Gartner Defines Enterprise Information Architecture

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1 Research Publication Date: 20 February 2008 ID Number: G Gartner Defines Enterprise Information Architecture David Newman, Nicholas Gall, Anne Lapkin As organizations look for new ways to exploit their information assets, enterprise information architecture (EIA) will emerge as an important area of focus. Although technical architecture is familiar to many, EIA is not well-understood. We provide a definition of the term, explain how it fits in enterprise architecture (EA) and describe its impact on roles in the organization. Key Findings Expectations are growing among senior executives, as they demand new ways of sharing and exchanging information assets. The need for EIA is becoming a boardroomlevel issue. "Enterprise information architecture" is a broad term that is often misunderstood. As organizations move to new architectural styles, there will be unprecedented needs for common, consistent and transparent information assets. The basic levels of abstraction for EIA are the conceptual, logical and implementation details that will impact a continuum of disciplines involved in the architecture, design, implementation and management of key information assets. Recommendations Enterprise architects: Spend as much time on EIA as you currently spend on technical architecture. First review the definition and explanation of the term to understand how to develop EIA and apply it in enterprise architecture. Maintain the proper scope for EIA by focusing only on information assets that strongly or critically support enterprise business strategies. EIA will not be successfully realized if the scope is all information within an enterprise there is simply too much information. Don't expect to use a one-size-fits-all model or blueprint for EIA that will bridge the multiple formats and sources of information assets. A diversity of information structures is needed to share and exchange information for competitive and organizational advantage. Reproduction and distribution of this publication in any form without prior written permission is forbidden. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. Although Gartner's research may discuss legal issues related to the information technology business, Gartner does not provide legal advice or services and its research should not be construed or used as such. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.

2 STRATEGIC PLANNING ASSUMPTIONS The need to deliver increased business value from information assets will force 60% of Global 2000 organizations to establish an executive sponsor for enterprise information architecture. By 2010, 70% of EA teams will be forced by the business to spend as much time on information architecture as they currently spend on technical architecture. ANALYSIS Background Gartner sees EIA as an area of increased importance to the enterprise this is from the need to maximize the value and effectiveness of information assets, while limiting the impact of widespread, unmanageable information sources. Today's business strategies call for organizations to be more globally interconnected and enduser-driven. Organizations must also cope with increased scrutiny from compliance or regulatory mandates, which place greater demands on the transparency and accountability of information across their operations. In addition, business process improvement initiatives are exacerbating the need to migrate from legacy data structures to more-agile data services and authoritative information sources that support the rapid assembly of business services and new solutions. These converging trends are forcing organizations to rethink how they can best architect and manage information for competitive and organizational advantage. Enterprise information architecture fills these needs and brings structure to information chaos. The need for EIA has become a boardroom-level issue. Expectations are growing among senior executives who believe that information assets should be exploited for strategic advantage. The 2007 Gartner and Forbes survey showed that the top priority among executives was the use of information as a competitive weapon (see "The Gartner/Forbes Executive Survey"). The need to deliver increased business value from information assets will force 60% of Global 2000 organizations to establish an executive sponsor for enterprise information architecture. Information cannot be used as a weapon unless a plan and architecture are in place to exploit and manage it. EIA, as a component of enterprise architecture, provides the plan to enable organizations achieve business strategies by flexibly sharing and exchanging information assets for advantage. Without EIA, information will remain a liability and a barrier to success: It will continue to add cost (for example, increased demands for storage), complexity (for example, silos complicating system integration) and risk (for example, compliance, transparency or legal issues) to the enterprise. To understand EIA more fully, practitioners should understand the definition and explanation of the term. A Definition of EIA Gartner defines "enterprise information architecture" as that part of the enterprise architecture process that describes through a set of requirements, principles and models the current state, future state, and guidance necessary to flexibly share and exchange information assets to achieve effective enterprise change. Publication Date: 20 February 2008/ID Number: G Page 2 of 6

3 By examining the components of the definition, practitioners will get a sense of how to create and apply EIA, and how it can be used to bridge strategy and implementation. A Detailed Explanation of the EIA Definition First, we state that "enterprise information architecture is that part of the enterprise architecture process." EIA is one of the three primary viewpoints in enterprise architecture (along with the enterprise business architecture and enterprise technical architecture). Each viewpoint includes multiple levels of abstraction and specificity. The minimum levels of abstraction for EIA are conceptual, logical and implementation, which impact the continuum of disciplines involved in the architecture, design, implementation and management of key information assets, as well as dependencies to other disciplines. Second, we add "describes through a series of requirements, principles and models." This is to identify the types of EIA deliverables. Driven by the goals and objectives of the business strategy, EIA requirements generally state how specific information will flow among groups inside and outside the enterprise, and the integration guidelines between customers, partners or suppliers. Similarly, additional requirements govern the quality, timeliness, security and accessibility of key information assets. A common EIA principle among clients today is the guideline to "establish a single version of customer data across the organization." This would then drive evaluations by various teams on master data management patterns or implementation styles (see "Information Architecture Patterns Provide Valuable Guidance"). Sample EIA models often include the development of shared data models to achieve consistency or reuse objectives or project jump-starts. Models would also include business process and information requirements from a conceptual level of detail through the logical design of services and components. These models would then influence roles such as service, component or application designers; integration specialists; and workflow managers on the physical implementation aspects of the EIA. Third, the words "current state, future state and guidance" address how and when EIA deliverables are implemented across the enterprise, as outlined in the enterprise architecture gap plan and road map. Today, many organizations are embracing business strategies that require agile business processes, and they are trying to move away from isolated systems and organization silos. To satisfy such needs, these enterprises are migrating from traditional client/server architecture styles to other architectural styles (such as service-, Web- or context-oriented delivery). Such styles will require a greater level of commonality, consistency and transparency of information assets (see "Key Issues for Application and Application Architecture Management, 2007"). Fourth, the words "flexibly sharing and exchanging information assets" present particular challenges because of the breadth and magnitude of available options. At the outset, though, it is important to clarify that information assets be defined as those assets expressed in some digitized structure (as distinguished from knowledge management, which addresses knowledge or information in tacit or unexpressed forms). A key challenge to EIA is that digitized information exists in multiple and inconsistent formats and structures (ranging from structured to semistructured to unstructured information assets), which limits the ability to access, share and exchange information. Architects need to recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all blueprint or model that will resolve all semantic differences. Publication Date: 20 February 2008/ID Number: G Page 3 of 6

4 Different and diverse structures for exploiting information assets will continue to be used in the near future. Databases, transaction systems or analytical applications remain particularly effective for exploiting large volumes of information from business transactions. Data models, process models, object models and other design patterns will be used by architects, designers and implementers to exploit information. Other structures (such as document management systems, content management systems or other formats) are equally effective and will require the development of taxonomies, topic maps and ontologies to maximize the value and shareability of information contained therein. In addition, converged content in the form of mashups and portals represent new methods of information organization and exploitation. Finally, the increasing use of XML for data exchange and canonical models to improve information integration rounds out the broad array of possibilities within enterprise information architecture. It is not feasible for EIA to define all the myriad information structures to be used in the enterprise. Most of these structures are effectively outside EIA's influence often because they are under the control of a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) vendor. Instead, the enterprise information architecture should focus on integrating, sharing and reconciling such disparate information "views." This is similar to the scope of enterprise technology architecture, which is primarily focused on integrating technologies through the use of patterns. The primary scope of EIA, then, is on sharing information to enhance flexibility. Finally, the words "and achieve effective enterprise change" help architects maintain scope against the growing glut of information and to focus solely on information assets required for successful business strategy execution. A common misconception is that the scope of enterprise information architecture is all information in the enterprise. Although true at an abstract level, in reality, the focus of EIA is on information assets that are deemed to have enterprise significance and that are necessary to achieve effective business change. Master data for products or customers is an example of enterprise information assets. These assets support the enterprise business strategy for consistent product or customer information and a "single version of the truth." This scoping distinction lets architects avoid trying to architect all information in the enterprise, or the "boiling the ocean" syndrome. Clearly, not all information has the same value. Neither does all information support strategic business goals and the change agenda. By maintaining this scope, practitioners can cut through the information glut and concentrate on the information assets that are most valuable to the organization as a whole. Although EIA contributes to enterprise change, it is not sufficient by itself. Equally important are the skills of business users who use information to drive change by making better, more-informed decisions or who manage or monitor corporate performance. These individuals look to combine information in new and unexpected ways to uncover new relationships, insights, trends and patterns that will yield additional business opportunities. EIA's Impact on Roles The transition from information that is isolated within applications to a flexible, comprehensive enterprise information architecture will require changes in technology, process, organizational structure and orientation. In particular, EA practitioners comfortable with technical architecture must now devote time to understanding this emerging discipline. Gartner projects that, by 2010, 70% of EA teams will be forced by the business to spend as much time on information architecture as they currently spend on technical architecture. Publication Date: 20 February 2008/ID Number: G Page 4 of 6

5 Changes will also impact a range of disciplines across the organization and will require coordination to drive efficiencies and achieve objectives (see "Putting Enterprise Information Management in Context"). Roles that will participate in the organization's desire to maximize the value and effectiveness of information assets include: Architects (including solution architects) Application designers Data modelers Database administrators Business intelligence specialists Master data management specialists Data quality specialists Data integration specialists Metadata management specialists Business analysts Content management specialists Professionals in security, compliance, privacy and related disciplines Some of these roles will be done concurrently, depending on the size of the teams, the rules of engagement (that is, "who does what at which point in the activity cycle"), the depth of domain knowledge, and resource availability. Understanding the different roles impacted by EIA is a critical first step. The role of enterprise architects is to act as facilitator, planner, change agent, champion and coach during these activities (but never dictator). Their job is to advocate the adoption and assurance of all enterprise architecture deliverables. Enterprise architects should be wellequipped to handle this challenge, because of their strong relationships with the business and their strategic planning skills. However, some will need to retool their skills. Those who step in, and step up, to develop an EIA will help their organizations deliver new enterprise capabilities. Conclusion Pressure is growing on organizations to exploit information as a strategic asset. CEOs are demanding action, and CIOs see it as a top priority. Gartner is predicting that enterprise information architecture will be an area of increasing focus and influence. However, EIA remains a broad and complex topic. As a start, EA practitioners should review the definition and explanation of the term provided here to understand its role and value in enterprise architecture. RECOMMENDED READING "Information Architecture Patterns Provide Valuable Guidance" "Key Issues for Information and Application Architectures Management, 2007" Publication Date: 20 February 2008/ID Number: G Page 5 of 6

6 "Predicts 2008: Emerging Trends Force a Clearer and Deeper Focus on Enterprise Architecture" "Putting Enterprise Information Management in Context" "The Gartner/Forbes Executive Survey" REGIONAL HEADQUARTERS Corporate Headquarters 56 Top Gallant Road Stamford, CT U.S.A European Headquarters Tamesis The Glanty Egham Surrey, TW20 9AW UNITED KINGDOM Asia/Pacific Headquarters Gartner Australasia Pty. Ltd. Level 9, 141 Walker Street North Sydney New South Wales 2060 AUSTRALIA Japan Headquarters Gartner Japan Ltd. Aobadai Hills, 6F 7-7, Aobadai, 4-chome Meguro-ku, Tokyo JAPAN Latin America Headquarters Gartner do Brazil Av. das Nações Unidas, andar World Trade Center São Paulo SP BRAZIL Publication Date: 20 February 2008/ID Number: G Page 6 of 6

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