Monday, May 18, 2009

Enterprise architecture

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The term enterprise architecture refers to many things. Like architecture in general, it can refer to a description, a process or a profession.

To some, "enterprise architecture" refers either to the structure of a business, or the documents and diagrams that describe that structure. To others, "enterprise architecture" refers to the business methods that seek to understand and document that structure. A third use of "enterprise architecture" is a reference to a business team that uses EA methods to produce architectural descriptions of the structure of an enterprise.

A formal definition of the structure of an enterprise comes from the MIT Center for Information Systems Research:

Enterprise Architecture is the organizing logic for business processes and IT infrastructure reflecting the integration and standardization requirements of the firm’s operating model.[1]

It is often said that the architecture of an enterprise exists, whether it is described explicitly or not. This makes sense if you regard the architecture as existing in the system itself, rather than in a description of it. Certainly, the business practice of enterprise architecture has emerged to make the system structures explicit in abstract architecture descriptions. Practitioners are called "enterprise architects."

Enterprise architects use various business methods and tools to understand and document the structure of an enterprise. In doing so, they produce documents and models, together called artifacts. These artifacts describe the logical organization of business strategies, metrics, business capabilities, business processes, information resources, business systems, and networking infrastructure within the enterprise.

A complete collection of these artifacts, sufficient to describe the enterprise in useful ways, could be considered an ‘enterprise’ level architectural description, or an enterprise architecture, for short. This is the definition of enterprise architecture implied by the popular TOGAF architectural framework.

An enterprise architecture framework is a collection of tools, process models, and guidance used by architects to assist in the production of organization-specific architectural descriptions. See the related article on enterprise architecture frameworks for further information.

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