The purpose of Enterprise Architecture

10 January 2012

I’m often confronted by solution architects, IT and technical architects who don’t understand what Enterprise Architecture is all about. They usually misinterpret enterprise architecture from their own perspective as some kind of system design of ‘enterprise’ scale IS/IT systems and become frustrated when they discover that it is really something else. It often turns out that they are not usually working at the right level or with the right stakeholders in their organisation to be true enterprise architects. They are not working with the leadership team but within the scope of a small development project.

They can’t therefore see the wood (the ‘Enterprise’) for the trees (a project), let alone the helicopter view…

Enterprise architecture is in reality one of the most powerful management approaches that can be used by an organisation. It is not intended to be used (only) at a solution or project level but for the big decisions that an organisation’s leadership team have to make. The leadership (i.e. the C-level executives, and heads of divisions etc.) have to make the decisions based on the facts and knowledge base (the Enterprise Architecture repository) delivered by the enterprise architecture function. Those decisions are supported by the enterprise architecture function planning their execution in the EA roadmap. Each initiative in the EA roadmap is typically a new or changed Capability or Capability Increment (see MODAF and

Typically the focus of Enterprise Architecture is on:

  • Increasing the return on business and IT investments by more closely aligning them with business needs.
  • Identifying areas for consolidating and reducing costs
  • Improving executive decision making
  • Increasing the benefits from innovation
  • Delivering strategic change initiatives
  • Managing business transformation activities

The Enterprise Architecture is also characterised across the following multiple dimensions:

  • Direction: Enterprise Architecture is focused on strategic planning (i.e. business transformation, strategic change programmes) and not on operational change (i.e. run the business, six sigma, lean processes)
  • Scope:  Enterprise Architecture is focused on the whole of the business (i.e. the Business Model and Business Operating Model) for all business and IS/IT functions, and not just on the IS/IT components.
  • Timeline: Enterprise Architecture is focused on the long term view of the future scenarios (up to 3/5 years in the future) and not just on a short term view of current state. Enterprise Architecture is focused on a roadmap of changes to an organisation’s capabilities.
  • Value Chain: Enterprise Architecture is focused on the whole of the enterprise (i.e. the extended organization and value chain) and not just on the scope of a delivery project
  • Stakeholders: Enterprise Architecture is focused on the needs and concerns of the C-level executives (CEO, CIO, COO etc.), business executives, corporate and business strategists, investors, strategic planners.

(ps. I tried to draw a diagram to illustrate where Enterprise Architecture lies on these dimensions but couldn’t visualise a multi-dimensional space…)

So overall, the primary purpose of Enterprise Architecture is to support strategic change such as :

  • The introduction of new customer and supplier channels such as  eCommerce
  • The consolidation of the existing portfolio of people, processes, application and infrastructure etc.
  • The reduction of costs and risks, ensuring the enterprise will remain viable and profitable
  • The design of a new organisation, business model and business operating model.
  • The due diligence for mergers and acquisitions and management of the resulting integration programme.
  • The development of smarter and more effective systems (not just IT systems).
  • The introduction of shared services and applications.
  • The introduction of new technology, platforms and infrastructure such as SaaS, Cloud etc.
  • The introduction of regulatory and legal changes such as Basel 3


In my future blog entries I will explore how Enterprise Architecture supports some of these areas.

The first one will be about how Enterprise Architecture is used to support Due Diligence activities prior to mergers and acquisitions.


16 Responses to “The purpose of Enterprise Architecture”

  1. Mike Says:

    How would you describe the difference between Enterprise Architecture and Business Architecture, or do you see them as essentially the same thing?

    I see Business Architecture as the practice that explicitly links Strategy to implementation, via process optimisation, functional design, information management and organisational design. Everything you detail as Enterprise Architecture falls into that space too.

    • Enterprise Architecture addresses the architecture of the whole enterprise (i.e. an organisation and it’s whole environment, including customers, partners, suppliers and other external stakeholders) from a strategic planning, business transformation perspective.

      Business Architecture is one of the first sub-domains of Enterprise Architecture and addresses the specific architecture of the organisation in terms of it’s Business Model, Products & Business Services, Organisation Units, Roles & Responsibilities, Business Functions, Operating Model, Business Events, Business Processes, Business Scenarios (representing Value Chains and Value Streams).

      Enterprise Architecture as a whole links the Strategy for the future (goals, objectives, measures, principles, standards etc.) to a roadmap for implementation and execution of that strategy.

      Business Architecture links strategy to implementation in terms of the elements of Business Architecture (i.e. Products & Business Services, Organisation Units, Roles & Responsibilities, Business Functions, Business Events, Business Processes, Business Scenarios (representing Value Chains and Value Streams).

      The other Enterprise Architecture domains also link strategy to implementation in terms of the elements of Information/Data Architecture, Application Architecture and Infrastructure Architecture respectively.

      As well as the traditional 4 domains of Enterprise Architecture, I usually include a Strategy Domain that specifically deals with elements such as goals, objectives, measures, principles, standards, EA Architecture vision, EA roadmap initiatives, business capabilities, programmes, projects, EA roadmap etc.

  2. Adrian, thank you for the excellent post. I am looking forward to your subsequent posts. I particularly like the definitions you provided for the dimensions of EA.

    More and more we are facing compliance and policy introduction that impacts the whole enterprise. EA can be the unifying practise that helps us understand and respond to these changes.

    All the best, Leo

  3. Rita Says:

    Excellent article! You referred that the Enterprise Architecture is focused on the strategic planning. I am just wondering that how the Enterprise Architecture can support the business strategy?

  4. Pretty! This was an extremely wonderful post. Many thanks for supplying this information.

  5. Spot on with this write-up, I honestly believe that this website needs a lot more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for the advice!

  6. scea Says:

    Excellent article – will be following your future posts on EA!

  7. iPad Says:

    I love reading through a post that will make people think. Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!

  8. thedatarevolution Says:

    Excellent post. I was wondering if you would provide your opinion/insights on the interaction between ‘solution architects’ and ‘enterprise architects’. Far too often (IMO), businesses tend to blur the lines between the two roles or substitute one role for the other. I am a strong believer that both roles are needed, but it would be helpful to be able to articulate when they specifically work together, have interaction with each other, or ‘hand off’ to each other (both upstream and downstream of the architectural scope)

  9. John Tan Says:

    Hi Adrian, this is an excellent article of EA and is the one I like best so far. I stumbled upon EA only recently as I am planning a career change in a year or 2.

    I have been looking for a clear explanation of EA to confirm my understanding as I was thinking whether I should be looking at Business Architecture instead. What you described about the EA dimensions are what my mentor told me I should be doing but did not spell out that it is EA (he is a business consultant and EA is an emerging position so I don’t blame him for not knowing :-) ).

    I was wondering if you would be kind enough to share with me the path towards being an EA (the recommended training, certifications, knowledge and skills, etc I should develop and obtain). I have been in an IT operation and support role over the last decade with no deep technical skills and about 5 years as a team manager. I came out of this IT support role when I joined an MNC as one of their PMs managing an IT infrastructure project. Your advise would be must appreciated.

    Thank you very much.

  10. Software AG Says:

    “Enterprise architecture is in reality one of the most powerful management approaches that can be used by an organisation.”

    Excellent point. EA helps provide a complete view of the organization, inside and out, so you know exactly how the pieces work together. It’s so important for enterprises.

  11. alex Says:

    Hello Adrian,
    This is a good post, however I have never come across an organisation where the business think that this is what Enterprise Architects do. Usually the execs who have come up from the business side see the enterprise strategy formulation as their job and the Enterprise Architect as an IT guy that you need to have because other organisations have one.

    Given that most EAs come from an IT background, why would they be trusted to formulate strategy for the whole of an organisation?

    In my experience what EAs actually do is answer questions for the Execs and formulate IT governance and IT strategy.

    I think the EA role may have a limited life, as sooner or later there will be a mind shift where organisations don’t see IT as a separate concern, at which point all execs will be required to understand IT and will be responsible for defining strategy not just for all the areas outside of IT but also IT strategy too.

  12. Milton Says:

    I’d like to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in writing this site.
    I am hoping to view the same high-grade content
    by you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own site now ;)

  13. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d certainly donate
    to this fantastic blog! I suppose for now i’ll
    settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.

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  14. Jane Says:

    Hello Adrian, i stumbled on your blog while researching for my assignment, i am current taking a certification course on foundations of EA, your explanation of the difference between Business Architecture and EA has cleared alot of my confusion, thank you. i am working on my career progression from a business analyst and i will really appreciate some mentoring on transitioning to a business architect / enterprise architect..thanks in advance

  15. […] business objectives, processes and human roles, and linking them to IT solutions has always been a primary EA goal. The pitfalls of focusing too much on the coding phase for isolated systems are well known, and EA […]

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