Reducing Communication Overhead in Enterprise Architecture

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Rory Darling


Enterprise architecture (EA) is based on the principle that integrating strategic, business, and technology planning optimizes the use of information resources across non-technical disciplines and organizational lines. It offers a practical ability to make technical architecture a reflection of business intent. Achieving this top-down effect requires a clear entry point into EA for strategic decisions and efficient communication that translates strategic ideas into the EA components that drive on-going system development. Language differences along the architectural progression are barriers to implementing an EA program as a strategic initiative. The term friction captures the effect of language gaps on the quality of communication throughout the scope of EA. Friction is a primary determinant of the relevance of information-based capabilities to operational performance and its corresponding business outcomes. Minimizing friction is a primary goal of EA governance, achieved by a combination of EA repository assessment, tool selection, and methodology integration that harmonizes business intent across EA related disciplines. Analyzing the transformations that occur at communication boundaries suggests ways to overcome friction. Most possible solutions are limited by the fundamentally different skills required of specialized practitioners on either side of a boundary. Short of converting strategists into enterprise architects or vice versa the most practical compromise lies in adopting two dominant characteristics when expressing business strategy, tactics, and capabilities– a high degree of structure and semantics that require minimal translation along the system development path. This article defines friction and identifies its sources in an EA program. It outlines techniques for assessing the friction profile of an EA repository. Based on this profile, it suggests EA governance techniques that reduce friction and thus improve the usefulness of EA artifacts as enablers of effective communication along the strategy – implementation continuum. This article also identifies service strategy and design as an existing, mature, and technically relevant discipline that exhibits low friction across a long span of EA activities. The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) makes a detailed and compelling case that business service management is a primary strategic asset1. The corresponding service management lifecycle provides a useful pattern for assessing the efficiency of transforming a business service into its architectural counterpart in the form of service oriented architecture (SOA). This indicates that service orientation is a useful point of departure for design of a tangible strategy for minimizing friction in an EA program.

Journal of Enterprise Architecture

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