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Enterprise Architecture Matters

Adrian Grigoriu

The Enterprise Architecture definition in Wikipedia (iii)

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After a decade (or even two) of banging around the EA concept, there are too many egos and vested interests at play that render the process of objectively defining EA harder than it should be.

Well, reputed fora, studiously ignoring each other, came out with different definitions sometimes complementary, at other times not. The EA wikipedia entry proves that. None of the definitions in there acknowledges the others.  Most are incomplete as well.

A proper definition should reflect as close as possible the meaning of the terms it consists of, in order to avoid misleading interpretations. Currently, too many EA definitions have nothing or little to do with the terms in the name.  

As long as there is no consensus, no single meaning can be attached to the EA term. Practitioners are challenging then each other, each pretending to know better. There is nothing there to help arbitrate the debate. New entrants, employers, customers and recruiters are befuddled. Not knowing what to expect they too come with their unexpected expectations. The modus operandi for an EA architect is "Trust me, I know what I am doing". The one with more commercial clout, reputation or self confidence wins.  In practice, the definition can be and is hijacked by the strongest players. 

Let's go back to the beginnings to come with a definition and avoid the politics of EA. Let's assume we do not know what EA is and just look again at the words in the definition.

Rephrasing it, the EA is the Architecture of the Enterprise, I said it long ago and others have said it since. 

While the expression is somewhat tautological, the definition suggests the decoupling of the concept of Enterprise from that of Architecture, against the tendency to morph them together and attach new unrelated meanings.

Then the logical way to define EA is to join the definitions of its two terms. This should be the reverse process of the initial naming of EA.

Simplifying a bit, if we equate architecture with the structure of a system and its blueprint, our commonly accepted view outside EA (the architecture of our house, the map of the town...), then

the EA is the structure and the blueprint of the enterprise. 

Currently, many EA definitions often emphasise only one of the many purposes of this EA rather than describing what EA itself is. Not that that is wrong but it's narrowing the field leaving space for many other definitions. As such you may define a car by saying that you use it for driving to the office or to transport your farm product.

Similarly, you can use EA to implement strategy, business models, operating models... but these are just EA use cases.

We may aggregate all these purpose definition viewpoints together as long as the definition is logical and proper as above.

Say that EA is a reflection of the Business Model (BM) for instance. We could qualify this as an Enterprise BM Architecture viewpoint describing the business model alone. After all we have many other EA viewpoints such as operating model, ITIL, reporting, infrastructure architectures... 


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Adrian Grigoriu blogs about everything relating to enterprise and business architecture, SOA, frameworks, design, planning, execution, organization and related issues.

Adrian Grigoriu

Adrian is an executive consultant in enterprise architecture, former head of enterprise architecture at Ofcom, the spectrum and broadcasting U.K. regulatory agency and chief architect at TM Forum, an organization providing a reference integrated business architecture framework, best practices and standards for the telecommunications and digital media industries. He also was a high technology, enterprise architecture and strategy senior manager at Accenture and Vodafone, and a principal consultant and lead architect at Qantas, Logica, Lucent Bell Labs and Nokia. He is the author of two books on enterprise architecture development available on Kindle and published articles with BPTrends, the Microsoft Architecture Journal and the EI magazine. Shortlisted by Computer Weekly for the IT Industry blogger of the year 2011.

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