The role of the enterprise architect is much like that of a city planner. Too often, in a city, buildings are constructed using completely independent designs, infrastructure is slapped together over time, and attempts to build comprehensive plans for coherent growth are stymied by competing goals and unmanageable egos. In the same way, business units in organizations of any size often pursue their own individual business and technology goals, creating separate infrastructures that defy attempts to "federate" the organization's business and computing resources.
Without a clear understanding of critical business requirements, any attempt to articulate strategic IT plans is doomed. That's why, first and foremost, an enterprise architecture provides a structure for defining business goals and processes. Once that "business architecture" is explicitly stated and widely agreed on, IT can then begin the task of defining the information needed to support business requirements, and the IT infrastructure needed to support the creation and management of that information.
This whiteboard offers a nine-step outline of architecture planning which Contributing Editor Gary A. Bolles has synthesized from a variety of enterprise-architecture approaches and frameworks.
It describes an approach that focuses on fleshing out the business, information and IT architectures for a single business unit. The city planning metaphor is a useful one for understanding the balance of local and global requirements within the organization.