EA Fundamentalism

By Stuart Boardman, Getronics

It’s an unfortunate fact that when times get tough, the tough, rather than get going, tend to pick on other people. What we see is that most formal and informal groups tend to turn inwards and splinter into factions, each possessing the only true gospel. When times are good, we’re all too busy doing what we actually want to do to want to waste time sniping at other folks.

Maybe this isn’t the reason but it strikes me that in the EA blogosphere at the moment (e.g. the EA group on LinkedIn) every discussion seems to deteriorate into debate about what the proper definition of EA is (guess how many different “right answers” there are) or which of TOGAF® or Zachman or <insert your favourite framework here> is the (only) correct framework or why all of them are totally wrong, or worse still, what the correct interpretation of the minutiae of some aspect of framework X might be.

Perhaps the only comfort we can draw from the current lack of proper recognition of EA by the business is the fact that the Zachmanites are actually not firing bullets at the Rheinlanders (or some other tribe). Apart from the occasional character assassination, it’s all reasonably civilized. There’s just not enough to lose. But this sort of inward looking debate gets us nowhere.

I use TOGAF® . If you use another framework that’s better suited to your purpose, I don’t have a problem with that. I use it as framework to help me think. That’s what frameworks are for. A good framework doesn’t exclude the possibility that you use other guidance and insights to address areas it doesn’t cover. For example, I make a lot of use of the Business Model Canvas from Osterwalder and Pigneur and I draw ideas from folks like Tom Graves (who in turn has specialized the Business Model Canvas to EA). A framework (and any good methodology) is not a cookbook. If you understand what it tries to achieve, you can adapt it to fit each practical situation. You can leave the salt out. You can even leave the meat out! There are some reasonable criticisms of TOGAF® from within and outside The Open Group. But I can use TOGAF® with those in mind. And I do. One of the things I like about The Open Group is that it’s open to change – and always working on it. So the combination of The Open Group and TOGAF® and the awareness of important things coming from other directions provides me with an environment that, on the one hand, encourages rigour, and on the other, constantly challenges my assumptions.

It’s not unusual in my work that I liaise with other people officially called Enterprise Architects. Some of these folks think EA is only about IT. Some of them think it’s only about abstractions. I also work with Business Architects and Business Process Architects and Business Strategists and Requirements Engineers and….. I could go on for a very long time indeed. All of these people have definitions of their own scope and responsibilities, which overlap quite enough to allow not just for fundamentalism but also serious turf wars. Just as out there in the real world, the fundamentalists and those who define their identity by what they are not are the ones who start wars which everyone loses.

The good news is that just about enough of the time enough of these folks are happy to look at what we are all trying to achieve and who can bring what to the party and will work together to produce a result that justifies our existence. And every time that happens I learn new things – things that will make a me a better Enterprise Architect. So if I get noticeably irritated by the religious disputes and respond a bit unreasonably in web forum debates, I hope you’ll forgive me. I don’t like war.

By the way, credit for the “fundamentalism” analogy goes to my friend and former colleague, François Belanger. Thanks François.

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Stuart Boardman is a Senior Business Consultant with Getronics Consulting where he co-leads the Enterprise Architecture practice as well as the Cloud Computing solutions group. He is co-lead of The Open Group Cloud Computing Work Group’s Security for the Cloud and SOA project and a founding member of both The Open Group Cloud Computing Work Group and The Open Group SOA Work Group. Stuart is the author of publications by the Information Security Platform (PvIB) in The Netherlands and of his previous employer, CGI. He is a frequent speaker at conferences on the topics of Cloud, SOA, and Identity.


  1. Hello Stuart,

    What many people seem to ignore is that one of the strongest points in TOGAF is its customizability. So, if this or that aspect of the framework does not suit your requirements, you can simply adapt it to your particular needs.

    Although this may be true of any other framework (think of CMMI, COBIT, whatever), none of them is so explicit in saying that it needs to be adapted to each user’s specific situation. In that sense, i believe that TOGAF fundamentalism is even more unjustifiable. So, I think that we – who are connected to The Open Group and the Architecture Forum – need to do just what you did your post: try to free our profession from this kind of fanaticism.


  2. @atilabelloquim: “one of the strongest points in TOGAF is its customizability. ”

    one of the weakest points in TOGAF is its customizability.
    @Stuart: “every discussion seems to deteriorate into debate about what the proper definition of EA is”

    Yes – what else do you expect?

    Don’t forget the TOG and TOGAF (while it is OK for what it can do) are responsible for a large proportion of this confusion between EA and EITA.

    @Stuart: “which of TOGAF® or Zachman or is the (only) correct framework”

    Personally I have never been a “There can be only one” kind of a guy. I have been for along time, for example, pointing out how TOGAF, Zachman and PEAF are all complimentary…


    @atilabelloquim: “I believe that TOGAF fundamentalism is even more unjustifiable. So, I think that we – who are connected to The Open Group and the Architecture Forum – need to do just what you did your post: try to free our profession from this kind of fanaticism”

    100% agree.

  3. @atilabelloquim Thanks. You make some good points and your last one is very important. If the fanatacism were only coming from one side in the debate (there are more than two “sides” by the way), it would be less of a problem.
    @Kevin. “which of TOGAF® or Zachman or is the (only) correct framework” was, as I think you know, only intended as an illustration of the absurdity of such discussions. Glad you agree.
    @Kevin. Regarding your first point, I do think that debate on definitions per se is a problem in itself and a symptom of the wider problem I tried to address. Announcing one’s correctness doesn’t really cut it. The other guy thinks he’s right as well. If the scope of disagreement is the content and practice of EA and if one wants to convince others of one’s viewpoint, then one has to create discussion at that level. From that perspective one could say “look, just to set a basis, here’s my definition and now I’ll explain to you why I think it matters” – and then hope people accept the definition in good faith as just a starting point. For me, engaging people in debate is the only possibly constructive approach, so I just want to encourage people (in particular the strong and articulate practitioners) to do that. You may not change the other person’s mind but you may well convince a lot of onlookers in the process.
    And if one simply can’t get rational discussion going, at a certain point it’s better to just back out. Reduces the blood pressure.
    That’s how I see it anyway.

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