Enterprise architecture

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Enterprise architecture (EA) is "a well-defined practice for conducting enterprise analysis, design, planning, and implementation, using a holistic approach at all times, for the successful development and execution of strategy. Enterprise architecture applies architecture principles and practices to guide organizations through the business, information, process, and technology changes necessary to execute their strategies. These practices utilize the various aspects of an enterprise to identify, motivate, and achieve these changes."[1]

Practitioners of enterprise architecture call themselves enterprise architects. An enterprise architect is a person responsible for performing this complex analysis of business structure and processes and is often called upon to draw conclusions from the information collected. By producing this understanding, architects are attempting to address the goals of enterprise architecture: Effectiveness, Efficiency, Agility, and Durability.[2]


In the enterprise architecture literature and community, it is possible to distinguish various perspectives with regards to the meaning of the term “enterprise architecture”. As of yet, no official definition exists; rather, various organizations (public and private) promote their understanding of the term. Consequently, the enterprise architecture literature offers many definitions for the term enterprise architecture; some of which are complementary, others nuances, and others yet are in opposition.[3]

The MIT Center for Information Systems Research (MIT CISR) in 2007 defined enterprise architecture as the specific aspects of a business that are under examination:

Enterprise architecture is the organizing logic for business processes and IT infrastructure reflecting the integration and standardization requirements of the company's operating model. The operating model is the desired state of business process integration and business process standardization for delivering goods and services to customers.[4]

The Enterprise Architecture Body of Knowledge defines enterprise architecture as a practice, which

analyzes areas of common activity within or between organizations, where information and other resources are exchanged to guide future states from an integrated viewpoint of strategy, business and technology. [5]

Gartner, a leading IT analysis firm, defines the term as a discipline where an enterprise is led through change. According to their glossary,

Enterprise architecture (EA) is a discipline for proactively and holistically leading enterprise responses to disruptive forces by identifying and analyzing the execution of change toward desired business vision and outcomes. EA delivers value by presenting business and IT leaders with signature-ready recommendations for adjusting policies and projects to achieve target business outcomes that capitalize on relevant business disruptions. EA is used to steer decision making toward the evolution of the future state architecture. [6]

Each of the definitions above underplay the historical reality that enterprise architecture emerged from methods for documenting and planning information systems architectures, and the current reality that most enterprise architecture practitioners report to a CIO or other IT department manager. In a business organization structure today, the enterprise architecture team performs an ongoing business function that helps business and IT managers to figure out the best strategies to support and enable business development and business change – in relation to the business information systems the business depends on.

Enterprise architecture topics[edit]

The term enterprise and architecture[edit]

The term enterprise can be defined as describing an organizational unit, organization, or collection of organizations that share a set of common goals and collaborate to provide specific products or services to customers.[7]

In that sense, the term enterprise covers various types of organizations, regardless of their size, ownership model, operational model, or geographical distribution. It includes those organizations' whole complex, socio-technical systems,[8] including people, information, processes and technologies.

The term architecture refers to fundamental concepts or properties of a system in its environment embodied in its elements, relationships, and in the principles of its design and evolution.[9]

An enterprise, understood as a complete socio-technical system, defines the scope of the enterprise architecture.

Scope of enterprise architecture[edit]

Current perspectives, or beliefs, held by enterprise architecture practitioners and scholars, with regards to the meaning of the enterprise architecture, typically gravitate towards one or a hybrid of three schools of thought:[10]

  • Enterprise IT design – According to this school, the purpose of enterprise architecture is the greater alignment between IT and business concerns. The main purpose of enterprise architecture is to guide the process of planning and design the IT/IS capabilities of an enterprise in order to meet desired organizational objectives. Typically, architecture proposals and decisions are limited to the IT/IS aspects of the enterprise; other aspects only serve as inputs.
  • Enterprise integrating – According to this school, the purpose of EA is to achieve greater coherency between the various concerns of an enterprise (HR, IT, Operations, etc.) including the linking between strategy formulation and execution. Typically, architecture proposals and decisions encompass all the aspects of the enterprise.
  • Enterprise ecological adaptation – According to this school, the purpose of enterprise architecture is to foster and maintain the learning capabilities of enterprises so that they may be sustainable. Consequently, a great deal of emphasis is put on improving the capabilities of the enterprise to improve itself, to innovate and to coevolve with its environment. Typically, proposals and decisions encompass both the enterprise and its environment.

One’s belief with regards to the meaning of enterprise architecture will impact greatly how one sees the purpose of enterprise architecture, the scope of enterprise architecture, the means of achieving enterprise architecture, the skills needed to conduct enterprise architecture, and the locus of responsibility for conducting enterprise architecture[10]

Architectural description of an enterprise[edit]

According to the international standard ISO/IEC/IEEE 42010,[9] the work product used to describe the architecture of a system is called an architectural description. In practice, an architectural description contains a variety of lists, tables and diagrams. These are models known as views. In the case of Enterprise Architecture, these models describe the logical business functions or capabilities, business processes, human roles and actors, the physical organization structure, data flows and data stores, business applications and platform applications, hardware and communications infrastructure.[citation needed]

The UK National Computing Centre EA best practice guidance[11] states

Normally an EA takes the form of a comprehensive set of cohesive models that describe the structure and functions of an enterprise... The individual models in an EA are arranged in a logical manner that provides an ever-increasing level of detail about the enterprise.

The architecture of an enterprise is described with a view to improving the manageability, effectiveness, efficiency or agility of the business, and ensuring that money spent on information technology (IT) is justified.[citation needed]

Paramount to changing the enterprise architecture is the identification of a sponsor, his/her mission, vision and strategy and the governance framework to define all roles, responsibilities and relationships involved in the anticipated transformation. Changes considered by enterprise architects typically include:

  • innovations in the structure or processes of an organization
  • innovations in the use of information systems or technologies
  • the integration and/or standardization of business processes,
  • improving the quality and timeliness of business information.

A methodology for developing and using architecture to guide the transformation of a business from a baseline state to a target state, sometimes through several transition states, is usually known as an enterprise architecture framework. A framework provides a structured collection of processes, techniques, artifact descriptions, reference models and guidance for the production and use of an enterprise-specific architecture description. See the related articles Enterprise Architecture framework and architecture domain for further information.

Benefits of enterprise architecture[edit]

As new technologies arise and are implemented, the benefits of enterprise architecture continue to grow. Enterprise architecture defines what an organization does; who performs individual functions within the organization, and within the market value chain; how the organizational functions are performed; and how information are used and stored. IT costs are reduced and responsiveness with IT systems is improved. However, to be successful, continual development and periodic maintenance of the enterprise architecture is essential. Building an enterprise architecture could take considerable time and proper planning is essential, including phasing the project in slowly, prior to implementation. If the enterprise architecture is not kept up to date, the aforementioned benefits will become useless.

Examples of enterprise architecture use[edit]

Documenting the architecture of enterprises is done within the U.S. Federal Government[12] in the context of the Capital Planning and Investment Control (CPIC) process.

The Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA) reference models guides federal agencies in the development of their architectures.[13]

Companies such as Independence Blue Cross, Intel, Volkswagen AG[14] and InterContinental Hotels Group[15] use enterprise architecture to improve their business architectures as well as to improve business performance and productivity.

For various understandable reasons, commercial organizations rarely publish substantial enterprise architecture descriptions. However, government agencies have begun to publish architectural descriptions they have developed. Examples include

Relationship to other disciplines[edit]

Enterprise architecture is a key component of the information technology governance process in many organizations, which have implemented a formal enterprise architecture process as part of their IT management strategy. While this may imply that enterprise architecture is closely tied to IT, it should be viewed in the broader context of business optimization in that it addresses business architecture, performance management and process architecture as well as more technical subjects. Depending on the organization, enterprise architecture teams may also be responsible for some aspects of performance engineering, IT portfolio management and metadata management. Recently, protagonists like Gartner and Forrester have stressed the important relationship of Enterprise Architecture with emerging holistic design practices such as Design Thinking and User Experience Design.[17][18][19] Analyst firm Real Story Group suggested that Enterprise Architecture and the emerging concept of the Digital workplace were "two sides to the same coin."[20]

Enterprise Architecture has been described as an information and knowledge-based discipline.[21] The enterprise architecture of an organization is too complex and extensive to document in its entirety, so knowledge management techniques provide a way to explore and analyze these hidden, tacit or implicit areas. In return, enterprise architecture provides a way of documenting the components of an organization and their interaction in a systemic and holistic way that complements knowledge management.[22]

The following image from the 2006 FEA Practice Guidance of US OMB sheds light on the relationship between enterprise architecture and segment (BPR) or Solution architectures.

Architectural Levels and Attributes.jpg

Relationship between enterprise architecture and service-oriented architecture[edit]

When considering the relationship between Enterprise architecture and service-oriented architecture SOA, there are a number of issues to consider. Not the least of these is what the enterprise understands Enterprise architecture and service-oriented architecture to mean. Some guidelines can be found at this reference:[23]

Notable enterprise architecture tools[edit]

The following table lists the most notable enterprise architecture tools as recognized by Gartner and Forrester Research in their most recent reports.[24][25][26]

Product Vendor Headquarters Latest stable release Stable release date
ABACUS Avolution Australia 4.3 October 2014
ADOit BOC Group Austria 6.0 June 2014
BiZZdesign Architect BiZZdesign Netherlands 4.5.2 September 2014
ARIS Software AG (formerly IDS Scheer) Germany 9.0 March 2013
Corporate Modeler Casewise United Kingdom 2011.4 August 2013
Enterprise Architect Sparx Systems Australia 10 December 2012
iteraplan iteratec Germany 3.2 October 2013
Mega Suite Mega France Release 7 August 2012
planningIT Software AG (formerly alfabet) Germany 8.0 November 2012
PowerDesigner SAP-Sybase Germany 16.0 November 2011
ProVision OpenText (formerly Metastorm) Canada 9.0 September 2012
QualiWare QualiWare Denmark
SAMU Atoll Technologies Hungary 5.4
QPR EnterpriseArchitect QPR Software Finland 2014.1.1 September 2014
System Architect IBM (formerly Telelogic) United States 11.4.2 June 2012
Troux Troux Technologies (formerly Computas Technology) United States 9.1.2 March 2013
Product Vendor Headquarters Latest stable release Stable release date


Despite the benefits that Enterprise Architecture claims to provide, for more than a decade a number of industry leaders, writers, and leading organizations have raised concerns about Enterprise Architecture as an effective practice. Here is a partial list:

  • In 2007 noted computer scientist Ivar Jacobson (a major contributor to UML and pioneer in OO software development) gave his assessment of Enterprise architecture: "Around the world introducing an Enterprise Architecture EA has been an initiative for most financial institutions (banks, insurance companies, government, etc.) for the last five years or so, and it is not over. I have been working with such companies and helped some of them to avoid making the worst mistakes. Most EA initiatives failed. My guess is that more than 90% never really resulted in anything useful."[27]
  • In a 2007 report on Enterprise architecture, Gartner predicted that "... by 2012 40% of [2007’s] enterprise architecture programs will be stopped."[28]
  • A 2008 study by performed by Erasmus University Rotterdam and software company IDS Scheer concluded that two-thirds of Enterprise architecture projects failed to improve business and IT alignment.[29]
  • In a 2009 article, industry commentator Dion Hinchcliffe wrote that traditional Enterprise architecture might be "broken": "At its very best, enterprise architecture provides the bright lines that articulate the full range of possibilities for a business, even describing how to go about getting there. ... Recently there’s a growing realization that traditional enterprise architecture as it’s often practiced today might be broken in some important way. What might be wrong and how to fix it are the questions du jour."[30]
  • In 2011 federal Enterprise architecture consultant Stanley Gaver released a report that examined problems within the United States federal government’s Enterprise architecture program. Mr. Gaver concluded that the federal Enterprise architecture program had mostly failed; this conclusion was corroborated by a similar one made by the federal government at an October 2010 meeting that was held to determine why the federal Enterprise architecture program was not “as influential and successful as in the past.”[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Federation of EA Professional Organizations, Common Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture, Architecture and Governance Magazine, Issue 9-4, November 2013 (2013). Retrieved on 2013-11-19.
  2. ^ Pragmatic Enterprise Architecture Foundation, PEAF Foundation - Vision
  3. ^ Mentz, J, Van der Merwe, Alta, & Kotze, Paula. (2012) "A Comparison of Practitioner and Researcher Definitions of Enterprise Architecture using an Interpretation Method". In: Advances in Enterprise Information Systems II, C. Møller & S. Chaudhry eds., CRC Press, p. 11-26
  4. ^ MIT Center for Information Systems Research, Peter Weill, Director, as presented at the Sixth e-Business Conference, Barcelona Spain, 27 March 2007, [1]
  5. ^ Enterprise Architecture Book of Knowledge, Planning an EA - Purpose, [2], retrieved on 2014-10-03.
  6. ^ Gartner IT Glossary – Enterprise Architecture (EA). Gartner.com. Retrieved on 2013-07-29.
  7. ^ Business Analysis Body of Knowledge, from the International Institute of Business Analysis
  8. ^ Giachetti, R.E., Design of Enterprise Systems, Theory, Architecture, and Methods, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, 2010.
  9. ^ a b "ISO/IEC/IEEE 42010:2011 - Systems and software engineering - Architecture description". Iso.org. 2011-11-24. Retrieved 2013-08-06. 
  10. ^ a b Lapalme, J., Three Schools of Thought on Enterprise Architecture, IT Professional, vol. 14, no. 6, pp. 37–43, Nov.–Dec. 2012, doi:10.1109/MITP.2011.109
  11. ^ Jarvis, Bob (2003) Enterprise Architecture: Understanding the Bigger Picture – A Best Practice Guide for Decision Makers in IT, The UK National Computing Centre, Manchester, UK. p. 9
  12. ^ Federal Government agency success stories, (2010), whitehouse.gov
  13. ^ FEA Practice Guidance Federal Enterprise Architecture Program Management Office OMB, (2007), whitehouse.gov
  14. ^ "Volkswagen of America: Managing IT Priorities," Harvard Business Review, October 5, 2005, Robert D. Austin, Warren Ritchie, Greggory Garrett
  15. ^ ihg.com
  16. ^ DoD BEA
  17. ^ Clay Richardson, Forrester Blogs – Design Thinking Reshapes EA For Dynamic Business, (2013) [3]
  18. ^ Joe McKendrick, ZDNet – Gartner urges more 'design thinking' to break enterprise architecture out of its silo, (2010) [4]
  19. ^ Leslie Owens, Forrester Blogs – Who Owns Information Architecture? All Of Us., (2010), blogs.forrester.com
  20. ^ Tony Byrne, Real Story Group Blog – Digital workplace and enterprise architecture: two sides to same coin, (2012), [5]
  21. ^ Evernden, Roger. "Dealing with Too Much Data from an Architectural Perspective", 13 November 2012 http://www.cutter.com/content-and-analysis/resource-centers/business-intelligence/sample-our-research/bia121113.html
  22. ^ Evernden, Elaine, Evernden, Roger. Information First - Integrating Knowledge and Information Architecture for Business Advantage, Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford, 2003 http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=861520
  23. ^ Christopher Kistasamy, Alta van der Merwe, Andre de la Harpe, (2012), The role of service-oriented architecture as an enabler for Enterprise Architecture, AMCIS 2012, Seattle Washington
  24. ^ Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Architecture Tools, 2013
  25. ^ Forrester Wave EA Management Suites, Q2 2013
  26. ^ Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Architecture Tools, 2014
  27. ^ EA Failed Big Way! by Ivar Jacobson. on http://blog.ivarjacobson.com/ October 18, 2007.
  28. ^ Gartner (2007) Gartner Enterprise Architecture Summit: Architecting the Agile Organization, 26 – 27 September 2007. Overview on www.gartner.com. Accessed November 18, 2013.
  29. ^ S. Roeleven, Sven and J. Broer (2010). "Why Two Thirds of Enterprise Architecture Projects Fail," ARIS Expert Paper (online)
  30. ^ Fixing Enterprise Architecture: Balancing the Forces of Change in the Modern Organization Dion Hinchcliffe, 3 September 2009
  31. ^ "Why Doesn't the FEA Work" 6 September 2012, summarized in Semantic Community
  32. ^ Evernden, R. "The Information FrameWork", IBM Systems Journal, Volume 35 Issue 1, January 1996, Pages 37 - 68 http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1011358

External links[edit]