August 12, 2009 – Gartner analysts say a new style of enterprise architecture is required to respond to increased complexities in today’s markets, economies, nations, networks and companies.
Analysts are advising companies to adopt emergent architecture, also known as middle-out and light enterprise architecture, as business units demand more autonomy.
“Emergent is one of a set of approaches that organizations should be taking as they move forward,” Bruce Robertson, research vice president at Gartner said. The idea behind it is that organizations have very little control over what individuals within the enterprise are doing, and it emphasizes the innovation that can happen throughout a business from the bottom up.
“Many organizations operate under the assumption that everything can be standardized, but that is far from true,” said Robertson. By adding and emergent aspect to enterprise architecture, you remove the top-down approach of central thinkers and, instead, let the innovation emerge among those doing the work.
“Our job is to facilitate a process of planning,” Robertson said. “Watch what people do, learn what might be useful that others can use, generalize, and get people to leverage it.”
Gartner identified seven properties that differentiate emergent architecture from traditional enterprise architecture:

  1. Non-deterministic. Emergent architecture decentralizes decision-making, enabling innovation. 
  2. Autonomous actors. Today’s business environment does not allow enterprise architects to longer control all aspects of architecture.  Emergent recognizes the broader business ecosystem and devolves control to constituents.
  3. Rule-bound actors. In the past, enterprise architects provided detailed design specifications for all aspects of the enterprise. Emergent calls for a defined set of rules and enables choice.
  4. Goal-oriented actors. Each constituent should act in their own best interests, rather than a singular focus on the corporate.
  5. Local influences. With emergent, enterprise architecture must increasingly coordinate efforts, because actors are increasingly influenced by local interactions and have limited information. Feedback within their sphere of communication alters individual behavior.
  6. Dynamic or adaptive systems. The system (the individual actors as well as the environment) changes over time. Enterprise architecture must design emergent systems and respond to changes in their environment.
  7. Resource-constrained environment. An environment of abundance does not enable emergence; rather, the scarcity of resources drives emergence.

Gartner analysts will further examine emergent enterprise architecture at the upcoming Enterprise Architecture Summit 2009.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Information Management content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access