A Methodology for Operationalizing Enterprise Architecture and Evaluating Enterprise IT Flexibility

A Methodology for Operationalizing Enterprise Architecture and Evaluating Enterprise IT Flexibility by Alan MacCormack, Robert Lagerstrom, and Carliss Y. Baldwin

We propose a network-based methodology for operationalizing enterprise architecture. Our methodology is based upon using a “Design Structure Matrix” (DSM) to capture the coupling between different components in a firm’s architecture, including business and technology-related aspects. We apply our methodology to data gathered in a large pharmaceutical firm. We show that this methodology helps to identify layers in the firm’s architecture associated with different technologies (e.g., applications, servers and databases). We also show that it reveals the main “flow of control” within the architecture, as denoted by the classification of components into Core, Peripheral, Shared and Control elements. We analyze the cost of change for a subset of software applications within this architecture. We find that the cost of change is associated with the degree to which applications are highly coupled. We show the best measure of coupling that predicts the cost of change is one that captures all the direct and indirect connections between components. We believe our work constitutes an important step in making the concept of enterprise architecture more operational, improving a firm’s ability to analyze its architecture, understand its performance implications, and adapt and improve it in the future.

Read Paper

Contact the Authors:

More Than the Sum of Its Parts: The Impact of Modularity on the Computer Industry

More Than the Sum of Its Parts: The Impact of Modularity on the Computer Industry

The “power of modularity,” write HBS Dean Kim Clark and Professor Carliss Baldwin in their new book, rescued the computer industry from a problem of nightmarish proportions and made possible remarkable levels of innovation and growth in a relatively short period of time.

Read Full Article

The Impact of Component Modularity on Design Evolution: Evidence from the Software Industry

The Impact of Component Modularity on Design Evolution: Evidence from the Software Industry by Alan MacCormack, John Rusnak and Carliss Y. Baldwin

Much academic work asserts a relationship between the design of a complex system and the manner in which this system evolves over time. In particular, designs which are modular in nature are argued to be more “evolvable,” in that these designs facilitate making future adaptations, the nature of which do not have to be specified in advance. In essence, modularity creates “option value” with respect to new and improved designs, which is particularly important when a system must meet uncertain future demands.

Despite the conceptual appeal of this research, empirical work exploring the relationship between modularity and evolution has had limited success. Three major challenges persist: first, it is difficult to measure modularity in a robust and repeatable fashion; second, modularity is a property of individual components, not systems as a whole, hence we must examine these dynamics at the microstructure level; and third, evolution is a temporalphenomenon, in that the conditions at time t affect the nature of the design at time t+1, hence exploring this phenomenon requires longitudinal data.

In this paper, we tackle these challenges by analyzing the evolution of a successful commercial software product over its entire lifetime, comprising six major “releases.” In particular, we develop measures of modularity at the component level, and use these to predict patterns of evolution between successive versions of the design. We find that modularity has a strong and unambiguous impact on design evolution. Specifically, we show that i) tightly-coupled components are “harder to kill,” in that they have a greater likelihood of survival in subsequent versions of a design; ii) tightly-coupled components are “harder to maintain,” in that they experience more surprise changes to their dependency relationships that are not associated with new functionality; and iii) tightly-coupled components are “harder to augment,” in that the mix of new components added in each version is significantly more modular than the legacy design.

Read Paper

Visualizing and Measuring Software Portfolio Architectures: A Flexibility Analysis

Visualizing and Measuring Software Portfolio Architectures: A Flexibility Analysis by Robert Lagerstrom, Carliss Y. Baldwin, Alan MacCormack, and David Dreyfus

In this paper, we test a method for visualizing and measuring software portfolio architectures and use our measures to predict the costs of architectural change. Our data is drawn from a biopharmaceutical company, comprising 407 architectural components with 1,157 dependencies between them. We show that the architecture of this system can be classified as a “core-periphery” system, meaning it contains a single large dominant cluster of interconnected components (the “Core”) representing 32% of the system. We find that the classification of software applications within this architecture, as being either Core or Peripheral, is a significant predictor of the costs of architectural change. Using OLS regression models, we show that this measure has greater predictive power than prior measures of coupling used in the literature.

Read Paper

Visualizing and Measuring Enterprise Architecture: An Exploratory BioPharma Case

Visualizing and Measuring Enterprise Architecture: An Exploratory BioPharma Case by Robert Lagerstrom, Carliss Baldwin, Alan MacCormack and David Dreyfus

We test a method that was designed and used previously to reveal the hidden internal architectural structure of software systems. The focus of this paper is to test if it can also uncover new facts about the components and their relationships in an enterprise architecture, i.e., if the method can reveal the hidden external structure between architectural components. Our test uses data from a biopharmaceutical company. In total, we analyzed 407 components and 1,157 dependencies. Results show that the enterprise structure can be classified as a core-periphery architecture with a propagation cost of 23%, core size of 32%, and architecture flow through of 67%. We also found that business components can be classified as control elements, infrastructure components as shared, and software applications as belonging to the core. These findings suggest that the method could be effective in uncovering the hidden structure of an enterprise architecture.

Read Paper

The Architecture of Platforms: A Unified View

The Architecture of Platforms: A Unified View by Carliss Y. Baldwin and C. Jason Woodard

The central role of “platform” products and services in mediating the activities of disaggregated “clusters” or “ecosystems” of firms has been widely recognized. But platforms and the systems in which they are embedded are very diverse. In particular, platforms may exist within firms as product lines, across firms as multi-product systems, and in the form of multi-sided markets. In this paper we argue that there is a fundamental unity in the architecture of platforms. Platform architectures are modularizations of complex systems in which certain components (the platform itself) remain stable, while others (the complements) are encouraged to vary in crosssection or over time. Among the most stable elements in a platform architecture are the modular interfaces that mediate between the platform and its complements. These interfaces are even more stable than the interior core of the platform, thus control over the interfaces amounts to control over the platform and its evolution. We describe three ways of representing platform architectures: network graphs, design structure matrices and layer maps. We conclude by addressing a number of fundamental strategic questions suggested by a unified view of platforms.

Read Paper

Organization Design for Distributed Innovation

Organization Design for Distributed Innovation by Carliss Y. Baldwin

Systems of distributed innovation – so-called business ecosystems – have become increasingly prevalent in many industries. These entities generally encompass numerous corporations, individuals, and communities that might be individually autonomous but related through their connection with an underlying, evolving technical system. In the future, I believe the key problem for organization design will be the management of distributed innovation in such dynamic systems. Organization designers must think about how to distribute property rights, people, and activities across numerous self-governing enterprises in ways that are advantageous for the group as well as for the designer’s own firm or community.

Read Paper

Hidden Structure: Using Network Methods to Map System Architecture

“Hidden Structure: Using Network Methods to Map System Architecture” by Carliss BaldwinAlan MacCormack and John Rusnak

In this paper, we describe an operational methodology for characterising the architecture of complex technical systems and demonstrate its application to a large sample of software releases.  Our methodology is based upon directed network graphs, which allows us to identify all of the direct and indirect linkages between the components in a system. We use this approach to define three fundamental architectural patterns, which we label core-periphery, multi-core, and hierarchical. Applying our methodology to a sample of 1,286 software releases from 17 applications, we find that the majority of releases possess a “core-periphery” structure. This architecture is characterized by a single dominant cyclic group of components (the “Core”) that is large relative to the system as a whole as well as to other cyclic groups in the system. We show that the size of the Core varies widely, even for systems that perform the same function. These differences appear to be associated with different models of development—open, distributed organizations develop systems with smaller Cores, while closed, co-located organizations develop systems with larger Cores. Our findings establish some “stylized facts” about the fine-grained structure of large, real-world technical systems, serving as a point of departure for future empirical work.

Read Paper