My First Book Report in Decades

Normally, I don’t read too many work related books. I spend my time on public transportation reading either an entertaining Baseball Book or some good History. I normally expand my knowledgebase with experience, seminars/conferences, and research on the web. However, with the advent of D6 as an “SOA platform”, and the ever-enlarging reach of my projects, I decided I needed to accelerate the normal learning curve and do some extra outside reading. To help other Enterprise Content Management experts expand their knowledge, I decided to offer brief reviews of the books I read that apply to that world.

I am having to make Documentum part of the larger Enterprise more and more on each successive project (the challenges around that are best left for discussion another day). I have decided that I needed to at least become more familiar with the concepts around Enterprise Architecture. If my systems are going to be part of a properly architected Enterprise, I want to make sure I understand the high-level concepts and goals. I hadn’t run into any issues or misunderstandings yet, but I figure why wait?

Building Enterprise Information Architectures, Reengineering Information Systems After asking around, several people recommended the book, Building Enterprise Information Architectures, by Melissa A. Cook, to serve as an introduction into the concepts of Enterprise Architecture. So I borrowed it from a colleague and started reading. Only being 180 pages, it didn’t take long.

I started out concerned. It was written in 1996, and the examples in the first chapter showed the age. Referencing articles from a 1994 Business Week did not instill confidence, though the Homer Simpson reference was still refreshingly up-to-date. However, I pushed through because many of the points seemed solid. When I got to the next chapter, things improved.

The book stresses the importance of learning from those before you. There are a lot of resources, methodologies, existing standards, and industry experience that can be leveraged. Another thing the book stresses is the importance of the business owners owning the process and have visible executive support and participation. Hmmm, this all sounds familiar.

To illustrate how the process of creating an Enterprise Architecture begins, the book uses the Zachman Framework, though it appears to be a slimmed down version, to show the business view of a mythical manufacturing company. The book doesn’t try and explain the framework. The framework is used merely to introduce the concepts of Enterprise Architecture and the importance of the top-down approach. One point that is continually made is that Enterprise Architecture doesn’t derive from the organizational chart, but off of business functions. That also sounds familiar.

Then we got to a chapter discussing the technology aspects of the business views. At this level, the book is just addressing the overall information systems. However, when the discussion turns to the importance of a central hub for data sharing, the whole discourse sounds out-of-date. The points seem to be still valid, even if we are looking at solving the problem differently in today’s environment. It could just be part of the natural evolution of technology terms and be completely accurate. It is important to note that the book talks about having loosely-coupled systems, which just screams SOA to me. I could be deaf though.

Overall, it was a decent book and a good introduction to Enterprise Architecture for the non-EA practitioner. It is aimed at business people and if you want to become an Enterprise Architect, I’m sure that there are better, and newer, books out there. Even with that qualification, the book could use an update.

If you look beyond the dated aspects to the points Melissa is trying to make, the average ECM person can learn quite a bit. I learned that while I may not be an Enterprise Architect, I use many of the same approaches and depend on similar critical success factors when I implement an Enterprise Content Management system. I think that with some education and mentoring I could be a good Enterprise Architect, but I’m content with the challenges in the ECM space right now. Besides, I may be able to do more for Enterprise Architects from this side of the world.

To sum up. If you don’t know about EA, want to know the general approach, and don’t plan on becoming one, it is a decent read. It is small time investment. I’d love to hear what some actual Enterprise Architects think of this book. Recommendations for books serving as an introduction to EA for either future Enterprise Architects or those that need to work with them would be welcome.