Recently, Tim Westbrock asked, in his blog, if we should drop the term “Enterprise Architecture” when referring to the strategic business planning perspective within the EA role. 

“The question that I will leave you all with is this:  Can EA be successfully evolved to become a tool of business strategic planners, senior executives and boards of directors if we continue to call it Enterprise Architecture?”

To which Adrian Campbell replied, in his blog, that EA shouldn’t change its name.  Instead, Enterprise IT Architects (the term he applies to technical architects) should stop calling themselves Enterprise Architects.  Adrian argues:

“I would say that there has always been a difference between Enterprise Architecture and technical architecture.

The former has its origins in the Zachman Framework which has always included the business architecture aspects.

Technical architecture has evolved to become IT architecture and IT planning.”

Adrian is a smart guy.  He frequently conveys interesting and insightful viewpoints based in deep experience.  Unfortunately, he is rewriting history a little bit.  John Zachman was part of a team that developed the entire idea of Enterprise Architecture for the expressed purpose of aligning technology to business process, as a service offering that could be provided by IBM to allow their consultants to be more valuable to their business clients.

In other words, John Zachman invented a taxonomic framework useful for both Enterprise IT Architecture and Enterprise Business Architecture.  They are both in there. So using John Zachman as an argument why “upstart” IT Architects shouldn’t evolve into Enterprise Architects is an argument that is ill-informed at best. 

Other professions don’t change their names when they mature.  They create professional organizations, create standards, train practitioners, and police their own ranks.  Physicians of old are not physicians of today.  Engineers of old are not engineers of today.  Pharmacists of old are not pharmacists of today.  Professions change and grow. 

One thing that we do see as professions grow up: specialization.  Within the profession of medicine, we have seen a proliferation of literally hundreds of specialties.  A pediatric oncologist would not say that a cardiologist is somehow “not” a doctor! 

If it is a ‘problem’ that folks who work in one area of the Zachman framework have become aware of another area, and that is driving a desire to change the name, does that solve the problem?  Adrian finishes his post with “A sheep in wolf’s clothing is still a sheep.”  So if the wolf changes it’s name to “zebra”, won’t the sheep claim that it’s a zebra?  The entire debate seems silly, and a little xenophobic.

As we grow, as Enterprise Architecture develops, we need to provide for the possibility that many specialties can exist in the same profession.  One specialty will explore the art and science of developing business architecture.  Another will explore IT alignment in funding and planning, and another will explore technical architectures for IT systems.  More may appear.

Our frameworks are big enough to handle many specialties.  The question is: are our hearts?

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".

7 thoughts on “Does EA need a name change?”
  1. The issue is not so much the EA ‘label’ but what it has come to mean to senior executives and management based on their experiences with EA. Changing the ‘label’ will not change the perception of EA and the individuals within an organisation who form part of that function.

    Behavioural and functional change (rather than structural change – such as renaming a team) is probably the way to expand the reach of EA from just the IT domain into the business domain.

  2. In some organizations the name change has already happened.  In the company I work for the career progression goes solution architect -> enterprise architect -> strategic advisor to the CIO

    This reflects the fact that some EAs outgrow their architecture role

  3. >A pediatric oncologist would not say that a cardiologist is somehow "not" a doctor!

    BUT the cardiologist is NOT a pediatric oncologist.  Enterprise Architects specialize in the Enterprise, IT Architects specialize in IT, however: they are all Architects.

    John Zachman pointed out at a recent conference that when he started, he envisioned Enterprise Architecture to encompass the whole of the enterprise.  He did not however drive it in that way because the business world was not ready for it, instead he grew it from within the IT capability where people were receptive to his ideas.  Fortunately the standards set the trend.  We can split out the technical architectures from our Enterprise Architecture frameworks and brand them as IT Architectures then we can create real Enterprise Architectures under the existing brands.  

    The time has come for the difference between IT Architecture and Enterprise Architecture to be made clear and standardized so that business and IT people can work together as Architects.  Business users have long complained about the IT centric drive of Enterprise Architecture, maybe it is time we listen to them…

  4. Hello Jaco,

    The point is that "Doctor" is the general term for a physician, while pediatric oncologist and cardiologist are both specializations.  Enterprise Architect is the general term, while Enterprise Business Architect and Enterprise IT Architect are the specializations.

    I do not think it makes sense to "split" Technical architecture from Enterprise Architecture because that is akin to "splitting" Cardiology from Medicine.

    I am fine with defining a difference, based on the Zachman framework, in the roles that cover specific rows and/or columns.  Enterprise Business Architect can have the first one (or potentially two) rows.  Information Architect can have a column or two, as can Business Process Architects.  Enterprise IT Architects can own rows further down the stack.  

    They are ALL part of the practice of Enterprise Architecture, and any EA that cannot speak coherently about ANY cell in the ZF is not an Enterprise Architect.  

    It is OK to specialize.  A cardiologist may not specialize in pediatrics, but he has studied pediatrics, and can speak coherently about how his speciality intersects with pediatrics.  Similarly, an Enterprise Business Architect MUST be able to speak coherently about how his part of the framework, and the models that encapsulate that expertise, intersect with, influence, and are constrained by information that is detailed at the technical levels.

  5. Hi Mark,

    Great link.  I always enjoy hearing John talk.  He is covering many themes that he has presented many times.  I would say that he hits on the following insights:

    He basically says that the enterprise needs the capability to draft, engineer, and organize the enterprise, based on a rigorous approach.  It is not about designing the perfect enterprise.  It is about engineering the enterprise so that it can dynamically accomodate the changes around it.

    He also said that EA not is just about Information Systems Architecture.  In his work, went looking for the kinds of things that existing architects did.  He recognized a pattern for the kinds of artifacts that were already being developed for architectures.  He described it as a schema, a classification.  

    He believes that every science has to uncover the ontology, the laws of nature defined, that enables us to have a science.  

    He doesn’t know what the science will be called.  He didn’t really land on either side of this discussion.  He did not say that the profession should be called Enterprise Architecture, or not, and he did not draw out a different sub-profession for each of the different areas of architecture.

    To be honest, it would have been surprising if he had.  That said, I appreciate the link.

    — Nick

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