Enterprise Architecture Defined – In Business Terms

Fear not. This post isn’t another attempt in the seemingly endless quest to produce a concise definition of “enterprise architecture”.

Enterprise Architects are a strange breed. I’m not sure there’s another profession where there is such fervent debate about what the profession is and what its practitioners actually do.

I’m not sure there’s any need for such debate. Enterprise architects know what it is – we live it every day – so there’s no real need to define it. So I can only surmise that a definition is needed to explain to people outside the profession what we actually do. And that’s where the problems start.

A business person asks an enterprise architect what he/she does and out comes an explanation that usually involves words like: governance, model, blueprint, design, plan.  Faced with such an abstract definition, a business person will be thinking “That’s great, but what’s the point of all that?”

When I’m asked what enterprise architecture is, I give this 30 word explanation:

Enterprise architecture is really about “IT investment strategy”. The enterprise architect’s core function is to work out ways of getting the greatest return out of the organisations IT investments.

It’s that simple. That’s the end game. Everything else we do is a means toward this end.

3 Responses to Enterprise Architecture Defined – In Business Terms

  1. E.A. Anon says:

    ‘The enterprise architect’s core function is to work out ways of getting the greatest return out of the organisations IT investments.’

    What about Enterprise Architects who spend all their time investigating emerging technologies, to see if new investment might be able to fundamentally change the nature of the business?

  2. E.A. Anon says:

    More seriously, the reality is that there is no definition of EA. Different places do different things and call it EA. I’ve seen this personally. In my last job, EA was basically a SWAT team of very smart and business savy IT guys, who got called into to do the hard projects. I suppose we could discuss what should ideally be the definition of EA, but we might not agree on that either.

  3. rafcammarano says:

    My response is simple. EA should be a strategic function – specifically concerned with where to spend finite resources. If that’s what your enterprise architects do then you have a true EA function.

    A SWAT team of smart guys is not EA – they are assigned to a project which means someone has already decided to spend money. They’re merely smart guys working on a tactical project.

    On the other hand “investigating emerging technologies” is ABSOLUTELY EA – decisions on what technologies to adopt, why, when, and how are strategic.

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