A few months ago I attended the Enterprise Architecture conference in London.  As we Enterprise Architects aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, I found it very stimulating to be able to participate in conversations with like-minded people.

Overall, I found the conference very positive as it reinforced my own belief that for Enterprise Architecture to add value to your organisation, it must be oriented towards the business community, and it can’t be just an IT-led initiative.

However, what became apparent as the conference progressed, was that two recurring themes were emerging: firstly, a lot of people do not understand what Enterprise Architecture is; and secondly, Enterprise Architecture is not Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). Unfortunately, some presenters seemed to miss the second point.

SOA is first and foremost an application and technology architecture pattern for defining reusable, technology-agnostic composite applications.  Used correctly, SOA will deliver value to your company’s IT estate.  But there are some essential facets of architecture that SOA does not address, the most important of which is the business architecture.

The common catchphrase of SOA is that it “aligns business and IT” – but how?  Everyone knows that this is facilitated by the services that you define, and these should be “business oriented”.  But there is more to business architecture than just service definitions.  For business architecture to be truly worthwhile it must encompass an holistic view of how your organisation is defined, what are its long-term goals and objectives, what its marketing and product strategy is, and how it interacts with its customers.  And how IT is used to deliver this.

This is why you need Enterprise Architecture.  Not only does it allow you to define your architecture within consistent, reusable models and artefacts that be shared across both the IT and business communities, but by separating these artefacts into separate architectural domains (e.g. business, information, application and technology), it allows your organisation to identify the inter-dependencies between these domains (for example, between your service catalogue and your information model), so that your architecture becomes truly sustainable and the benefits apparent to IT’s customers – the business community.

This is the message that was getting lost at the conference and within the industry in general, and unfortunately, some of the worst culprits are the SOA vendors.  SOA isn’t just something you can buy out of the box – architecture is something that your organisation must invest in, to define and build the resources that empower your enterprise.  As John Zachman so succinctly put it, beware of the enterprise silver bullet that some vendors will try to convince you is the answer to everything.

We’re fortunate at Smart421.  We use our Enterprise Architecture framework to deliver SOA (in fact, EA can be used to deliver any architecture).  Maybe you can find it useful too…