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The difference between solutions and enterprise architecture approaches

Why is an Enterprise architecture approach a better alternative?

When we talk problem solving in IT, there are commonly used approaches – we can look at it from a Solutions Architecture perspective, or an Enterprise Architecture perspective. Do you know the difference between Solution Architecture and Enterprise Architecture? Don’t worry, not many do, but when you’re considering the strategic implications of your IT plan, understanding what these two are and when / how they should be applied is essential.

Early pioneer of enterprise architecture, John Zachman conveys the importance of Enterprise Architecture approach. Failing to take a holistic view of business process in managing technology, organisations can’t keep up with increasingly complex external environments.

In the world of technology (and beyond for that matter), there are two ways to look at resolving problems. The first, and most direct, is a Solutions Architecture approach. The other is an Enterprise Architecture approach. A Solutions Architecture approach moves no further than the immediate rectification of the problem at hand. 


On the surface of it, solving the problem at hand seems like a great idea, but what it fails to do is look below the surface. When you have a problem and you only look at how to resolve it, you’re not taking a broader view of how that particular resolution is going to fit within the overall picture of what the organisation needs. As a consequence of that, there is a potential that whilst you might resolve that particular problem, you may then in turn create a series of other adverse effects that you didn’t foresee or even desire. An Enterprise Architecture approach tells us to take a holistic view of what an organisation is all about, what the fabric of the organisation is made of and how the organisation operates. Those operations must be considered in terms of engagement with clients, with the organisations people and the output of work. When this happens, there’s a far greater likelihood that utilising a mix of Enterprise Architecture, coupled with a Solution Architecture approach to a particular problem, is going to yield a far better outcome.

Using a solution-based approach (alternatively called a Solution Architecture approach) to solve IT challenges, can result in unpredictable and undesirable outcomes. By adding an Enterprise Architecture approach into the mix, your organisation can take a holistic view that considers overarching business goals, rather than just particular processes. This allows for better outcomes and less money wasted solving underlying issues. With the average SME spending 6% of total revenue on technology, you want to ensure that you don’t fund solutions that will negatively impact your organisation in the long run.

Joe McKendrick’s article ‘Enterprise architecture is for entrepreneurs too’, reinforces Majestic’s view that Enterprise Architecture isn’t just for large enterprises. When applied with an appropriate economy of scale, it can be used within SMEs to create IT systems that are fully utilised and produce an optimal outcome. It can be argued that it’s even more important to utilise this approach within SMEs than larger corporations, particularly in the Healthcare and NFP sectors that are often substantially underfunded.

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