There’s an interesting article in Enterprise Architect: Three Stepping-Stones to Strategic Architecture by Chris Barlow.

Barlow wants us to define a series of stepping-stones that “both pay for themselves with near-term business impact and lead you toward your enterprise architecture vision”. Hmmmkey. How? We must make each stepping-stone a “stable business platform”, that is, a “series of completed IT and business-process projects where you can pause and reassess the next stepping-stone”. OK, stable and completed. Good. But how? Patterns? Principles? Practices? (hey, three P’s!)

Barlow suggests three stepping-stones:

1. Get to basic architecture. A basic architecture is one that supports the current business processes and is characterized by very few duplicate applications, has separation between transactional and archival data, and has a consolidated infrastructure. Also associated with it is an architecture development and management council that defines application, data, and infrastructure standards and checks for compliance against these standards. You know you have a basic architecture in place if you don’t have three e-mail systems, two financial reporting systems, some Unix desktops, some NT desktops, and 15 different company Web sites, all of which look different.

2. Get to streamlined architecture. A streamlined architecture is one where the business processes and corresponding applications and infrastructure have been tuned such that there are no redundant steps and no choke points that degrade performance. Pick one or two business areas to tune business processes. … Consider an example of trade-offs: do I build a single, consolidated database where all data is in one place and managing and updating data requires doing it in one place? Or do I build a tiered database where the different levels can be optimized for different business needs? …do I use an off-the-shelf enterprise architecture framework? Or do I need to build proprietary connections between applications?

3. Get to strategic architecture. A strategic architecture is one where your architecture is truly your competitive differentiator. At this point you have examined your application portfolio, differentiated between value-add and nonvalue-add applications/systems, outsourced nonvalue-add applications/systems, streamlined the rest, and defined a portfolio of new investments that will deliver new capabilities and help the business move the needle to value-added differentiators.

Basic, Streamlined, Strategic. Sure, why not. Good point. It sure sticks to the keep it simple principle.
Illustration from Three Stepping-Stones to Strategic Architecture. See article for larger version

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