What is enterprise-architecture?
According to just about everything you’ll see at present, from books to so-called ‘standards’ to conferences to recruiters’ job-adverts, it’s kinda something to do with IT, sorta, ish… uh, kinda dunno, really, but it’s sort-of IT and it’s sort-of enterprise and it’s sort-of architecture, innit…?
Well, there’s a really simple test we could do – in English, at any rate – and that’s to swap the words around and see if it still makes sense.
Hence data-architecture is the architecture of data.
Applications-architecture is the architecture of applications.
Infrastructure-architecture is the architecture of infrastructure.
Security-architecture is the architecture of security.
Brand-architecture is the architecture of brands.
And enterprise-architecture, we’re told, is the architecture of IT.
This – to quote a certain well-worn phrase – does not compute.
Let’s perhaps do this a bit more systematically?
Enterprise is a human construct. It’s about people – about people being enterprising. When we (mis)use the term ‘the enterprise’ to mean ‘the organisation’, it’s actually about a specific type of context within which people can perhaps be enterprising. Technology can sometimes help enable people to be enterprising, but in no way is the technology itself ‘the enterprise’.
And architecture is not just about structure, but again, primarily about people – about where people’s intent and, yes, enterprise intersect with structure and story. In that sense, architecture is as much about story as it is about structure.
The architecture of the enterprise is about the intersection of structure and story to support people in enterprise.
If it’s not primarily about people, it can’t be about enterprise.
If it’s not primarily about the intersection of structure and story, it’s not architecture.
In short, if it’s just about the structure of a specific subset of technology – which is pretty much all that most people still seem to mean by their (mis)usage of the term ‘enterprise-architecture’ – then it’s neither enterprise nor architecture. And hence a dangerously-misleading misuse of an otherwise very specific term. A misuse that actively misleads everyone in the entire enterprise-architecture space, and actively prevents those who do work with ‘the architecture of the enterprise’ from being able to describe what it is that they do.
So here’s a really simple test to check whether you’re doing enterprise-architecture, or merely doing large-ish scope IT: if it’s not the architecture of the enterprise, it’s not enterprise-architecture.
If it’s not AE, it’s not EA.