Thursday, February 11, 2010

Enterprise vs Solution Architecture Reprised

I currently work as an architect with Cognizant’s Architecture Practice within the Advanced Solutions Group. Just before Christmas we had a working session where we got on to the subject of Enterprise vs Solution Architecture. Coming out of this discussion I reached a couple of conclusions.

Firstly, is Enterprise Architecture just Solution Architecture on a larger scale? The answer, somewhat unhelpfully is Yes and No. Recall from my previous blog the time element of Enterprise Architecture. Solution Architecture doesn’t become Enterprise Architecture when it just becomes bigger and/or more complex. However humans typically deal with scale and complexity by breaking problems down. In this context if the Solution Architecture becomes so much more complex it will most likely not be implemented in one go but will be the target of a programme of change. The target and roadmap to achieve that target then becomes the Enterprise Architecture for this programme of change.

This led me to a second conclusion which I have found incredibly helpful when explaining to non Enterprise Architects the distinction between Enterprise and Solution Architects. Most IT people have no problem understanding the distinction between a project manager responsible for delivering a tightly scoped piece of work, and a programme manager, responsible for delivering change over a period of time executed as a series of parallel and/or sequential projects. In this context the appropriate simile is that an Enterprise Architect is to a Solution Architect, as a programme manager is to a project manager.


Rune Juhl-Petersen said...

Hi Paul. Nice post!

Sadly I see a lot of these strategic decissions that should be taken by an Enterprise Architect being handled by non technical people. I do realize that Enterprise Architecture is about abstraction and as we reach a higher level of abstraction, technical knowledge is of less importance. I however see technical experience as a big part of an Enterprise architects profile.

What is your experience with this?

Paul Mukherjee said...

Rune, I agree totally.

Typically what I see is either (i) programme managers make decisions which should be made by EAs; or (ii) detailed decisions are made by delivery teams without reference to the EA.

In the former case although EAs operate at an abstract level, it is important that the technical impact of decisions is understood and therefore EAs ought to be making these decisions not PMs. For the latter there can be overall impacts which can make a decision which is optimal locally sub-optimal overall.