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7 Essential Elements of EA
Follow this roadmap to engage your business, manage complexity, and govern the implementation of your architecture.
by David C. Baker and Michael Janiszewski

June 8, 2005

Mention enterprise architecture (EA) to many CEOs or CIOs, and you often get a fairly standard set of responses:


"EA costs too much."
"EA simply isn’t a practical exercise for us."
"There doesn’t seem to be much benefit."
"Our stakeholders wouldn’t use our EA if we had one."

Several factors keep many senior executives from embracing the idea of EA. One reason is that the management of information is not a well-understood science. Even at 50 years of age, EA still is in its infancy, and practitioners have yet to develop common definitions, standards, processes, or tools for managing EA. Another reason is the organizational and cultural barriers that block the acceptance of EA. EA is viewed as an ivory-tower playground for technicians or academics, so organizations miss the message that it's the glue that ensures the alignment of business and technology within the enterprise. This misconception often arises from the pains many organizations experience when embarking on an EA effort:

  • Frameworks are often not readily actionable (that is, they lack architectural management concepts that are clearly relevant to architecture delivery).
  • Results of the EA effort are often difficult to communicate over the range of the organization’s various constituencies (for example, CIOs, business staff, and technical architects).
  • Enterprise linkages and interactions are not well understood or documented, making it difficult to use EA as a business enabler.

Those problems are serious, but not insurmountable. In fact, we’ve seen numerous companies extract real value from EA initiatives. The chances of implementing a successful EA effort are substantially increased by managing the seven essential elements of EA that occur in stages throughout the architecture lifecycle (see Figure 1).

Managing these elements helps ensure the organization embraces EA and can answer the important questions, from "Why are we building an EA?" to "How will we measure and control the end result?" These seven elements are essential in delivering an EA that provides real business value. It is a representation that is traceable, actionable, and communicable.

In this article, we'll describe the seven elements that provide a roadmap for making your EA practice an asset to your organization. We'll discuss them within the context of the architecture lifecycle as shown in Figure 1. Executed successfully, these elements empower your architecture organization to engage the business, manage the complexity inherent in your information enterprise, and govern the implementation activities that follow your architecture effort.

The seven elements are:

  • Set the stage with guiding principles.
  • Manage complexity with blueprints.
  • Organize for architecture success.
  • Integrate through architecture processes.
  • Keep on track with architecture governance.
  • Use tools to model, analyze, and communicate your architecture.
  • Measure architecture success with metrics.
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