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Today's businesses revolve around managing relationships. Customers, partners, suppliers, and manufacturers make up an entire ecosystem of close relationships that must be nurtured. Successful companies also strive for operational excellence to generate positive business outcomes from those relationships.

Relationships effectively drive dollars in and out of the company in terms of revenue, the cost of goods sold, capital expenses, and operational expenses. A company's enterprise architecture should ensure that an appropriate operational environment allows these myriad relationships to scale and to benefit the business.

Several business models may be at work in any given enterprise. The technology architecture must take into account the goal of delivering operational excellence through repeatable processes and standard technologies, to create better, faster, and cheaper interactions. At the same time, it's important to consider the human factor in each relationship. Do customers feel that their experiences are rewarding enough to continue transacting business with the company? Do partners feel that their own business model and value propositions are important to the company? Enterprise architecture should focus on maintaining an operationally efficient environment in a way that still feels personable and flexible to the constituents with whom the company has relationships.

This is particularly important as companies expand their presence globally. Globalization means that a company must become familiar with local practices, so that it can deliver a customized, very personal experience while retaining its own cultural policies, values, norms and etiquette. At the same time, regardless of country or location, transactions must be highly secure and comply with government regulations, whether on a local, national or global scale.

A well-thought-out enterprise architecture can support these seemingly contrary objectives through the adoption of three key pillars. First is the establishment of the network as the platform for strategic content and processes. Second is the strategic implementation of service-oriented architecture (SOA) as the application layer. Once these two foundations are in place, companies can implement scalable collaboration technologies that accelerate productivity through growth and innovation.


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