Unit Oriented Architecture

Benefits of Implementing Unit Oriented Architecture

Structuring an organization according to the UOA principles enables a digital enterprise to realize substantial benefits from modularity, visibility, and composability of its components. First, a unit-oriented enterprise is constructed from (semi-)independent, modular, interchangeable units. The units are constructed from modular facades and run declaratively defined processes. The modular, recursive enterprise structure consists of reasonably-sized, easy-to-replace elements with well-defined responsibilities. Second, digital technologies put an end to the invisible art of management. The digital enterprise provides visibility into both its structure and the runtime activities. Visible structure and behavior create and maintain constant pressure for the continuous improvement of the enterprise's digital image. Unit facades and interfaces, business rules and policies, business processes and information—everything has become digital and could have been visualized in many ways with remarkable clarity. Third, new business elements can be composed into the existing unit's structures. To serve a new type of customer, a new facade can be composed into the unit's boundary. A new interface can be composed into a facade. A new business process can be added to the unit's operations. Finally, and most importantly, a new unit can be composed into the orgnization's structure.

Figure 9.1. The business benefits of UOA Implementation

UOA provides the following benefits to the enterprise:

  • Reconfiguration and Transformation. UOA allows the accelerated implementation of a business strategy through the quick reconfiguration of the enterprise and redeployment of its resources.
  • Ownership. Every enterprise's digital asset is owned by one unit. A unit that owns its assets can develop and evolve independently. In the case when assets must be owned by more than one unit, the responsibilities and decision rights of each owner must be clearly defined.
  • Effectiveness. UOA begins top-down recursive enterprise decomposition by identifying an organization's purpose (an end) and a means to achieve the end. At the next decomposition level, a means of the enterprise becomes the end of a containing unit. The resulting means-end hierarchy presents an effectiveness view of the enterprise.
  • Efficiency. UOA explains that the main efficiency efforts should be made on the lowest levels of an enterprise hierarchy. Units that contain other units should focus on efficacy.
  • Efficacy. Efficacy is a measure of a unit's contribution towards the achievement of the parent unit's goals. UOA shows how containing units use leverage points to improve their performance.
  • Precision. Because units' interactions and operations are executed by computer, not by people, they must be defined precisely, but with the desired number of degrees of freedom.
  • Agility. Visibility into its modular structure and clear ownership enable the digital enterprise to quickly respond to change.
  • Development. The digital enterprise can incrementally increase its competence by quickly developing or acquiring a new capability and integrating it within the appropriate context.
  • Growth. The digital enterprise can quickly increase its size by cloning a business unit and aggregating it into an appropriate context.
  • Invention and innovation. The digital enterprise can create or find a new meaning and quickly implement it by modifying its digital structure.
  • Renovation. Being under constant pressure, the visible and modular digital enterprise structure can be frequently renovated and made more efficient during the continuous learning and adaptation process.
  • Employee engagement. BPM-coordinated and measured unit operations will relieve people from time-consuming and boring work on one side, and provide a factual basis for performance incentives, rewards, and recognition on the other side.
  • Customer engagement. Strong unit boundaries with directed, mediated, controlled, and measured interactions enable the creation of customer engagement strategies, e.g. enterprise gamification.

Key Points

UOA creates digital constructs that provide interactional and operational support to organizational units. An organizational unit is a social system, which represents a social technology phenomenon programmed to some purpose(s).

UOA views the organization as an implementation of the Composite design pattern with every node treated either as a Composite (control unit) or a Leaf (functional unit).

Unit software must be as comfortable to an organizational unit as a house is to a family, a space station to an astronaut crew, or a battle tank to a fighting crew.

Each unit must have a formal [software] boundary, which represents a contract between the unit and other entities inside and outside of the organization.

Each unit runs its own operations implemented as executable business processes. Every process in the organization is owned by exactly one unit. A unit might engage another unit or organization to perform a task within the context of the process it owns.

UOA places a special emphasis on control units, which today often consist of just one or a few people, have inadequate information support, and, therefore, have become the weakest links in modern organizations.

UOA uses Systems Thinking for defining the problem, Organization Design for configuring both an enterprise and a composite unit, SOA for constructing unit boundaries, EDA for inter-unit communication, BPM for defining unit operations, and Business Rules for governance.

Further Insights