Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Digital Enterprise Architecture

Digital EA is Outside-in with a whole-of-extended-enterprise perspective.

 With organizations shifting from industrial business to digital business, and IT shifting from heavy-weight infrastructure to light-weight digital platform, Enterprise Architecture is also on its evolutionary journey since it has been first introduced more than two decades ago, EA communities are brainstorming the three schools of EA, as the more advanced EA can further pull the enterprise resources together and push further upon organization’s digital progression. but what are the characteristics of digital EA?

1. The Characterizations of the Three Schools of EA 

·       The Enterprise IT Architecting School (EITA), EA in 1st school is IT-driven, it is only interested in the IT point of view of closed systems, and the EA world is seen as 'inside-out' from an IT-centric/IT-only perspective, although EITA’s enterprise is a subset of the organization.

·       The Enterprise Integrating School (EI): EA in the 2nd school is about designing all the facets of the enterprise so that enterprise strategy may be executed by maximizing the overall coherency ... the design of enterprises holistically. And EI's 'enterprise' is the organization plus some aspects of its interfaces with suppliers, customers, and the outside world. It is interested in closed systems under MULTIPLE points of view, the EA world is seen as 'inside-out' from a whole-organization perspective, with IT as one of its components 

·       The Enterprise Ecological Adaptation School (EEA): EA in the 3rd school is about designing all the facets of the enterprise as well as its relationship to its environment. in EEA: 'The enterprise' is a shared-space that encompasses the organization and all of the other entities with which it interacts and/or which have a stake in the organization and/or the organization’s overall context. EEA's 'enterprise' is a superset of the organization, it is interested in open systems under MULTIPLE points of view

2. Digital EA has the Characteristics of EEA and More 

Digital technology is enabling a change in the workforce and how people work. The notion of people working in a plant or as full-time employees is being pushed to change to accommodate people working as part of the enterprise but with far more autonomy or cases where enterprises are composed of networks rather than organizational structures. The business is always on with the new characteristics such as hyper-connectivity, hyper-competition, and hyper-complexity, logically, the third school of EA-The enterprise ecological adaptation school is the best fit -looking at enterprises as being more externally focused and shifting the notion of enterprise boundaries because of the realities of change.

From an ecological perspective, in order for an organization to be sustainable, it must be compatible with its environment. The enterprise is structurally coupled to that larger environment, such that the enterprise and its environment influence each other for various reasons such as VUCA factors (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity), both the organization and the environment change over time and change is a given. This is the new normal of the digital era, within this context; the organization must stay compatible and evolve in a compatible manner with its environment.

Any architecture has to accommodate the fact that all organizations operate simultaneously as open and closed systems. This is a reality hence any architecture has to be able to accommodate this. If one was to believe that the environment is imposed on the organization then you would probably say that the organization must evolve in order to stay compatible but in reality, the organization is one of the drivers for the environment to change because the organization by its behavior changes the environment,

Digital EA is Outside-in with whole-of-extended-enterprise perspective: Likewise, any architecture for the digital era has to be able to support the resource-based view of the firm with resources and capabilities model of strategy. The EA world is seen from an 'outside-in', whole-of-extended-enterprise perspective, with the organization as one of its components; with IT as a sort-of-subsidiary intersecting-set that may extend beyond the organization. So if the organization can actively influence its environment, it means that it can actively promote its environment contains dynamics/realities and attenuates others. Consequently, an organization can try to make its environment friendlier in order to meet the strategies that it sees fit. 

In addition, the Digital EA is about optimizing complexity. This school would be characterized by an insistence that EA treats itself as a science with mathematical underpinnings and guided by rational (reproducible) methodologies, EA becomes a handy tool for management to reduce unnecessary complexity or enhance competitive complexity such as design complexity or cross-functional collaboration, with the business goals to achieve cohesive optimum 

Since there is far more philosophical scope in the "architectural" component of EA (Architecture as the blueprint, Architecture as literature, Architecture as language and Architecture as the decision. etc), the "schools of thought" in EA are an ongoing and emergent process. One recognizes that when you stand at a different viewpoint, you see a completely different problem, where viewpoints are based on one's role as a stakeholder. Overall speaking, the digital EA embraces the enterprise ecological adaptation school of thinking, and the evolutionary EA needs to navigate the digital journey of its organization.


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