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Executive Interview: Enterprise Architecture

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David Baum Hamidou Dia

David Baum spoke with Hamidou Dia, vice president of Enterprise Architecture in Oracle's Advanced Technology Services Group, about how EA can have a decisive impact on the business.

Baum: What's the best way to describe the enterprise architect's responsibility?

Dia: Enterprise architects help a company develop its architecture vision and operating model, with attention to cost, globalization, investiture, or whatever is driving the company strategically. Once that vision is in place, enterprise architects have a business-motivated foundation for making, advising, and governing project-oriented architecture choices. A good example is a shared services infrastructure. Many companies look to shared services to reduce IT spending and create centralized IT initiatives. But often, centralization can be at odds with innovation and autonomy. So, the enterprise architect's key responsibility is to deliver an attainable future state, which often means much more than making decisions about technical architectures. Enterprise architects can guide the organization through an iterative process of rationalization; consolidation; and, eventually, specific initiatives to adopt new capabilities, such as shared services or cloud computing.

Baum: How do enterprise architects engage business leaders in a high-level dialogue?

Dia: In order to define a future state business architecture, you must have the right people involved. This entails identifying stakeholders from the business and gaining their commitment to participate in a highly collaborative activity. Enterprise architects must build their business skills and acumen. That means becoming proficient with strategy maps, balanced scorecards, business capability models, business process models, and other tools that are commonly used in business strategy and planning. Gaining proficiency with these tools helps ensure that IT milestones will be properly aligned with key business objectives.

Baum: Once business and IT are on the same page, how can CIOs make sure the alignment doesn't disintegrate over time?

Dia: Create an effective governance model and devise a strategy for measuring the impact to the business. Enterprise architects should define the future state business architecture at least once a year—generally about the same time that business leaders have completed their strategy planning for the year ahead. Remember, Enterprise Architecture is a journey, not a project. To be sustainable, it should evolve over time and maintain the flexibility required to adjust to changing market conditions, strategy shifts, and new innovations in technology.

Baum: Are there formal templates, models, or methodologies to structure the EA effort?

Dia: We recommend using the Oracle Architecture Development Process (OADP) to structure the effort. This model is based on a couple of widely used EA approaches, including the The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) and the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA). OADP is an accelerated version of some of these popular methodologies that provides quicker time to value. Oracle can adapt this process to whatever formal process the enterprise is using.

Oracle has also devised EA frameworks and industry-specific reference architectures to simplify the process and guide the team through all areas of architecture development. For example, the telecommunications industry has defined common business functions such as taking orders, provisioning equipment, billing for minutes, and many other tasks. Oracle's reference architectures help telcos implement these functions by leveraging best practices at multiple companies within that industry. These reference architectures become richer and more valuable over time since they represent the cumulative experience of market leaders. CIOs should encourage the use of these proven methods as their enterprise architects develop the information, application, and technology layers of each IT solution.

Baum: Enterprise architects sometimes get accused of being too theoretical or disconnected from the realities of the business. How can CIOs make sure the discipline stays relevant?

Dia: Be practical. Many enterprise architects are too focused on documenting and analyzing existing assets rather than on defining the future state architecture and innovative business capabilities. Their efforts should be continuously validated by the business—whether they are focused on the short term or the long term. That's why a consistent, business-centric architecture methodology is so important.

Take the high-level management objectives and break them down into low-level implementation details that architects and engineers can follow day to day. These professionals then have specific directions, a roadmap to follow, and a framework to structure their progress. They can tell if they are on track and meeting management goals.

No matter who is looking at the framework—the CFO, CIO, or the project architect—individuals should have specific views and perspectives that are relevant to their jobs. Enterprise Architecture is all about achieving multidimensional alignment to synchronize the different roles, people, and perspectives in the business.

Baum: Can you give us a real-world example?

Dia: For example, if management wants to acquire a company, EAs [enterprise architects] need to plan for the impact on corporate operations. By drilling down to discern the impact of a potential merger, they can step back and align their IT strategy to the new growth plan. If the company plans to integrate a new sales force, then what are the key systems and processes that IT will have to put in place, such as quoting, forecasting, lead generation, and pipeline management?

Once they have identified the correct sales processes, they can take it to the next level: What are the applications and ERP systems that will support those capabilities? Do they need a unified data hub for all sales data? Do they need a standardized data model? What are the information elements that the sales team needs? What is required to support the back office? Answering these questions helps you create the EA roadmap.

Without an effective Enterprise Architecture and governance strategy, there are no documented standards to appeal to, and no way to gauge the relative merits of each organization's systems and processes. If you want to quickly assimilate an incoming business, introduce new processes and their systems, or simply reduce IT costs, you must have EA principles and standards to appeal to. An Enterprise Architecture strategy helps to standardize IT processes across all aspects of the company.

Baum: What differentiates Oracle from other EA practitioners?

Dia: Oracle is a technology company. We have the most complete solution portfolio in the IT industry. We have been helping organizations design and implement business solutions for decades. As such we have collected best practices and reference models over time, reflecting the insight that we have gathered from numerous engagements in many different industries. The breadth and depth of knowledge across the Oracle portfolio, combined with the expertise of the EA discipline, makes Oracle enterprise architects unique.

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