Exploring the roles of different artefacts in enterprise architecture practice

Kotusev, S 2018, Exploring the roles of different artefacts in enterprise architecture practice, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Business IT and Logistics, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Exploring the roles of different artefacts in enterprise architecture practice
Author(s) Kotusev, S
Year 2018
Abstract Enterprise architecture (EA) is a coherent whole of principles, standards and models for designing business processes, information systems and IT infrastructure in large organizations. Enterprise architecture consists of multiple EA artefacts that describe and/or model various aspects of an organization including high-level abstract principles, business processes and technical specifications to be used by both IT and business stakeholders for the purposes ranging from strategic planning to IT systems implementation. Using EA artefacts is expected to bring numerous benefits to organizations including improved strategic alignment, increased returns on IT investments and reduced costs of IT operations.

The development of EA artefacts requires significant investments of time and money. However, the organizational investments in developing EA artefacts often do not bring the expected benefits because of the usability issues associated with these EA artefacts. For instance, the U.S. Federal Government invested hundreds of millions of dollars in developing EA, but the resulting EA artefacts were largely unable to facilitate better decision-making. These common failures of EA efforts call for an investigation into the specific roles of different types of EA artefacts in an EA practice. The role of an EA artefact can be specified based on its informational contents, regular users, typical use cases and resulting organizational benefits. Despite the theoretical and practical importance of studying EA artefacts, the current EA literature offers no comprehensive theories explaining the practical roles of EA artefacts. In order to address this problem, this thesis develops a descriptive theory that explicates the roles of different types of EA artefacts in the context of an EA practice and explains the influence of various organizational and environmental factors on these roles.

This exploratory study followed a “case studies-based grounded theory” approach to develop an inductive theory of the roles of EA artefacts. The theory-building process is accomplished via analysing five in-depth case studies of large organizations with established EA practices. In the five cases, 31 semi-structured interviews were undertaken with different EA practitioners and stakeholders, and samples of 39 different types of EA artefacts were studied. The data were analysed using the iterative grounded theory methodology. The practical aspects of the resulting theory were then discussed with ten additional EA experts, including EA practitioners and EA academics, who confirmed its validity and practical utility.

The resulting theory articulates six primary roles fulfilled by EA artefacts metaphorically titled as Context Setters, Instrument Providers, Knowledge Repositories, Project Implementers, Strategic Aligners and Value Estimators. Each of these roles is further explained in terms of supporting artefacts, informational contents, involved users, associated use cases and resulting benefits. For example, Context Setters include EA artefacts such as principles, maxims and policies that senior business leaders and architects use to lay out the basic rules, values and aims governing information systems planning for the whole enterprise to ensure consistency of decision-making. Similarly, Value Estimators include EA artefacts such as solution overviews and conceptual architectures used by architects and business leaders to assess the business value of proposed IT initiatives, make informed funding decisions and thereby improve efficiency of IT investments. These six highly EA-specific roles provide a comprehensive explanatory view of the practical roles of EA artefacts and offer an in-depth, detailed and context-specific theoretical understanding that advances the common view of EA artefacts as boundary objects between business and IT communities and elements of an actor-network representing an EA practice. Moreover, the resulting theory explains the relationships between the six identified roles of EA artefacts as well as the impact of internal and external environmental factors on these roles.

The results of this exploratory study contribute to the EA discipline a theory describing the roles of EA artefacts that helps refocus future EA research from studying EA as a whole to studying specific types of EA artefacts. The results of this study also provide evidence-based conceptual solutions to the most typical practical problems associated with using EA and can help organizations get more value from EA artefacts. Additionally, this study makes an empirical contribution to the EA discipline by demonstrating important empirical facts that question established theories, assumptions and beliefs existing in the EA discipline.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Business IT and Logistics
Subjects Computer System Architecture
Conceptual Modelling
Information Systems Management
Keyword(s) Enterprise architecture
Grounded theory
Case studies
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Created: Fri, 30 Nov 2018, 09:33:39 EST by Keely Chapman
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