How to get started with Business Architecture, IT Architecture, and Enterprise Architecture

The role of Enterprise Architecture is to align, coordinate, and govern. Its main purpose is to ensure that Business and IT go hand in hand. To achieve that, Enterprise Architecture brings together two aspects: Business architecture and IT architecture. Today´s article provides an introduction to both concepts.

Business Architecture – The Head of Enterprise Architecture Management

The first aspect of Enterprise Architecture is business architecture. It describes different business elements of an organization, such as business processes, business capabilities, and value chains. Those are not described with all details, but on an abstract level. Different views and frameworks describe different business elements of the real organization. For instance, the strategic performance, operating model, business processes, the organizational structure, and available resources. TOGAF, which is a key standard for Enterprise Architecture, states that business architecture helps to describe a business strategy, governance, organization, or key business processes.

Considering those different statements about business architecture, some common characteristics of business architectures are identified:

1. They describe a structure and relationship of an enterprise focusing on one particular dimension

2. They use a set of standard specifications, languages, and methods

3. They are understandable from people outside the organization, as they build on generic models, frameworks, and approaches and can be compared and applied over a wide range of industries or fields

Architects use those common models, frameworks, and approaches to build organization-specific business architectures. Given the high complexity and variety of possible structures, every business architecture becomes unique if the level of detail increases. If the business architecture addresses only a high level, it might be comparable to the views of similar organizations. TOGAF describes this choice between a detailed and unique view and a high-level and more generic view as enterprise continuum.

It is common practice to start your business architecture with a generic model and then adapt it to your unique organization. A good generic model to start with a business processes view might be for instance to consider the APQC process framework.

IT Architecture – The Flesh and Bones of Your Enterprise Architecture Management

If business architecture is the head of your Enterprise Architecture Management, IT architecture is the skeleton, the structure of it. It covers aspects such as applications, data, and technologies and simplifies it and its relations. Typical IT archtiecture layers include:

1. Application architecture, which provides a blueprint that contains the independent applications to be deployed, their interactions, and relationships with the core business processes of the organization.

2. Data architecture, which describes the logic of the organization, the structure of physical data assets, and its resources.

3. Technical architecture, which describes technologies, application components, software, and hardware required to enable the business. Technical architecture also includes IT infrastructure, such as middleware, networks, and servers.

IT Architecture Diagrams

Those layers are typically used to describe enterprise architecture views. If you want to describe an IT architecture with more precision, an IT architecture diagram is needed. Those can include business architecture elements (processes, capabilities), but usually focus on applications, application components, information objects, and other IT architecture elements. In addition, they often include the interfaces between applications, the actors of the processes, and relevant specifications and limitations of the dependencies or IT systems. Typical IT architecture diagrams include:

  1. Context Diagram. The context diagram focuses on the boundaries of the described IT architecture, such as interfaces to applications and their type.
  2. Building Block Diagram. This diagram type shows the services, application modules, libraries, microservices etc. that together make the application landscape.
  3. Runtime / Business Process View. This diagram type focuses on illustrating sequences and workflows. It is also used to share a common understanding of the business process view.
  4. Infrastructure Diagram. Infrastructure diagrams show the detailed components, including hardware, that the applications need in order to work properly. This includes servers, networks, VMs, gateways etc.

IT Architecture diagrams are created with standard notations using standard modelling languages. Most common notations are ArchiMate, BPMN, and UML. As they differ in their complexity, but also ability to precisely describe an architecture, each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Do you need both Business and IT Architecture?

Business architecture and IT architecture views can each be considered separately. However, they deliver more value when they are looked at jointly. Capabilities described on the business architecture layer need underlying IT architecture elements to work and IT architecture is mapped to business terms and logical business clusters by identifying their relationship to how an organization operates and makes money. If you want to learn more about such use cases, consider the list of top 5 use cases for business capabilities to transform an organization.

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