Towards a Framework for Evaluating the Prudence of Enterprise Architecture Debts

Enterprise Architecture (EA) framework was introduced to support the companies in reaching their to-be goals. By combining the overview over the whole company, EA provides a more holistic view of the enterprise. Enterprise Architecture Debt (EAD) is used to describe the deviation of the as-is state of the company from its hypothetical, ideal to-be one. One problem is not all stakeholders involved in the decision making process are aware of EAD, resulting in lacking awareness and understanding of the consequences resulting from the decisions taken. Unawareness of EAD can affect the decision making process such that the decision is taken without considering all required information, which can result in the lack of understanding and acceptance of involved stakeholders. This can introduce additional debt on top of the one caused by a wrong decision. Finally, such debt can result in various, severe to the project or company consequences. It is important that all stakeholders are aware of the debt, its causes, and the possible consequences in order to work with it, as without understanding the underlying root cause, finding an appropriate solution is impossible. The existing approaches of considering EA Debts focus on identification of the EADs, providing means for discussion about the existence of such debt in a project. Another aspect considered is the prioritization of the debts and consideration which debt needs to be payed back and when. Differentiation of various EADs and smells causing them was studied as well, allowing to identify different measures needed to work with the debt. However, although widely used intuitively, a clear distinction between reckless and prudent debt has not yet been elaborated to our knowledge. Prudence first adapted from Technical Debt Quadrant has the potential to improve the understanding and communication between stakeholders of various technical backgrounds, explaining the need and reasoning behind the decision made. Additionally, it could provide confidence when making an important and complex decision. The distinction of the two debt types could allow to establish organization-wide guidelines, which would ensure that the debt is recognized correctly and that an appropriate action towards it is chosen. This paper discusses the existing published information on prudent and reckless approaches towards decision making in the context of enterprise architectures by gathering the definitions from related fields by means of a Scientific Literature Review. Additionally, it proposes a framework meant to evaluate the prudence of a debt. The framework is introduced to support the decision makers in gathering the required data, documented and undocumented, to strengthen the argumentation for or against taking the debt. It is also meant to allow to identify appropriate measures, to use when dealing with the debt, in a way that would benefit the enterprise. This in turn can positively affect the quality of the decisions taken, and as a result the quality of the company, by raising the awareness about the deviation of the as-is state from the hypothetical, ideal to-be one.