Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Hybrid EA Framework

Very often you find that you need to use a combination of different frameworks as each has its own strengths and weaknesses. 

An Enterprise Architecture is the blueprint of Enterprise; whereas an EA framework is the blueprint of Enterprise Architecture. Any framework is the guideline to develop architecture. With the speed of change is accelerated, especially at today’s agile environment, how to select the proper framework or combination of frameworks in order to run an effective EA program for managing changes and enforce governance as well?

1. The Characteristics of Popular EA Frameworks 

A framework can provide a common starting point and the structure that everybody understands. There are a few well-known EA frameworks with different strength and focal point, also with their own limitation, they also need to be continuously updated in order to adapt to the evolutionary business and technology dynamics, such as:

  • Zachman provides you with matrix and taxonomy to talk about Enterprise - in terms of who/what/where/when/how (at very high level). It provides a taxonomy depicting many aspects of an Enterprise Architecture (EA). It will allow you to organize the aspects, elements, and relationships in a structured manner. 
  • TOGAF is more of a comprehensive process for designing or creating an EA, by first dividing it into four fundamental areas of concern (business, application, data, technology). And steps down the middle and describes what is necessary to describe an EA, TOGAF is at a lower level of abstraction, it gives you process (along with a lot of documentation/templates) for IT Architecture. 
  • There are more than one hundred EA frameworks around; these methodologies are quite different from each other, both in goals and in approach. So EA Frameworks...

    * have different evolutions

    * serve different Purposes

    * are different in Scope

    * are based on different Principles

    * have different Structures

    * are supported by different approaches 

2. The Criteria to Select the Right Framework 

The industry study found that 66% of organizations had developed a customized framework, with one-third of respondents making use of two or more frameworks. There are a number of different approaches to enterprise architecture, and several frameworks have been developed to guide the process.
  •  A combination of different frameworks: The selection of which framework or combination of frameworks to use is dependent on many factors including the purpose behind developing the EA, the type of organization you are dealing with, etc. Very often you find that you need to use a combination of different frameworks as each has its own strengths and weaknesses. The key thing to ask is what you expect to get out of the EA effort and then go from there.
  • This is why the first step in any EA effort is to agree on a charter for the EA effort that has buy-in from all of the stakeholders. You will also find that different frameworks seem to have more of following in one industry or another. This may be because the purpose for which an EA effort is undertaken may differ from one industry to the next or one type of organization to the next. The series of questions should be clarified such as: What is the context in which you are seeking to apply the EA disciplines? What are your objectives / goals? Who are you working with? What skills and capabilities exist within your team? What kind of “culture” do organizations have?
  • “Less is More”: You may select practices/work products from different EA frameworks and methods and choose to tailor a framework and method suitable to the context in hand and fit for the needs of your enterprise stakeholders. This usually means "less is more" -- in the minds of those who need to rely on different EA views to make their particular, strategic decisions. These EA views, at some (often high) level of abstraction, should be fundamental components of your EA endeavor.
  • Create a hybrid framework which fits best for your organization. Pick and pull the best from various frameworks to leverage the pieces that make sense to use your team's experience/expertise on the problem domain to develop the architecture, customize and combine the frameworks for your domain and develop the principles for your practices.
  • Summary: It really depends on the context. There are a few logical steps in assessing EA frameworks: (1) The first important step is to identify issues that need to be solved by the EA program/exercise. (2) The second step is to choose a framework that can serve a starting point, tailor it to ensure that the original issues are addressed, and implement the framework. (3) Sometimes, tailoring an EA framework may mean merging it with another framework, including another paradigm, etc. In any case, factors that influence your decision; that is the choice of an EA framework, include technology, management structures, governance, culture, education, and skills of the participants. 
The framework is methodology and tool, to ask which framework is best, just like pondering: 'what tool would you prefer and why, hammer, saw, screwdriver? It’s situational, and depend on ‘what do you want them to do,’ the right set of tools and hybrid solutions can indeed help improve business effectiveness & efficiency,  to adapt to rapidly change, but, still, people are the masters of any tools including EA framework.


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