In my opinion, a business function can often be best understood by describing the processes that compose it.  My last post, I attempted to describe the role of an Enterprise Architect, and the ensuing discussion quickly splintered because everyone viewed the function of Enterprise Architecture differently.

So, for today’s entry, I made an attempt at describing the high level processes involved in Enterprise Architecture.  I did not limit my description to the bits that my team is focused on, but rather tried to cover as expansive of a view of EA as I could.  As my sources for this effort, I relied on the TOGAF and various process charts available on the web, as well as my personal experience.

Not trivial.  There many different descriptions of the Enterprise Architecture function, and different companies clearly implement their view of Enterprise Architecture, as a business function, in different ways.

In the end, I was able to create a single process diagram (below) that illustrates the business function of Enterprise Architecture, but only by modeling three distinct sub-functions as independently as possible.  In essence, I can explain the business function of EA by explaining these three functions:

  • Enterprise Architecture as Planning and Alignment
  • Enterprise Architecture as New Technology Innovation
  • Enterprise Architecture as Standards, Methods and Best Practices

There is some elegance to this description.  I can separate the activities of these processes rather nicely.  I can illustrate business value for each one, each creating a case for EA to exist.  I can point to documents and frameworks that assist with each one.

Function Processes Business Value
Planning and Alignment
  • Analyze Portfolio of Applications and Processes for gaps and weaknesses (parallel efforts)
  • Build Future State Architectural Models
  • Create Migration Plans
  • Align funding requests to future state
This function delivers strategic alignment through financial governance.  By creating a vision of the future, and then insuring that funded projects help to build it, EA insures that the right applications are built.
  • Evaluate emerging technology trends
  • Recommend proof-of-concept projects
  • Recommend infrastructure projects
  • Deliver these projects to completion
This function provides a research and development organization to the CIO, allowing investment in shared infrastructure and new technologies.  Without an innovation organization, IT teams devolve into "order taker" organizations.  This is the only function of EA that potentially provides INPUT to the corporate strategies.
  • Learn from project teams about the "things that work"
  • Share discoveries in a consistent manner.
  • Select tools for IT to improve their quality.
  • Conduct architectural reviews to improve software quality and reinforce best practice.
This function interacts directly with the project-level work, either in the form of standards and Arch Review Boards (ARB), or in the form of direct contributions to the practices of a team.  Best practices are shared and the teams produce higher quality code more frequently.

I’m attaching an image of a process flow that includes Business Leaders, business groups, process management, development, and the Program Management office.  If you’d like to see it full size, click on it.

Enterprise Architecture High Level Process

The three colored lanes (yellow, green, and blue) are all part of Enterprise Architecture.  The white lanes are other stakeholders.  This image displays not only how these processes are interrelated but also how they are independent of one another.


The function of Enterprise Architecture can be described by describing three sub-functions.  Any organization can implement all three functions, or a subset of them, and still legitimately claim that they are performing Enterprise Architecture.  (And perhaps it is the fact that there are seven permutations that creates so many discussions that start with "That doesn’t look like EA to me!")

By illustrating the interrelationships between these various process flows, the model I included provides a simplified version of the high level IT funding and delivery lifecycle.  I’d love to hear what you think.  Did I capture all of the things that EA does in your organization?

[note: updated process model on 6-13-08 to clarify the role of process improvement]
[note: updated process model on 6-25-08 to make it more readable]
[note: updated process model on 9-03-08 to include supporting functions]

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".

17 thoughts on “One EA Team, Three EA Functions”
  1. Nick,

    In the previous post I was thinking about Enterprise Architecture in terms of different enterprise applications and interactions between them.

    I wonder if systematic reuse of different works products (not code only, but rather on a larger scale such as requirements, application architecture, test plans, standards, etc.) in different applications is another function that EA should be concerned about. Or perhaps it goes under what you’ve identified as “Standards”.

    In any case, could you please comment on the role of EA relative to systematic/planned reuse of different work products across the enterprise?


  2. Hi Max,

    We have a number of different efforts of this type within various parts of Microsoft IT. All are directly connected to the projects, because that is where the information is, and that is where the leverage lay.  Only a project can generate, or use, that information.

    So, yes, that falls within the bounds of the "Practices" stream on the diagram above.  We have a series of efforts surrounding the notion of a repository, especially as it connects to the Oslo product that will be coming out sometime next year (Do not quote me on the dates.  I am unconnected with the product team).

    We collect requirements, services, artifacts, design elements, data elements, all kinds of thing.  I don’t know of a single project that has successfully pulled it ALL together yet, but some are clearly trying (including the S+S project I’m working with).

    Hope that helps,

    — N

  3. Hi Nick.

    From your diagram I get that you are IT focused. I mean you first "evaluate IT portfolio & weaknesses" according to enterprise strategy and later (way later in your value chain) you develop (redesign, reengineering, improvement) business process that are affected by those IT projects. Shouldn’t be the other way around? Strategy pulling business processes architecture strings and then getting into technology? I think that in the end EA revolves around enterprise alignment (not just IT alignment) and the development of new enterprise capabilities.

    I think Paul Harmon´s enterprise alignment cycle is better. Strategy Committee proposing new goals and strategies so a Business Process Architecture Committee changes business process architecture accordingly and then a IT project portfolio (infrastructure, software, etc.) is created. This way your business processes do not get submitted to technology.

    Where do you see the enterprise architect in this picture, in a process-led enterprise? Around SOA? That´s a very good question.

    Excellent stuff in your blog. Keep the good work.

  4. Hi Gerardo,

    Excellent response.  

    Let me think about it, and look at Paul Harmon’s work, and I will come back to the idea.

    — N

  5. Hi Gerardo,

    I took a look at Paul Harmon’s work at

    His flow is similar to mine (he misses some critical steps).  I have all of his steps, with one very important exception: I failed to include "process evaluation" in the "Evaluate IT Portfolio" step.  

    Right now, I will reword the text, and sometime today, when I have a gap in my schedule, I’ll update the process diagram to reflect.

    This is an excellent catch, Gerardo, and I appreciate the insight.  That said, Paul’s paper completely fails to describe two of the three business functions of Enterprise Architecture.  People who read a paper like his, focused so completely on the "alignment" track, and who follow his advice, will fail in their EA efforts.  Paul doesn’t want that, and neither do I.

    — Nick

  6. You are right Nick. Harmon leaves innovation out of equation and there is no mention of architecture reviewing that you suggest.

    I think innovation is a labor that must be executed by everyone in the Business Architecture Committee. I see there three or four enterprise-wide experts on every architectural viewpoint that TOGAF suggests. So the Application Architecture guy must have ears and eyes fixed under technology radar related to software development. That way he can bring fresh ideas to the enterprise architecture. Given the different nature of the four viewpoints to expect that one guy knows/controls everything is not real.

    As for your suggestion on standards I think it is very important to have a couching/reviewing figure that somehow guarantees the adherence to EA guidelines but I would not restrict it to software alone. Business processes modelers/analysts could receive very good input from a Chief Business Process Architect for example.

    BTW have you seen Scott Ambler´s work? He wrote an extension of RUP (called EUP) sometime ago that I think it´s worthwhile to look at.

  7. Hello Gerardo,

    I am going to embarass myself here, and admit that I had not been aware of Scott’s work, partly because Scott doesn’t advertise his work as an EA process.  

    I think that is a marketing blunder on his part, because I took a look at

    and I find it to be very good stuff.  He covers the same areas that I do.  

    I guess it is good that I’m thinking about the same things in the same way, but not so good that I’m reinventing processes that he published in a book a number of years ago.  Alas.

    Makes me wonder why TOGAF has developed methods for developing archtectural artifacts when Scott Amber wired it all together so well… is it because he stays at a fairly high level?  

    I’m going to have to add his work to my "comparison of EA frameworks"

  8. I find it really interesting the work that Scott and his  fellows had done. Unfortunately I don’t know how this will be affected by some themes that are getting more traction recently like SOA. I see no mention of COBIT either although there are some links to ITIL.

    My TOGAF knowledge does not reach the level necessary to make some major suggestions but as you said Scott´s work is somehow high level. A combination of both efforts would be wise in order to reach the desired level of detail.

    One final question Nick. Do this EA Team of yours is supposed to be conformed by business people? Technical people? A combination? The place where I work has a group called Information Technology Strategy Committee and is conformed by one guy from upper management, some more high level business people and our CIO. They make suggestions to our CEO over the portfolio of IT projects. I am not convinced that this is a good effort cause they lack the architectural skills needed according to your proposal nor the group has the orientation toward  Enterprise Architecture. What do you think about it?

    Thanks in advanced.

  9. Hi Gerardo,

    Sounds like you are part of an "architectural guidance committee."  

    My take: I’d love to see an EA group pass recommendations to that guidance committee as part of the first and second business functions that I outlined above (Both Planning and Alignment, and Innovation).

    I don’t know the size of your organization or the span of your portfolio.  My gut says that, at bare minimum, you need at least one person for every 20M in annual IT project spend.  This person or team would perform the architectural analysis needed to base the advice from this committee to the CIO on data and facts rather than opinion.  

    Note: that gives you no resources for process improvement activities in the third function, a key input to architectural success.

    If your organization is not large, then you, by yourself, may need to perform both of these roles for functions 1 and 2.

    That is fine, but only if you can put in a good deal of rigor into your work and create a system of input from multiple stakeholders to make sure that you are not the only person "responsible for good ideas." (That would be an untenable position for anyone).  You will also have to translate your findings into business data, in order for this committee to make useful recommendations.

    As far as Scott’s work, I don’t know why I haven’t heard more… could be my problem and not his.  I’ll dig in more.

    — Nick  

  10. Thanks for your answer Nick. I found it really interesting.

    Actually I am kind of making a suggestion to our management toward the adoption of an EA reference framework instead of just IT change management. With this post you helped me a lot cause I see other dimensions of EA that complete the picture (or at least enhance it).

    And so I have more questions to you. Is it shortsighted to see EA as a IT change management tool? Where does IT change management fits in an EA?

    I kind of have the answer but I would like to hear it from you.


  11. Hi Gerardo,

    Interesting question.  I would view frameworks like ITIL and COBIT to be focused on Change Management.  EA is more aligned with causing change than managing it, although the ‘standards and practices’ thread has some small aspects of CM associated with it.

    I’d say that the description I’d apply to EA, instead of change management, would look like this:

    "EA drives innovation on processes and technologies, insures that funding aligns with strategy, and raises the quality and effectiveness of IT efforts to create a simple, agile, and well-run information and operations environment for enterprise success."

    I hope that answers your question.

    — N

  12. Now I see the difference more clearly. Thanks.

    Given the three main functions that EA has, is it different EA practices applied to a private and a public organization? I work for a government agency and I can see clearly planning/alignment and standards functions but innovation is not that clear. It does not mean that  public sector should not innovate but it is less common ground than in private sector.

  13. I’d like to get a copy of the diagram I can see properly. Alas the image quality is not too good. Could you send me an image please? Then I can comment.

    <<e-mail address deleted by Nick to prevent spam>> [I sent Steve the diagram, and updated the blog to put a better image out there.]

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