IT Architecture

IT Architecture is defined in two ways in the Dragon1 open EA Method:

  1. IT Architecture is the art and science of designing and building a total IT concept for an enterprise.
  2. IT Architecture is the total concept of IT of an enterprise.

This total IT concept, when created correctly, enables strategy execution and digital transformation. It helps organizations deal with complexity and continuous change with regard to IT and its Business. If it is not created correctly, it will block innovation and not control complexity.

IT Architecture (the total concept of enterprises' IT) and enterprise architecture (the total concept of an enterprise) in speech may have a similar meaning, but on paper, they are really different.

IT Architecture Metamodel

IT architecture is a coherent whole of domains, functions, capabilities, services, concepts, principles, patterns, elements, components, norms, rules and guidelines and other entity classes. The picture below, shows the most important entity classes that make up the meta model of IT architecture in Dragon1.

IT Concepts

Every enterprise has IT concepts applied to it. To name a few:

  • Automation
  • Digitalization
  • Client/Server computing
  • Cloud Computing
  • SaaS (software as a service)
  • Webshop Sales

And we can go on endlessly with all the IT concepts that today are implemented in organizations. The challenge is to have all these IT concepts co-exist and collaborate so they don't interfere or counteract, but collaborate and enforce each other.

That is where IT architecture comes into place. IT architects will make sure that the IT concepts form a coherent and consistent whole.

One of the major benefits of working with IT architecture is increasing the ability to implement new IT concepts quickly and successfully. Various organizations are progressing with IT architecture in order to improve awareness and maturity of their cybersecurity.

IT Architecture Diagram

IT architecture is a set of concepts. So an IT Architecture diagram will visualize the concepts the IT consists of. Below is an example of such an IT Architecture diagram.

The visualization shows various concepts like the concept of Single Version of Truth, Loosely Coupling and Server Based Computing. It could be that the strategy of a company or the requirements of stakeholders ask for / require these concepts to be implemented.

IT Architecture Principles

Every IT concept has a principle. The concept principle is the enforced way a concept works, producing results.

IT architects select concepts because of their principle. So an architect can only select the concepts he knows their principle.

When an IT concept is made part of an IT architecture (the total concept of IT) then its principle will become an IT architecture principle.

A widespread misunderstanding is that principles are the same thing as rules, norms, premises or starting points.

Principles can be seen as mechanisms or patterns. Principles are about the way things work, but not about what you should or must do. Principles are NOT normative statements.

Principles often get the names of their concept, but that is very confusing. In the EA method, there is a difference between the concept (the name) and the principle (the way it works). Just think of the coffee machine (concept) and the car engine (concept) and brewing hot water filter coffee (principle) or exploding gasoline to create power (principle).

Examples of well-known and often used principles are:

  • Loosely coupling - By building applications without using knowledge of how other applications internally work and only using the defined interfaces of other applications, the applications will always run even without the other applications being up and running. This will create a much more stable environment.
  • Server Based Computing - By having clients post computing assignments to the server instead of doing them themselves, the huge idle power and memory of the server are used more optimally. This will reduce the costs of buying new clients and servers and make better use of investment.
  • Single Storage of Data / Single Version of Truth - By storing data only once, and preventing storing and retrieving copies, it is prevented outdated or wrong versions of the truth can be used. This prevents making mistakes in organizations, like sending out invoices to deceased clients.

Example IT Architecture

Suppose an organization has had a history of 40 years of introducing and implementing IT systems. In these 40 years, of course, many IT systems will have been updated and replaced, but some old and outdated systems and technology still will be there.

So some of these IT systems may not support the strategy optimally and may not integrate with other IT systems optimally.

An IT architect, in this case, would collect the requirements of the owner/client and stakeholders, collect the strategy and get himself an overview of the current IT architecture and IT landscape.

Next, he would select the IT concepts needed for the future state and design a total IT concept (IT architecture) with it. Next, he would design in detail how the various IT concepts should be applied and will have an impact on every current and new IT system.

Suppose the stakeholders have said they require a paperless office. This means that every piece of data upon entry and exit has to be digital. This also means that every application in the organization needs to be able to interface data with other applications. An IT architect would select the concept of Enterprise Application Integration and choose standards, like XML, for interfacing. Also because everything is digital and becoming very much dependent on each other, the architect selects the concept of Loosely Coupling, meaning that applications don't depend on each other for being alive or able to run. So if one application is down or is replaced, the other application will continue to run.

The IT architecture at the conceptual level for this example may look like this:

The architect needs to detail this architecture at a logical and physical level so we know what the actual impact is on existing IT systems (applications, databases, networks, etc..).

In practice an IT architecture does not consist of only 3 IT concepts. It normally consists of at least 10 domains, 100 functions, 100 services, 100 capabilities and 100 IT concepts, principles and patterns. Every concept gives the enterprise one or more IT capabilities and is implemented in or more IT functions and is provided to actors via one or more IT services.

Creating an IT architecture is a Hard Job to do

Creating an IT architecture is not easy. It is a hard job to do. As an IT architect, you need to address a lot of stakes, concerns, issues, politics, trends and other matters at the same time.

The Dragon1 open EA method provides a working process to make sure you get your IT architecture approved so it will really be used by IT projects.

To be a successful IT architect requires years of training and practice.

Architecting Solutions

DEMO: Capability Mapping Software

Generate a Change Impact Analysis - Projects Apps Capabilities

Use any repository or Excel Sheet
DEMO: BPMN Onboarding Process Example

DEMO: BPMN Onboarding Process Diagram - Measure Rules Compliance

Manufacturing, Financial Solutions
DEMO: Enterprise Architecture Blueprint Template

DEMO: Generate an Enterprise Architecture Blueprint to discover and solve RISK

Banking, Logistics, Healthcare
DEMO: Data Mapping Software

DEMO: Generate Application Landscape for SECURITY

Automotive, Financial Services, Health Care
DEMO: Strategy Mapping Software

DEMO: Generate Strategy Map for CLOUD ADOPTION

Government, Logistics, Banking
DEMO: Process Application Map

DEMO: Generate Process Application Landscape for RPA

Retail, Agriculture, Energy, Oil & Gas