In a nutshell an enterprise architecture is a collection of facts about the organisation’s current architecture, a development methodology supported by a collection of artefacts and a model of the organisation’s future architecture. On top of that there are the capabilities of the people, processes and technologies that make up the organisation that defines what it is and what it does. An evidence based approach to enterprise architecture requires evidence in a variety of types and to varying degrees of detail to support all of the above.
The current architecture is primarily a collection of facts that have been built up, depending upon how recently the organisation has adopted enterprise architecture, under varying amounts of decision making and control. Information can and should exist about how the current architecture is operating and performing and to what level of satisfaction and success. This information can be formulated to represent existing evidence and therefore provide support for future decisions about change.
The future model of the organisation is a set of concepts that offers a new view of the organisation depending upon the scenarios it envisages. The model and concepts will evolve and impact on that evolution. The degree of possible change will depend upon how far in the future the model is set, the maturity of the strategies and organisational decisions. there will also be unexpected impacts on the organisation and on the strategic direction. This future model is dependent upon an architectural development method to deliver the new version of the organisation as well as the capabilities and tools to support it. So it is important that the evidence ontology is able to support the following principles:
The evidence ontology needs to be able to support the internal content behind new views and scenarios as well as incorporate evidence from external sources.
The evidence ontology needs to be able to bring together a variety of research to strengthen hypotheses and recommendations in the artefacts and methods used in the architecture development method.
Finally the evidence ontology needs to be able to support the formation of an evidence knowledge base that is flexible to help the engineering of future organisation models.
The reason why i recommend distinguishing the evidence used in an enterprise architecture artefact is threefold. The first reason is that it should be clearly marked to show to readers that evidence has been used and that they can analyse the topics, references and proofs themselves to make their own judgement to its validity and certainty.
The second is to track and trace the use of the evidence in artefacts that support the overall goal or objective of the activities.
The third is to enable a better understanding of the value of the evidence at particular points in the future. If it is determined that the evidence used has been critical in the delivery of the objective or goal then that will not only justify the time, effort and cost of building the evidence but also it justifies the need and necessity to use evidence in the future.
It was only after working for a research institute that i began to fully appreciate the capabilities and time required when conducting research for evidence. This institute employed research librarians, research analysts and specialist researchers to support the teams building clinical evidence. These individuals collectively located evidence, analysed it and stored and maintained it for use in several large knowledge databases.
In order to apply evidence based enterprise architecture, Architects should at least be trained on the basic techniques of research, analysing the information they find and how to apply it. This should include setting the objectives of the research, defining the questions to answer, undertaking literature reviews and collecting the information for analysis. Finally, identifying the appropriate evidence required to support their hypothesis and conveying that through their documentation.
I don’t however expect Architects to become experts in this area. The architecture practice within an organisation should make a judgement on how it develops this capability and whether or not it requires specialist resources.