Methodologies & Practices

National Overall Reference Architecture


Saudi Arabia has made remarkable progress in the field of e-government and continued digital transformation. With the advent of vision 2030 of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the government agencies would face challenges to keep pace with this vision. This requires a comprehensive perspective into all axes that include not just strategy, vision, mission and objectives but also business, supporting application, data, information technology and how they work in synergy. Enterprise Architecture meets the requirement in providing such a comprehensive approach, both at an agency level as well as at a National Level. 1.1. Enterprise Architecture DefinitionEnterprise Architecture (EA) is a discipline for proactively and holistically leading enterprise (i.e. government) responses to disruptive forces by identifying and analyzing the execution of change toward desired business vision and outcomes. (Gartner) There are different methodologies and approaches to adopting enterprise architecture, each with its own unique characteristics and features. Based on best practices, research and EA cases the e-Government Program Yesser has developed an EA methodology called National Overall Reference Architecture "NORA". This methodology would enable government agencies to take advantage EA to become more efficient and effective towards meeting the vision of 2030.

1.2. The goal of NORA

  • Define scope and requirements of the EA at the government agencies.
  • Help government agencies to have a smooth and effective EA implementation.
  • Ensure quality of government agency’s EA through systematic processes and recommendations.
  • Alignment of agency’s EA with Saudi government national architecture and National Action Plans to facilitate whole of government approach.
  • Facilitate EA utilization, promotion and capability building in the government agencies.

1.3. The main features of NORA are:

  • A guide for building and developing the Enterprise Architecture to suit the needs and aspirations of government agencies.
  • Described all stages of the life cycle of EA in detail and provide examples and models illustrative of the output at each stage to facilitate better understanding.
  • Balanced approach that focuses on all the relevant activities and purpose built deliverables.
  • Flexible and customizable to suit the needs and requirements of different government agencies.

1.4. NORA Lifecycle

NORA methodology is based on a lifecycle consisting of ten major stages.  The execution of the stages are in sequence, which suits the purpose of agency EA. Each stage has its own architecture artifacts or deliverables. Figure below illustrates the NORA Methodology.​

Figure1: NORA Methodology

Stage 1 – Develop EA Project Strategy

This stage describes the key activities to research, plan and obtain approval to embark on the EA project. Each government agency has to obtain its project funding and to either develop its EA internally or outsource. The following specific expected outcomes from this stage are:

  • Increase the government agency’s EA awareness – from top management to the operations staff
  • Define and communicate EA goals and directions
  • Obtain management approval to embark on the EA journey.

Stage 2 – Develop EA Project Plan

This stage describes detailed plan for the EA project and the key activities involved in developing and obtaining approval for the EA project. The following specific expected outcomes from this stage are:

  • Clarify roles and responsibilities of management and the various working teams.
  • Clarify the governance and management of EA in the government agency.
  • Obtain management approval and commitment on the goals, schedules and resources to develop and implement the EA.

Stage 3 – Analyze Current State

This stage describes the key activities in reviewing and analyzing the different aspects of the current state of the government agency. The government agency has to carry out requirements study and detailed analysis of the current state in terms of both business and IT. The following specific expected outcomes from this stage are:

  • Define the government agency’s EA requirements (mainly from key stakeholders, including Agency‘s vision and objectives).
  • Document the government agency’s environment analysis report – both internal and external analysis.
  • Document the government agency’s current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT).

Stage 4 – Develop EA Framework

This is the stage where a government agency starts to develop its EA by constructing the main pillars such as EA vision & mission, architecture goals & principles, EA Framework, and other related standards that is fundamental to its EA journey. The following specific expected outcomes from this stage are:

  • Define the government agency’s EA vision, mission, architecture goals and architecture principles.
  • Define EA documentation standard.
  • Define EA artifact review and approval process.
  • Create the government agency’s EA Framework.

Stage 5 – Build Reference Models

This stage is all about building the reference models so that a government agency can have standard views and taxonomies of key organizational assets and processes such as business, application, data and technology domains. These reference models are based on agency’s requirements and aligned with National reference models. The following specific expected outcomes from this stage are:

  • Performance Reference Model.
  • Business Reference Model.
  • Application Reference Model.
  • Data Reference Model.
  • Technology Reference Model.

Stage 6 – Build Current Architectures

The focus of this stage is in capturing the current architectures of the government agency so that the agency can clearly understand its IT and business landscapes. This would allow a better visibility of the interconnections among different architectures and components, and aid in analyzing the agency’s issues, challenges and opportunities relating to business, information/data and technologies. The expected outcomes or deliverables (recommended) of this stage are:

  • Current Business Architecture.
  • Current Application Architecture.
  • Current Data Architecture.
  • Current Technology Architecture.

Stage 7 – Build Target Architectures

This stage develops the target architectures as a blueprint for the government agency to realize its goals and desired outcomes in 3 to 5 years. The target architecture analyzes, designs and documents the target government agency’s IT and business landscapes. The expected outcomes or deliverables (recommended) of this stage are:

  • Target Business Architecture.
  • Target Application Architecture.
  • Target Data Architecture.
  • Target Technology Architecture.

Stage 8 – Develop Transition Plan

The focus of this stage is in building transition plan and managing the required transformation from the current landscapes to the desired target landscapes. The expected outcomes or deliverables of this stage is:

  • Transition Plan.

Stage 9 – Develop EA Management Plans

This stage is about developing the EA usage and management plans to ensure the EA deliverables are accepted and used by the different stakeholders in the government agency. The expected outcomes or deliverables of this stage are:

  • EA usage plan.
  • EA management plan.

Stage 10 – Execute & Maintain

This is the last stage where a government agency executes and maintains its EA. Having covered many stages in the EA journey, this last stage concerns with taking actions to make the government agency’s EA into a reality. The following are the expected outcomes of this stage:

  • Promote or market the government agency’s EA so that government employees are aware of the usefulness of EA.
  • Train some employees on the using and maintaining the various information related to EA.
  • Execute or implement the EA including the management of the transition activities.

Continuous Governance (applicable during all stages) As EA is a massive and long-term project, there are bound to be many challenges and issues. It is vital, therefore, that the EA governance work is also address to ensure the success of the project. The EA governance is continuous - covering activities such as program management, change management (including EA awareness and promotion), capability management (specific trainings, tools and new processes), performance management (new KPIs and standards) and policy management.