Enterprise Architecture: What Is It?

To define Enterprise Architecture, we need to articulate the concepts required to understand what architecture is.


  1. Architecture is the set of descriptive representations for describing a complex object such that an instance of the object can be created and such that the descriptive representations serve as the baseline for changing an object instance.
  2. An Enterprise Architecture Framework consists of the descriptive representations for describing a enterprise, organized by a set of classifications based on the six interrogatives of What, How, Where, Who, When. and Why!
  3. Architecting an enterprise, using a framework-based methodology, is the process of conceiving, defining, expressing, documenting, communicating, certifying proper implementation of, maintaining, and improving the enterprise architecture and the enterprise throughout the life of the enterprise.

An enterprise is a collection of resources assembled to provide its product or service to its market(s) , in and of itself.  Further, an enterprise can be formed in the public or private sector of the economy, for conducting any organized business activity, which produces any products or provides any services either for-profit or not-for-profit.

The essence of any enterprise is the specification of the super-objective of the enterprise.  Generic examples of a super objective would specify something like one of the following.

  1. Engage in the design, manufacture, and distribution of a product/ product line. (Airplanes, automobiles, Consumer Electronics etc.),
  2. Provide a specified service to persons or other enterprises (healthcare, financial, etc.)
  3. Govern/administer a political jurisdiction such as federal, state, county, township, or a school district.
  4. Promote a political or religious philosophy or ideology to some specified group of people, or in some geographical area, or political jurisdiction.

The super objective will dictate the scope, content, and structure of the enterprise.

The product or service provided by an enterprise will define what the enterprise is and what it needs to know, how it does what it does, and pretty much where it does it, when, by whom, and why.

The basic principle is that the enterprise product or service will extensively dictate the:

  1. business processes the enterprise will perform,
  2. data the enterprise will require,
  3. human resources skills it will require,
  4. location(s) where the enterprise will perform its activities,
  5. kinds of facilities they will require, and
  6. to some extent, the organization structure they will use!

For Enterprise Architecture purposes, a corporation, company, partnership, trust, government agency, city, county, foundation, spiritual organization may or may not be an enterprise!

For example, a corporation that designs and manufactures motor vehicles and also owns and operates a financial services business is two different enterprises for Enterprise Architecture purposes.  The two sets of products and services have different products, different resources, different business processes, different data, different organization structures, different locations, different systems; and different relationships among these elements of their respective enterprises.

It is necessary to separate the identification of the “What” an enterprise does (the business processes) from “How” it does those business processes.  The difference in the “How” distinguishes an enterprise from its peers.

All enterprises that design and build cars fundamentally perform the same business processes.  Some perform some of those business processes more effectively and efficiently than their peers.

By basing the context of an enterprise on its product or service, we have a very stable basis for defining the scope of the enterprise.  The scope of the enterprise will be permanent as long as the enterprise’s purpose is to provide that product or service to its market.  Changing the product or service of an existing enterprise will cause a major disruption in that enterprise.

The challenges to achieving a sound enterprise architecture is to achieve enterprise alignment, integration, flexibility, and responsiveness.

ALIGNMENT: Architected to align with the requirements of your enterprise product or service!

INTEGRATION: Architected for cohesive, interdependent, seamless interaction by all functional and organizational units across the enterprise!

FLEXIBILITY: Architected to accommodate change!

RESPONSIVENESS: Architected to expedite change!

Enterprise Architecture versus Enterprise Management

Enterprise Architecture is the science of architecting, engineering, and manufacturing enterprises, a formation or construction as if the result of a conscious act, a unifying or coherent form of method or style of building.

Every enterprise in existence has an enterprise architecture – it might be a good enterprise architecture, or it might not be a good enterprise architecture.  How would you know if it was good or not so good if you did not know about or have expertise and experience in the science of enterprise architecture? 

Some people might say that Enterprise Architecture is more an art than a science.  We disagree!  Enterprise Architecture is more a science than an art, and it is becoming more of a science.  Art is heavily influenced by the artists and their perceptions and preferences.  Enterprise Architecture is increasingly a disciplined application of what John A. Zachman says, are the “physics of enterprise architecture.”

Enterprise Architecture is about planning, architecting, engineering, and manufacturing an efficient and effective enterprise and maintaining it throughout its life; it is not about managing the use of the enterprise once it exists.

Enterprise Management is the actions taken by people with the responsibility and authority to operate the enterprise.  Enterprise Management plans, staffs, organizes, directs, and controls the operation of the enterprise. 

The primary role of enterprise management is to operate the enterprise!

A word of advice, or perhaps a word of caution, is appropriate here.  EA, in and of itself, is not going to improve enterprise management, but it will help enterprise management to be better at their job.

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