>Industry Architecture—What’s in a Name?


ComputerWorld, 22 June 2009 has an opinion piece, called “The Benefits of Working Together,” about developing an “Industry Architecture (IA)”—in this particular case for the hotel industry.

It takes the concept of a company or organizational architecture and applies it across an entire industry.

“In difficult economic times, every company seeks cost reductions and process improvements. But now an entire industry has banded together to help its constituents maximize their IT-based assets.”

I can see how from a private sector approach, IA is a way for companies to work together and benefit their overall industry through:

  • Improved IT products—“a clear architectural roadmap allows suppliers to focus efforts on the capabilities most important to customers.”
  • Lower IT product costs—standardized products from suppliers are generally less costly to produce than customized one (but they are also less differentiated and may be less exciting and inviting to customers). The IA also facilitates component reuse, standardized interfaces, and so forth.
  • Lower training costs—IA could reduce training costs, since there are standard processes and products spanning the entire industry meaning that employees can move more seamlessly between companies and not have to learn a whole new way of doing things.
  • Improved agility—industry standards allow for faster deployments and configurations of IT.
  • Increased buyer confidence—industry architectures could provide for a “product certification program”, so buyers can have confidence that IT products meet guidelines and are interoperable with other IA certified products.
  • Improved security—IA can incorporate IT security standards, resulting in companies being more secure than if they had “conflicting security approaches.”

From a public sector perspective, the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA) is similar to Industry Architecture in the private sector. Ideally, the FEA looks across all the federal departments (like an IA looks across the various companies in an industry) and creates a roadmap, standards, certification programs, interopability, component reuse, umbrella security, and more resulting in lower IT costs, more agility, and improved service to the citizen.

In terms of naming conventions, we can come up with all types of architectures from company architectures to industry architectures, from solution architectures (for meeting specific requirements) to segment architectures (for specific lines of business). We can develop horizontal architectures (across entities in the same stage of production or service provision) or vertical architectures (in entities that span different stages of production or service provision). We can create national architectures (like it looks like we may end up doing the financial services sector now) or perhaps even global architectures (such as through environmental, economic, or military agreements and treaties).

Whatever we call the various levels of architecture, they are all enterprise architectures (just with the “enterprise” representing different types or levels of entities). In other words, an enterprise can be a company or industry, an agency or a department in the federal government. Some enterprise architectures are bigger than others. Some are more complex. But what all these enterprise architectures have in common is that they seek to provide improved IT planning and governance resulting in cost savings, cost avoidance, and performance improvement for the enterprise in question.

So, we must at all levels continue to plan, develop and implement our enterprise architectures so that we realize the benefits – from the micro to the macro environment – of both private and public sector best practices.