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10 Questions That Pop Up In Every Enterprise Architecture Interview

        posted by , January 11, 2013

Sometimes simple questions are the most difficult to answer. It is amazing how often an interviewee can stumble on a question as simple as "What is Enterprise Architecture?"

These 10 questions tend to pop up in every Enterprise Architecture interview.

1. What is Enterprise Architecture?

An Enterprise Architecture (EA) is a collection of strategic information that describes a business and the information and technologies necessary to operate the business. This includes descriptions of goals, business processes, roles, organizational structures, information, applications and systems.

Enterprise Architecture encapsulates the information necessary to implement new technologies in response to the changing needs of the business.

EA is often broken down into four domains: business, application, data and technology architecture.

2. What is the value of Enterprise Architecture?

Enterprise Architecture is a strategic information asset to be used to shape the Enterprise.

It is key to understanding the current investment in IT and efficiently planning and directing future IT investments.

Enterprise Architecture is a tool for identifying opportunities to improve key Enterprise metrics related to things like operational efficiency, IT costs and customer satisfaction.

Enterprise Architecture helps achieve enterprise alignment, manage change, and reduce time-to-market.

3. What is the Zachman Framework?

The Zachman Framework is a framework for Enterprise Architecture developed by IBM in the 1980s.

It provides a way of defining an enterprise according to a 6x6 matrix of architecture documentation. The columns of this matrix ask the questions why, how, what, who, where, when. The rows look at these questions from different levels of detail: contextual, conceptual, logical, physical and detailed.

The Zachman Framework provides a view for Planners, Owners, Designers, Builders and Subcontractors. The basic idea is that the same thing can be described for different purposes in different ways. This creates a holistic view ― it allows different people to look at the Enterprise from different perspectives.

The Zachman Framework has been incorporated into many Enterprise Architecture frameworks. (often as a reference model)

4. What is the TOGAF framework?

The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) is a framework for enterprise architecture. It provides a comprehensive approach to the design, planning, implementation, and governance of an enterprise architecture.

TOGAF models the enterprise at four levels: Business, Application, Data, and Technology.

TOGAF includes a methodology for defining IT in terms of a set of building blocks. It also contains a set of tools, a vocabulary, recommended standards and list of TOGAF compliant tools.

TOGAF includes a iterative process for enterprise architecture called Architecture Development Method (ADM).

5. What is an Enterprise Architecture Roadmap? What kind of information does it contain?

An EA Roadmap describes a current and target architecture and a transition plan to achieve the target state.

An EA Roadmap should include the business, application, data and technical architecture for each state.

The Roadmap lists the projects required to implement the proposed architecture. This should include project prioritization, risks and issues, migration strategy, estimated costs, success factors and project measurements.

6. How can you evaluate if a solution conforms to the Enterprise Architecture?

It is important to engage projects during the initiation phase to ensure that architecture compliance processes are included in the project planning.

Once the solution architecture has been defined a compliance assessment should be performed. The compliance assessment ensures the project conforms to the defined Enterprise Architecture. It is also an opportunity to engage project members and get feedback for the Enterprise Architecture.

The compliance assessment includes checklists for hardware, software, applications, information, security, system management and methods and tools. It also documents an overview of the project architecture / design.

7. What is SOA?

SOA is a set of design principles for building a suite of interoperable, flexible and reusable services. These design principles include discoverable service contract, loose coupling, service abstraction, service reusability, service autonomy, service statelessness and service composability.

A successful SOA implementation can reduce IT costs by increasing reusability. SOA's flexible mesh of services can also reduce time to market. SOA also helps to leverage existing investments by wrapping legacy applications in a mesh of reusable services.

8. What is ITIL?

Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a set of best practices for IT service management, development and operations.

ITIL gives detailed descriptions of a number of important IT concepts and includes checklists, tasks and procedures that can be tailored for any enterprise.

Some major areas ITIL covers are:
  • Service Support
  • Service Delivery
  • ICT Infrastructure Management
  • Security Management
  • Application Management
  • Software Asset Management

In the Service Support area ITIL covers processes such as Service Desk, Incident and Problem Management, Change Management, Release and Configuration Management.

In the Service Delivery area ITIL covers processes such as Service Level Management, Capacity Management and Service Continuity management.

9. What are SOA patterns?

SOA design patterns are reusable solutions to a commonly occurring SOA design problems.

Some common SOA patterns include:

Enterprise Service Bus - A tool that fosters service communication by providing reliable messaging, message queuing, data transformations and service broker functionality.

File Gateway - A file gateway is placed between a service and legacy flat file. The gateway acts as a mediator and can perform data transformations.

Event Driven Messaging - The service notifies its consumers of relevant events with messages.

Service Callback - A service requires that consumers communicate with it asynchronously. Consumers provide a callback address to which the service can send response messages.

Service Grid - Service state is stored on a grid of services that support replication and redundancy.

10. What is an Architecture Vision? What information does it contain?

The Architecture Vision is created during the project initiation phase of a project. The purpose of the vision is to agree from the start what the desired outcome should be for the architecture.

The Architecture Vision is the enterprise architect's elevator pitch. It needs to simply and powerfully sell the benefits of the proposed architecture to decision-makers. It also needs to show how the proposed architecture will support business goals and strategy and stakeholder concerns and objectives.

Typical contents of an Architecture Vision are:
  • Problem description
  • Objectives
  • Process descriptions
  • Roles and actors
  • Constraints
  • IT principles
  • Architecture overview
  • Mapping of the proposed architecture to processes and requirements


This article is part of the ongoing series: how to win your next job.

More interview questions can be found here.


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