What is enterprise architecture? (With definition and goals)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 8 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

In today's world, enterprise architecture is an essential part of any organisation's IT infrastructure. In addition to aiding day-to-day operations, it plays the important role of helping a business stay up to date on its overall goals, therefore adding considerable value to the business itself. It's important to know not only what enterprise architecture is, but how to implement it. In this article, we answer the question 'What is enterprise architecture?', detail what an enterprise architect is, explain the goals of enterprise architecture and offer some reasons why it's important.

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What is enterprise architecture?

If you're interested in IT and how it relates to a business, you may have asked, 'What is enterprise architecture?'. Enterprise Architecture (EA) is a structural approach to arranging a project, department or company. This ensures that companies successfully execute their business strategies through careful planning and the use of enterprise analysis. Enterprise architecture can benefit a business in many ways, such as:

  • improving IT systems and frameworks

  • enhancing communication

  • keeping businesses operating efficiently

  • helping organisations achieve more long-term success

EA also structures and arranges the components of a business to ensure they interact with each other and function as a complete unit more effectively. The overall aim of this is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the components, like the technology or application, and use this to create a structure that adds the most benefits to the enterprise. Enterprise architecture helps businesses create structures in their policies and IT projects to stay updated on industry trends.

Although EA started out as a way for companies to plan long-term strategies to support fast-developing technology. Now, modern enterprise architecture strategies focus not only on IT and digital transformation but also make sure that businesses can bring their different processes together for a more efficient business system that achieves better results.

Related: What does an enterprise architect do?

What is an enterprise architect?

An enterprise architect is someone involved in establishing an organisation's IT infrastructure to make sure it's structured around the organisation's goals. They're also responsible for maintaining the organisation's IT network and ensuring that their software, hardware and enterprise services are up-to-date. Enterprise architects think critically about which systems to update, what hardware needs replacing and what legacy systems can stay in place. They figure out which products or services can best support the operations of different departments. This means that enterprise architects work across an organisation to understand the different processes and determine the best solutions.

Some enterprise architects focus on specific areas of an enterprise, while a business-focused architect considers the broader organisation and standards of an enterprise. An enterprise architect requires a range of skills, a strong understanding of technology and the ability to apply complex thinking and strategies.

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The goals of enterprise architecture

Companies of all sizes apply enterprise architecture to achieve a number of important business goals. They include:

Improved work processes

The overall goal of enterprise architecture is to assess a company's different processes and work systems to see how they contribute to its success. Enterprise architecture finds ways to restructure and optimise these processes so that businesses can better achieve their goals. This includes the technology these processes use, the different equipment departments use and the sorts of networks used. By optimising these processes across departments, businesses can work far more efficiently.

Improved structure and design of an enterprise

An enterprise architect looks at an enterprise's business strategies, data assets, technology and operating systems to determine where its strengths and weaknesses lie. The architect can then redesign these structures to highlight and maximise the strengths while minimising weaknesses. This means stronger systems and improved enterprise structure. Enterprise architects also look at the most critical functions of a business to find ways to strengthen these systems. By focusing on these essential company functions, an enterprise architect understands which departments need further development.

Better teamwork coordination

One of the key functions of enterprise architecture is to look at the business as a whole and understand how its different departments work together. The overall business structure relies on different departments and processes to contribute to each other. An enterprise architect considers the performance of these departments and finds ways to improve the different processes and the conjoined teamwork within these areas. This results in better collaboration and stronger connections across departments.

Improved IT security

Digital security is a necessity in today's world. With so much sensitive information and data being transferred between IT networks, businesses try to ensure their systems are as safe as possible. When enterprise architects assess the different systems and networks of an organisation, they also look at the security in these areas. This allows enterprise architects to strengthen security networks to ensure there are no data leaks or losses of valuable information.

Related: How to become a security architect in 5 steps (plus salary)

Meet the demands of a business

Each enterprise has its own unique functions and needs. A role of an enterprise architect is to understand these custom requirements and make a structured plan that best supports them. This involves creating strategies that support and improve the decision-making process. For this, enterprise architects consult with enterprise leaders, shareholders and employees at different levels. This is necessary to understand their requirements and how a business functions.

Benefits of enterprise architecture

Having identified the goals of enterprise architecture, it's important to understand what value this process adds to a business. Here are some of the key benefits of enterprise architecture:

Improves performance evaluation

A function of enterprise architects is to look at the performance levels of an organisation. This includes comparing present and historical performance levels to determine a baseline. With this performance baseline in place, businesses can better understand when their performance levels need improvement. This baseline can also help businesses track their growth and predict future growth with greater accuracy.

Introduces standards for management planning

To design and implement enterprise architecture, management may plan new technologies and policies. By having strong management planning, organisations can easily transition to the new enterprise structure. When a company implements a new form of management planning, it generally starts with the most easily implemented changes before moving on to more complex new systems.

Evaluates risk

Risk assessment is another important part of enterprise architecture. Through evaluating the different organisational processes and standards, enterprise architects can assess and evaluate risk factors. This improves an enterprise's understanding of different risk factors and finds ways to minimise them. This can help to put more efficient risk management systems in place.

Maintains compliance

While enterprise architecture considers risk factors, it can also improve regulatory compliance. Enterprise architects can evaluate the various processes in a business to make sure that they comply with relevant laws and regulations. In doing this, enterprise architects might implement new compliance systems, such as scheduled compliance reports or checks. This helps organisations keep up with compliance and reduce risk.

Enterprise architecture frameworks

Businesses rely on technology systems more than ever, so it's vital to set up these systems properly to best accommodate the needs and functions of an organisation. With a proper enterprise architecture system, businesses can achieve far greater results and improve their success across all operations and departments. An architectural framework outlines an enterprise's different parts or characteristics and classifies them into the correct groups. While most businesses use customised enterprise architecture to match their exact business, here are four common enterprise frameworks:

  • Open Group Architecture Framework: This evaluates every aspect of an organisation, including business strategies and IT systems, and you can apply them widely across a range of different organisations. A standardised set of terminology classifies the different elements and coordinates the enterprise architecture.

  • Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework: This framework involves a collaborative analysis of different stakeholders and leaders in an organisation, focusing mainly on improving IT and technology management. It's a commonly used framework for federal agency enterprises, but some private enterprises also use it.

  • Generalised Enterprise Reference Architecture and Methodology: In this framework, data visualisations and models display the enterprise's architecture. This provides an easily digestible analysis of the structure of an organisation.

  • Zachman Framework: This framework organises all aspects of an enterprise into different categories. This includes six main areas to establish the best structure and interconnection within an organisation, including the basic interrogatives.

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