After a rather protracted discussion on LinkedIn about the Wikipedia article on Enterprise Architecture (blogged here), I took another swing at rewriting the EA article’s opening section. It is far from perfect, but I encourage the folks who have been following this discussion to take a look.
The change I made was fairly straight-forward:
– Removed unverifiable definition of EA
– Added three verifiable definitions from three perspectives:
- EA as a business practice,
- EA as the desired level of integration and standardization in an enterprise, and
- EA as a set of artifacts.
– followed each definition with a layman’s interpretation of that definition.
Normally, I would argue against actually citing a definition in a Wikipedia article. After all, it is an encyclopedia, not a dictionary. That said, after long and protracted debates about the meaning of the word ‘enterprise’ and the meaning of the word ‘architecture’ and the derivation of the term ‘enterprise architecture,’ I decided to break the rules a little and actually quote from the definitions themselves in the Wikipedia article. This is really unusual, and I expect that I may get pilloried for it, but after all the arguments, I didn’t want anyone to tell me that I had interpreted their definitions “incorrectly” by quoting original sources.
The new opening text of the Wikipedia article on EA is:
The term enterprise architecture is used in many complimentary ways. It is used to describe both a unique business practice and the aspects of a business that are being described. The Enterprise Architecture Research Forum defines the practice of enterprise architecture as follows:
- Enterprise Architecture is the continuous practice of describing the essential elements of a sociotechnical organization, their relationships to each other and to the environment, in order to understand complexity and manage change.
In simple terms, Enterprise Architecture is a self-improvement business function that examines the structure and behavior of the various parts of an ‘enterprise’ and focuses on opportunities to improve it.
The MIT Center for Information Systems Research (CISR) defines 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.
Simply put, the enterprise architecture in an intentional vision that defines how business processes should be integrated and where process standardization should be used.
The United States Government describes enterprise architecture as an Information Technology function. Instead of describing enterprise architecture in relation to the practice of examining an enterprise, the U.S. Government defines the term to refer to the documented results of that examination. Specifically, US Code Title 44, Chapter 36, defines enterprise architecture as a ‘strategic information base’ that defines the mission of an agency and describes the technology and information needed to perform that mission, along with descriptions of how the architecture of the organization should be changed in order to respond to changes in the mission.
Practitioners of EA call themselves enterprise architects. An enterprise architect is a person responsible for performing the 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 Enterprise Architecture: Effectiveness, Efficiency, Agility, and Durability.