In another interesting thread on LinkedIn, Roderick Lim Banda suggested that one way to resolve some of the arguments about what enterprise architecture is would be to ask what it isn’t. The discussion has gone round the houses a bit, as one might expect, but I thought my most recent addition to that thread would be worth repeating here:
One possible way to sort out this tangle is to deconstruct a single-sentence description:
- “Enterprise architecture is a business-capability that manages a body of knowledge about enterprise structure and purpose.”
It manages a body of knowledge: it’s a decision-support system, not a decision system. Decisions are the role of strategy, and in a smaller organisation the EA may do that too, but it’s not actually the core of the role.
- If it doesn’t manage an explicit body of knowledge used in organisation-wide decision-support, it’s probably not enterprise architecture
The core business role is to advise: “if you change the strategy, these are the implications on structure, this is the structure we will need; if you change the structure, these are the implications on strategy, these are the kinds of strategy this structure can support”, etc etc.
- If it doesn’t provide executive-level advice, it’s probably not enterprise architecture
It’s about the overall enterprise – the ecosystem in which the organisation operates, not just the organisation itself (which is the preserve of business-architecture). A scope any less than the whole enterprise (business-architecture, applications architecture, technology architecture), it’s domain-architecture.
- If it doesn’t have a whole-of-enterprise scope, it’s probably not enterprise architecture
It’s a body of knowledge about structure and purpose, and especially the intersections between them. If it’s only about structure, it’s primarily an operational issue, or a straightforward structural issue such as software-architecture; if it’s only about purpose, it’s strategy, without any actual attachment to the enterprise or organisation reality. In a small organisation an EA may well also cover some aspects of strategy (e.g. IT-strategy) and will often cover aspects of operational structure (especially e.g. IT-structures), but the real role is about purpose and structure.
- If it doesn’t deal with the intersection of structure and purpose, it’s probably not enterprise architecture
Hope this helps, anyway.