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Agile Enterprise Architecture 101

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This blog contains details about various aspects of PMI's Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit, including new and upcoming topics.

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This blog posting, the first in a series, overviews fundamental concepts in enterprise architecture.  This posting provides some definitions of common terminology, then proposes a definition for agile enterprise architecture, then discusses why your organization’s approach to enterprise architecture is an important topic.


  • Enterprise architecture (EA).  An organization’s enterprise architecture consists of the various structures and processes of an organization, including both technical structures and processes as well as business/domain structures and processes.  There is always an enterprise architecture, even when it isn’t documented.
  • Enterprise architect.  Someone who is responsible for identifying, communicating, and evolving the enterprise architecture.
  • Architecture owner.  A person on a disciplined agile delivery team who is responsible for facilitating architecture-level decisions, for mentoring and coaching other team members in architectural skills, and for collaborating with the enterprise architecture team (if one exists) in your organization.  See The DAD Role of Architecture Owner for more details.
  • Reference architecture (agile). A working, high-quality example of an architectural component.  For instance, you may have a web services reference architecture which shows how a web service is built and invoked within your organization’s IT ecosystem.  This example will often be used as a template by developers as a basis for their own work.  This example will including supporting documentation that describes how to properly use it.
  • Reference architecture (traditional). A document, or set of documents, describing an architectural component and strategies for using it.
  • Enterprise architecture model (EAM). An EAM is a representation of those structures and processes. A good enterprise architecture model will depict the organization both as it is today and as it is envisioned in the future, and will map the various views representing the architecture to one another. These views include both business-oriented perspectives as well as technical perspectives. In many ways enterprise architecture models are a communication bridge between senior business stakeholders and senior IT professionals.

What is Agile Enterprise Architecture?

We need to answer this question from two points of view:

  1. The act of agile enterprise architecture is the collaborative and evolutionary exploration and potential modelling of an organization’s architectural ecosystem in a context-sensitive manner.  The implications are that enterprise architects must be willing to work in a collaborative and flexible manner AND software development teams must be willing to work closely with enterprise architects.  The latter is a key philosophy built into DAD from the very start, and the former is being introduced in DAD 2.0.
  2. An agile enterprise architecture is flexible, easily extended, and easily evolved collection of structures and processes upon which your organization is built.

Why Is This Important?

The benefits of agile enterprise architecture can be summed up using three words:

  1. Better.  An agile enterprise architecture enables disciplined agile teams to produce better quality solutions for their stakeholders by providing a more reliable ecosystem with which to work.
  2. Faster. An agile enterprise architecture enables disciplined agile teams to delivery solutions to market faster due to improved reuse and infrastructure quality.
  3. Cheaper. An agile enterprise architecture enables disciplined agile teams to deliver solutions to their stakeholders at a lower cost due to improved reuse, greater quality, and greater platform consistency.

It is important to realize that the better, faster, cheaper (BFC) benefits come at a price. First, you must be willing to invest in the underlying organizational and cultural structures to support them. Second, enterprise architects must be willing and able to work in an agile manner. Third, agile teams must be willing and able to work with enterprise architects effectively.

Related Readings


Posted by Scott Ambler on: May 25, 2015 02:44 PM | Permalink

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