21 April, 2008

IT Architecture is not Enterprise Architecture

For many years I have observed lots of confusion with some basic definitions such as IT and Enterprise Architecture among other terms. I will not try to define the meaning of Enterprise Architecture by myself (despite I have my own view on this) as this is something being right now redefined by the Open Group (which by the way used to call their events “IT Architecture Practitioner Conference” and changed only recently to “Enterprise Architecture Practitioner Conference”).

Looking at job definitions related to Architecture positions, I have also identified a clear misunderstanding of “who is supposed to be doing what…”. In addition to that, I’m frequently asked “what’s the difference between an Enterprise Architect and an IT Architect”.

First, let’s assume that everyone agrees on the fact that Enterprise Architecture includes

-Business Architecture
-Information Architecture
-Application Architecture
-Technology Architecture

Whatever the framework is.

One of the main differences between Enterprise Architecture and IT Architecture is the Business Architecture. The diagram below explains at a high level the purpose of each layer.

Among other activities, an Enterprise Architect will drive, supervise and review technology diagnosis and assessment activities. He will be an active member for the IT Strategy development, identify opportunities for technology-related improvement based on benchmark data and doing high-level cost benefit analysis-(Contribution to the overall alignment of IT delivery to the needs of the business). He will develop the enterprise architecture artifacts including current state architecture, target state architecture, architectural roadmaps, referential architecture patterns and technology standard. Also I recommend he acts as a solution architect during the pre-project and development phases of an IT program or oversight of future state designs including technology, solution, information and business architecture. Other activities are related to the access to the future state architecture for adherence to target state direction, or validate deviation justification and recovery plans.He may develop and implement training and documentation for enterprise architecture processes, procedures and framework, work with a team, coordinate, review and integrate the deliverables of information and technology architects into cohesive solutions architecture, taking into account the user requirements, technical requirements, etc.

An IT Architect could be an experienced software engineer with experience in cross-platform, cross-regional application architectures. He would be exposed to modern software engineering methodologies, such as object oriented analysis and design, web architectures, design patterns, iterative-incremental software development, test-first. He should also be familiar with the following methods and platforms: UML, J2EE, .NET, relational databases. And finally experienced in documenting and communicating software architecture, including communication to key senior stakeholders in business

There are various definitions of these roles. Most of them are clearly defined in some frameworks, but there are still lots of confusion in the market and among recruiters.


Michael Moyal said...

Hi Serge,
I defiantly agree that there is a lot of misperception and confusion between the two. The practice of Enterprise Architecture is (and must be) driven by the business. The starting point should be what is our business strategy and objectives and how can they be achieved (which in many cases these days is reliant on IT, but IT is only part of the picture). Therefore, Enterprise Architecture initiatives should cover the whole organisation and should show how a structured plan (i.e. architecture) will deliver business value over time.

Alan Morrison said...


It's interesting that EAs ostensibly have a broad diagnostic and solutions development role, but that when enterprises decide to embark on a large transformation project, they bring in a firm like McKinsey, and the EAs aren't often involved. Any thoughts?

Serge Thorn said...

Hi Alan,
Good point. I believe there are different reasons why company’s goes with the kind of companies you are mentioning:

1. EA is often (unfortunately) “an IT thing” and business is not implicated. C-level people may have never heard of EA…
2. It should be the role of the CIO as an example to market EA at the right level and get a full commitment, but unfortunately…there is a lot of IT managers who are not real leaders and do not dare to approach their management.
3. Also, I would recommend these companies to do an architecture capability maturity assessment which would identify the weaknesses such as “no business linkage”.
4. EA should be “outside of IT” or at least have a shared responsibility between business and IT. The chance of a successful program is greater.
5. The name…EA? Not mandatory…Call it “business transformation”…same thing…More understandable by the business. Some organizations even do not refer to EA at all….
6. No communication plan, no stakeholder management (refer to my last post) and business is ignored.

These companies such as McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, Accenture, PWC and others perfectly know what is EA all about, however they are clever enough to:

1. Address C-level concerns and have a business talk.
2. Avoid falling in the IT trap and using an inappropriate terminology even if they use EA frameworks.
3. Have a much better marketing than pure IT consultancy companies.

Believe me, they are all in the architecture forum listening to what “techies are doing…” :-)

Interesting subject..maybe a future post?

Best regards


Robin Harwani said...

Hello Serge,

You have hit the nail on the head with this post. The main problem is that EA resources are selected based on experience and not on expertise.

Lack of coursework adds fuel to the fire....

I hope to read more from you in future.


Unknown said...

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Thank You

IT Architecture

Mark said...

I've been working at business architecture as an IT specialist and it doesn't work. I start to think that EA is part of Business Administration and should be part of MBA and far far less IT orientation