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A Guide to Enterprise Architecture Tools

Enterprise architecture tools are becoming more important than ever.

The International Enterprise Architecture Institute (IEAI) defines enterprise architecture (EA) as “the analysis and documentation of an enterprise in its current and future states from an integrated strategy, business and technology perspective.”

In the era of data-driven business, such perspective is critical.

IT has graduated from a support department to a proactive, value-driving function. As such, fostering alignment between IT and the wider organization has become more important than ever.

As the IEAI’s definition indicates, enterprise architecture tools are key drivers in ensuring such alignment because they help organizations understand their systems, applications and assets from a holistic, top-down perspective.

An organization can better identify gaps in its current architecture to better understand how to reach the desired future-state objectives and architecture.

Enterprise Architecture Tools

EA also enables a better understanding of change, or impact analysis – which is essential considering the agile, data-driven landscape and its state of flux.

Enterprise architecture tools allow an organization to map its applications – complete with their associated technologies and data – to the business functions they power.

For this reason, enterprise architecture tools also are key to a data governance initiative, and part of the technologies used as data governance tools.

EA leads to a greater understanding of the interdependencies of its data assets and enables an organization to better plan, budget and execute new strategy and ideas.

In addition to better impact analysis and ensuring IT-business alignment, enterprise architecture tools help organizations:

  • Model and integrate complex strategy, process, application, data and technology architectures
  • Collaborate with all stakeholders on innovation and transformation initiatives
  • Retain organizational knowledge

Enterprise architecture initially was housed within IT and therefore acted in an enterprise support role as well.

However, this led to the perception (and arguably, a reality) of enterprise architecture operating in an ivory tower, siloed from the wider business.

As problematic as that was in the years prior to the data-driven business surge, such problems have intensified in its wake.

Changing such a perception is critical for organizations looking to implement or mature an EA initiative.

Enterprise architecture tools with a greater emphasis on collaboration have been an excellent driver of such change.

With such enterprise architecture tools in place, organizations and their enterprise architects can employ more proactive, business outcome-oriented and value-driving applications for EA.

The Changing Role of the Enterprise Architect

The centralization of enterprise architecture has presented enterprise architects with new opportunities.

The role itself has become less pigeon-holed since outgrowing its IT silo. In fact, the enterprise architecture role itself has become less definable.

Now, organizations tend to organize enterprise architects in whatever way best serves their goals.

In an enterprise architecture team, each team member often will have some role-specific knowledge and then take the lead in managing that particular area.

For example, cases have been made for enterprise architects taking a seat at the security table.

And considering the growing importance of EA in the constantly changing data-driven business landscape, strong arguments can be made for enterprise architects reporting directly to the C-suite.

Like the tech industry in general, the only constant in enterprise architecture is change. Roles and titles will continue to evolve to meet new challenges in the face of digital transformation.

In recent years, enterprise architects and enterprise architecture tools are increasingly more involved in ideation and innovation management.

Marcus Blosch, Vice President Analyst at Gartner, spoke to this: “By 2021, 40 percent of organizations will use enterprise architects to help ideate new business innovations made possible by emerging technologies.”

But changes to the way EA is applied require enterprise architects to change also. Thus, enterprise architects now have to ensure they’re not solely focussed on the standard EA framework.

Although such an approach might be useful to enterprise architects, it doesn’t necessarily translate to the wider business.

Enterprise architects adopting a more business-outcome approach to the way they work helps them better demonstrate the value of EA people outside its echo chamber.

Additionally, enterprise architects must recognize that today their work is never “finished.”

Too many enterprise architecture initiatives stall because of what we call “analysis paralysis.”

In a blog for Medium, Believe Success defined analysis paralysis as “an anti-pattern, the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome.”

To avoid such a state, enterprise architects in the data-driven world must adopt a “just enough” approach to enterprise architecture.

The “just-enough” approach ensures EA is always focused on improving operations for the right business outcomes, not bogged down in analysis and jargon that does not translate to the wider organization.

As part of our wider Enterprise Data Governance Experience (EDGE) platform, erwin provides enterprise architecture tools tailor-made to meet the needs of the modern enterprise architect, as outlined above.

Click here for a free, full-featured, cloud-based trial of erwin EA powered by Casewise.

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Top 3 Benefits of Enterprise Architecture

Benefits of Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architecture (EA) benefits modern organizations in many ways. It provides a holistic, top down view of structure and systems, making it invaluable in managing the complexities of data-driven business.

Once considered solely a function of IT, enterprise architecture has historically operated from an ivory tower. It was often siloed from the business at large, stifling the potential benefits of the holistic view it could have provided.

Now, the growing importance of EA is reflected in its evolving position in the business. Instead of being considered just a function of IT, EA now plays a leading role in bridging the gap between IT and the business.

The practice has evolved in approach, too. In the past, enterprise architecture has played a foundational, support role – largely focused with “keeping the lights on.”

Today its scope is more progressive and business outcome-focused to identify opportunities for growth and change.

As a matter of fact, Gartner has said that EA is becoming a “form of internal management consulting” because it helps define and shape business and operating models, identify risk and opportunities, and create technology roadmaps to suit.

Analyst firm Ovum also recognizes EA’s evolution, referring to today’s EA as AE, or “architect everything,” further demonstrating its newfound scope.


Top Three Enterprise Architecture Benefits

Of course, enterprise architecture can’t sit at the strategy table without results. Following are what we believe to be the top three benefits of enterprise architecture:

1. Manage complexity

Modern organizations are a complicated mesh of different systems and applications of varying degrees of importance and prominence.

The top-down, holistic view of an organization provided by enterprise architecture means that organizations are more able to efficiently and confidently assess such assets. For example, impact analysis might identify areas where an organization can streamline its tech stack and cut costs.

It might uncover redundancies where multiple applications address the same process.

Alternatively, impact analysis might find that a seemingly less prominent application is actual integral to operations in circumstances where leadership are considering phasing it out.

In short, enterprise architecture helps business and IT leaders capture, understand and articulate opportunities, challenges and risks – including security.

2. Supporting the creation of actionable, signature-ready EA deliverables

As well as assessing an organization’s current capabilities, the holistic, top-down view provided by enterprise architecture also helps identify gaps.

A better understanding of its enterprise architecture means an organization can make more informed investment decisions. Of course, this means organizations have a better understanding of what they should invest in.

However, it also helps them better understand when, as more pressing concerns can be identified and roadmaps can be created to reflect an organization’s priorities. 

This approach helps an organization meet its current operational demands and opportunities, whilst navigating and mitigating disruptions. It can also ensure it does this in accordance with the longer-term strategic vision of the organization.

3. Increasing agility and speeding time to value

In the era of rapidly evolving technology and rampant – often disruptive – digital transformation, the need for enterprise architecture tools is abundantly clear. Organizations with a healthy understanding of their enterprise architecture are better equipped to evaluate and implement new technology in a timely and efficient manner. 

EA tools accelerate analysis and decision support for alternative investment, rationalization, and optimization opportunities and plans and for assessing risk, change and the impact on the organization.

Maturing Enterprise Architecture

To reap such benefits of this new approach to EA, many organizations will have to work to mature their practices.

To be effective, business outcome-focused enterprise architecture needs to be consistent. It needs to be communicable and discernible. It needs to be up to date and accurate.

For many organizations, these standards have been impossible to meet as their enterprise architectures are burdened by the use of systems that were not built for purpose.

Basic visualization tools, spreadsheets and even word processors have typically played stand-in for dedicated EA solutions. The non-purpose-built systems lacked the industry standards needed to accurately capture and align business and IT elements and how they link together.

Additionally, collaboration was often marred by issues with outdated, and even disparate file versions and types. This being due to business’ lacking the systems necessary to continuously and methodically maintain models, frameworks and concepts as they evolve.

Therefore, a key milestone in maturing a modern enterprise architecture initiative, is developing a single source of truth, consistent across the enterprise. This requires the implementation of a dedicated, centralized and collaborative enterprise architecture tool, be that on-premise, or via the cloud.

Of course, such a tool should cover enterprise architecture’s legacy capabilities and expectations. Those include support for industry standard frameworks and notation, the ability to perform impact analysis and the streamlining of systems and applications.

But to mature the practice, organizations should implement an EA tool with a shared, centralized metadata repository and role-based access.

It should have the ability to share an integrated set of views and information on strategy, business capabilities, applications, information assets, technologies, etc., to help provide stakeholders with a thorough understanding of the enterprise.

Once this milestone has been met, organizations can really begin to enjoy the benefits of enterprise architecture, in the modern, data-driven business context.

If the benefits of enterprise architecture would help your business, and you’d like to be the next erwin EA success story, try erwin’s enterprise architecture and business process modeling software for free.

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Managing Ideation and Innovation with Enterprise Architecture

Organizations largely recognize the need for enterprise architecture tools, yet some still struggle to communicate their value and prioritize such initiatives.

As data-driven business thrives, organizations will have to overcome these challenges because managing IT trends and emerging technologies makes enterprise architecture (EA) increasingly relevant.

“By 2021, 40 percent of organizations will use enterprise architects to help ideate new business innovations made possible by emerging technologies,” says Marcus Blosch, Vice President Analyst, Gartner.

With technology now vital to every aspect of the business, enterprise architecture tools and EA as a function help generate and evaluate ideas that move the business forward.

Every business has its own (often ad hoc) way of gathering ideas and evaluating them to see how they can be implemented and what it would take to deploy them.

But organizations can use enterprise architecture tools to bridge the gap between ideation and implementation, making more informed choices in the process.

By combining enterprise architecture tools with the EA team’s knowledge in a process for managing ideas and innovation, organizations can be more strategic in their planning.

Emerging technologies is one of the key areas in which such a process benefits an organization. The timely identification of emerging technologies can make or break a business. The more thought that goes into the planning of when and how to use emerging technologies, the better the implementation, which leads to better outcomes and greater ROI.

Gartner emphasize the value of enterprise architecture tools

Enterprise Architecture Tools: The Fabric of Your Organization

At its 2019 Gartner Enterprise Architecture & Technology Innovation Summit, Gartner identified 10 emerging and strategic technology trends that will shape IT in the coming years.

They included trends that utilize intelligence, such as autonomous things and augmented analytics; digital trends like empowered edge and immersive experiences; mesh trends like Blockchain and smart spaces; as well as broad concepts like digital ethics and privacy and quantum computing.

As these trends develop into applications or become part of your organization’s fabric, you need to think about how they can help grow your business in the near and long term. How will your business investigate their use? How will you identify the people who understand how they can be used to drive your business?

Many organizations lack a structured approach for gathering and investigating employee ideas, especially those around emerging technologies. This creates two issues:

1. When employee ideas fall into a black hole where they don’t get feedback, the employees become less engaged.

2. The emerging technology and its implementation are disconnected, which leads to silos or wasted resources.

How Enterprise Architecture Tools Help Communicate the Value of Emerging Technologies

When your enterprise architecture is aligned with your business outcomes it provides a way to help your business ideate and investigate the viability of ideas on both the technical and business level. When aligned correctly, emerging technologies can be evaluated based on how they meet business needs and what the IT organization must do to support them.

But the only way you can accurately make those determinations is by having visibility into your IT services and the application portfolio. And that’s how enterprise architecture can help communicate the value of emerging technologies in your organization.

erwin EA provides a way to quickly and efficiently understand opportunities offered by new technologies, process improvements and portfolio rationalization and translate them into an actionable strategy for the entire organization.

Take erwin EA for a free spin thanks to our secure, cloud-based trial.

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