IT applications contribute to the support of business processes, or other applications, thanks to the execution of IT software. Directly or indirectly, IT applications have one main purpose: supporting the business in the most efficient way. They can be considered as an asset of the enterprise.
If you were asked to draw a picture of an enterprise before its transformation and a picture after its transformation, like in the classic before/after house renovation advertising, what would it look like? As an enterprise architect looking for a way to represent an enterprise, we can interrogate TOGAF. It tells us that an enterprise is a system of systems, and that Enterprise Architecture is about managing enterprise transformation toward a target operating model; unfortunately TOGAF does not tell us how to draw a system of systems.
IT applications contribute to the support of business processes, or other applications, thanks to the execution of IT software. Directly or indirectly, IT applications have one main purpose: supporting the business in the most efficient way. They can be considered as an asset of the enterprise. Either custom developed or packaged, IT applications represent a cost: licences, maintenance, customisation, development, running fees, etc. In a large organisation, due to reorganisation, acquisitions or lack of coordination, it is hard to keep track of which business processes are supported by which applications. A trusted IT application inventory, united with process descriptions, is the necessary foundation to answer the following questions with fact-grounded confidence: What are the applications that support the most critical processes, and which require attention and investment? Are there applications that are unused (or barely used) for which recurring fees occur? Is it possible to reduce costs by using one application instead of many for the same business purpose? By virtue of the dependencies between applications, is business continuity at risk if there is an IT failure?
The purpose of this post is not to be exhaustive when it comes to list the widely discussed enterprise architecture (EA) success factors (like the need for C-level management support, or the necessity to remain consistent with an industry framework like TOGAF), nor is it to justify why architecture should be an essential asset1 of any organisation. Rather, it is to look at four important aspects that are essential to understand the nature of the capability that makes EA actionable, and to prepare for the challenges.