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When practitioners refer to examples of Enterprise Architecture (EA) programs, they generally refer to in-house initiatives run by a business's IT department. Therefore, the objectives of such programs are grounded in the business' self interests. In the case of Managed Service Providers (MSP), who not only run their own enterprises but also the IT departments of their customers, the objectives are dual and sometimes competing. In this article, I attempt to differentiate between these two kinds of EA programs and look at ways in which an MSP can not only help themselves, but also their customers. First, let me begin at the beginning by defining EA and MSP.

Different experts give different answers in defining enterprise architecture. But there are a number of commonalities in their definitions. There are technology and business architecture components that are the backbone of most frameworks. There is also a strong information architecture component in some of the more practical frameworks. In the interest of brevity, I will quote only one definition from Gartner, which defines EA as:

Enterprise architecture is the process of translating business vision and strategy into effective enterprise change by creating, communicating and improving the key principles and models that describe the enterprise's future state and enable its evolution. The scope of the enterprise architecture includes the people, processes, information and technology of the enterprise, and their relationships to one another and to the external environment.
-- Gartner

An MSP, for the purposes of this discussion, is defined as a provider who provides services (both delivery and management) in the areas of network, server management, application maintenance, infrastructure maintenance, and hosting. A total service provider usually contracts for a Walk-In-Take-Over (WITO) type of an arrangement.

Today, EA services are generally provided by the IT department (the discussion of the wisdom of this is a subject of another article.) An enterprise architect program typically reports directly to the CTO/CIO and is headed by a senior enterprise architect. The function of this group is to understand the business, facilitate the alignment of IT with the business, and ensure that IT services are provided to support both the tactical and strategic operations of the business. As part of its mandate, the EA provides policies, standards for maintenance operations, and guidance for adopting new and emerging technologies.

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