Enterprise Architecture: Outside In vs. Inside Out

The benefits of completing an Enterprise Architecture (EA) are plentiful and are becoming more realized each and every day. Enterprise Architecture practitioners will tell you the return on investment for a successful EA project is significant.

Most Enterprise Architecture projects focus on developing a roadmap for the future of an enterprise- whether it is a department, organization, division, or entire company.  Gaining a true understanding of how our Enterprise’s current Goals, Processes, Materials, Roles, Locations, and Events can be transformed in the future is the only way we can adapt to an ever-changing Enterprise.

Essentially, Enterprise Architecture is about moving our organization to the future state by creating a roadmap that will guide us along from our current state.  

When we generate a map of our own internal organization, we call this an inside out version of Enterprise Architecture. In other words, we focus on all internal influences our own organization may have. We do not concentrate on external influences such as customers, regulators, or stakeholders.  Instead, we focus on influencers within an organization such as executive management or departments such as finance, customer service, human resources, or information systems.  We are attempting to define our own organization and its vision.

While implementing an Enterprise Architecture with an inside out focus is valuable, perhaps we can go even further and complete an Enterprise Architecture project from an outside in perspective.

When we do an EA project looking outside-in, we can take the view of a customer, client, or other external influencers. Each of these external influencers also has their own set of Goals, Processes, Materials, Roles, Locations, and Events.

To further understand this concept, let’s take a look at a retail company that conducts business on the web. By now, we have all made purchases online so this example should make sense.  Did you know that as a person who makes those purchases online through a website, you assume the role of order placer or order entry clerk or something along those lines? The company you are buying something from has actually outsourced the role of order entry clerk to you. And, as you know, the user experience to place an online order is generally pretty self-explanatory and simple to follow.

Since this is such a vital and integral part of the way that company does business, wouldn’t it be nice to optimize the Processes around this role? What are the Goals of the order entry clerk? Where are the orders coming in from? Are orders just being placed in the United States or do we need to have the capacity to receive international orders to come in? What sort of Events occur after an order comes in?

Being able to answer questions like these, and many more, is an essential skill we need if we want to maintain flexibility and react quickly in our organization. If we want to continue to increase our revenue and keep ahead of the competition, recognizing the need to develop an understanding of our external influencers is crucial.

So, as you begin to develop your Enterprise Architecture, think about the benefits of understanding your organization from an internal and external perspective.

You quickly see how developing an outside in Enterprise Architecture, in addition to an inside out Enterprise Architecture, will help us tremendously.