By Leonard Fehskens, The Open Group
In the second part of this series, I examined the effect of our definition of enterprise on how we think about EA.
To close, I’ll consider the implications of a more inclusive concept of enterprise on the future of Enterprise Architecture.
The current cohort of EAs who have grown accustomed to a misnamed and narrowly focused discipline will eventually retire. They will be replaced, over time, by EAs who learn the discipline in academic programs rather than by making it up on the job. They will chuckle in amusement at a “body of knowledge” that is like that of medicine before germ theory, geology before plate tectonics, or astronomy before heliocentrism. These programs are being created now, and academics are not interested in teaching a discipline with an irrational and inconsistent vocabulary. They don’t want to have to explain to their students that it is for “historical reasons” that “enterprise means the IT part of a business.”
The focus of an academic program on Enterprise Architecture will necessarily reflect the prevailing concept of enterprise. The commonly used model of Enterprise Architecture being about people, process and technology provides a useful context for considering this influence.
An IT-centric concept of Enterprise Architecture, like the one currently espoused by most of the community, will emphasize the role of information technology in supporting the needs of the business. It will include just enough about business and people to enable practitioners to address the goal of “aligning IT with the business.”
A concept of Enterprise Architecture based on the idea of enterprise as business will emphasize business, especially business processes, as they are the primary locus of technological support. It will include just enough about information technology and people to enable practitioners to address the goal of making IT a strategic asset for businesses.
A concept of Enterprise Architecture based on the idea of enterprise as human endeavor will emphasize the role of people, and be built around the sociology and psychology of individuals, groups and organizations, especially leadership and management as means to achieving organizational goals. It will devote some attention to business as a particular kind of enterprise, but will look at other forms of enterprise and their unique concerns as well. Finally, it will consider technology in its most general sense as the means of instantiating the infrastructure necessary to realize an enterprise. There will be a lot of harumphing about how the conventional wisdom is correct by definition because it is what is practiced by the majority of practitioners, but there is a noisy and insistent contingent that will continue to point out that the world is not flat and the sun does not go around the earth. Only time will tell, but however you measure it, over 90% of most organizations is “not-IT”, and the IT-centric perspective is simply so imbalanced that it can’t ultimately prevail.
Adopting a broader concept of enterprise consistent with its meaning in common English usage does not in any way invalidate any of the current applications or interpretations of Enterprise Architecture. It simply allows the application of architectural thinking to other kinds of purposeful human activity besides commercial business organizations to be subsumed under the rubric “Enterprise Architecture”. All entities that are enterprises by these more restrictive definitions clearly fit unchanged into this more inclusive definition of enterprise.
Len Fehskens is Vice President of Skills and Capabilities at The Open Group. He is responsible for The Open Group’s activities relating to the professionalization of the discipline of enterprise architecture. Prior to joining The Open Group, Len led the Worldwide Architecture Profession Office for HP Services at Hewlett-Packard. He majored in Computer Science at MIT, and has over 40 years of experience in the IT business as both an individual contributor and a manager, within both product engineering and services business units. Len has worked for Digital Equipment Corporation, Data General Corporation, Prime Computer, Compaq and Hewlett Packard. He is the lead inventor on six software patents on the object oriented management of distributed systems.