It is interesting to watch the debates online between the different schools of thought of Enterprise Architecture. The discussion was started by James Lapalme, who published a paper on “three schools of thought” which is in pre-print for the IEEE’s IT Professional journal. (citation) Mostly the online discussion focused around the role of the newest domain of Enterprise Architecture… the domain of Business Architecture. Depending on how Business Architecture is understood, the role of EA can be dramatically different.
- Some say that EA is about improving IT. In the diagram below, this is “Enterprise IT Architecting.” In the online groups, we call this EITA. In this model, EA is a mechanism for designing IT services and creating IT systems that address enterprise needs. It’s just a bare step above Enterprise Application Architecture by operating outside the constraints of funded projects, but the impact occurs in IT. For this first group, Business Architecture is just another name for Business Analysis.
- Others say EA is about aligning the business with all of its capabilities, including IT. For these folks, Business Architecture exists, but it’s primary impact is internal. Business Architects insure that the right initiatives are created in order to achieve business strategy. In the diagram below, this is labeled “Enterprise Integrating.” In this school of thought, Business Architecture doesn’t really impact business strategy. Business Architecture uses capability analysis to understand the impacts of strategy on the business processes and systems, and helps to frame the initiatives that should be created. Only after the initiatives are started would a business analyst even get involved. In this model, EA provides all the benefits of the first group, AND insures that investments are made in the right place.
- A third group say that EA is about Enterprise Ecological Adaptation. For these folks, Business Architects help analyze the movements of the market, and work closely with business leaders to develop strategies based on the capabilities and positioning of the company that are likely to generate new revenue, improve market position, improve customer loyalty, and reduce costs. EA and Business Architecture help the business adapt to the ecosystem in which it exists. In this model, EA provides all the benefits of the first two groups, AND insures that the business responds to the market conditions in a logical manner. For some in this camp, Business Architects are not even part of EA.
Depending on the company your work in, there’s a case to be made for each. Personally, I prefer to think of EA as alignment at the minimum, and strategic effectiveness as an ideal state. I created the following image to illustrate these distinctions. For further reference, please read James Lapalme’s paper in the IEEE IT Professional journal.