Practical Enterprise Architecture, pt 3

The next stop on our tour of Enterprise Architecture takes us into the world of Data Architecture. Data Architecture is the component of EA that speaks to the vast pool of knowledge that any organization needs to manage. Every organization uses data, and therefore, every organization can benefit from good data architecture.

One of the big players in the data architecture space is DAMA International, a group that if focused on presenting their Data Management Body of Knowledge (DMBOK) on data architecture to the world. This DMBOK focuses on the data architecture wheel pictured below.

damawheel

This wheel highlights all of the different areas that data architecture is focused on. Although much of this seems highly technical, and aimed at database professionals, there is a lot here that we can take away on a simplified level.

One of the big keys to understanding your data is actually speaking the same language when talking about it. The idea of meta data management addresses this by encouraging you to understand the data that describes your data. In simpler terms, it’s not enough to just store a lot of data, but you also need to understand what that data means, and why it is important. Many times it can be tempting to just store as much information as possible, but without much understanding of it’s meaning. It’s more important to understand what you’re collecting, and why, than it is to collect a lot of it.

Data architecture is also concerned with how data is stored and accessed. How frustrating is it when you’re trying to find something, and can’t. This was the reason for the invention of systems like the library card catalog, which helps manage large amounts on information in an easily accessible way. Data architecture seeks to bring that same rigor to any type of data.

Let’s go back to our cafe example. You might think that there isn’t much in the way of data that a cafe would need to maintain. However, even a business like that has lots on information that it collects, and should have a plan for managing. First, there is the actual data regarding business operations, such as recipes and inventory of materials/ingredients. How this proprietary information is stored and made available is key to how quickly the business can hire new people, or change products.

Apart from actual operations, there is the management of all of your customer data. You want to know who is coming into your cafe, and how you can get them to come back again and again. This type of marketing data is often filled with great data points that can help build the business, but it needs to be managed in a way that makes the data useful. Data architecture helps define this to help the business reach it’s goals.

Data architecture is one of the oldest disciplines of Enterprise Architecture, and it’s one of the most important. Managing your data is key to supporting all of the other domains, and helping them bring the organization into the future.

enterprise-architecture-drawing

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