Monday, May 19, 2008

ReFactoring Enterprise Architecture

I was listening to David Linthicum's podcast from last week ( and got to thinking more about the problem of Re-Factoring Enterprise Architecture. Re-Factoring your Enterprise Architecture is a variant on the Enterprise Modernization angle we have been pursuing within the technology industry for legacy platform customers. The reason Enterprise Modernization is not enough in my mind is that it is only really targeted at customers (like the government) who are still on homogeneous (albeit legacy) platforms and due to personnel training and retention issues want to stay that way [homogenous]. Most commercial customers likely have a highly heterogenous environment or want one to better keep up with the heightened competition within their industry.

Most commercial enterprises would agree that their Enterprise Architecture has organically grown over the years in a similar way to how the Amish sew together a patch-work quilt. This is the problem of "shopping for your EA solution".

On the left-side of the "shopping for an EA" continuum, you have customers that consider themselves early adopters and are willing to try new things to "get an edge" on their competition. [insert your favorite market guru here] tells these customers that they should have a portal, and that Plumtree is one of the best point-solutions out there so they buy that. [insert your favorite market guru here] tells them they should have a framework, and that SilverStream is one of the best point-solutions out there so they buy that. [insert your favorite market guru here] tells them they need an ESB solution, and that Cape Clear is the one of the best point-solutions out there so they buy that. And so on. These folks may be fast out of the gate, but lose momentum over time, due to inefficiences caused by lack of integration along the way and the rapid turnover of products (and vendors) caused by the fickleness of the commodity software industry.

On the right-side of the "shopping for an EA" contiuum, you have customers that consider themselves more conservative and place a high value on staying with a single vendor. These folks are still "shopping for an EA", except that they wait to be told what to buy and when to buy it by IBM or Microsoft. These folks are always dealing with repressed feelings of frustration and doubt caused by their inability to keep up with software market innovation because their chosen vendor isn't getting them there fast enough.

In my opinion, customers at either end of this continuum can be refactored toward a planned Enterprise Architecture, highly customized to their specific needs, that can deal with change in a "systemic" or "repeatable" fashion through the combination of:

  1. the strategic use of Open Source software to get at the core problems within the IT portfolio by either better glueing the pieces together or more rapidly extending the functionality of the monolith (with either approach based on open standards) - making the IT-side of these commercial customers more agile while also providing a forward-looking context for better supporting their engrained spending habits, and
  2. the tactical use of Governance solutions to give the business-side of these commercial customers visibility into the measureable (metrics-driven) progress they are making towards the goals that define their reasons for investing in IT to begin with.

To summarize, I like the "ReFactoring your Enterprise Architecture" angle because it deals with the heterogeneity (or lack thereof) that likely exists in most commercial enterprises while still sending the "we aren't here to change you ... just make you better" message that Enterprise Modernization sends.

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