Enterprise Architecture - A 21st Century Paradigm Shift

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An unrecognized reality in the Information Technology (IT) community is that Enterprise Architecture’s (EA) emerging discipline is a strategic paradigm shift from the 20th-century legacy IT.

IT has seventy-plus years of somewhat random evolution from the early days of computerized automation, whose value has been anchored on its use as a productivity, labor-saving technology.

During the last half of the 20th century, enterprises have increasingly employed automation to improve enterprise effectiveness and efficiency.  The function, now known as IT, has been one of the primary implementers of automation technology.

Factory automation (product or service production) technology has dramatically improved the productivity and quality of products produced in in everything from various electronics products to automobiles, large construction equipment, retailing, and various services.

A continuing challenge is to integrate factory automation with enterprise information systems.

From the earliest days, automation technology and its use was primarily focused on automating processes.  All other elements, for example, data, were subordinated to be a support or a service to the process.  If anyone doubts this premise, the decision to invest in automation was primarily driven by the cost relative to the expected financial benefit.  Benefits of automation technology do not begin to accrue until the technology is implemented and being used.  Therefore, the driving motivation has been to implement the technology as fast as possible so the benefits can be achieved as soon as possible.

Consequently, the development of information systems applications that automated the business processes drove the cost and schedule, with only the minimum required attention paid to anything except getting the "code to run".  One of the significant consequences of this strategy is the ever-present and increasingly time-consuming cost of the data problem - the redundant, inconsistent, unnecessary cost of attempts to salvage the use of data across an enterprise, such as the advent of data warehouses.  And the problems are getting worse, primarily because the short-term, least-cost option has and continues to dominate IT decision-making.

Enterprise Architecture, an emerging discipline, has inspired a re-engineering of the basic methodology for architecting truly enterprise information systems to achieve more significant benefits than just a labor-saving device.

What is the more significant benefit of automation?  Better management!  This may sound like a cliché, as much of the IT effort today is declared to be in support of better management.

In the early stage of this evolution, the proprietor practiced line-of-sight management.

Each day the proprietor and maybe a few employees went to work, always working to produce a product, engaging with customers, continually being in a position to know, in real-time, the inventory of materials needed to make the product, who the customers were, how many orders they had and when the product deliveries were due.  At the end of each day, it was relatively easy to determine if there was excess revenue over costs.

Well, things changed!  As enterprises grew and became larger and more complex, management's ability to practice line-of-sight management became impossible.  It also became more challenging for a group of people performing one process to communicate with another group of people performing preceding or succeeding processes.

People working in a complex enterprise need a robust universe of discourse (data) to be a surrogate for their ability to practice line-of-sight- management.  That universe of data needs to be collected, recorded, preserved, available, and accessible.  The universe of discourse consists of the data

that records the existence and actions of the enterprise.  Therefore, data is the raw material for enterprise knowledge! As has been realized in many other areas, quality of the raw material is essential to be able to produce quality results!

The recognition that data is critical is dramatically improving the ability to manage just about anything and everything, including enterprises.  Therefore, gathering and using quality data effectively and efficiently is a critical requirement.  Data is the essential ingredient in assessment, evaluation, and decision-making.  Most people would not think that data is a scarce resource.  However, high-quality, continuous, real-time, over time data are scarce!  Point-in-time data is useful, but the emerging required data is high-quality, continuous, and real-time, over time data.  The new scarce resource is high-quality data, and that data must be more precise – data that is known to be factual and/or accurate when – in the past, present, and future! 

Perhaps one of the most innovative breakthroughs in the Erickson Methodology for Enterprise Architecture (EMEA) methodology for modeling data provides the capability to keep track of every fact over time. An EMEA Enterprise Database provides access to data - past, present, and future real-time, over time, all the time.  Surprisingly, no data is ever deleted, erased, or replaced, and no "history tables" are used.  You get all the history, all the time, for free!  Also, each fact is collected and stored once and reused forever after.  No redundant data!  Yes, and our experience is that about half of all attributes are reused , and attributes that are used two or more times are reused an average of 7 times.  If you reuse data, you can reuse a lot of code.

The unique characteristic of data as a resource is the fact that much of the critical data required to manage an enterprise effectively is that the source of that data is the enterprise itself.  No vendor can be the source of that data.  The fundamental enterprise data cannot be bought at any price.  Consequently, knowledge, skill, and experience are critical to identifying, designing, and structuring data for optimum enterprise data quality and availability.

One of the significant changes is the recognition that enterprises can be architected, designed, engineered, and manufactured much like any other complex product or service.  The essential difference is that buildings and airplanes result in a tangible object, and an enterprise is not a tangible object.  However, it exists because a collection of resources was assembled for the purpose of producing products and services that serve the economic interests of society.

The other significant difference between tangible objects and an enterprise is that the process of creating a tangible object like a building or an airplane has figured out that the most efficient approach to architecting, designing, engineering, and manufacturing them is to do it in a rigorous, sequential process of architecting, designing, engineering, and manufacturing the end item.

Creating an enterprise has evolved from conceiving an idea for producing something of potential value to other people and then creating the product or service.  As the demand for the product or service increases, the entrepreneur adds resources to produce an increasing quantity of products or services to meet demand.  If successful, the entrepreneur continues to expand the enterprise.  This is a very bottom-up approach to creating an enterprise, an approach that proceeds pretty much along a "trial-and-error" evolutionary path.

Like the old paradigm, the new paradigm starts with identifying a  product or service.  Then the new paradigm takes a new path.

Because the new paradigm has the advantage of hindsight and the ability to apply proven concepts from other mature disciplines, we can proceed with a very deliberate process of identifying and defining a rigorous, rational, organized development of an enterprise infrastructure -  any enterprise infrastructure, for that matter!

The product or service will dictate the resources required to produce that product or service.  A finite list of resources can be employed to produce any product or service.

Every enterprise has three categories of resources.  This list of candidate resources is as follows.

Primary Resource – The product or services provided by the enterprise.  The primary resource is the enterprise revenue generator.
Supporting Resources – Supporting resources are the classic economic resources such as Equipment, Funds (Capital), Human Resources (Labor), Contract Services, Material, Real Property, Supplies, Fuel, Intellectual Property,  Supporting resources are the enterprise cost generators.
Aggregate Resources – Aggregate Resources are allocations of enterprise resources for management (planning and control) purposes.  Every enterprise has a minimum of three aggregate resources – establishments, organization, and projects.

Every enterprise has a primary resource.  At least seventy percent of supporting resources are the same resources required by every enterprise, and every enterprise has the three types of aggregate resources.

Every resource, whether the primary resource, the supporting resources, or the aggregate resources, is managed through a four-stage life cycle.  The four stages in sequence are Requirements, Acquisition, Stewardship, and Disposition.  Enterprise decisions or events specify when a resource passes from one stage to the next.  This is the foundation for the enterprise business process infrastructure architecture.  This infrastructure consists of two parts.  The first is the identification and definition of the individual process, and the second is the specification of how the process should be performed.  This method for identifying, defining, and specifying the complete enterprise business processes can be used by decomposing the process down to the elementary processes required to manage (plan and control) any resource through its four life cycle stages.  The enterprise process architecture will specify every process required to manage and produce the enterprise product or service, manage every supporting resource, and every enterprise establishment, organizational unit, and project.

There is a very high degree of commonality in what the processes are among enterprises that produce the same product or service.  What distinguishes one enterprise from another is how they have designed their processes to be performed and how well they perform those processes.  Therefore, a meaningful part of enterprise architecture can be developed very quickly.  Suppose that architecture is developed with a rigorous enterprise architecture methodology.  In that case, it will establish a foundation for the enterprise infrastructure that can be architected, engineered, manufactured,  and implemented that will be aligned, integrated, flexible, and responsive to the requirements of the enterprise to produce its product or services effectively and efficiently.

A well-architected enterprise will also be able more easily and economically to adapt to future advances in information technology without re-architecting the enterprise.

This paradigm shift can result in significant productivity improvements and economic benefits.  The use of the Erickson Methodology for Enterprise Architecture has experienced developing enterprise architected, designed, and manufactured high-quality, custom enterprises systems, one component at a time, for as little as one-fifth the cost of traditional development approaches and one-third the cost of acquiring and implementing purchased packages.

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