Inside Architecture

Notes on Enterprise Architecture, Business Alignment, Interesting Trends, and anything else that interests me this week...

Three Schools of Thought for Enterprise Architecture

Three Schools of Thought for Enterprise Architecture

Rate This
  • Comments 18

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.


  • @Peter

    Thanks for responding.  It is true that each has a value proposition and a different role to play.  Each is a description of a stable, valuable, effective role.   I figure that's why we see folks cling to the one that they are the most familiar with.  Each are "right" yet all are wrong  (reference to the Three Blind Men and the Elephant poem).

    I agree that other disciplines have value to add.  You'd have to pick one of these three and detail out the points of interaction in order to discuss the value proposition of that school.  Unfortunately, the other disciplines are not consistently used either.  In a sense, you'd have a different value propositon for each role in each organization or enterprise.

    That's a lot for one person to detail out!  I wonder if that diversity of implementation provides us with the diversity of opinion about the "right" way to perform EA.

    After, if Joe is comfortable working in the "Enterprise IT Architecting" space, and works well with business analysts who call themselves "business architects," how will he describe his value proposition to Mary who also works in the Enterprise IT Architecting" space, but whose company doesn't hire business analysts, and expects IT "Deliver Managers" to perform those responsibilities?  The value of the EITA, in those cases, would differ.  

    That same conundrum presents itself for literally hundreds of combinations of EA (in a school of thought), and groupings of collaborating roles that specifically exist in a particular corporate culture.

    If you know the magic combination, please share it.  Just be aware, the combination that is "magic" in one company may be wildly ineffective in another.

    --- Nick

  • Thanks for making me aware of this Nick, – and of the writing of James Lapalme! Having met ‘representatives’ from each school I find it so well captured. While large analyst companies like Gartner speak about the the two perspectives depicted lowest in the illustration (i.e. Enterprise IT and -Integration), the third (Ecological) seems like a more recent  – and refreshing  – awareness. Good work!

  • Nice article. My natural tendencies has me reading the image as though it is demonstrating a type of maturity model. Companies continue to make profits wherever they are on an SDLC maturity model and as such there is no "one best" School of Thought," only alternatives to try.

    Another point your illustration reminds me is that our communication is only as good as our tools. I am sometimes frustrated trying to relate a 3D (or 4 or 5D) concept within a plane. As Buzz Lightyear might say "To infinity and beyond."

Page 2 of 2 (18 items) 12