What is Enterprise Architecture?

The simplest definition of enterprise architecture (EA) is that it is strategic planning to ensure that the enterprise can adapt quickly to win.

Everybody knows what architects involved in construction do, but the town planner role is a much better analogy for explaining what EA is.   We all know what happens to towns that grow organically without town planners, you end up with shanty towns.  They provide large numbers of people around the world with shelter, but you wouldn’t choose to live there.   In contrast, well planned and managed towns are generally desirable places to live with all the things that we expect and often take for granted – power, water, sewage systems, refuge collection, emergency services, education etc.    Those involved in town planning need to take all these different perspectives and complexity into account ensuring that the town can adapt to change.

In a similar way enterprise architects have to deal with all the different perspective and complexity in an enterprise as part of the strategic planning process.   These are:

  • Technology – IT hardware, software, networks…
  • Information – data standards, taxonomies…
  • Business – processes, roles, rules…

All enterprises have an enterprise architecture. However, not all enterprises consider all these viewpoint together when planning and risk creating the enterprise equivalent of a shanty town and failing! It’s the job of the enterprise architect to ensure that this doesn’t happen.

An enterprise architect is the ultimate agent of strategic organisational change from planning through to execution.

4 comments… add one

  • Simon 23/05/2013, 20:03

    I like the town planning analogy, so logically we should be called enterprise planners rather than enterprise architects. However, the town planners didn’t help Detroit, did they?

    • Tony Bright 23/05/2013, 21:00

      Interesting comment regarding Detroit. Detroit is failing because its enterprises failed, the car industry! I believe that General Motors had a big enterprise architecture practice but that didn’t help them adapt their business quickly enough to the changing world so was ineffective.

  • Sarah 02/06/2013, 17:18

    For me there is something missing in this definition around winning. The enterprise architects at GM did not help that corporation survive, but is survival ambitious enough! Also, to win organisations need to adapt quickly so in my opinion architects need to ensure that enterprises are agile enough to win.

    • Tony Bright 02/06/2013, 17:19

      I agree Sarah, I’ll see how I can fit that in.


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