From Enterprise Architecture to Enterprise Thinking


I recently read an article that discussed the challenges with articulating value with enterprise architecture (EA) as a discipline and practice. The article mentioned a key phrase "evidence-based", which seem to suggest the lack of scientific thinking and measurement associated with EA. There is no one agreed-upon methodology and nomenclature used by enterprise architects nor is there a standard definition of EA or what the role and responsibilities should encompass. When positions taken by enterprise architects (another curious term since no other profession seems to have an enterprise role in their strata of titles) are challenged by IT or Business personnel (to say nothing of other architects), the discussions are not rooted in evidence. Often times these discussions turn into justification exercises which attempt to map value (another term subject to interpretation) retroactively into the artifacts and recommendations to gain support.


Separate attempts have been made to develop a BoK (Body of knowledge) by many architectural disciplines in and around IT including enterprise architecture, but there is no underlying scientific approach and/or design standards to align these standards across various architecture disciplines. I would like to see a more disciplined approach for reviewing artifacts produced by architects in general (not just enterprise architects), perhaps where we can introduce scientific thinking and review to improve designs for architecture. That approach could be used to further the practice of design used to apply standards developed by (OMG, ISO, IEEE).


Further, EA attempts to develop a cartographic approach for a multi-dimensional set of expanding problem spaces as referenced by the term "enterprise", which remains a mystical concept depending on who is invited to the conversation. The lack of formal nomenclature and relationship modeling across the business concerns is why business architecture emerged as a separate discipline and has since relegated EA to focus primarily on systems within the Information Technology departments in many organizations.


Rather than discussing how to infer value around the term and/or practice of "enterprise architecture", it might be helpful to step back from the mystical term enterprise architecture and just focus on architecture. Isn't architecture just a formalized approach for design? If we can gain agreement on that term then we can back into the value of design and apply evidence-based thinking and hold more structured discussions about the merits of good design and agree on a set of measures to evaluate the impact that design has on one or more dimensions for a bounded problem space within a point in time (current state) and how that problem space will impact the future state.


The promise of enterprise thinking is the homogeneity of thinking and design which leads to improved collaboration and cooperation across disciplines and operational silos within an organization and across value chains. That may open the door for some very interesting articles where we could discuss how best to collaborate and integrate theories, thinking, and design standards across a variety of disciplines. I can imagine a much more expansive value proposition beyond the enterprise once we can apply this type of thinking.

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