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.[1]

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.[2]

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.[3]

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.[4]

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 “Wikipedia’s EA article, second pass”
  1. We spent time trying to include the “business” in EA and now we are trying to include concepts such as sociotechnical into the definition. Do sociologists participate in enterprise architecture initiatives? Personally I think if we the use term sociotechnical in the definition then we should solicit input from those experienced in the of sociotechnical systems theory. This is the aspect of EA that is severely lacking.

    EA programs are technology driven not socially driven and therein is the Achilles heel.

    As a non commercial example of what EA is read the following thesis:…/VTHThesis.pdf. There is no use of the term socio or sociotechnical or anything resembling  sociotechnical systems theory.

    Enterprise architecture remains a technical initiative. It lacks a sociological framework so I suggest the use of the term sociotechnical in the definition is premature.

  2. Hello Richard,

    The thesis that you refer to starts with a very important sentence:

    "Enterprise architecture aims to establish business and IT alignment."

    This statement clearly places the author into one of the three schools of EA thought, as identified by James Lapalme in this paper ( ).  Oddly enough, your words put you in a different school of thought, and I'm in the third,

    In that context, it is going to be tough for us to all agree on what EA is.  

    Sociotechnical means that we are looking at the social systems and their relationships (flow of control, flow of authority, flow of delivery) in addition to the technical systems (flow of information, flow of signal, etc) as we try to remove obstacles and clarify execution.  Two of the three schools of thought clearly align with the term.

    While I respect your opinion, I have no trouble feeling comfortable with mine as well.

    Thank you for sharing.

    — Nick

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