The benefits of the Zachman Framework for Enterprise Architecture are well known to readers of DM Review, 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 until the late 1990s in a non-architected, non-integrated fashion.
Data warehouses address the data column of the Zachman Framework focusing on "what" information is required. XML applications, in contrast, use meta data from the data column to also focus on the process (how) column, the time (when) and people (who) columns of the six-column Zachman Framework. When data warehouses evolve to enterprise portals using XML, most cells of the Zachman Framework are addressed.
We discussed in earlier columns that manual processes have evolved over many years based on the approach taken by Adam Smith early in the industrial age. 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. 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. 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. If a new organization structure did not have the desired effect, the enterprise could be reorganized again and again. It only cost money!
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.
An ability to merely 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. Chapters 2 and 4 of Building Corporate Portals with XML describe how to do this. 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 an architecture for information systems and for enterprises that (when implemented) brings 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.
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