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The Emergence of the Super-prise December 3, 2009

Posted by wrivkin in Enterprise Architecture & Business Transformation, General Creative Thinking.
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At all our discussions about Enterprise, we seemingly did not pay enough attention to the emergence of a new, higher form of commercial or social organization: a business-wise or administratively tightly bound conglomerate of Enterprises. Such a conglomerate can take the form of a private-sector (multi) national corporation, comprised of several Enterprises, each of which has a different Enterprise Business Model (EBM), or a government structure that includes sub-structures of the Enterprise level of complexity (so called Segments)  that have little to nothing in common (e.g. the  DoD and the Department of Agriculture).

It is not a goal of this article to discuss the reasons that led to creation of such conglomerates. In the case of government, these reasons just reflect the complexity of the whole hierarchy; in the case of the private sector the reasons were and are pure of the business nature, which put them out of the scope of this consideration.  Our goal is to recognize these conglomerates as a reality and to consider whether their current level of effectiveness and efficiency may be improved via Architectural analysis.

It is also not our task to recommend or to oppose the unification of the elements of such structures under single governing body from the business or costs values points of view. They are just here; they emerged as a next phase in development of their organizations, and our task is just to analyze them.

To their benefit, the government has reacted first to this new reality, now considering its different sub-entities as independent but architecturally related Segments, united under the umbrella of Federal Segment Architecture Methodology (FSAM). They have defined segment architecture as a ‘detailed results-oriented architecture (baseline and target) and a transition strategy for a portion or segment of the enterprise’[1] “, while Segments are: “Individual elements of the enterprise describing core mission areas and common or shared business services and enterprise services.” A graphic interpretation of the relationship between overlaying Federal Enterprise Architecture and Segment (Agency) architecture can be seen in Figure 1.


Figure 1 FSAM Segment Architecture

Originally uploaded by wrivkin

We are not here to discuss the methodological and ontological strength of these definitions. Obviously, architecture is not a strategy; Segment and Enterprise Architecture are not entities of the same level, etc. However, at least this framework tries to understand and address an actual and important problem. In the commercial sector a similar framework has not been formulated until now, despite the fact that such structures exist and operate for quite some time already.

Here are two well-known examples of such companies, chosen simply because the author has some personal insight regarding their business structure:

Cox Enterprises®, a holding company, which contains:  Cox Communications, the #3 US cable system operator; Manheim Auctions, the largest wholesale vehicle auctioning company worldwide; Cox Newspapers (17 daily papers reaching 1.2 million readers); Cox Television (about 15 local stations);Cox Radio (more than 80 stations); AutoTrader.com, an online used car listing service.

The Thomson Corporation, includes the following major Enterprises: Thomson Reuters, Thomson Financial, Thomson Healthcare,  Thomson Legal,  Thomson Scientific, Thomson Tax & Accounting.

They represent purely administratively-bound conglomerates of Enterprises having distinctly different Enterprise Business Models (EBM) and operating in different markets;

Let us call such conglomerates Super-prises. Once again, the main distinction between such an organization and other complex commercial structures is that its subsidiaries have absolutely different EBMS. Our goal is to try to analyze and describe the features and behaviors that distinguish them as objects from usual Enterprises, as well as analyze their inter-relations, which form a higher, Super-prise Meta Architecture.

In both cases we can differentiate a Holding Enterprise (e.g.  Cox Enterprise or Thomson Reuters), who’s EBM consists almost entirely of the Business Processes of managing the underlying Subsidiary Enterprises, which , in turn, operate in completely different markets and, again, have absolutely unrelated Business Models (see Figure 2)

Figure 2 represents the Current Super-prise Meta-Architectural State when all the constituents of the Super-prise operate separately, having only parent-child relationships.  They share neither artifacts, nor architectures, nor even principles of building these architectures. Both Subsidiary Enterprises and the Holding Enterprise have different but equally chaotic, ‘spaghetti-like’ Legacy Enterprise Architectures. The usual inevitable task of Enterprise Architectural Business Transformation (EABT) lies ahead of them, as it lies ahead of any Legacy Enterprise, but their interrelation makes this task a bit different.


Figure 2 Initial Super-prise Meta-Architecture

Originally uploaded by wrivkin

Obviously, as in the case of the government structures, this initial state is far from optimal from the Super-prise point of view. And it is the Holding Enterprise that has the most interest in transforming the whole Super-prise to run in the most effective and efficient way.

Let us apply our usual approach to any Architecture as three-level taxonomy of a field to the Super-prise:

  1. (Meta) Architectural level: Interconnections of Subsidiary and Holding Enterprise Architectures; we call this level Super-prise ‘Meta-Architecture’
  2. Architectural (the usual Design) level: The internal Super-prise participant’s Enterprise Architectures;
  3. Design (the usual Primitive) level: the Enterprise’s Internal Business Process & Service Domains;

This taxonomical shift should be easily understood by anyone familiar with our approach to Architectural Analysis expounded in [2].

A Constructional Architecture (CA) project, analogical to such a super-structure already exists; it is called ‘Tokyo Sky City’ (Figure 3).


Figure 3 Constructional Super-Architecture Analogue: The Tokyo Sky City

Originally uploaded by wrivkin

As seen in Figure 3, Tokyo Sky City project’s Meta-Architecture describes the organization of architectural artifacts, like Buildings (apartment complexes), Parks (inner green spaces), City Transportation (inter-level elevators), Neighborhood Transportation (In-level monorail trains), Stadium, etc. under a united Meta-Architectural umbrella. It completely ignores Construction Architecture’s usual primitive-level artifacts, like Building Spaces.

While having this kind of structures in practice, we, enterprise architects and our discipline, Enterprise Architecture, are still far behind this level of understanding and completeness. This is why in this article we are only trying to trace the contours of the future Super-prise Meta-Architecture, while hoping to lift EA closer to the level of objectivity and completeness of CA in yet other publications.

So, let us outline some of the current unique attributes both of the Super-prise and of its elements:

  1. Super-prise itself:
    1. Is mostly a logical entity; physically its functions (but not architecture) are delegated to one of its constituents – Holding Enterprise;
    2. Has the next higher level of artifact complexity compared to a common Enterprise;
  2. Holding Enterprise (HE):
    1. Is a common Enterprise with its own Business and IT structure;
    2. Has, however,  a business model representing the whole Super-prise; thus it has an interest in the effective and efficient functioning of its constituents;
    3. Does not usually serve End Customers; its customers are its constituents;
  3. Subsidiary Enterprise(s) (SE):
    1. Are also usual Enterprises with their own Business and IT structure;
    2. Have Business Models different from each other;
    3. Currently function completely separately from the rest of the organization, having informational ties only with HE.

Today, from the whole Super-prise’s point of view, its constituents are using not only different technologies but different methodological principles , such as SDLC, architecture, governance, BI, etc. That makes the whole Super-prise even less effective and efficient than its parts.  Can’t it methodologically do better? Definitely, it can. We see no reason why EA cannot offer a structure as methodologically united, effective and efficient as CA did in Figure 3. In the same way, the Super-prise is interested in establishing common Meta-Architecture and Meta-Processes working in orchestration throughout the whole organization.

We know that it is business and architectural drivers that push an organization from its current state. In the case of Super-prise we can formulate the following ones:

  1. It is proven already that every Enterprise should function under EA Transformation Framework (EATF). It is possible to formulate a Reference EATF, valid for any Enterprise[3]. Hence, it is economically beneficial to have a common REATF for the whole Super-prise. Such a Reference Desired model is already proposed by ESOAF and is called there Elegant Enterprise (Figure 4). An elaborate analysis of this model is done in [3].


Figure 4 Elegant Enterprise

Originally uploaded by wrivkin

  1. We consider this model as the Desired State for every SE transformation, which will eventually lead to the creation of methodologically uniform artifacts throughout the whole Super-prise, thus making creating, changing, managing, and analyzing these artifacts and their informational output much more cost-effective;
  2. Despite having different EBMs, SEs may and will find that they have lots of common data and service domains (Data Storage, CRM, ERP, etc.). The general tendency of Enterprise Methodology[4] today is to outsource these domains to SAAS/Cloud providers[5]. The Super-prise is extremely interested in establishing its own Internal Cloud, which can serve as a services provider to all ESs via a unified Cloud Service Bus (CSB). It will provide a considerable decrease in  the Super-prise’s overall IT TCO through reuse of its services and more efficient use of its IT resources.
  3. This Internal Cloud may serve as a unique proxy/gateway to External Cloud(s), should the Super-prise decide to further outsource the technology part of its Information Processing.

All this leads us to the following concept of the Super-prise’s Target Meta-Architecture.


Figure 5 Target Super-prise Meta-Architecture.

Originally uploaded by wrivkin

A workflow, capturing the process of creating and running the Super-prise Service-Orchestration Meta-Architecture Framework (SSOMF), which can be considered as an extension of ESOAF for the case of the Super-prise, is shown in Figure 6.


Figure 6 SSOMF Workflow

Originally uploaded by wrivkin

The figure shows the inter-operations of all current and future constituents of the Super-prise in order to create an effective and efficient business organism.

So, we can state that, despite the seemingly independent character of the Business Models of Subsidiary Enterprises, they may benefit from their business and IT architectural collaboration. The goal of such a collaboration would be, as usual, an increased efficiency and agility both of each member of a Super-prise and of the organization as a whole.


[1] FSAM Glossary

[2] W.Rivkin Architecting Enterprise Business Model SOAInstitute.org April 6, 2009

[3] W.Rivkin Enterprise Architecture and the Elegant Enterprise. Architecture & Governance Magazine. March 31 2009.

[4] W.Rivkin Technology Does Not Matter, Methodology Does. SOAInstitute.org, March 10, 2009.

[5] W.Rivkin BPM SAAS AS THE FOUNDATION OF A CLOUD-BASED POST-IT ENTERPRISE. 2009 BPM & Workflow Handbook (chapter). June 2009.

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