City Planning: A Metaphor for Enterprise Architecture

City Planning: A Metaphor for Enterprise Architecture

Companies are focusing on "building codes" that define the principles and guidelines for architecture and on "building permits" that are granted to change initiatives that have been deemed compliant through the architecture review process.

Build IT right and the business will come.

Enterprise architecture or city planning? "City planning" is an easily understood metaphor that architects can employ to communicate more effectively the nature and value of architecture by relating the "unseen" enterprise architecture to real-world concepts that are well understood.

META Trend: Enterprise architecture (EA) success will be determined by the extent to which corporate and line-of-business managers comprehend, support, and enforce the architecture. By 2007, 15 percent of EA core teams will move out from under the IT organization's management structure, with direct reporting relationships to either corporate strategy or corporate change management functions. By 2007, 40 percent of enterprise architects will have primary expertise in business strategy or process engineering.

Global 2000 companies are increasingly using a "city planning" metaphor to define the processes and deliverables of the architecture program. The city-planning model helps architecture stakeholders - IT managers, line-of-business (LOB) managers, and corporate managers - understand the role of architecture. In particular, companies are focusing on "building codes" that define the principles and guidelines for architecture and on "building permits" that are granted to change initiatives that have been deemed compliant through the architecture review process. Currently, 20 percent of companies issue "building permits" as part of the architecture review process. By 2006, this number will increase to 35 percent, as companies both formalize and institutionalize architecture review processes. Currently, 50 percent of companies have issued a clear "building code" in the form of architecture principles and guidelines.

The city-planning approach does not imply a radically new approach to architecture. In fact, we can relate the city-planning model to Meta Group's architecture process model that was developed in 1996. Translating the Meta Group architecture model to the city-planning approach, the common requirements vision becomes the city vision, the conceptual architecture principles become the building code, and the future-state models become the city plan. The advantage of the city-planning metaphor is that it represents processes and deliverables that are broadly understood, enabling communication that leverages common knowledge while avoiding introduction of entirely new concepts.

A fundamental problem for many architecture programs is poor understanding of the basics - for example, "What is architecture, and why are we doing this?" In many companies, architecture remains a mystery even to the stakeholders, and as a result, the value of architecture is continually questioned. Architecture programs occasionally will fail due to lack of understanding and support.

A problem architects face (even within the team) is the level of abstraction that is inherent to architecture. More specifically, technology architecture often is the specification of the interaction of data between systems, systems with networks, and systems with users. Unfortunately, although these interactions are real, they are not sensorial - it is not possible to truly see, smell, or touch them.

Conversely, city planning provides a model of the physical world and entails activity similar to the enterprise architecture process, yet more familiar. For example, it is relatively easy for anyone to relate to the idea of a building code specifying that bedroom windows must be at least 760mm high and 500mm across to allow access for emergency fire crews. Less obvious, however, is the need for Ethernet connections to be 100Mbps to enable adequate performance for streaming data such as video or voice.

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