out for his flying candy!), but his main talent is the way he shows the importance of data and information modeling. He has recently started the “Data Modeling Zone” conferences in both US and Europe, where he brings together some of the leading experts in this area. From his father he learned to be a good publisher and today he communicates good EA knowledge through his book publishing business.

A Core Knowledge for EA

Maybe it is too early trying to develop a “Core Knowledge for EA” in our own EA business in the same way as the car industry has developed their Core Knowledge?But we believe it is time for an initial effort to develop a Core Knowledge for Business Architecture. Using the knowledge of our EA Maturity Heroes we initiate a Core Knowledge for EA using a strictly normalized Meta Model. In our terminology a Meta Model is a Data Model of the entities in the EA Artifacts. These EA artifacts are well defined and help us to fulfill the proposed EA definition:

“The Enterprise Architecture ensures that the enterprise as a whole is always fit for purpose of achieving its vision, mission and strategies.”

Alexander Osterwalder has defined his Building Block in a Business Innovation Canvas. One building block can be reused in many Canvases.

In a Business Architecture we have 25 to 50 normalized Overall Business Information Groups (OBIM) so that a single data element belongs to one and only one Information Group. We also have 25 to 50 Business Processes where one specific activity belongs to one Business Process. The Business Process Matrix tells in which process a specific Information Group is created or used.

The Business Architecture is created in an agile way over a two-month period by 12-15 business experts all participating in three two day workshops facilitated by two experienced Business Architects. The Result consists of an Overall Business Information Model, an overall Process Architecture and a number of high level Innovation Canvases. Stay at the overview level and avoid details at this stage if you want to make it in two months.

Definitions of the Artifacts

Business Model Canvas. A Business Model Canvas describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers and captures value. One organization normally has several Business Model Canvases.

Building Block. In a canvas there are nine basic Building Blocks showing the logic of how a company intends to make money. The nine blocks cover the four main areas of a business: customers, offer, infrastructure and financial viability. The nine building blocks are customer segments, value propositions, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, key resources, key activities, key partnerships and cost structure. One Building Block may be reused in several Business Model Canvases.

Business Process. A business process is initiated by an event and consists of a collection of activities, which together creates an output of value to the customer. The process does not describe the flow of activities. It is only used to define the activities delivering value to the customers. Other activities must be omitted.

Activity. A Business Process consists of a number of activities. One activity belongs to only one business process.

Information Group. An Overall Business Information Group (OBIM) consists of a number of entities. One entity belongs to one and only one Information Group.

An Information Group is either Master Data or Event Data. Master Data may be divided into Person Data, Product Data or Infrastructure Data.

Entity. An entity is a basic concept in an organization. It may be an event, a person, a place or a thing of interest to keep information about. It has to be defined by an unique and stable identifier. A number of data elements or attributes belongs to one and only one entity (the normalization rule).

Wanted – More EA Maturity Heroes

Maybe there are more EA Heroes out there that we have not found yet, especially related to EA Principle 8 and 9.

The EA Principle #8: “Invest in reusable components”. Credit Suisse invested a lot trying to build reusable components based on processes, but they found the reuse to be very low. Our and maybe also their conclusion is that the components must be based on data. We think that the Overall Business Information Group is a reasonable level to build reusable components from.

The EA principle #9: Develop and follow up an EA – Project agreement for new IT Solutions.

Inspired by the car industry where car designers agree to reuse the standard platforms, we are able to share our components. It means that the architects have to work together and more closely with the development projects. That will help them to add value to both the architecture and the new IT solutions.

Our effort to develop a set of EA Principles is inspired by Danny Greefhorst and Erik Proper and their book The Architecture Principles – the Cornerstones of Enterprise Architecture. “Architecture principles are finally getting the well-deserved attention they have too long lacked,” Len Fehskens stated in his foreword.  EA Principles are very important when trying to establish a Core Knowledge for EA.

Your comments or questions to this article are highly appreciated, just send me an email. Tell me if you want to take an active role in trying to establish a Core Knowledge for EA.

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Eskil Swende

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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