With the advent of globalisation of economies, enterprises confront an increasing number of challenges. Peter and Laszlo (1996) pointed out that enterprises are more regarded as products. In this sense, enterprises should adapt to various kinds of changes in order to keep consistency, otherwise they will fail in the market. Martin et al. (2009) noted that all challenges enterprises face trigger the need for enterprise architecture.
The term 'architecture' first comes from building and construction. It can describe a master plan of building or construction which contains two parts, one is general layout such as how its rooms and staircases will be put together, and other one is principles such as its pattern. The architecture provides a holistic design of building, neglecting some details, such as colours, materials and so on.
The term 'architecture' can be also applied in the field of enterprises. Martin et al. (2009) defined enterprise architecture as "a coherent set of descriptions, covering a regulations-oriented, design-oriented and patterns-oriented perspective on an enterprise, which provides indicators and controls that enable the informed governance of the enterprise's evolution and success." In other words, enterprise architecture provides an abstract and conceptual structure of planning for enterprise which consists of a sequence of activities. All principles, methods and models which are offered by enterprise architecture are the logic for key business process.
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Successful business can not survive without help of appropriate architecture. Marc (2009) noted that enterprise architecture compasses the fundamental factors of organisations, and compared with specific solutions for the problems, fundamental factors is much more applicable. That is, majority of problems can be solved by applying these fundamental factors rather than specific solutions. Fundamental factors are able to confront a broad array of problems. However, specific solutions can merely solve a specific problem. Consequently, enterprise architecture makes a great contribution to maintain the fundamental factors of the business.
Components of enterprise architecture
Martin et al. (2009) pointed out that enterprise architecture plays an important role in implementing business strategy successfully for organisation. Enterprise architecture offers a general plan for organisation which can merge strategy with current projects. More importantly, Marc (2009) noted that five components should not be ignored in enterprise architecture, which are stakeholders and concerns, principles, models, views and frameworks. The concepts of five components will be unfolded in the following section.
2.1.1 Stakeholders and their concerns
Various stakeholders are an integral part of an enterprise. Stakeholders have different levels of interest on development of an enterprise. Martin, Erik, Maarten, Jeroen and Claudia (2009) pointed out that stakeholder is an individual, group, or organisation who are involved in the organisation; more importantly, they have an interest on development of enterprise. Martin et al. (2009) also pointed out that concerns refer to interests of stakeholders, who focus on future development of commercial or industrial enterprises. Specifically, stakeholders who are involved in the enterprise always pay close attention to the future development of enterprise, because operation situation of the enterprise directly associates with benefits of stakeholders.
Stakeholders and their concerns are integral part of enterprise architecture. Moreover, Stakeholders and their concerns are vital for enterprise development. Martin et al. (2009) noted that stakeholders are eager to understand the potential risks of an enterprise which will have an impact on direction of enterprise. In other words, when stakeholders are required to make a decision concerning direction of enterprise, it is vital to understand the current and potential problems. More importantly, concerns of stakeholders will to great extent depend on the above problems.
Principle is another component of enterprise architecture. Marc (2009) pointed out that principle is the behaviour rule of organisation, which leads to every decision leader makes. That is, principles play an important role in enterprise, and all decisions are governed by principles.
Principles can be seen from different aspects. Martin et al. (2009) summarised principles can be understood from two aspects, one is regarding principles as compulsory law, the other is regarding principles as guidelines. From the perspective of compulsory law, Martin et al. (2009) noted that everyone in this organisation must abide by the laws, policies and regulations. For example, enterprise should protect privacy of customers, customer first etc. From the perspective of guidelines, Martin et al. (2009) also noted that principles can play a role as director. Guidelines provide some guidance which can make all behaviours standardised. At the same time, these guidelines also meet the specifications of compulsory laws. For instance, 'do not expose personal information through Internet' is a guideline, which also abide by compulsory laws about protecting personal information.
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Generally, model is a hypothetical description of a complex entity or process. Martin et al. (2009) pointed out that models are used to represent a system from a different way; the aim is to describe the existing system more vivid. In other words, models are the representative forms or patterns for a specific process.
Models have various shapes. Martin et al. (2009) noted that models can be displayed by graphical and non-graphical diagrams, more importantly, an increasingly number of models have been used in enterprise architecture. In enterprise architecture, different models can clearly reflect missions, visions, focuses and goals from different levels. That is, models are able to describe business process from broader range for an enterprise. For example, models can describe different facets of an enterprise: from missions via services, commercials and processes to information system.
Views also play an important role in enterprise architecture. IEEE Computer Society (2000) defined view as an overview of a system which contains all the relevant sets of concerns. Martin et al. (2009) pointed out that views can concentrate on specific stakeholders and their concerns which can take all stakeholders and their concerns into consideration. That is, view is a set which gather all kinds of concerns from stakeholders.
In fact, implementing enterprise strategy can not survive without views. Martin et al. (2009) noted that applying enterprise strategy is a tough job. In fact, enterprise strategy should be aligned with business processes, departments, stakeholders and information system. Enterprise architecture, as a holistic design of enterprise, should be able to display this tough job. However, a set of models can not describe all the relevant stakeholders and their concerns. Hence, views are essential which can be seen as a supplement to the models.
Framework is an underlying structure when it applied to enterprise. Marc (2009) noted that framework is a logical structure which is of great importance to all the stakeholders and future development of the enterprise. With this logical structure, all the descriptive representation of an enterprise can be categorised and organised successfully. In addition, framework is a good method for architect. Martin et al. (2009) pointed out that framework with logical structure is useful for architects to choose views. A broad of information will be organised by different levels of framework.
How enterprise architecture support and inform business strategy
It is clear that establish a successful enterprise is a complicated process. Marc et al. (2009) pointed out that in order to achieve the mission of an enterprise, some essentials are needed, for instance, enterprise should have a clear discernment of it structure, commercials, procedures, technology, and a better relationship with other enterprises. The above essentials which should be taken into consideration are the internal factors for an enterprise. On the other hand, Marc et al. pointed out that some external factors are also vital for enterprise, for instance, customers, suppliers, cooperative partner, rules and regulations. These external and internal essentials are also of great important to the future development of an enterprise. Marc et al. also noted that when an enterprise is expanding its scale, enterprise architecture which organise these essentials is a good method. Enterprise architecture provides an outline which can support and inform business strategy in order to achieve the mission for an enterprise.
Enterprise architecture supports business strategy. Enterprise architecture is helpful for making a plan which consists of several strategies. (Paker and Benson, 1989 cited in Marc et al. 2009) More importantly, a strategic alignment model was introduced to explain the relationship among business strategy, organisational infrastructure, Information Technology (IT) strategy and IT infrastructure. (Figure) (Henderson and Venkatraman, 1993 cited in Marc et al. 2009) The alignment among these four aspects can not survive without enterprise architecture. Marc et al. (2009) noted that enterprise architecture plays an important role in these four aspects. For example, based on business strategy, enterprise can obtain IT infrastructure structure through IT strategy or organisation infrastructure, on the other side, based on IT strategy, enterprise are able to have access to organisational strategy by business strategy or IT infrastructure.