When project teams work under the assumption that they can do
anything that they want, that they can use any technology that they want, chaos
typically results. Functionality
and information will be duplicated and reuse will occur sporadically if at all.
Systems will not integrate well. Systems
will conflict with one another and cause each other to fail. Costs will skyrocket because similar products from different vendors, or
even simply different versions of the same product, will be purchased and then
operated within production. Although
each individual project may be very successful, as a portfolio they may have
serious challenges. It doesn’t
have to be this way.
The cold reality is that very few software-based systems exist in a vacuum,
instead they must co-exist with several and sometimes hundreds of other systems.
Applications must co-exist effectively with the other systems within your
organization. Therefore an application must minimally be developed so that
it doesn’t cause adverse affects on your other systems and ideally it should
be built to take advantage of and to enhance a shared infrastructure.
Every system must be built so it can fit into your existing environment, better
yet so that it reflect s the future vision for your organization. This sort of
information should be captured in your enterprise architecture, in current state
and future state models respectively. One goal for agile enterprise
architects is to ensure that this happens in an effective manner, to ensure that
the needs of the business stakeholders are understood and anticipated, and to
support project teams in their development efforts.
Why are enterprise issues an important aspect of the Agile Data (AD) method?
Because data is an enterprise asset. It isn’t your only enterprise
asset, but it is an important one. My philosophy is that to be effective
as a developer you must consider enterprise issues, which is why
Data’s 2nd philosophy “development teams must consider and act
appropriately regarding enterprise issues” exists. However, to remain
agile your organization must find a way to streamline their enterprise
activities to support agile software development teams in this endeavor.
Agile Data’s 3rd philosophy “Enterprise groups exist to nurture
enterprise assets and to support other groups, such as development teams, within
your organization. These enterprise groups should act in an agile manner
that reflects the expectations of their customers and the ways in which their
In this article, I discuss:
- A few assumptions
- What is enterprise architecture?
- Why enterprise architecture?
- Challenges with current approaches
- An agile approach
- Introducing an agile approach to enterprise architecture
- What should your enterprise architecture efforts
- Potential problems with the agile Enterprise
This article has been written with the following assumptions:
2. What is Enterprise Architecture?
For our purposes, enterprise architecture
consists of the various structures and processes of an organization, including
both technical structures and processes as well as business/domain structures
Following this definition, an enterprise architecture model is a representation
of those structures and processes. A good enterprise architecture model
will depict the organization both as it is today and as it is envisioned in the
future, and will map the various views representing the architecture to one
another. These views include both business-oriented perspectives as well
as technical perspectives. In many ways enterprise architecture models are
a communication bridge between senior business stakeholders and senior IT
Unfortunately, within the IT industry the
terminology isn’t used in quite this way. Sometimes we use the term “enterprise architecture” to refer to the
group of people responsible for modeling and then documenting the architecture.
Other times we use the term to denote the process of doing this work. More commonly we are referring to the models, documents, and reusable
items (components, frameworks, objects, and so on) that reflect the actual
architecture. Unless otherwise
noted, this is the way that I will use the term at this site.
Unified Process (EUP) I point out how some organizations choose to separate
the business/domain side of EA from the technical side of it, something which is
reflected in the EUP's
enterprise business modeling and
enterprise architecture disciplines respectively. If your organization
chooses to think of the EA as encompassing both, which I recommend, then your EA
strategy encompasses the scope of those two EUP disciplines.
3. Why Enterprise Architecture?
The benefits of enterprise architecture can be summed up
using three words: better, faster, cheaper. It is important to realize that the
better, faster, cheaper (BFC) benefits
come at a price. You must be
willing to invest in the underlying organizational and cultural structures to
support them. You need to recognize
that these costs exist and ensure that the BFC benefits you achieve outweigh
them. Better yet, adopt Agile
ROI and strive for
4. Challenges With Current Approaches
As a consultant I have the privilege of working in a wide
range of organizations across the world. The
result is that I get to see and try many different approaches to software
development, including enterprise architecture efforts.
Over the years I have observed a common set of problems that
organizations seem to experience.
I have yet to see an organization that experiences all of
these problems, although I have seen some that experience all but one or two.
These common problems are:
A common thread behind these problems is a focus on
processes and tools over individuals and interactions, the exact opposite of the
Agile Alliance’s first value. If your organization experiences one or more of these
problems then you may want to consider taking an agile approach to enterprise
There isn’t an enterprise architecture effort.
Project teams don’t know the enterprise architecture
Project teams don’t follow the enterprise
Project teams don’t work with the enterprise
Narrowly focused architecture models.
Dysfunctional “charge back” schemes.
A “do all this extra work because it’s good for
the company” attitude.
The Agile Data Method's
philosophy is "Enterprise groups exist to nurture enterprise assets and
to support other groups, such as development teams, within your organization.
These enterprise groups should act in an agile manner that reflects the
expectations of their customers and the ways in which their customers
work." Let's explore what that actually means.
First and foremost, the values, principles, and practices
of Agile Modeling
(AM) should help to guide your enterprise architecture modeling and
documentation efforts. This is just a good start though. My experience is that to be successful at enterprise
architecture you need to rethink your overall approach and address five
fundamental issues. These issues are connected in a synergistic manner; you must
address all of them otherwise you will put your effort at risk. These issues are:
Focus on people, not technology or techniques
Keep it simple
Work iteratively and incrementally
Roll up your sleeves
Look at the whole picture
architecture attractive to your customers
Fred Brooks (1995) wrote that “The quality of the people on a
project, and their organization and management, are much more important factors
in success than are the tools they use or the technical approaches they take.”
The reality is that enterprise architectures are developed, evolved, and
followed by people. All of the arguments over “which model is right”,
“which notation is right”, and “which paradigm is right” are meaningless if you
don’t have a viable strategy for working together effectively. You could
create a perfect enterprise architecture model but it doesn’t matter if project
teams can’t or won’t take advantage of it.
Effective enterprise architects will work with their customers,
very often application developers and
agile DBAs, in the most effective manner
possible. Sometimes this will be
face-to-face drawing sketches with them at a
whiteboard, sometimes they will
work with project teams via video conferencing, sometimes they will answer
questions via email, and sometimes they will publish models and documents.
I highly suggest following the AM practice Display Models Publicly for
your architectural models and documents – publish them online at an internal
web site and even consider putting up paper versions of
critical diagrams in
their workspaces. A common mistake
that I’ve seen architecture groups make is to put their diagrams on the walls
within their work areas but not the work areas of the application developers.
Better yet, as I argue below there shouldn’t be separate work areas to
Enterprise architects also work as “boundary spanners” between
project teams and the people within your organization that have the long-range
vision – very often senior IT and senior business executives.
Think at the enterprise level but act locally.
An interesting observation is that enterprises have two organizational
structures – the formal one documented by your organization chart and the
informal one that people use to get things done. Within IT departments
there are always the “go to guys” that developers work with to get things
done, very often other developers that have critical skills or knowledge.
Agile enterprise architects understand this and actively seek to become “go to
A critical concept is that your enterprise architecture models and
documents just need to be
good enough, they don’t need to be perfect. It is naïve to assume that you can produce perfect artifacts, you’re
only human: you will never get it perfectly right and nobody expects you to
anyway. Furthermore, even if you
did manage to create perfect artifacts they’d be out of date the day after you
published them because something within your business or technical environment
would change (Embrace
Change is also an AM principle). Why
is this important? My experience is
that a hand-drawn sketch today on a
whiteboard (POW) can often be far more valuable than a fully
documented and validated document several months from now. Timely guidance from an enterprise architect who understands
the current environment and the future vision for the enterprise, even when this
guidance is imperfect and based on incomplete information, is often far better
than the uneducated guesses that a project team will make on their own while
they wait for the official architecture to be published.
By keeping your enterprise architecture artifacts simple you
increase the chances that your audience will understand them, that project teams
will actually read them, and that you will be able to keep them up to date over
time. Overly detailed documents
might look impressive sitting on a shelf, but a simple model that project teams
actually use is what your true goal should be. You might find
Enough Modeling Enough? to be interesting.
Agile enterprise architects work in an iterative and incremental
manner. Agile modelers will follow
the practice Apply
the Right Artifact(s) and use a wide variety of modeling techniques as
required (more on this later). They
will also follow the practice Iterate
To Another Artifact when they realize that the model that they are
working on either isn’t the appropriate one with which to depict a concept or
because they are simply stuck and need to break out of their “analysis
paralysis”. They will also follow the practice Create
Several Models In Parallel so that it is easy for them to iterate back
and forth between artifacts. Instead
of holding a use case modeling session an agile modeler will focus on
requirements modeling, or even just modeling, and work on use cases, business
rules, change cases, and whatever other artifact they require to get the job
done. The advantage of these
practices is that the right model is used for the task at hand.
Agile modelers will also follow the practice Model
in Small Increments, modeling just enough to fulfill the purpose at hand
and then moving on to the next task. They
don’t try to create complete models, instead they create models that are just
good enough. When they find that
their models are not sufficient they work on them some more. The advantage of this approach is that they evolve their models
incrementally over time, effectively taking a just-in-time (JIT)
storming approach that
enables them to get the models in the hands of their customers as quickly as
On the preceding advice, some readers may say to themselves “All
of this sounds great, particularly for a project team, but enterprise
architecture is different. It’s more complex. It’s more
important. It requires significant modeling up front to get it right.”
Aaarrrrggghhh!!! That’s old-style thinking. Enterprise architects can
work in an iterative and incremental manner if they choose to.
Figure 1 overviews how to take an
Agile Model Driven
Development (AMDD) approach to enterprise architecture. The enterprise architecture team would define the
vision and models, a process that would likely take several days or even a week
or two. Any longer and you’d be
at risk of developing architectural models that don’t actually reflect
something that would work in practice. Remember,
your models need to be just good enough, not perfect. The idea is that your enterprise model(s) start out small
and are fleshed out over time based on the feedback you receive from both the
business community and from project teams.
Figure 1. Agile Model Driven Development
(AMDD) at the enterprise level.
Although an important part of the job of an enterprise
architect is modeling and documentation, that should not be your primary focus.
Supporting the architecture within project teams should be, coaching developers
in the architecture and architecture skills. The best way to do this is to
get involved with project teams, to work with them to understand the enterprise
architecture and to try it out in practice. In other words, the enterprise
architects will often take on the roles of "architecture
owners" on the application teams. This approach has
My experience is that the enterprise architects need to be
active members of project teams, and to do that they must be co-located with
them. When architects are in a
different location, perhaps a different corner, on another floor, or even in
another building, their ability to communicate with and work together
effectively with the project team(s) they are trying to support is dramatically
diminished. The implication is that
enterprise architects may need to become nomadic, moving between their “home
base” to the work areas of the project team(s) that they support. When you work side by side with someone you pick up more
information (often just by overhearing something) and you make yourself easily
available to them thus increasing the likelihood that they will take advantage
of your expertise.
You quickly discover whether or not your ideas work,
and if so then how well.
You improve the chance that project teams understand
the architecture because you’re working with them face-to-face.
You cross-fertilize ideas, particularly technical ones,
across teams, quickly sharing good ideas and strategies.
You improve the chance that a common infrastructure,
both technical and business, will be built and reused over time because the
project teams will be working towards the enterprise architecture.
You gain experience in the tools and technologies that
the project teams work with, as well as the business domain itself,
improving your own understanding of what it is that you’re architecting.
You obtain concrete feedback that you can then act on
to improve the architecture, enabling it to evolve over time to meet the
actual needs of your organization.
You gain the respect of your primary customers, the
application development teams, because they see that you’re participating
and not simply pontificating.
You actively help to build software-based systems, the
primary goal of IT professionals.
You can mentor the application developers and agile
DBAs on the project teams in modeling and architecture, improving their
You provide clear benefit to application teams because
you’re helping them to fulfill their immediate goals, forsaking the “do
all this extra work because it’s good for the company” attitude for a
more attractive “let me help you achieve your goals, and by doing so
together we’ll do something good for the company” attitude.
You work closely with the development teams and
enterprise administrators to ensure that your overall data management
Master-Data Management (MDM)),
network management, ... efforts support and enhance the development
teams efforts instead of hinder them.
5.5 Build It Before You Talk About It
Agile enterprise architects will ensure that their
technical ideas actually work before they advice project teams to try them by
writing a small system to validate the idea. This is called a spike
solution in eXtreme Programming and a
technical prototype or skeleton in the
Unified Process (RUP). The idea is that you write just enough code to verify that what you think
will work actually does. This helps
to reduce technical risk because you’re making technology decisions based on
known facts instead of good guesses.
Agile enterprise architectures, agile modelers in general, believe
in the principle
Multiple Models and thus strive to look at the whole
picture. They don’t just focus on
data models, or object/component models, or business models, or whatever type of
model might tickle their fancy. Instead
they strive to model from several points of view so that their understanding and
description of the architecture is more robust.
Agile enterprise architects realize that they need to make their work,
including their services, attractive to their customers (developers and business
stakeholders). If your customers perceive that you have value to
add, that your enterprise architecture efforts will aid them in their jobs, then
they are much more likely to work with you. If, on the other hand, they
think that you’re wasting their time they won’t work with you.
They’ll find ways to avoid you, to cancel or postpone meetings with you, to
find ways around you.
6. Introducing an Agile Approach to Enterprise Architecture
Introducing the techniques and philosophies described in this
article will prove difficult in many organizations, particularly those that have
an established enterprise architecture group that follows a traditional
approach. Adoption agile techniques
requires a change in mindset – agile enterprise architects are service
oriented, realizing that it is their job to help project teams to succeed and to
work with senior stakeholders to define and evolve the corporate vision.
Agile enterprise architects realize that they need to make it as easy as
possible for other people to work with them and that they must provide perceived
value to the teams that they support. They
realize these things, and act accordingly, because they know that the people
they are supposed to serve will ignore them if they don’t.
In the end it’s all about people and the way that you interact with
My experience is that the best way to introduce agile architecture
techniques into an organization is to start small at first and grow your
strategy over time. This approach
allows you to gain some initial successes, to learn from your experiences
(because everything won’t go perfectly right), and to evolve your strategy
based on those learnings. A
common mistake is to try to put an enterprise architecture team in place and
have all teams start to follow the new vision.
The typical result is that existing project teams become confused, the
enterprise architecture team becomes swamped trying to play catch up, and
fighting ensues over “which is the best way”.
The fundamental mistake that is made with this approach is that it
doesn’t allow the enterprise architects to build a solid foundation from which
to work, to build up the proof that their approach actually works, and basically
to get ahead of the project teams.
If you’re hoping for an exact list of deliverables here
then you need to go back and re-read this article because you haven’t gotten
it yet. Sorry for being harsh, but
sometimes you just need to say it as it is.
However, it is important to define a set of goals that should be
achieved. In priority order, these
Customer support for the enterprise
A vision and plan to achieve that vision.
A collection of models and documentation describing
8. Potential Problems With The Agile
Enterprise Architecture Approach
No approach is perfect, including this one.
I would be remiss if I didn’t identify these known issues:
The approach described in this article works incredibly if
you let it. Your most important
take away point is that it’s all about people.
Fancy tools based on theoretically sound frameworks, metamodels, or
modeling languages are great to have but they won’t do anything for you if
developers don’t use them. It’s
all about people. Sophisticated
models and documents are interesting to create, but they offer little value if
nobody reads them. It’s all about
It does not include an explicit way to ensure
compliancy (although having enterprise architects embedded on the teams goes
a long way towards this).
It depends on people being responsible.
It requires you to actively strive to keep things
It requires you to accept an agile approach to
modeling and documentation.