Adrian Grigoriu recently posted about the failure of EA frameworks to address real enterprise architecture, due to their focus on IT and lack of focus on business.  He is right, of course, in pointing out that TOGAF does not cover Enterprise Architecture fully and that Zachman is so poor that it fails to offer any real help in solving actual business problems.

One thing that occurs to me, today, is that the Federal Enterprise Architecture effort has some advantages on commercial EA, and some disadvantages… key changes that I believe will fundamentally divide government EA from commercial EA.

Advantages that Federal EA has

First off, Federal EA programs do not need to spend vast amounts of their resources justifying their existence.  The nature of legislation is such that a policy can be written in cement and that the policy can create the rationale for Enterprise Architecture.  We’ve seen this with the interpretation of federal legislation to build out support for EA programs.  That is a huge advantage.

Disadvantages that Federal EA has

Two disadvantages that will drive Federal EA’s evolution along different lines than commercial EA —

  1. Without the need to continually justify the existence of EA, government programs don’t have the evolutionary pressure needed to FOCUS on the activities that provide the most possible value to their organizations.  They can spend a lot of time on unnecessary activities.  They don’t have to, and well disciplined programs won’t.  But they can. 
  2. Federal EA will always focus on about half of the value of EA.  I view EA as being accountable for influencing and guiding the investments of an organization to improve their ability to execute on their mission.  Unfortunately, the guiding part, in a governmental system, usually happens in either the legislative process or in the policy-development (political) process.  Neither of these processes are flexible.  Neither are within the scope of Enterprise Architecture in the Federal mindset.


The lack of influence on funding is a key wedge between commercial and governmental EA.

Governmental EA will only ever be able to work at the micro-financing level, deciding how investments should divide up between program dollars and shared services, or clarifying the lines of alignment within a funded program.  But Governmental EA will not be able to stretch the full width of EA unless and until it includes the ability to cancel a stupid-yet-legislative-funded program, or move money to an area that the government needs, in order to meet its mission, yet the legislature won’t cover it.

What this means for the evolution of frameworks

Frameworks evolve to solve the problems that their contributors must cope with.  The Federal EA frameworks will evolve to focus on the “solution and information architecture” aspects of EA because they have no control over the formation of funding policy, only on the execution of it.  Commercial EA frameworks will be able to focus on both funding and execution, and as such, will cover a broader scope with broader reach, but will spend a much greater focus on justifying the existence of EA.

By Nick Malik

Former CIO and present Strategic Architect, Nick Malik is a Seattle based business and technology advisor with over 30 years of professional experience in management, systems, and technology. He is the co-author of the influential paper "Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture" with Dr. Brian Cameron that effectively defined modern Enterprise Architecture practices, and he is frequent speaker at public gatherings on Enterprise Architecture and related topics. He coauthored a book on Visual Storytelling with Martin Sykes and Mark West titled "Stories That Move Mountains".

2 thoughts on “Can Federal EA ever include the full scope of Enterprise Architecture?”
  1. Nick,

    Yes, Clinger Cohen Act mandates federal EA. The legistlation's objective and how it is being executed within the department is a seperate discussion in itself. It is the legistaltion's "mandate" that drives the EA, this is hard to find in commercial environments.

    There is a CPIC – Cpaital Planning and Investment Contol process which runs in conjunction with the EA programs of the departments, which ensures the architecure and the investments are in 'alignment' to the mission. Now EA frameworks by itself will not be able to accomplish this. There needs to be clearly defined and executed Governance programs around EA and CPIC for success.

    Hence looking at EA framework all by itself and taking an overall perpective with EA framework + CPIC + Governance are two different convergent and divergent approaches.

  2. What I'm finding, trying to create an EAF for a Government Agency, is neither TOGAF, Zachman, or the FEAF allows me to clearly articulate what we have to do (by law) versus what we want to do (Govt objectives).

    I'm also finding that there are too many people that have been exposed to things like Six Sigma think that we can treat the things we have to do, as if they're a widget that can be driven down to the lowest cost.  Instead they're an activity that has a social outcome and have to be done to a certain level of quality.

    This means that the cost of that activity can vary and may take money from the things we or the Govt of the day want to do.  Which obviously should result in going to Treasury for additional funding, not sacrificing the social outcome we're here to achieve.

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