Many of us are familiar with the role of IT Enterprise Architecture (EA)…how it defines the architectural blueprints for an organization. From my perspective, I’ve opted to use the analogy of city planning rather than the plans for a building.
I believe a city plan is much more analogous to how we build IT. How so? Buildings are like applications, each with plans for construction. To construct the building, you go through city planning and the building department. Those departments ensure the structure will be built to set standards. Although buildings may look different or have different functions, they fundamentally must follow the set guidelines.
Additionally, these departments ensure infrastructure services, e.g. roads, power, are available and can support the requirements of the building.
Similarly, the EA team should provide guidance for how the applications should be built. The apps must be supported by the right infrastructure (technical architecture), built to the right standards (application architecture), and manage information according to standards (data architecture).
As a side note, a lot of homes are remodeled without the guidance of the building/planning departments. People build additions, remodel kitchens and modify power. You can think of these efforts as the rogue development that occurs in your organization.
Only in recent times have we begun to consider the environmental impacts buildings have on the overall city. For many years, issues such as pollution, erosion and climate change were overlooked. You can debate the reasons why, but many of the environmental impacts weren’t readily apparent to the naked eye. The role of environmental services now has a more prominent role in how we live our daily lives. This is where data architecture comes in.
Just as the quality and viability of the environment impacts a city, so does the data for an organization. Data architecture sets forth the standards for how IT will manage the information infrastructure of an organization. Just as we have environmental standards, water treatment plants, sewage plants, etc, data architecture looks over these facilities for IT. To be clear, however, this does not prevent businesses from polluting, this goes for both the environment and data.
Although IT may have established standards for data quality, definitions, and integration, IT does not control the data within a business function. This is the responsibility of business functions. In a prior blog, I discussed data governance and this is where businesses take ownership of their data, and IT is the curator of the data, ensuring the infrastructure promotes the goals for the information.
To become information driven, IT must ensure the architecture of the organization promotes a healthy infrastructure for an organization to scale. Unfortunately, most IT organizations have neglected these areas. Further, the challenge of data architecture is that, like the environment, has been neglected and poorly understood. Fortunately, like the environment, it is beginning to get the attention required.