Enterprise architecture is an activity designed to help you manage the information and communications technology (ICT) decisions an organisation or group of organisations make. It helps you to understand your organisation’s ICT assets and provides a method for developing a strategy to evolve and improve them.
When an organisation has one ICT system, decisions are made about how best to build (or evolve) that system. These decisions are based on the needs of the customer or the business stakeholders and on the best use of technology to support those needs. The formula is relatively clear, what are my functional and non-functional requirements? How can I best fulfil them. This activity applies whether that be a physical system such as a website, or indeed a human system made up of business processes. Through making a plan for these decisions the ICT strategy for the organisation develops.
When an organisation has multiple ICT systems or when multiple organisations each with their own systems want to communicate, the overall enterprise needs to be considered. This is where enterprise architecture should be introduced. Many organisations with only a few systems may perform this activity intuitively, making sensible decisions about how to evolve. However, as the number of human and technology systems grows the answers become increasingly difficult to ascertain. The enterprise may be so large that no single person or document can adequately describe it’s current state. And if it’s current state is not well understood, then what hope does an organisation have of describing how that state should evolve? What hope of having a coherent and well thought through strategy?