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Over the past decade, rapid advancements in technology have revolutionized the way business is conducted. It’s modern-day Darwinism, only on fast forward with a shot of adrenaline — adapt or die and do it quickly.
Now, similar to the weather, it’s impossible to predict what will happen next week, let alone next year. Tomorrow could very well see the launch of a technology that would once again force us to adapt. For this very reason, we are beginning to see the emergence and growth of a field known as ‘enterprise architecture.’
WHAT'S ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE?
Enterprise architecture (EA) is a conceptual tool that assists organizations with the understanding of their own structure and the way they work. It provides a map of the enterprise and is a route planner for business and technology change.
Enterprise architects are the practitioners, these individuals work with managers to understand the strategy, processes and information technology assets of a business. They then utilize this knowledge to ensure the businesses and IT are in alignment, helping to construct a conceptual bridge between the goals of a business and the new technologies that are appearing every day.
WHY INVEST IN ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE?
At the core, EA tools maintain a master list of assets in the form of a database table that catalogs the devices. Then adds a collection of features for displaying this information in a way that’s easy to use. The magic comes from the team that deploys the software, fills it with data and then uses it to make smarter decisions.
You may be asking yourself, is all of the tabulating and tracking worth it? The following are five reasons why investing in an EA solution can be worthwhile for your company.
ORDER IS GOOD
Anything is better than a vast network of uncounted computers running unknown software written by untracked workers who may or may not work for the company anymore. A list written on paper would be a start, but a spreadsheet is even better. EA tools are light years beyond a list. These add order to the world, providing a wealth of information through the company’s endless collection of hardware.
It’s important to remember that tools don’t provide order, people do. EA tools provide the means for establishing order. Imagine, for instance, a note saying to not turn off a server without talking to the customer acquisitions team. What if that team changed and no one updated the note?
Software developers have often discovered that documentation can cause problems when it diverges from the code. Suddenly people are assuming one thing while the code is doing another. EA tools are still the solution, but they are not magic as it requires a commitment to maintaining the data. These tools are just a path for your team to bring order, and don’t bring order on their own.
ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE BREAKS DOWN SILOS
Organizations can suffer from isolation as differences multiply. One team chooses technology X why the other chooses technology Y. Installing EA software will not fix these differences, but it will make it easier to spot these differences. The process of cataloging enterprise assets in an EA tool reveals many of the distinctions and that is the first step to building some unity. The central database is a catalyst for change.
METRICS IDENTIFY PROBLEMS
The lesson from the business schools is clear: you can’t manage what you can’t measure. EA software brings a collection of tools for measuring how the digital realm is functioning. Now there’s a way to compare teams, departments and divisions with each other. EA makes it possible to spot the laggard servers, the overloaded databases and the overburdened networks.
Remember though that metrics can bring noise. The data is out there. It can be aggregated, cleaned up and displayed on a slick dashboard. But just because the bits are available doesn’t mean that they can bring any real insight. The tools offer a wealth of information about your enterprise’s assets, but it takes expertise to know just what the numbers mean.
AUTOMATION SAVES TIMES
Many of the EA tools can connect to computer networks and gather quite a bit of information automatically. We’ve reached a level of development where there’s already quite a bit of telemetry available through APIs and debugging tools. This can all be swept up into a useful interface so you can see what’s going on within your company.
A SINGLE SOURCE OF TRUTH IS ESSENTIAL
Too much time is spent searching for the correct information. EA tools act as a single source of information that saves time. It can be expensive to build out the infrastructure but once it’s running, the truth is easy to find.
At the same time, it’s important to know that, despite EA software’s promise of providing a single source of truth, single sources of truth rarely exist. Even when they do, they can be wrong and there would be no way to know. When there’s only one opinion, there’s no consensus and no opportunity for analysis.
Still, a flashlight — no matter how weak — is better than fumbling blindly in the dark. Rather than obsess about how the software won’t likely perfectly map your enterprise, it’s better to put aside these hesitations and get on with the difficult task of cataloging and tracking the cornucopia of data processing your enterprise has delivered.