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Enterprise Architecture and Software Platforms June 29, 2012

Posted by Jiaqi Wu in Enterprise Architecture.
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Rarely do we find an entire company operating under an incredibly organized premeditated Enterprise Architecture (EA). The easiest way to organize a company is to divide it between products. A team is responsible for its own product and nothing else. However many products within the same company are related to the same field. As an example, GE Healthcare develops numerous medical imaging products. As an imaging device, the human interface contains a lot of common inspiration. However as products are developed by separate teams, each team must in the end develop its own version of the software. Management wise, this makes things very easy. Every product does not depend on the status of any other product. However this is not the most efficient way. There is a large piece of architecture missing in this methodology.

In order to develop software in a way such that it is accessible throughout the business, a different framework needs to be used. This must become part of the Enterprise Technical Architecture (ETA). Service oriented architecture (SOA) is becoming increasingly popular. New frameworks available that enable this type of software architecture are becoming more widely available. SOA enables the development of software platforms which are much more flexible and maintainable than applications with specific purposes.

(The concept of platforms vs applications is a long discussion in and of itself. An informal post by Rip Rowan https://plus.google.com/112678702228711889851/posts/eVeouesvaVX illustrates the importances).

The common software platform in a business is a necessary step in order to increase efficiency of the business processes. As a software business, it is necessary to develop software as quickly as possible and have it be as maintainable as possible. To make that happen, common software platforms must be developed. The coordination effort here is in the Enterprise Architecture. Specifically, this needs to occur in the ETA, EIA, and EAA layers.

  • ETA – has already been described above. Frameworks must enable simple development of components to a platform.
  • EIA – The platform must allow access to the information layer. To be efficient, standard practices such as database normalization must still be in place. These are fundamental requirements and are out of the scope of this article. More importantly, heuristics should be used between components of the platform and IT in order to ensure better IT alignment [1].
  • EAA – The platform components must be developed. These include services that allow access to all of the information as well as basic functionality that is common across the business. Applications are then developed by calling components of the platform. Each product team can develop and manage its own software at the application level.

These three layers will enable more efficient software development. In the end it will aid the business processes in the EBA layer. The goal will always be to make the business more efficient. If a technology does not help the business, it serves no purpose in the organization.

References

[1]            Pereira, Carla. Sousa, Pedro. “Enterprise Architecture: Business and IT Alignment.” 2005 ACM Symposium on Applied Computing.

[2]            Stevey’s Google Platforms Rant. https://plus.google.com/112678702228711889851/posts/eVeouesvaVX. Retrieved on 28 June 2012.

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