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 EA 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 EA: Effectiveness, Efficiency, Agility, and Durability.[2]


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.[3]

The Enterprise Architecture Research Forum defines enterprise architecture as

the continuous practice of describing the essential elements of a socio-technical organisation, their relationships to each other and to the environment, in order to understand complexity and manage change. [4]

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. [5]

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]

Meanings of enterprise architecture[edit]

In the EA 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 EA literature offers many definitions for the term enterprise architecture; some of which are complementary, others nuances, and others yet are in opposition.[6] Current perspectives, or beliefs, held by enterprise architecture practitioners and scholars, with regards to the meaning of the enterprise architecture, typically gravitates towards one or a hybrid of three schools of thought:[7]

Enterprise IT architecting – According to this school, the purpose of EA is the greater alignment between IT and business concerns. The main purpose of EA 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 EA 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 EA, the scope of EA, the means of achieving EA, the skills needed to conduct EA, and the locus of responsibility for conducting EA[7]


The term enterprise covers all kinds of business organization, public or private, large or small, including

The term enterprise includes the whole complex, socio-technical system,[8] including people, information, processes and technologies.

The term architecture refers to a high-level or abstract description of the enterprise as a system – its boundary, the products and services it provides, and its internal structures and behaviors, both human and technical. It is assumed that designers, developers or engineers will complete the most detailed and concrete descriptions of specific enterprise systems, and the architect will retain responsibility for governing that lower level work.

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[10] 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:

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[11] 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.[12]

Companies such as Independence Blue Cross, Intel, Volkswagen AG[13] and InterContinental Hotels Group[14] 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.[16][17][18] Analyst firm Real Story Group suggested that Enterprise Architecture and the emerging concept of the Digital workplace were "two sides to the same coin."[19]

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 EA and SOA, there are a number of issues to consider. Not the least of these is what the enterprise understands EA and SOA to mean. Some guidelines can be found at this reference:[20]

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.[21][22]

ProductVendorHeadquartersLatest stable releaseStable release date
ABACUSAvolutionAustralia4.2December 2013
ADOitBOC GroupAustria6.0June 2014
BiZZdesign ArchitectBiZZdesignNetherlands4.1.1December 2012
ARISSoftware AG (formerly IDS Scheer)Germany9.0March 2013
Corporate ModelerCasewiseUnited Kingdom2011.4August 2013
Enterprise ArchitectSparx SystemsAustralia10December 2012
iteraplaniteratecGermany3.2October 2013
Mega SuiteMegaFranceRelease 7August 2012
planningITSoftware AG (formerly alfabet)Germany8.0November 2012
PowerDesignerSAP-SybaseGermany16.0November 2011
ProVisionOpenText (formerly Metastorm)Canada9.0September 2012
SAMUAtoll TechnologiesHungary5.4
System ArchitectIBM (formerly Telelogic)United States11.4.2June 2012
TrouxTroux Technologies (formerly Computas Technology)United States9.1.2March 2013
ProductVendorHeadquartersLatest stable releaseStable 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:

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. ^ MIT Center for Information Systems Research, Peter Weill, Director, as presented at the Sixth e-Business Conference, Barcelona Spain, 27 March 2007, [1]
  4. ^ Van der Merwe, Alta; Gerber, Aurona; Kotze, Paula; Van der Merwe, Paul; Mentz, Jan; Labuschagne,  Louw; Gilliland, Sonja; Joubert, Pieter (2009) Enterprise Architecture Definition, Submitted to the  Open Group; Available at http://www.altavandermerwe.com/resources/EARF%20Definition.pdf EARF Enterprise Architecture Definition
  5. ^ Gartner IT Glossary – Enterprise Architecture (EA). Gartner.com. Retrieved on 2013-07-29.
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ Giachetti, R.E., Design of Enterprise Systems, Theory, Architecture, and Methods, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, 2010.
  9. ^ "ISO/IEC/IEEE 42010:2011 – Systems and software engineering – Architecture description". Iso.org. 2011-11-24. Retrieved 2013-11-17. 
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ Federal Government agency success stories, (2010), whitehouse.gov
  12. ^ FEA Practice Guidance Federal Enterprise Architecture Program Management Office OMB, (2007), whitehouse.gov
  13. ^ "Volkswagen of America: Managing IT Priorities," Harvard Business Review, October 5, 2005, Robert D. Austin, Warren Ritchie, Greggory Garrett
  14. ^ ihg.com
  15. ^ DoD BEA
  16. ^ Clay Richardson, Forrester Blogs – Design Thinking Reshapes EA For Dynamic Business, (2013) [2]
  17. ^ Joe McKendrick, ZDNet – Gartner urges more 'design thinking' to break enterprise architecture out of its silo, (2010) [3]
  18. ^ Leslie Owens, Forrester Blogs – Who Owns Information Architecture? All Of Us., (2010), blogs.forrester.com
  19. ^ Tony Byrne, Real Story Group Blog – Digital workplace and enterprise architecture: two sides to same coin, (2012), [4]
  20. ^ 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
  21. ^ Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Architecture Tools, 2013
  22. ^ Forrester Wave EA Management Suites, Q2 2013
  23. ^ EA Failed Big Way! by Ivar Jacobson. on http://blog.ivarjacobson.com/ October 18, 2007.
  24. ^ Gartner (2007) Gartner Enterprise Architecture Summit: Architecting the Agile Organization, 26 – 27 September 2007. Overview on www.gartner.com. Accessed November 18, 2013.
  25. ^ S. Roeleven, Sven and J. Broer (2010). "Why Two Thirds of Enterprise Architecture Projects Fail," ARIS Expert Paper (online)
  26. ^ Fixing Enterprise Architecture: Balancing the Forces of Change in the Modern Organization Dion Hinchcliffe, 3 September 2009
  27. ^ "Why Doesn't the FEA Work" 6 September 2012, summarized in Semantic Community

External links[edit]