Monday, April 28, 2014

Architecture for Modern Enterprise

I am invited to publish on LinkedIn. This is the first article I published there:

As a witness of computer and Internet evolution in the past thirty years, I’m truly impressed about the difference Internet has made to businesses and to our lives. The world is connected, businesses are connected, and components inside businesses are connected, as well as our daily lives. These connections and free information flow form a new ecosystem that breaks the traditional man-made boundaries, and are re-establishing relationships and reforming people behaviors in an intended and not intended way.

Business meets technologies in an ever closely intertwined manner. We are continuously trying to use new technologies to advance business operations. In order to deal with the complex business environment and the ever changing business requirements, the technologies and engineering practices are getting more and more complicated. Due to the difference between business and technology in nature, complex .vs. complicated, the gap cannot be closed without the help from architectures that provide simplified views of the complex to enable disciplined adoption of complicated technologies and engineering processes, without increasing the complication level beyond human capabilities. Therefore, architecture for digital and IT-enabled businesses is increasingly important in order to take advantages from the technology evolution instead of being hindered by inflexible legacies. In other words, the businesses are reforming, you can let it reform based on architectural guidance, or it will reform itself in an unexpected way.

First, I’d like to clarify the concept of Architecture and the Architecture for Modern Enterprise in this context. The original definition of Architecture by Sir Henry Watton in The Elements of Architecture stated “In architecture as in all other operative arts, the end must direct the operation. The end is to build well. Well building has three conditions: Commodity, Firmness and Delight”. This definition is applicable to our context as well, where the position of architecture for modern enterprise is similar to the position of architecture for a building construction. The purpose of the architecture for modern enterprise is for the effective and efficient operations of the enterprise. The architecture should serve all its relevant audience and stakeholders in the enterprise, should be understandable by them via various views (commodity). The architectural products has to be solid and practicable for implementation (firmness), and it has to be well accepted and appreciated (delight) to be adopted and be effective in guiding enterprise operation.

More precisely, the architecture for modern enterprise, or digital and IT-enabled business, is to provide vision and plan via comprehensive yet simplified views as a blueprint for business to evolve. It is to ensure business competence and operation optimization by effective usage of digital technology and IT during its evolution. It helps businesses to achieve high performance with reduced complexity and cost, and to achieve dynamics by design. Its concepts, value proposition, creation mechanisms, and usages must be well understood by practitioners, stakeholders, and broad audience in order to serve the purpose.

The core of architecture is its vision, insight, concepts presented, and implementation guidance. It is a practical art, a result of creation, which is not a result of engineering or process in a mechanical production manner, but it guides engineering process for implementation. The architecture for modern enterprise is in a complex domain of people, systems, and culture; and in a constantly changing environment. For such architecture development, it is important to balance discipline and control with flexibility and freedom for organic growth, due to the limitation of human capability in predicting the future and in handling complex matters.

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