In my current job as a systems engineer, I have had numerous opportunities to review case studies of successes and failures within that discipline. So I wanted to review similar scholarly articles about enterprise architecture. This is where I was surprised to find far fewer case studies than I would have thought. And the overwhelming majority were very positive. Surely, not every implementation of EA is positive. There must be some documented failures.
Maybe organizations who fail at EA don’t want to publicly proclaim their failure? After all, it has to be easier to hide a failed EA implementation than a failed engineering project. I am however, willing to admit that maybe it was just my failure in searching for failures.
This leads to my next thought, of what makes for a good implementation of EA? To this I would add a short list, which is likely up for debate.
- Accurate and descriptive models. Enterprises are complex organizations that need descriptive models to organize the relevant aspects of the actual parts or behaviors. They also need prescriptive models that describe how to build other things to carry out these behaviors or tasks.
- Business focus. The architecture needs to be inclusive of the business view not the technology. The technology is there to support the business not the other way around.
- Collaboration. The architecture must support collaboration between the stakeholders from the C-suite, department managers, team leaders and individual employees. Buy in from top to bottom is necessary to a successful implementation.
- Focus on outcomes. The architecture must be tied to business strategy. Implementing architecture without the focus on achieving the desired business outcomes will lead to something more academically oriented than business oriented.
Recently I was working with a sponsor to help them create a system architecture for their enterprise. The program is very large and we needed to capture their current (“as-is”) enterprise. As I and my co-workers were touring one of their facilities, I kept seeing all of these devices (smart thermostats, motion activated lights, security equipment, etc). Knowing that they connected to either a wired or wireless network, I couldn’t help but think about the impact these devices would have on their infrastructure. When I brought this up to our sponsor, they seemed generally perplexed and assured us that these devices have no impact on their infrastructure.
I can’t help but think that our sponsor is not unique either in their view of these devices impact on their network nor in the fact that the use of these devices will only grow with time. In fact a recent article published by Juniper Research estimates that by 2020 the number of “Internet of Things” devices will triple to 38 billion. This has the potential to negatively impact an enterprise if not carefully planned for.
These Internet of Things devices are typically connected to some network, but what about the data they generate? Typically these fall into silos that don’t talk or share data between each other. This fragmented data, while still useful, does not provide the level of insight needed to justify the large resource in an IoT strategy.
It’s at this point, I believe, that Enterprise Architecture can help. Enterprise Architecture can use this interconnectivity to group these devices and measure some of the data, to form new business models and uses. These devices than go from being a series of “things” to being a system of things.
The Enterprise Architects are well positioned to be able to discuss how to leverage these collections of “things” with the business and IT leaders. And at the same time work with the data and security management structure to ensure that risks are mitigated while focusing on new opportunities.