Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Importance of Enterprise Architecture Principles

The importance of Enterprise Architecture principles can not be overstated. With the choice of appropriate principles and consensus within your company, these can lead to amazing benefits.

Unfortunately, since these principles do not have complex diagrams, taxonomies and frameworks to support them, they seem to fall out of favor with some folks. They are often considered "fluff", "cheesy" and "stating the obvious". Lets first take a look at what these principles are:

TOGAF definition - "Principles are general rules and guidelines, intended to be enduring and seldom amended, that inform and support the way in which an organization sets about fulfilling its mission."
(My)Translation: Guidelines that guide behavior and give us preferred practices when architecting solutions. Think of them as pre-made architecture decisions! How wonderful... lets repeat this very fundamental thing that is at the heart of coming up with principles - pre-made architecture decisions!!

Of course, each principle should describe a motivation behind it, i.e. "Why should I do this?". It should also describe what are the implications of that principle, i.e. "What do I need to do to adhere to this principle?"

Question: How many Enterprise Architecture principles should I have?
Answer: Even though it depends on your organization, I believe that 10 or less is the sweet spot. Remember, the intent of these principles is to guide behavior and give direction to your enterprise. We should be able to articulate them at the drop of a hat - if I need to reference a dictionary of EA principles, I have probably over engineered it.

The real power of these principles is in its simplicity. Lets take an example of a powerful EA principle from one of the companies I know:

Principle: Reuse
We will reuse process, data and IT assets whenever possible.
Adherence to this simple yet powerful principle ended up saving more than 10 million USD in a single technology decision alone!

Some other EA principles could be - Build vs. Buy; Use of Open Standards etc.

One important reminder - the intent here is not to police but to enable faster and smoother solutioning. Please see Enablement vs. Control post for more details.

I hope you enjoyed the post! Please continue to send me your comments and questions, I love it!

** Cartoon inspired by Groucho Marx's quote on "Principles"

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