Methodologies and Technologies for Rapid Enterprise Architecture Delivery


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Issue No 7:

 The Importance of Enterprise Architecture when Building Enterprise Portals

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Enterprise Architecture and Enterprise Portals


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.

Clive Finkelstein
TEN - The Enterprise Newsletter

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Enterprise Architecture

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 money!

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 Age.

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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Enterprise Portals

The Zachman 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 Courses and Projects on Enterprise Architecture Methods and Technologies for rapid project delivery.

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 winners.

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Clive Finkelstein is the "Father" of Information Engineering (IE), developed by him from 1976. He is an International Consultant and Instructor, and was the Managing Director of Information Engineering Services Pty Ltd (IES) in Australia. 

Clive Finkelstein's books, online interviews, courses and details are available at

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  Clive Finkelstein
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Dianella, Perth WA 6059 Australia
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