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Enterprise Architecture as the Foundation for a Sustainable Architecture

by Hamidou Dia
Published February 2011

Part of the Oracle Experiences in Enterprise Architecture article series.

As technology has evolved, innovations have enabled new IT-driven capabilities and processes in the enterprise. IT has changed the business. But those changes have not always been in alignment with business strategy. This lack of alignment sometimes results in significant waste of resources and missed opportunities. It has placed many organizations in a competitive disadvantage in the market.

Enterprise Architecture (EA) aligns IT activities with an organization's high level business strategies. Fundamental to EA is having a blueprint and roadmap that allows an organization to meet its business objectives, to grow, innovate, and respond to market demands - supported by an IT strategy that is 100 percent in alignment with those objectives.

The First Rule of EA Success: Be Practical

If EA efforts are too academic they are sometimes viewed as a waste of time and not valuable from a business perspective. For example, many enterprise architects are too focused on documenting and analyzing existing assets (current state architecture) rather than on building a sustainable solution for the enterprise, with a forward-looking vision (future state architecture). Their efforts should be focused on designing and creating an architecture vision that supports the business.

Oracle leverages the concept of just enough, just in time current state analysis. Of course developers need to analyze their current state environment. But they should be careful to not get mired there. They should move on to designing solution architectures. The practical approach to Enterprise Architecture leverages just enough, just in time current state analysis in conjunction with industry best practices and reference architectures to produce deliverables such as:

  • Current State Enterprise Architecture model
  • Future State Enterprise Architecture reference model that is needed to execute on the proposed business strategy
  • Gap analysis that identifies the shortfalls between the current state architecture and its ability to support the objectives and strategies of the business
  • Architecture Roadmap that defines the initiatives required to migrate from the current state to the future state

Enterprise Architecture Frameworks

Creating an Enterprise Architecture from scratch can be a daunting task. Enterprise Architecture frameworks simplify the process by guiding enterprise architects through the critical phases of architecture development. These EA frameworks include best practices, standards, tools, processes and templates, including the following:

  • Common vocabulary, models, and taxonomy
  • Processes, principles, strategies, and tools
  • Reference architectures and models
  • Prescriptive guidance (EA processes, architecture content, implementation roadmap, governance)
  • Catalog of architecture deliverables and artifacts
  • Enterprise Architecture Content Meta-model
  • Recommended set of products and configurations (optional)

Reference Architectures

Oracle has spent a lot of time identifying reference architectures that can help organizations jump-start the solution effort, mitigate risk, and align the business with industry best practices. Reference architectures enforce best practices and architectural principles to guide developers as they move from one tactical project to another, reflecting the overall needs of the enterprise. These proven methods and strategies help you achieve a repeatable outcome.

These mature reference architectures and frameworks differentiate Oracle from other EA practitioners. As a technology company, we have been helping organizations design and implement business solutions for decades. Our reference architectures have become richer and more practical over time, reflecting the insight that we have gathered from numerous companies and sectors.

Implementing a sustainable Enterprise Architecture begins with understanding your business strategy and operating model and then designing business processes and capabilities to support that business strategy and operating model. 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.

Learn more about Oracle's Enterprise Architecture Principles and Practices

Additional Enterprise Architecture resources:

About the Author

Hamidou Dia is Vice President of Enterprise Architecture for Oracle Corporation.