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Provide a Common Frame of Reference
Model technology architecture using category trees to improve communication.
by Jeff Tash, ITscout

December 16, 2004

In a previous EA Realist column, "Harness Technology Architecture," I discussed the importance of modeling to establish and communicate technology architecture. However, not everyone agreed with my views. Here's how one reader with the job title of PhD Enterprise Architect reacted to that column:

Jeff's article is condescending and completely misses the point of IT and strategic "alignment." The concept of modeling the "technology architecture" in isolation is outdated. IT is but one aspect of an overall architecture, and we're much more interested in modeling techniques that cover the business aspect of technology. Technology modeling is easy; business and strategy are hard. It's unfortunate that people like Jeff are out there giving enterprise architecture such a bad name.

My view regarding how to define enterprise architecture conforms to The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF), an industry standard architecture framework that describes enterprise architecture as consisting of four components:

  • Business architecture
  • Data architecture
  • Applications architecture
  • Technology architecture

First and foremost, the term architecture implies documentation. The different types of architecture listed above each document a different aspect of the enterprise. Business architects model business processes, including business events and business rules. Data architects model representations of real-world entities and relationships. Applications architects map portions of processes and data into instances of specific business solutions (i.e., applications).


But what do technology architects model? What exactly is technology architecture? Most organizations struggle to figure out how to model their technology architecture. In fact, few enterprises today claim they have successfully modeled their technology architecture. The challenge for many is that the breadth and scope seems so daunting that they don't know where or how to begin.

Just as with business architecture, data architecture, and applications architecture, the biggest challenge for technology architecture is figuring out what exactly to model. The most important goal is to make it so that technical and nontechnical people alike can both understand and be understood when talking about, or even thinking about, technology.

The job of technology architecture is to provide a shared frame of reference by helping people better organize, visualize, and communicate about technology. The basic objective is to facilitate the exchange of ideas. A nice byproduct is the cost savings that result from product consolidation and standardization.

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