Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Enterprise Architecture and System Architecture

The discipline of Enterprise Architect is distinctly different from System Architect, though many confuse the two.  See the post, "The Definition of the Disciplines of Systems Engineering" for the definitions of the two disciplines.

Fundamentally, they are both sub-disciplines of Systems Engineering, and both deal with requirements, risks, issues, and evaluation, but are much more specialized in their roles, that is, what they use these Systems Engineering functions for.  The responsibilities of the Systems Engineer include working with the customer to identify the customer's programmatic (cost and schedule) and system (functions to be performed, and constraints on the design) requirements, identifying and managing risks (see my post "Risk Defined") and issues associated with the design, managing the configuration of the design, and ensuring that all of the customer's system requirements are met, through a verification and validation (V&V) process.
The responsibilities of the System Architect include transforming the customer's system requirements (see the post entitled "Types of Customer Requirements and the System Architecture Process" for the definition), as identified by the Systems Engineer, through decomposing them in a manner that enables the architect to derive the functions the deliverable must perform.  These are the system functional requirements for the deliverable.

The System Architect then structures and orders these system functional requirements (or system specifications) into a System Architect (or Functional Design).  The System Architect then has the responsibility to segment the System Architecture into closely coupled groups of the functions.  Once the System Architect has a system architecture segmented, he or she will allocate the grouped functions as component requirements for a trade off study, using these requirements as the criteria for the trade.  Additionally, the architect will add any required design constraint requirements to the allocation.

The Enterprise Architect has a much different role and responsibilities, yet the skill set is built on those of the systems engineer and system architect.  Fundamentally, the first responsibility of the Enterprise Architect is enable and support the decision-making process enables and supports effective and cost efficient investments in tools and processes that optimally advance the mission of the organization to reach its vision; I call this the Mission Alignment process.  The second is to support the Governance and Policy Management processes to ensure that the organization's policies and standards enable and support the organization's mission alignment for achieving its mission, rather than inhibiting it from the achievement.

In this regard, for the Enterprise Architect, the Mission Alignment process produces the organization's requirements for performing activities to achieve its goal (the organization's performance requirements that are the analog of the system performance requirements for a project).  At the same time, for the Enterprise Architect, the policies and standards are the analog of the design constraint type requirements.  Consequently, the Enterprise Architect will use many of the same process patterns as the Systems Engineer--just applied to decision-making as opposed to transforming some portion of the architecture.

The post is an extension of a presentation I made at the 2009 SEI SATURN conference.

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