A simple Google search of ‘Enterprise Architecture vs Solution Architecture’ brings up thousands of posts with a similar conclusion: “Enterprise Architecture sits above Solution Architecture, which sits above Technical Architecture”. Though there is some truth to it, this hierarchical view is incomplete. The waterfall or pyramid analogy doesn’t hold up when we zoom in a real business environment. This blog aims to provide a slightly more complete view on the definitions of Enterprise and Solution Architecture and how they actually merge and compliment each other.
The misconception of Enterprise Architecture (EA) vs Solution Architecture vs Technical Architecture
Setting up your technology stack requires a combination of three pillars:
- Holistic strategies both in technical choices and direction of business (EA)
- Well-thought-out roadmaps working towards the above identified direction (SA)
- And the technical know-how for its implementation (TA)
Oftentimes these three approaches to your overall technology stack are seen as separate from one another. Where Enterprise Architecture deals with which challenges are focused on. Solution Architecture then identifies what the solutions for these challenges may look like. And Technical Architecture deals with the implementation of those solutions. If you would display these three on a matrix, the y-axis – from down to up – would read Low Strategy to Highly Strategic. And the x-axis – from left to right – would read Broad Technical Know-How to Deep Technical Know-How.
Enterprise Architecture would be placed on the top left – highly strategic, broad technical know-how.
Solution Architecture would be placed in the center – acting as a bridge between EA and TA.
Technical Architecture would be placed on the bottom right – low strategy, deep technical know-how.
And it’s this view that is incomplete.
They aren’t independent pillars, they collaborate to uphold your foundation
You could of course argue that you first set out to identify a business strategy, upon which you build your technology stack and enterprise architecture. After all, the industry your organisation is active in, determines in a way what technology you need and which opportunities could present themselves. Then you would look into the technical solutions and subsequently the tools and applications needed to implement them.
However, we cannot separate the three. We have to start with all three architectures in mind. And when it comes to your IT Teams they have to be able to collaborate and be aware of all the links in the chain. This is where IT Governance is crucial. ITG ensures that your teams engage with each other’s focus and are able to collaborate based on a system of checks and balances.
Because strategy and technical know-how both play a key part in each pillar. For example, if you would only be focused on strategy on an enterprise level with low technical know-how, then that could prove to be an expensive mistake when you figure out that your technical architects run into problems implementing applications that don’t fit in the overall framework. Then your teams are likely forced to take shortcuts, accruing technical debt. From an EA point of view you’ll be forced to go back to the drawing board, which is a costly manner and could involve changing operating systems or entire integration solutions. These scenarios – of technical issues influencing strategy – happen more often than not.
Concluding: Enterprise Architecture & Solution Architecture & Technical Architecture
In short, Enterprise Architecture is about the overall look and focus of your technology stack according to business strategy and IT landscape. Solution Architecture is about identifying and describing which IT solutions address which business needs. And Technical Architecture deals with defining and implementing a specific software solution or IT project. All three are equally important. All three play a major part in the success of your company’s digital journey. These are not independent fractions, they are interconnected and play off each other. Therefore you should design them as such. With all three in mind from the start.
How COVID-19 has advanced the need for IT architectures of organizations
The rising need – of for instance cloud-based solutions – seen across industries, is in large part due to COVID-19. The pandemic has forced the hand – or has played into the strength – of organisations to take a long hard look at their digital assets and architecture. The work-from-home shift has led to an increase in cloud-based workflows and need for automated processes. It has incentivized IT teams to revise their technology stack and open up to a new world of possibilities in an ever-increasing digitally connected landscape.
When it comes to setting up a future-proof IT Architecture, Yenlo’s Connext Platform is the way forward. Our integration-Platform-as-a-Service solution houses all the features to either complement your current technology stack, or assist you in building it from the ground up. Yenlo’s in-house experts work closely with Enterprise, Solution, and Technical / Domain Architects and together figure out the best integration strategy for your digital journey. Take a look at how we can help you lead with confidence into an API-first, Cloud-first digital transformation journey.