Enterprise architecture and digital transformation: A framework for success

By Will Kelly

An illustrated city skyline with one building lit up while the others are dark.
IBM

Enterprise architecture (EA) is a framework that defines the structure and operations of an organization through enterprise analysis, design, planning and implementation. Midsize businesses, enterprises and government agencies use EA to guide themselves through business, information and technology changes necessary to execute strategies.

Unfortunately, TechTarget reports only one out of four businesses has a formal EA, and nearly half of those businesses still don’t use it effectively. Here’s why it’s so important:

Enterprise architecture and digital transformation

Creating an EA helps you define current and future objectives, including the following:

  • Migrating legacy systems to IaaS or PaaS
  • Replacing common legacy systems such as email, cloud or timekeeping with SaaS solutions
  • Ramping up a mobile workforce technology framework that enables your employees to be productive and secure
  • Redesigning legacy workflows for a mobile workforce where mobile applications replace legacy interfaces

It’s important to note EA is no longer about modeling architecture, according to GCN. EA enables a common language for collaboration in digital environments. This language is a foundation for digital transformation for commercial and public-sector organizations alike.

Different businesses have different technology needs and requirements. Thus, there’s more than one EA framework out there. For example, there’s the TOGAF EA model, which serves the needs of a variety of architectures. There’s also the NIST EA model and federal EA, targeting the needs of government agencies. And though it’s an ambitious project for all but the largest organizations, there are proprietary EA models that aren’t available on the open market.

Each framework includes an underlying metamodel that describes its metatypes and associations that comprise the model. A metamodel is a description of a set of things by type and the rules and attributes the framework uses to describe them.

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EA models can help with:

  • Creating common requirements across business and IT departments
  • Implementing change management with an eye for the future
  • Resolving the complexity explosion from digital transformation and application modernization

You’ll then need to take a methodical approach to addressing those critical areas and integrating them into your software architecture and application lifecycle management (ALM).

Digital transformation without EA

A lack of EA leads to unmanaged IT complexity. You may face issues such as increased costs through the duplication of resources to develop, operate and maintain systems, along with reduced flexibility because you aren’t benefiting from the economies of scale. Delays in delivering changes also act negatively because they promote further complexity and uncertainty.

However, if your enterprise embarks on a digital transformation without a formal EA in place, all is not lost. You can trace back your application and infrastructure changes and document a baseline for your enterprise from that information. Be sure to have participation from your IT department and network operations to review your findings — your stakeholders need to know this information.

Place this documentation under version control on your internal intranet, and assign an owner or point of contact for the rest of the company. Though such reverse engineering isn’t as graceful as beginning the process with an EA strategy, for enterprises without an EA plan in place, it’s a necessary step on the way to full-blown digital transformation.

EA and mobility

Companies going mobile with EA in place have a baseline from which to build out access to corporate systems from mobile devices. Factoring mobility into your EA and network design prepares your network for scaling up to accommodate a BYOD policy and mobile workforce initiatives.

With ALM as a component of an EA model, it can help enterprises new to mobile app development use the right tools and processes to deliver iterative releases of custom corporate mobile apps, meeting user demands for frequent releases with new features, performance improvements and security patches.

EA is key to digital transformation because it provides a common language for enterprises to support their users through technology upgrades, workflow changes and adopting enterprise mobility. The absence of an EA leaves you in a web of complexity that will only sap productivity and funding because you lack a common framework that documents your infrastructure and its interconnections throughout your business.

Written By

Will Kelly

Technical Writer & Content Creator

Will Kelly is a technical writer and content creator focusing on cloud computing, software-as-a-service, and enterprise mobility. He started his writing career writing technical documentation for commercial and federal government clients but now focuses on thought leadership content.…

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