Enterprise architecture methodology should start with broad vision

This is part one in our series, Roles of the Enteprise Architect with Business Process Management (BPM).


In a literal sense, an enterprise

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architecture should span the entire enterprise. As such, an enterprise architect should have an understanding of the entire enterprise before trying to solve individual problems with technology.

"A common mistaken view is that enterprise architecture is the architecture of enterprise IT. IT is a very small subset of the enterprise," said Tom Graves, an enterprise architect with Tetradian, a Colchester, England-based consultancy.

IT architects need to let go of the assumption that they're the center of the world.
Tom Graves
Enterprise ArchitectTetradian

 Graves advocates that the enterprise architect starts by understanding the enterprise as a whole, including the ways in which the enterprise extends from the organization of the company. "From supplier's supplier to customer's customer; and partners who are sideways in another direction; and non-clients and ex-clients—when I look at enterprise architecture I'm starting from there, not from somewhere deep inside the IT system."

Graves suggested that an enterprise architecture which starts from the outside and looks in keeps an organization from relying too heavily on technology. "I'm looking at the human aspect as much as the technology aspect," he said. "The danger with an IT-centric view is it means we assume the solution has an IT-based solution. But there are many situations where that is not helpful."


"IT architects need to let go of the assumption that they're the center of the world," said Graves. "What they're doing is important, yet it's not central. It's not the reason the organization exists."

When it comes to business process management (BPM), Graves affirmed the importance of keeping people involved. "When you design a process, design it with the assumption that it is going to fail. Have people at a level where they can take over at a higher level than the machine."

Graves relayed an example he encountered where an organization suffered for not having the human ability to override an exception: A child welfare monitoring agency in Britain implemented a CRM system that tracked incidents in which a child was threatened. A journalist discovered that 10 instances had gone unattended for two and half months and suggested the agency was negligent. As it turned out, a single instance against a pregnant woman had come up and was appropriately handled by the agency—but because the process required the child's date of birth to be entered, and the child in question was not yet born, the CRM system was unable to close the case and instead kept regenerating it.

"They had no way of doing an override," said Graves. "There has to be a way of handling exceptions that isn't automated. You can't automate everything."

The Role of Enterprise Architects in Business Process Management (BPM)

Part 1: Enterprise architecture methodology should start with broad vision
Part 2: Enterprise architects must look outside the boundaries of the project
Part 3: Enterprise architects can use BPMN as a common language for process modeling

Additional Resources
Leading an architecture-first mandate
Often, the IT infrastructure of a business will not support continued growth. Author JP Morganthal argues that an "architecture first" mandate supports growth and continued usability of the IT infrastructure.

Enterprise architecture is more than a technology
Enterprise architects are no longer thought of as the custodians of information technologies. Instead, they are being seen as the custodians of capabilities. This means architects must understand fits in the greater enterprise.

Tom Graves: Ramblings over the Metaphoric Edge
Tom Graves writes about enterprise architecture on his blog. He often focuses on the human aspects of enterprise architecture and fostering a better understanding on how much the enterprise architect should know and do.

This was first published in February 2010

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