2.9.2 How can Enterprise Architecture (EA) help?
Our premise defines that institutions need to integrate and align ICT with corporate strategy. This indicates a need to be able to understand and deliver corporate objectives and business requirements; to be able to communicate and develop solutions for the institution, across the entire institution. A key enabler in this process is Enterprise Architecture. Enterprise Architecture can facilitate a high-level understanding of the HEI as a holistic entity; that takes into account its structure, products, operations, technology, and the web of relations tying these together. This is achieved by working, thinking and communicating at the institution level.
One way of understanding this better is to consider where Enterprise Architecture fits as a management process. Lankhorst et al. (2005) depict Enterprise Architecture within a pyramid of management processes as illustrated overleaf.
At the top of the pyramid is the mission of the institution - the reason it exists. Beneath this is the overall vision and strategy of the enterprise. These should be translated by senior management into a series of strategic goals that take the institution from its current position (often referred to as the 'as is' state) to a future scenario (known as the 'to be' state).
The development of more detailed strategies that will support these goals is an important business process that must take intelligence from the business and ICT professionals. Translating these goals into changes to the business processes, day-to-day operations and ICT systems are where Enterprise Architecture delivers real value.
However, Enterprise Architecture must still be part of an overall framework that allows the business, through its culture, people and processes, to formulate the appropriate strategy. The commitment of senior management and role of the Chief Information Officer in bringing together the approach and resources is critical, as is the contribution of ICT professionals with the experience and skills to consult, analyse, communicate and document business processes by fully engaging with staff, students and partners.
The primary purpose of using Enterprise Architecture is to understand information assets, business processes, organisational structures, information and application infrastructure as a means to designing business and institutional change. In the long-term the objective for an institution is to utilise Enterprise Architecture at an enterprise level to support complete business visibility and agility. However, like any other change the issues are complex and the important priority for Enterprise Architecture is that it should be aligned with institutional goals. Therefore the journey of adoption may focus on specific business areas and require a period of time to achieve a more joined up architectural definition of the institution. Enterprise Architecture requires strong governance to establish business and systems compliance with the enterprise architecture as well as continuous assessment and enforcement of compliance. There is a need for, 'development without architecture', a governance mechanism designed to provide clear decision making and a waiver from the Enterprise Architecture compliance path for business requirements and systems that can justify, via a well formed and documented business case, exclusion from Enterprise Architecture. The value of this is in ensuring, 'rogue', business and system changes do not compromise the integrity of the institutional architecture and therefore the robustness and agility of the institution.