A Methodology for Operationalizing Enterprise Architecture and Evaluating Enterprise IT Flexibility

by Alan MacCormack, Robert Lagerstrom & Carliss Y. Baldwin
 
 

Overview — When dealing with complex information system architectures, changes often propagate in unexpected ways, increasing the costs of adapting the system to future needs. In this paper the authors use data from a real firm and develop a robust network-based methodology by which to visualize and measure any firm's enterprise architecture. They also explore the dynamics of how different types of coupling influence the flexibility of enterprise architectures. They conclude with insights for practicing managers who must, for example, allocate resources and identify opportunities for system redesign.

Author Abstract

We propose a network-based methodology for operationalizing enterprise architecture. Our methodology is based upon using a "Design Structure Matrix" (DSM) to capture the coupling between different components in a firm's architecture, including business- and technology-related aspects. We apply our methodology to data gathered in a large pharmaceutical firm. We show that this methodology helps to identify layers in the firm's architecture associated with different technologies (e.g., applications, servers, and databases). We also show that it reveals the main "flow of control" within the architecture, as denoted by the classification of components into Core, Peripheral, Shared, and Control elements. We analyze the cost of change for a subset of software applications within this architecture. We find that the cost of change is associated with the degree to which applications are highly coupled. We show the best measure of coupling that predicts the cost of change is one that captures all the direct and indirect connections between components. We believe our work constitutes an important step in making the concept of enterprise architecture more operational, improving a firm's ability to analyze its architecture, understand its performance implications, and adapt and improve it in the future.

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