Enterprise Architecture: 3D Abstraction in Metaphors

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 | comments

Enterprise Architecture (EA) provides greater visibility to the current and future position of an organization, and enabling the relevant designers and decision makers to act in a more informed manner. 

The biggest pitfalls for achieving EA value may include lack of focus or lost in translation, due to the scope of architecture and immature EA discipline.

Therefore, abstraction, as a thought-process of omitting unnecessary details that limit the generality of an idea, helps business see all important things from different perspective.

1. Three EA Abstraction Levels via Biological Lens

 Many like to analogize EA as Living beings, business as enterprise body:

  • Conceptual Level: EA helps organizations blueprint enterprise's character, identify business's DNA, capture value proposition, shape organizational culture, diagnose problems, set up guidelines, advise coherent actions in order to compete for the future; It can become effective tool to communicate with upper management.

  • Logic Level: EA functions as part of enterprise's “brain & nervous system”, better engage with whole brain: the left brain helps business analyze, quantify and reasoning, and the right-brain drive business’s creative thinking, aesthetics and feeling, that said, EA helps business both” think and feel” at the right way, and orchestrate vary business capabilities.  

  • Physical Level: EA as nerves,  link eyes to help business “see”, connect ears to help business “hear” or enable hands to help business “touch”, it’s more about important details for implementation. All the contributors make the organization work as a cohesive unit or something should improve or change

2. Three EA Abstraction Levels via Chronological Lens

If business runs as an automobile, then EA is more like an installed GPS, provide business with hindsight, insight and foresight:

·       Foresight: Just like GPS is used to navigate journey to destination, EA need focus on future state of business, guide through business transformation journey with holistic understanding and systematic thinking;

·       Insight: GPS can describe the current location in detail, EA need also explicitly look at critical issue from every important perspective, help business understand where it is in order to make continuous improvement or large leap; 

·      Hindsight: GPS can store some historical routes being taken frequently before, EA can also manage enterprise knowledge accordingly, things are the way they are today because of the decisions one have made in the past. But just because they are that way today, does not dictate the future of how things will be tomorrow. That said, EA helps business learn historical lessons such as success stories or failure in decision making, when history repeat itself, enterprise can become more agile and resilient.

3. Three EA Abstraction Levels via Philosophical Lens

EA, is about to blueprint and abstract, it’s natural to perceive it via philosophical len:

Level: 1: Overview: When you look at a mountain, you see a mountain

At this stage, you just see what you look at on the surface, the altitude, the shape, the color, only capture the physical characteristics of mountain, it’s inanimate.

In EA, it’s about realization or generalization, EA abstracts the fact and knowledge from business.   

Level II: Highlight: When you look at a mountain, you see not a mountain

That said, you may concentrate on a few trees, the snow covered on it, or an eagle stop on the top, you did highlight something more interesting or beautiful, more matters for yourself, you desire to dig deeper, understand more, 

In EA, it’s about specialization (Implementation), or classification (portfolio management), EA provides business insight on project priority or technical integration. 

Level: III: Perception: When you look at a Mountain, you Perceive a Live Mountain

At the highest level, you see and perceive a mountain again, it means, the mountain is alive now, you may not so much care about its physical look, you capture the spirit of mountain, regardless which season you are in, you can see its full colors, you can imagine what the top look like, you feel it and touch it holistically, you can even communicate with it, and harmonize human nature with mother nature., etc. It’s about wisdom, idealism. symbolism.  

In EA, it’s also about inclusion or holism. Most organizations that adopt outside-in thinking are in a strong position to share information and outcomes with customers and business partners to foster trust, gain foresights and spur ecosystem investment

Abstraction without purpose is meaningless, Abstraction makes one understand EA need go deeper beyond broader touch, help business out of shadow & shallow, abstract wisdom from knowledge, at today’s business dynamic and always-on, interdependent world, EA must recognize the broader ecosystem and encourage creative thinking, in order to frame the future of business.
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