Issue No 7:
ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE AND ENTERPRISE PORTALS
Importance of Enterprise Architecture when Building Enterprise Portals
Enterprise Architecture and Enterprise
We have discussed Metadata, XML and Corporate Portals (also called
Enterprise Portals) in previous issues of TEN. This issue discusses
the important role of Enterprise Portals as a central gateway to the
enterprise, and the importance of Enterprise Architecture in
building Enterprise Portals.
TEN - The Enterprise Newsletter
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The benefits of the Zachman Framework for Enterprise Architecture
are well known to most IT professionals, but they have been
difficult for enterprises to achieve. This has largely been due to
the enormous legacy of systems and databases that were built early
in the Information Age, in a non-architected, non-integrated fashion
up until the late 1990s.
Data Warehouses address the Data column of the Zachman Framework –
focusing on “what” information is required. XML applications, in
contrast, use metadata from the Data column to focus also on the
Process (“how”) column, and the Time (“when”) and People
(“who”) columns of the six-column Zachman Framework. But when
Data Warehouses evolve to Enterprise Portals using XML, most cells
of the Zachman Framework are addressed.
We discussed in earlier TEN issues that manual processes have
evolved over many years based on the approach taken by Adam Smith
early in the Industrial Age. This was innovative when introduced by
him in the late 18th century. But manual processes became
increasingly chaotic with the rapid pace of change from the mid 20th
century. With the introduction of the computer in the second half of
the 20th century, these manual processes were automated. But the
automated systems generally implemented the same manual processes
without significant change. And what has been the result?
Instead of manual chaos, many enterprises now operate in a
continual state of automated chaos!
Now with the pace of change and the competitive Armageddon of the
Internet, customers can visit the front door of an enterprise –
its web site – with the click of a mouse. But if they do not find
what they need, they will leave just as fast, also with the click of
a mouse, and visit a competitor. For the chaos that previously
existed in the back office is now on the front doorstep for the
world to see. Not by what can be done, but rather by what cannot be
done because of the legacy of the past.
Imagine how long large buildings or bridges would remain standing,
or planes would continue to fly, if they were built without
architecture. Yet most enterprises have not been designed and built
based on Enterprise Architecture. Instead they evolved. In an
earlier era with less competition, there was time available to make
required changes. There was time to reorganize. And if a new
organization structure did not have the desired effect, the
enterprise could be reorganized again, and again. It only cost
Yet today there is no time to reorganize. Enterprises must be
designed to change, and to change often. No amount of money can be
thrown at this problem. Bureaucratic or Regional organizational
structures that served enterprises well in the past are no longer
effective or responsive enough for the rapid change environment of
today. Matrix organization structures may be more flexible and
responsive to corporate change for some industries and enterprises.
Or perhaps a new organization structure will emerge.
But an ability merely to change an organization structure quickly is
no longer sufficient. Today, most enterprises totally depend on
computers. We know now that information systems must be closely
aligned with an enterprise’s corporate goals and strategic plans.
The book: “Building Corporate Portals with XML” (see
later) describes how to do this. And systems must be built so that
they can easily and rapidly change when the enterprise changes.
The technology is now available. The inhibiting factor now is the
enterprise itself. No software can do this for you; it requires
time, people and therefore money. But it is imperative. Those
enterprises and systems that cannot change rapidly – and often –
will not survive in the competitive environment of the Information
There is a ray of light; a glimmer of hope. John Zachman has defined
architecture for information systems and for enterprises that (when
implemented) bring with it the stability, control and flexibility
that is missing from most organizations. But it is not a silver
bullet. It is difficult to achieve. It requires work, it takes time
and it costs money.
Except that now, this is no longer optional. It cannot be placed in
the “too-hard” basket. It is a mandatory undertaking – if an
enterprise wants to achieve the flexibility and rapid competitive
response capability that is vital for success in the 21st century.
It aligns and closely integrates the information systems of an
enterprise with its strategic plans and corporate goals.
In some enterprises the implementation of an Enterprise Architecture
may be much more difficult than the design of a new airplane or a
new building. But in the airplane and construction industries, there
is an enormous body of knowledge and countless years of experience
that help these industries achieve success in new endeavors.
The IT industry has also learned well, and fast. We now have many
years of experience behind us. But with the construction and
airplane industries, their early implementation attempts are no
longer standing, or flying. They have long since collapsed or
crashed. In contrast, many of the early systems designed and built
by the IT industry are still running. They are our legacy. And we
are now paying the enormous price of designing and building those
systems without first defining an architecture.
Enterprise Architecture will be imperative for success and survival
in the Information Age. But time is running out. Enterprises and the
IT industry no longer have any other alternatives. This task has
been delayed in most organizations for too long. It cannot be
deferred any longer. The technologies are available. The methods
have been developed.
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Framework for Enterprise Architecture provides the blueprint; the Internet,
Intranet and Extranet, together with XML, provide some of the technologies.
Enterprise Portals provide an effective deployment capability for these
technologies. Together, they remove many constraints and limitations of the
past. Enterprise Portals evolve from Data Warehouses. With XML they provide
ready access to structured and unstructured data and information within, and
outside, the enterprise.
Enterprises are now applying these technologies and methods to their
own environment to develop solutions that present significant
competitive advantages. These organizations want to ensure that they
are counted among the survivors – who will grow and prosper in the
turbulent years ahead.
Visit the IES web site for details of
on Enterprise Architecture Methods and Technologies for rapid
Applications in an Enterprise Portal are web-enabled. The user
interface is simplified. It is a common point-and-click browser
interface, with online forms for data input. Tables, reports and
other results are dynamically generated. These replace the different
interfaces used by legacy systems, relational databases, client /
server products and offline reference documents. Instead of a
multitude of input formats and user instructions, with significant
operator training overheads, we see a simple, well-understood
interface that can be used with any application. Staff are easier to
train. People can provide input related to their job, often as a
normal part of that job.
The difficulty of providing ready access to unstructured data in
text documents and reports, with graphics and images, is resolved by
using XML. Resources that exist as unstructured data in Word, PDF or
other document formats can be seamlessly integrated by XML with
structured data in databases to support reengineered processes.
Audio and video resources can also be easily included, accessible
from a browser at the click of a mouse. For example, a button can be
added to a web page to click for repair or product demonstration
videos, or for sales presentations via video.
Legacy processes can be transformed by XML. In some cases, radical
transformation is the result: a major characteristic of Business
Reengineering. This can be achieved by the application of XML and
Internet / Intranet technologies. Once the constraints of legacy
systems and the limitations of offline or batch processes can be
overcome, information flows can be changed. Processes can be
fundamentally altered. More efficient workflows can be used.
Process and change constraints that were difficult to overcome with
Business Reengineering may be somewhat reduced with XML. Rather than
requiring complete redevelopment of applications and systems to
implement reengineered processes, instead some systems and process
transformations can be eased by using XML front-ends. With XML, some
legacy systems may still be able to be used in part or in whole
without complete replacement.
Enterprise Portals present process reengineering opportunities, with
transformed processes or new processes that bring competitive
advantage. They offer the promise of casting aside the shackles of
past legacy systems and databases, producing enterprises that have
been designed to change and compete more nimbly and aggressively
than ever before. In the Information Age of the 21st century only
strong, rapid-response organizations will have the greatest
potential for success. The law of the jungle will decide the
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