Thought Pattern to Solve Problems

Greggory Garrett
Greggory Garrett

There is an array of opinions on the definition and usefulness of EA. What is EA to you?

Garrett: There are many different forms of EA out there, to me it is simply a way to organize thoughts. What we are doing and what members are doing with EA is helping to define a common language and thought pattern to solve problems, in some instances IT and in other business.

What is EAIG trying to achieve and what has it achieved?

Garrett: Basically the group is working to advance the practice of EA. We are trying to form and sustain the co-operative involvement, partnership and alignment of business and IT interests. Many government agencies and corporations have been building EA and we are driving it a bit further as a group. We use the architecture to deploy strategy and advance the state of the business.

The EAIG will also establish a common body of knowledge for EA and use it as the reference set from which all other processes and frameworks or other facets will be judged or assessed. Rather than creating new standards the EAIG will adopt other standards where practical, such as IEEE-standards (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) or ANSI-standards (American National Standards Institute).

Zachman Framework
Zachman Framework

The first accomplishment was early on. The initiative was to define EA through meta models, twelve very basic models. They are based on the Zachman Framework, a way of breaking up the enterprises. Our work will include the study and guidance for multiple enterprise architecture frameworks, as well as reference models. We needed to get deeper than John Zackman’s framework and so we built out the twelve models which can be used as architectural building blocks for migrating existing work and for developing future work.

How does the delivery of the strategy implementation approach really work?

Garrett: The implementation planning we do is logical and that allows companies to understand key points, such as the who, what, when, why and how, relative to the change. We look to understand the strategic change that is affecting us and then build and analyze a simple yet complete architecture of the portion of the environment that may be impacted by the strategic change. For example what are the new goals that are required to implement this strategy and what changes must be made to the current set of functions in order to support the new goals?

Once we understand the changes, we put together an implementation plan to orchestrate the changes. You can test the strategy through this architecture. For example, if I make these changes how will it affect my enterprise and then how to deploy that strategy.

How can EA be positioned to help executives implement strategy and make educated decisions for the company, department or team?

Garrett: In my opinion, this is the sweet-spot for EA. There are a lot of educational programs, methods, books, articles, and personnel that focus on strategy formulation. Most of these methods, that are applied by corporate strategists, enable them to very clearly form strategies based on external market forces. The issue that we often experience is that our strategies do not sufficiently account for barriers inside of our own enterprises.

Strategists will tell you that a perfect strategy is constrained by the “structure” of the enterprise. The EA is the representation of the structure that constrains a new strategy. So, no matter if it is a corporate, functional, or even a small team strategy, EA can be used to evaluate the viability of a new strategy, and the changes that will be necessary to improve the possibilities of its success.
Enterprise architects are often tooled to manage the complex representations of the enterprise through a documented EA. Too often, however, architects are buried deep within an IT organization with no way to connect with the business strategists. By making connections with business strategists, and demonstrating the value that this organized business architecture can bring, architects can assume a new role in the enterprise, well beyond that of technical planner.
The other big component of transforming from traditional architect to Strategy Implementation Specialist is the inclusion of Human Change Management. No architected change can occur without touching a human. If they are not motivated to make a strategy work, EA won’t serve as a silver bullet.

Since its introduction in 2002 at Volkswagen of America and gedas USA, could you describe the results and value of the EA project?

Garrett: The objective of the project was to identify changes to pre-existing goals, functions and organizational units. Using EA, we developed enterprise goals and identified process functions. Our value has been to bring an engineering discipline to the strategy implementation and decision-making process.

We don’t try to build an EA blueprint for the entire enterprise, instead our experience has been to blueprint only those things that we need to change to support the new strategy. We also feel that it is important to describe the strategy change in terms of the impact on organizational goals. We try to keep business colleagues focused on understanding the importance of the relationship among goals, functions and organization and how those elements enable the new strategy. We think EA is a means to an end, not the end itself.

Could you also talk about the approach to help shape business IT strategies at VW Group?

Garrett: Globally the concepts of EA are owned by the technology community at VW. In the US, as early as 2002 VW of America and gedas USA were applying the rigorous process of blue printing the business to better understand how to implement new business and IT strategies. Basically modeling all goals, functions, organization, and information components enterprisewide. This formed the basic tenants of the business architecture that then could be applied to make business and technology decisions.

Do you work together with the recently formed Association of Enterprise Architecture organizations (aEAo)?

Garrett: There are a number of groups out there now doing something around EAIG and we all talk to one another. The aEAo is not a legal entity, it is a group of organizations that have an interest in EA. Instead of spending individual resources, we chat and work together. And if one group is working on something we get together and share information. Together we’d like to drive EA forward.

What is the connection between Enterprise Architecture and the concept of Service-Oriented Architectures (SOA)?

EA and SOA are certainly related and many folks in the “IT architecture” community are digging into both. With the definitions of each varying from practitioner to practitioner, the answer is not a simple one. But of course, I will give a perspective. SOA is a practice that software architects are applying to support the concept of re-use. By using services to realize functionality, time and in turn cost can be driven out of software development efforts (along with quality often being driven upward.) SOA is certainly getting a lot of attention from software companies and IT consulting companies. There is a lot of value there. The basic concepts of EA are, perhaps, a bit more scalable. The nature of the term itself suggests that it is the architecture of the “enterprise”. If the enterprise is scaled to a piece of software, or set of software, then SOA and EA can be very similar. If the “enterprise” is a fortune 500 corporation, then EA may include a lot of material that can be applied well outside of the software or re-use space.