Enterprise Architecture at American Express

Enterprise Architecture at American Express

Grantham University


This paper explains key components of the architecture American Express has created and the advantages and disadvantages of standard enterprise architecture.

Keywords: Enterprise architecture (EA), road map, standard enterprise architecture

Enterprise Architecture at American Express

In September, 2011 American Express was recognized as one of six winners of the 2011 Enterprise Architecture Award awarded by InfoWorld/Forrester Enterprise Architecture Award. Enterprise architecture (EA) serves two main purposes: to provide a framework for collaboration between business and IT and to offer a pivot point for transformational change. Change agents must grasp the understanding of the business processes and know the potential and practical limits of technology solutions. An enterprise architecture (EA) is a conceptual blueprint that defines the structure and operation of an organization. The intent of an enterprise architecture is to determine how an organization can most effectively achieve its current and future objectives.

American Express created key components to the success of the architecture by utilizing new payment methods and mobile devices. With mobile payment methods increasing in popularity, American Express was forced into reviewing their business practices and changing their business practices to meet the demand. In order to successfully implement enterprise technology, American Express needed to maintain the four key elements:

Core business processes

Shared data

Linking and automation technologies

Customer groups

American Express’s business strategy for its payment products focused on delivering a “constant, global, integrated customer experience based on services running on a common application platform.”

To ensure a successful enterprise architecture, American Express created reference architectures and road maps. The road map is used to integrate American Express’s business plan and their IT to reach their goals. The road map is broken down into three different road maps: technology road map, reference architecture road map and utility/capability road map. The road map was American Express’s way to standardize language, tools, lifecycle management of the applications, architecture and governance process.

American Express implemented a standard enterprise architecture for its emergence into the new payment methods and mobile devices field. One of the benefits to a standard enterprise architecture was the ability to provide more consistent user experience. When thinking of what American Express is trying to provide, you have to think of the business end of the company. Making more money, getting paid faster, attracting more customers—these are the goals of every small-business owner. How can that business get their money faster? Mobile payment methods. Mobile payment apps run on smartphones or tablets and let business’s accept payments from customers or clients on the go.

To do this, American Express offered several different programs/devises to support businesses. The Square card reader attaches to an iPad, iPhone or Android device to swipe credit cards. It is simple to use and can provide the consumer with receipts printed, emailed or texted. Intuit GoPayment is designed to work with QuickBooks and Intuit Point of Sale products. Transactions automatically synchronize to help businesses better manage your their accounting. PaySimple is another product that is offered. It offers even more benefits such as accepting ACH and e-check payments, accept online payments and send electronic invoices.

Standard enterprise architecture use can reduce operating costs. With the use of these applications, American Express can reduce operating costs by offering services without providing the equipment. Businesses already invested into the systems they operate from. Whether it’s the use of computers, iPad, iPhone or Android devises.

Standard enterprise architecture can also come with some disadvantages. If American Express does not align its business goals and IT, technical decisions may be made by non-technical personnel. It is important to American Express that both are aligned to meet a common goal. That goal is to delivering a “constant, global, integrated customer experience based on services running on a common application platform.” (Pearlson & Saunders, 2013) To overcome this, managers will need to ensure that enterprise architects get involved in the development of the business context.

Unenthusiastic of the Enterprise Architecture if the members of the organization feel that the EA program is taking over their departments. Employees of American Express may feel that they are losing creativity and thinking if EA is coming in and telling them how to operate. It is important for managers keep everyone involved in the process. Employees may feel that lost their creativity when EA is coming into their department and telling them how to operate.

Difficulty in implementing change is also a disadvantage to EA. Changing is one, if not the hardest procedures to incorporate in any organization. Changes in leadership, philosophies, strategies or organization are just a few examples of changes that can have an effect on an organization. The main goal in managing change is continue to learn and gain knowledge both as an individual and an organization. If organizations continue to learn, change will not only be easier to manage, it will provide greater Return on Investment (ROI).

American Express has made significant steps into growing their company. By understanding and invoking Enterprise architecture, they have become one of the industry leaders. This process has been easier by laying out a road map and keeping to their business plan.

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