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Enterprise Architecture Matters

Adrian Grigoriu

The definition of EA is what it is rather than what it is for

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EA is often defined not as what it is but as what we think it is for. Too many EA definitions emphasise EA as a purpose rather than a description of what it is. 

There are a few issues with this. 

To start with, can you define a car by your goals, that is, driving to the office or transporting your farm product or elsewhere?

Also, there are many developments that contribute to the same goal often mentioned in the definition, often about achieving the enterprise vision and objectives. But such an abstract goal does not uniquely identify the endeavour. In fact, EA is only one of the many contributing factors to this outcome. 

And even if the goal is fulfilled, the EA may not be employed for the purpose, may not even exist as an integrated artifact or may not be fit for purpose. Hence it does not contribute to goal of achieving the good of the enterprise, at all. Besides, EA is used for other purposes such as documenting the enterprise or fixing malfunctions. Hence, there are other purposes and as such, potential definitions for EA.

Also a proper definition should perhaps reflect as close as possible the meaning of the terms it consists of, in order to avoid misleading interpretations. That is the naming of a concept should be in line with the definition. For instance, when we say enterprise architecture it is not strategy or business models we're talking about. That would only serve to confuse people as it happens since too many EA definitions have nothing or little to do with the terms in the name. This opens the path to any interpretation that suits the issuer.

There are, as well, many partial definitions depending on the scope or limited view of the EA. For some, EA is a reflection of the Business Model (BM), for instance, or it is an operating model or an IT architecture and so on. But these represent only Enterprise Architecture viewpoints that are indeed part of the whole EA picture.

Considering all the above, and the constituent terms of the name - enterprise & architecture -,  we can then holistically define EA as the organisation and the description of the enterprise.

What it is for, what it consists of...  are still good questions that deserve answers. Not in this post though.

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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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