The word “architecture” is an odd one. It is used in many ways, including to describe the interrelationship of components within a system. 

But does it apply to the enterprise?  Not sure. 

Many times, the practice of Enterprise Architecture has been compared to city planning.  We’ve been compared to zoning boards, and planning councils and even electric utilities. 

None of those organizations call their work “architecture.”

This is probably because the analogies to architecture, at the city level, fall apart.  Cities change constantly.  They grow organically.  The limits on a city’s growth are not normally a result of the zoning process.  Limits are much more likely to come from geography, or even acts of nature like fire, flood, and earthquake, than they are by a group of planners in a city office.

So when we talk about Architecture, at the enterprise level, are we mixing our metaphors?  Are we making an assumption about the nature of change, and the nature of the ecosystem, that doesn’t make sense?  Worse, are we misleading our customers, and ourselves, by using this word?

To most people, architecture is ‘hard edged.’  Architects design things that you can touch.  Their buildings have boundaries and walls and light fixtures and those things last for decades..  But in IT, at the enterprise level, this comparison doesn’t make sense.  The boundaries of an enterprise IT infrastructure are like the boundaries of a community.  They change, sometimes very quickly, to respond to the needs of the business.

So why do we call this “Enterprise Architecture?” 

At the moment, I’m not sure.