Enterprise Architecture: A Snapshot from Practice

Enterprise Architecture: A Snapshot from Practice

Michael Clarke (The Open University, UK), Jon G. Hall (The Open University, UK) and Lucia Rapanotti (The Open University, UK)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0861-8.ch009


Enterprise Architecture (EA) has been portrayed as one of the cornerstones of modern IT Governance, with increasing numbers of organisations formally recognising an EA function and adopting EA frameworks such as TOGAF (The Open Group Architectural Framework). Many claims have been made of the benefits of EA, yet little is known as to what organisations actually do or evidence of the benefits they accrue through EA. In this paper we report on the results of a small scale survey painting a snapshot of recent EA practice in large UK organisations across the private and public sectors. A key insight from the survey is that, in practice, EA appears to have a greater effect on business-IT alignment than on technological choices.
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1. Introduction

The discipline of Enterprise Architecture (EA) (Bernus & Nemes, 1996; Ross et al. 2006) has grown over the past twenty years to become a notable part of IT Governance, the latter described by Calder (2009) as a “framework for the leadership, organisational structures and business processes, standards and compliance to these standards, which ensure that the organisation’s IT supports and enables the achievement of its strategies and objectives.” EA is often portrayed at the intersection of an organisation’s IT and business strategies, with its effectiveness depending upon the specification of an IT architecture able to support adequately the organisation’s business model (Winter and Schelp, 2008). Indeed, many claims have been made of the benefits of EA accruing from its holistic view of the organisation, including the ability to: support business processes and deliver organisational change effectively and efficiently (Schelp & Aier, 2009), simplify and future-proof the IT infrastructure (Ross et al. 2006), optimise procurement and outsourcing, better decision making (Van den Berg, 2006), and deliver organisational change more quickly and cheaply (Aier, 2004).

Of course, business models can vary significantly and are contingent upon many factors, including organisational culture, customer type (consumer or business), product or service variety on offer, tangibility of such an offer, and geographical diversity, to name but a few. However, a common belief that there are certain shared characteristics and needs between the business models of diverse organisations has led to the development of generic EA frameworks and methodologies. In parallel, technical innovations in the nature of software development, such as Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), have enabled practical implementation of some of the key theoretical benefits of EA, such as cost savings in software development through the re-use of existing software. This has allowed a closer association of business processes with discrete pieces of software which are specifically required to perform these processes, with EA performing a key role in realising such an association and fostering corporate agility with better adaptation of IT to changing business processes (Schelp & Aier, 2009).

EA has increasingly been adopted as standard practice in many large (and some smaller) organisations, often embodied as a separate and well defined function. Yet information of what individual organisations actually do and evidence of the benefits they are accruing through EA is lacking, partly because of commercial sensitivity, but also because this remains a fragmented, practitioner-led subject area with little published academic research. Much of the literature is aimed at a practical, self-help market, often relying on anecdote and supposition to support a method’s effectiveness, as evidence, for instance by (Schöenherr, 2009), which, from a comprehensive review of the literature concludes that the large majority of published EA literature discussed theoretical approaches to EA which speculate about the areas of a business that might benefit from an EA practice. More recent literature also stresses the practitioner-led nature of the subject matter and the speculative nature of related research (e.g., Abraham et al., 2012; Simon et al., 2013). Therefore, it remains the case that relatively little academic research has been carried out into the application and efficacy of EA as a discipline and to test the suppositions made about the EA’s role in the achievement of organisational objectives.

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