Implementing Enterprise Architecture

In previous articles (Architecture, a definition and Architecture principles formalized) architecture and architecture principles are formalized. Now the question rises: how to use architecture? Can this formal approach mean something for us in practice? In this article this questions will be answered with regard to Enterprise Architecture. The essence of Enterprise Architecture is argued and is shown with a real-life project as example.

The need for Enterprise Architecture

The successful implementation of strategic initiatives in Enterprise is very difficult. According to Hoogervorst [Hoogervorst, 2007] numerous studies show that less than ten percent of strategic initiatives are implemented successfully. Hoogervorst also refers to a lot of studies showing that a lack of coherence and integration is the most important reason for this high failure rate. All elements (resources, business and organization) should be aligned with one another for making a great corporate strategy. The failing introduction of IT has also a lot to do with this lack of coherence and integration. According to Hoogervorst (based on several studies), the power to do a coherent implementation of strategic choices is more important than the quality of these strategic choices itself. So an integral design of the enterprise is essential for being successful [Hoogervorst, 2007]. In this way competences for realising an integral design are even more important than competences for formulating corporate strategy!

Nice to say, but how can such an integral design be created? First, such an integral design has to describe both what goals an enterprise has and how the enterprise should reach that goals. As explained in Architecture, a definition guidelines for making a design are given by an architecture. An architecture for a certain system, in essence, describes how to realize a design for an instance of such a system. So if we want to design an enterprise, we need an architecture for the system ‘enterprise’, we need Enterprise Architecture! Enterpise Architecture can thus be defined as "an instrument to translate enterprise strategy into an integral design of that enterprise, thereby enabling the implementation and operationalization of the enterprise strategy". We adopt here a prescriptive notion on architecture, as explained in Architecture, a definition.

Enterprise Architecture mostly is divided into sub-architectures. Think of a business architecture, an information architecture, an application architecture and a technology architecture. One thing we can learn from this is that only looking at the technical architecture (or software architecture) isn’t enough for implementing the enterprise strategy. A broader view is needed for creating business and it alignment: Enterprise Architecture is needed!

A multi-actor problem

Formulating an enterprise architecture isn’t straightforward. Because the target of enterprise architecture is to create coherence and integration a lot of internal and external systems and actors has to be involved. As showed in the previous chapters an architecture is defined as a set op principles. So implementing an enterprise architecture means formulating a set of principles reflecting the enterprise strategy. These principles have to be stated unambiguous, otherwise the resulting architecture is useless. This, however, also creates a huge challenge.

First the management of an enterprise has to reach an agreement about each and every principle. Because principles have to be stated explicit (in a formal format) there is no room for political sentences. So all managers, with different visions or accents, have to discuss each principle till an agreement is reached.

Second, people have to work with principles. In order to have people work with principles, the principles have to be accepted. There are a number of factors that can be used to influence the level of acceptance [Go, 2006]:
• Involvement of users,
• Relevance of principles,
• Applicability of principles and
• Compliance with principles.
The main conclusion from these factors is that not only the management of an enterprise has to agree about the principles, also the parties which are affected by or have to work with the principles have to be involved.

Last but not least, an Architecture Framework has to be selected (or composed) indicating the categories in which principles has to be stated (see Architecture, a definition).

Case study: implementing Enterprise Architecture at Air-France – KLM Cargo

There is no formal method for implementing an enterprise architecture. However, two students of the Delft University of Technology have addressed this problem in their master thesis. They report their findings after they have implemented an enterprise architecture for Air-France Cargo – KLM Cargo (AF-KL Cargo) in [Go, 2006] and [Lee, 2006]. I want to present some of their findings and learning points to give a short impression of the complexity of devising a good enterprise architecture.

The starting point for the project was the strategy for the next couple of years developed by AF-KL Cargo. Also the IT strategy of Air-France – KLM to which AF-KL Cargo belongs had to be taken into account. The enterprise architecture was implemented using three different approaches: analyzing literature, interviews and group discussions.

By analyzing literature a base set of principles was devised. All documents regarding strategy, vision and all other elements of the business are searched for information. After structuring this information architecture principles are identified. These principle cannot be included in the architecture because they only reflect the vision of the architect on the enterprise, none of the people working with these principles was involved. However, these principles can be used as input for the group discussions.

The second approach for identifying principles was the use of interviews. The goal of such interviews is to identify the implicit principles people use in their daily business. This method highly rely on the communication skills of the architect.

The last method used was group sessions. In this group sessions the whole management team of AF-KL Cargo was involved. This session were supported by a Group Decision Support System. Each participant uses a computer, which is connected to the computers of the other participants and the workshop leader, for generating principles. The advantage of using such a system is that everybody has equal opportunities to have input in the process. Not only the most important or the most dominating people are heard. The sessions did consist of several rounds, in short: generating principles, categorizing and clustering principles and discussing principles.

The conclusion of the project was that creating enterprise architecture awareness is one of the most important points, which should be executed before starting the process of implementing the enterprise architecture. People involved in the process have given positive feedback on the methodology. Implementing an enterprise architecture based on the prescriptive notion was never done before in practice, but this project can be seen as successful. However, further research is needed to develop a methodology which can be used in general.

Recommendations and learning points

Based on the project described above some recommendations and learning points are presented in [Go, 2006] and [Lee, 2006]. Among them are:

Before starting the implementation of an enterprise architecture it is important to create enough awareness. Enterprise architecture has become a buzzword very fast and everybody seems to define it in a different way. So, first everybody involved in the process has to have the right view on enterprise architecture.

Keeping the door open for exceptions when using principles is an important method to raise the commitment. If principles always has to be followed in every situation the architecture becomes rigid. It is smart to rank principles to indicate where the focus of the enterprise development should be.

Determining the owner of the principles is essential to create an overview of the responsibilities regarding the enterprise architecture. The project focused merely on the users. For a proper development of the enterprise architecture, the responsibilities (owner, user, etc.) must be investigated more thoroughly.

One thing learned during the workshops for devising the business architecture is that it is crucial to have the right group for the sessions. The group must consist of the people that are responsible for making the principle decisions in the business domains. Even though such group is usually equivalent with the users of the business architecture, this doesn’t have to be always the case. The business architecture has to be verified with the decision makers and its owner in order to "declare" the devised principles true.

The most remarkable outcome from the project is the fact that the group discussions are very useful for not only enterprise architecture development, but the development of the enterprise in general. It makes people aware of the difference in views on the enterprise and the discussions ensure that a shared view is being created. An obvious recommendation from this project is to continue with these discussions and carry them out as much as possible.


Despite it looks like the definitions of enterprise architecture and architecture principles given in the previous articles (Architecture, a definition and Architecture principles formalized) are very formal, they form a very good base for translating enterprise strategy into an integral enterprise design. This integral design is important for implementing and operationalizing the enterprise strategy. Also for creating business and it alignment, a goal a lot heard nowadays, enterprise architecture is essential. Only or mostly focussing on the technical architecture, what is often done, can’t deliver you a good business and it alignment. So SOA, often called the solution for business and it alignment, on itself is not enough. Business has to steer IT, not the other way around. Using an Enterprise Architecture is a good starting point, ensuring that all enterprise goals are taken into account and not only the ones from the IT department.

[Go, 2006] Andrew Chi Seng Go, Implementing Enterprise Architecture. Delft, 2006.

[Hoogervorst, 2007] Hoogervorst, J.A.P., Enterprise Governance & Architectuur, Corporate, IT en enterprise governance in samenhangend perspectief. Academic Service, 2007.

[Lee, 2006] Calvin Lee, Aerospace Logistics architecture program. Delft, 2006.

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