Architectural Interest: Enterprise Architecture Defined

SOLUTION - Information Management, SOLUTION - Strategic Services

AUTHOR

Jim Crompton, Subject Matter Expert and Sr. Solutions Architect


There is a growing interest in improving the performance of current information systems. Whether people are having trouble finding data and documents, struggling to shorten processing times for growing data volumes, or insuring valuable information is managed to a growing list of security expectations, the demands on information systems are growing significantly.

The complexity of current information systems is the key challenge of improving them. Complexity comes in the forms of multiple technology applications that must be integrated, the number of users that play a role in the business process, and information systems trying to provide a lifecycle view of a process or an information objective.

In a previous newsletter, Vernon Smith took on the subject of the commonly held view that “all architects are technical, and all architectures are technical.” I would like to try to follow Vernon with a companion piece about my definition of enterprise architecture.

To address the growing data volumes, the requirements for more real-time responses, and increasing complexity, companies are turning more to architecture to find an answer. But do we really understand what architecture, especially enterprise architecture, really is? I would like to propose a short and simple definition for a very complex subject. For me, enterprise architecture is “disciplined design.” Let me explain that further.

By “disciplined,” I mean a set of processes and methodologies that can be consistently applied by different architects to produce a predictable result. By “design,” I mean a big picture understanding for how the many components of modern information systems work together efficiently (performance), intuitively (user interface), and effectively (accomplish the intended objective). Vernon did a great job of describing the ‘two families’ of enterprise architecture: business architecture (including information architecture) and technology architecture. But far too often, all we get from architecture is a tactical solution view of how technologies link together.

The challenge for the architecture is to achieve the required functionality and deal with the complexity required, but also make it painless; thus, the user can focus on their responsibilities and not how difficult it is to use the technology. If the intended audience hates to use the solution, regardless of its success, the solution will not be effective. If the technology works, but pulls in too much poor quality data, then the intended audience will stop using it. Moreover, if the solution only accomplishes 80% of the intended business process and requires the user to get out of the solution to finish the task, then the intended audience will stop using it.

So, my short definition of enterprise architecture hides much of the complexity of the task. A good technologist can make things work. A good architect can make complex information systems appear to work like magic.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jim Crompton is a distinguished leader in E&P data management, spending the last 37 years at Chevron and stacking up a truly impressive list of accomplishments. One of the many highlights of Jim’s work was leading one of the largest standardization projects at Chevron. Jim also led a study team for the IT Merger Integration Organization as part of the Chevron & Texaco merger and his team developed the IT organization structure and IT strategic direction for the corporation, for which he received a President's Award. In 2002, Jim was named a Chevron Fellow in acknowledgement of his contributions and he served as the chair of the Fellows Network from 2006-2008. Outside of his work for Chevron, Jim was elected chair of the general committee of Petroleum Industry Data Exchange (PIDX) where he was able to influence the direction of the standards setting activities towards emerging technologies, such as XML, and advanced electronic business models to complement the established EDI practices in the industry. He was selected to participate in the SPE Distinguished Lecturer Program for 2009-2010. Jim resides in Colorado, with his wife, and enjoys writing.

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