What is Enterprise Architecture and Why do you need it? -

What is Enterprise Architecture and Why do you need it?

By Barbara Hill

In the public healthcare community, there is a well-known parable of the “Three Friends.”  As this story goes, three friends are out for a walk on a beautiful day. They pass a tremendous waterfall and pause to take in its majesty and beauty. As they continue their hike upstream, they see a child being carried by the fast-moving water towards the fall. They quickly rescue the child, but in doing so, notice more children coming downstream towards them.

One friend decides to focus on those most immediately in need of saving before going over the edge of the waterfall, while the other two start building a raft to save more children. But there are still more children coming, and the three friends quickly get overwhelmed trying to save them all.

At some point, two of the friends realize their third friend seems to have disappeared, but looking up, they see this friend moving far upstream, helping children along the way, but moving farther away from the waterfall. They call out, “Where are you going? Why are you abandoning us? We still have so many children to save!” The third friend calls out a reply, “I am going to find out who or what is throwing these children in the river and stop them.”

Let’s look at this parable in the real world—for example, the healthcare industry:

  1. The first friend represents those care givers we all go to when we are in desperate need: ER doctors, ICU nurses, trauma surgeons, etc.
  2. The second friend represents the caregivers who help keep us healthy on a regular basis: The doctors, nurses, and clinicians who give us our annual checkups and make sure we are up to date with our vaccinations.
  3. The third friend is not as easily found. These are the “upstream doctors”—the ones looking to understand the wider system dynamics that affect a person’s health. They consider how our health depends on a broad range of factors, such as where and how we live and work (i.e., the “social determinants of health”).

Enterprise architects (EAs) are the “upstream doctors” for businesses.

For many businesses, their primary efforts fit into the realm of the first friend. They are totally consumed with keeping the business going, getting product out the door, making sales, and bringing in revenue; they are “heads down” on making things happen.

Some businesses may have a few of the second type of friend, perhaps consultants to help them improve their business processes, or suggest new tools and technologies that might help them get a few more dollars into their pockets.

Rarer still are those businesses including the third type of friend, someone looking far upstream to better understand why and how their business operates the way it does, someone who is focused on the larger context within which their business operates and the sources of their ultimate success or failure.

An Enterprise Architect (the third friend) works to ensure all parts of your business and the relationships between them work towards achieving your overall strategic goals.

This means your business architecture (your business capabilities and processes) are well-aligned with your information architecture (your data definitions, flows, and repositories). These are in turn facilitated by the software applications and systems you use to perform your work and are supported by the technology infrastructure everything is built upon.

KAI Partners’ Enterprise Architects look more widely at the ecosystem your enterprise fits within, looking at how your suppliers, competitors, partners, and government regulatory bodies effect how well you can stay healthy and not go tumbling over the waterfall.

Here is a little bit about KAI Partners’ Enterprise Architecture services:

  1. Enterprise Architecture Program Development Services. Customized for your organization’s needs, we assess the maturity level of your organization’s Enterprise Architecture, as well as the Current State, Future State, Gap Analysis, Roadmap, and more.
  2. Enterprise Architecture Team Implementation Services. We assess the existing level of your team’s Enterprise Architecture Maturity and help design and/or advance your existing Enterprise Architecture program.
  3. Business and IT Strategy Alignment Services. Some of our services include Strategic Planning, Business Architecture, Business Operating Model, and Application Portfolio Rationalization.

As noted Enterprise Architecture pundit Tom Graves said, enterprise architecture is based on one central idea: “Things work better when they work together with clarity, with elegance, on purpose.”

Interested in learning more about KAI Partners’ Enterprise Architecture services? We’d love to talk to you and get an understanding of your organization’s needs! Contact us today at 916-465-8065.

About the Author: Barbara Hill is a Senior Enterprise Architect with KAI Partners. With over 20 years of experience working with both California state government and private sector companies, she has been instrumental in helping clients address the complexity and volatility of change, while ensuring alignment between strategic goals and operational realities. Barbara has held Enterprise Architecture certifications from Zachman International and Pragmatic Enterprise Architecture (PEAF and POET) and is currently working on certification from the Business Architecture Guild. Her Enterprise Architecture practitioner’s bag includes considerable knowledge and experience with organizational change management, quality improvement practices (such as LEAN and Six Sigma), knowledge management, data management, and data governance. Barbara’s wide-ranging work interests are a reflection of her nomadic early days, having resided in a number of different U.S. locations, as well as Mangla, West Pakistan and London, England.

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