7 Architecture Principles every Enterprise Architect should know

Architecture Principles are the foundation of good enterprise architecture. Successful enterprise architects need to master selecting the best set of principles and how to apply them. Here are the critical enterprise architecture principles you need to know.

What is an Enterprise Architecture Principle

Architecture Principles reflect the Core Values, Ethics, and GoalsOften, business and technology decisions need to be made with insufficient information. Rapid decision making presents a significant problem with IT and organizational change. How can you have confidence that rapid decisions made with insufficient information align with your strategy, goals, and value proposition?

It is all too easy to create a story that explains alignment. We all know many of those stories are fiction.

This is where enterprise architecture principles come in.

TOGAF architecture principles provide a set of guidelines that will give your enterprise the guidelines to direct both rapid decision making and solid analysis on the path to business success.

Good enterprise architects have never been in higher demand. MIT's Center for Information Systems Research see a strong pattern in IT success and digital transformation - enterprise architecture.

If you want to become an Enterprise Architect and take part in building your enterprise's success take the time to learn some key architecture principles.

Architecture Principle Definition

Architecture principles are brief statements that identify your organization's enduring priorities and how to approach a problem and decision. You can use these guidelines to test potential choices and speed up good decision making.

The TOGAF standard identifies architecture principles as enduring rules and guidelines that inform and support how an organization fulfills its mission.

In Navigate, we use a special category of architecture specification. After all, all principles, patterns, guidelines and rules are constraints on the development of more detailed architecture and all implementation. That makes architecture principles a type of architecture specification.

Value of enterprise architecture principles

  • Enable decision-making—set precedence during trade-off discussions and authority of tie-breaking if it must occur.
  • Align the enterprise—take subjectivity out of the equation and drive objective critical conversations that are aligned to enterprise values
  • Governance—how the enterprise ensures we surfaced the right decisions at the right time, with the right decision-makers. How to monitor the decisions and approach taken?
  • Values and Culture—provide a better understanding of the enterprise’s culture and values. Including an approach to how the enterprise reacts to change.

Become an enterprise architect

Becoming an enterprise architect requires

Conexiam's EA Professional Development program comes from the real-world. We built it from our EA Consulting where we either build strong EA Teams or develop useful transforming architecture.

Characteristics of Good Architecture Principles

Architecture Principles provide the guidelines for testing decisions and making rapid decisions. Each Architecture Principle must trace directly to your strategy, goals and value proposition.

Far too many practitioners look for a set of universal principles and attempt to apply them. Always select your principles based on your organization's strategy, goals, and value proposition.

TOGAF Template

The TOGAF standard provides a basic template for architecture principles.

Name Provides an easy to remember summary of the principle.
Avoid ambiguous and softening words like "support" and "consider."
Statement Unambiguously communicate the fundamental rule. The statement expands on the name and provides a deeper explanation. Avoid explaining how to apply the principle.

Explain why this principle exists. Directly align with strategy, goal, and value proposition. Avoid platitudes. When you cannot provide a solid rational, you likely have a wish, not a principle.

Implications Highlight the requirements for carrying out the principle - in terms of resources, costs, and activities/tasks. Clearly state the impact and consequences of following the principle.

Architecture Principles are the foundation of good enterprise architecture.

Gartner's EA definition calls for "the key principles and models that describe the Enterprise’s future state..."

If all you have are architecture principles, you can perform architecture governance on the development and use of your enterprise architecture.

Standing up your EA Team

Download the Leaders GuideWhether your EA Team is being rebooted or set up fresh, it needs a set of EA principles. Review the existing principles for two reasons. First, they provide a context of previous efforts to establish an EA team—they inform how the Team viewed itself, and what purpose it was explicitly, or implicitly, supporting. Second, you need to ensure that the principles align with the actual enterprise.

The EA Team Leader's Guide includes guidance on developing an initial set of enterprise architecture principles in Chapter 4. This initial set will provide direction and control while you are developing the rest of your enterprise architecture.

Sources of Sample Enterprise Architecture Principles

The Open Group provides two reasonable starting points for enterprise architecture principles, the TOGAF Standard and the Open Group's Architectural Principles.

We include the NA Construction Architecture Principle Sample in our enterprise architecture training.

Searches of the internet will provide other principles.

When you review your existing principles and examine samples, always ask:

  • Do the existing architecture principles represent the enterprise?
  • Do they represent all organizational elements of the enterprise, such as domestic and overseas, primary, and supporting activities?
  • Do they represent the preferences of the organization which the EA Tean is aligned?

7 Sample  Enterprise Architecture Principles

Here are the 7 architecture principles we see used by successful EA Teams

  1. Don’t Mess With Success
    • Statement: We have a successful organization. We will use our best-in-house methods as the foundation for standardization and improvement.
  2. Focus On Excellence
    • Statement: We will focus effort on processes and capabilities that enable us to differentiate from our competitors and excel in execution. All systems and process design will align around differentiation and excellence.
  3. Why Not One?
    • Statement: We assume One. One standard process; one standard KPI; one reliable source of information; one software tool. Whomever wants variation must demonstrate the differentiation and excellence delivered justify the complexity, customization, variability and ongoing cost to operations and IT.
  4. Data is an Asset
    • Statement: All data is a concrete, valuable asset to an enterprise. It is a real, measurable resource. Standard asset management practices will be applied to data:
      • Someone will be responsible for the asset
      • We will make the asset available for use to the maximum benefit of the company
      • We will maintain the asset and at the end of its useful life we will dispose of it.
      • We will protect the asset from loss or damage
  5. Systems Work Where We Work
    • Statement: We performed our business in many locations—our offices, our customer’s worksite, our employees' and partners' homes, and on the road. Software and processes must work reliably, safely, and efficiently where we work.
  6. Painless User Experience
    • Statement: Our systems and processes exist to improve our operational efficiency and enable us to differentiate in our customer's eyes. Staff, partners, and customers who use our systems deserve a painless user experience. The experience needs to consume no more time or difficulty than possible.
  7. Self-Service
    • Statement: Staff, partners, and customers should be able to serve themselves. Systems and processes need to be optimized to eliminate training and administrative overhead.

How many Architecture Principles Should you have?

You should have 10-15 architecture principles in your enterprise architecture.

With too many architecture principles, you are over-constraining your architecture. You are attempting to decide artificially early and limiting the freedom and creativity of your architects and implementers.

With too few, you are not providing sufficient guidance. Your architects and implementers have to perform extra analysis to have confidence they are aligning with your strategy, goals, and value proposition.

Enterprise Architect's Guide

Download the Enterprise Architect's Guide a TOGAF Series Guide on developing useful enterprise architecture. test

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