What is Enterprise Architecture?

Definitions for enterprise architecture can be verbose and yet somehow ambiguous.  I hope to simplify the concept and provide a definition and purpose that will have meaning for employees, partners, and constituents of the City of Philadelphia.  This effort might require some wordiness but in the end I hope to make one thing clear: Enterprise architecture can create a plan to deliberately transform the City of Philadelphia into the Mayor’s envisioned future state.

The Zachman Framework Definition

According to the Zachman Framework, an enterprise architecture framework that was developed by IBM in the 1980s:

“enterprise architecture is the total set of intersections between the abstractions and the perspectives that constitute the total set of descriptive representations relevant for describing an enterprise”.

While this definition is a mouthful, I am not entirely certain that this description conveys the purpose or value of enterprise architecture.

The Open Group Architecture Framework Definition

The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF), an enterprise architecture framework developed by an international standards body, defines “enterprise” and “architecture” separately.  According to TOGAF, architecture is:

“the structure of components, their inter-relationships, and the principles and guidelines governing their design over time.”

TOGAF defines an enterprise as:

“the highest level of description of an organization and typically covers all missions and functions.”

I am certain that we can combine the definitions of these two terms from TOGAF and come up with another lengthy definition but, again, the value and purpose might still be unclear.

Another Approach

TOGAF and the Zachman Framework as well as other enterprise architecture frameworks define activities and concepts revolving around enterprise architecture.  Some of the ideas expressed by different frameworks align very well but others do not.  However, there appears to be agreement that enterprise architecture represents two things: a deliverable and a function.

Enterprise Architecture is a Deliverable

An enterprise architecture is an end product that represents the current state of an organization, the future state of an organization and defines a path from the current state to the future state that aligns operations and IT services with business strategy.  While this is a wordy definition, it can get even wordier if one were to describe the catalogs, diagrams, and matrices that make up an enterprise architecture.

A simpler description that I like to use is: An enterprise architecture is a plan for leveraging organizational resources to achieve business goals in a cost effective manner.

An enterprise architecture, as a deliverable, should:

  • Describe how business activities are transformed into a future envisioned state of operations;
  • Detail the information and applications used to describe and drive those activities;
  • And, prescribe the technology resources used to enable and support the business transformation.

Enterprise Architecture is a Function

Enterprise architecture is also a function (or capability) that operates within an enterprise.  The enterprise architecture function is responsible for creating and maintaining the enterprise architecture deliverable described above and participates in project and portfolio governance and management.

A simpler description for this function is: Enterprise architecture creates—and  governs the execution of—a plan for leveraging organizational resources to achieve business goals in a cost effective manner.

An enterprise architecture, as a function, should:

  • Create and maintain enterprise architecture deliverables;
  • Provide design guidance to projects implementing change in the enterprise;
  • Identify and encourage the use of reusable processes and solutions;
  • Ensure the compliance of individual projects with the enterprise architecture (as a product and a function).

What I Did Not Mention

Obviously there is a tremendous amount of detail regarding specific components of an enterprise architecture deliverable and the specific roles and responsibilities of an enterprise architecture function.  In subsequent posts, I will  describe some of this detail from the perspective of the major architectures (or disciplines) that comprise enterprise architecture.  There are several different views on what those architectures are; however, the four used in the Philadelphia City government include: Business Architecture, Data (or Information) Architecture, Application Architecture, and Technology Architecture.

The Value of Enterprise Architecture

Why is it important for the City of Philadelphia (the City), or any organization, to have a plan for leveraging organizational resources to achieve business goals in a cost effective manner and a function that creates- and governs the execution of that plan?

Effective organizations, including the City, have a mission, vision, and strategic goals that drive the activities of the organization.  Meeting that mission, achieving those goals, and reaching that envisioned future state is a tremendous challenge in an organization and large and complex as city government.  Enterprise Architecture provides views of an organization at the levels and with the details needed to make effective decisions.  Enterprise architecture helps to rationalize the activities of an organization against the mission and goals of the organization, identifying gaps and providing a path that aligns all efforts and leads the way to the envisioned future state.

City government is a complex enterprise, consisting of many agencies with missions and goals of their own, all working towards fulfilling a larger mission and meeting goals that comprehensively move the City towards an ambitious vision.  Bringing alignment to all of the activities that comprise the day-to-day operations and change projects executed by the City is a task of herculean proportions.  Enterprise architecture provides a means for articulating a plan that is built upon the idea that all of activities are driven by the business (e.g. mission, goals, strategy, and other drivers).  By leveraging the Enterprise Architecture function of the Office of Innovation and Technology, the City can create a road map for transforming the City of Philadelphia into the safe, healthy, green, and high performing place of choice described in the City’s Strategic Plan and ensure that the City’s efforts are aligned to achieve that envisioned state.

Clinton Johnson Clinton Johnson is the City of Philadelphia’s Chief Enterprise Architecture Officer. Follow him on Twitter @PhilaArchitect.

6 thoughts on “What is Enterprise Architecture?

  1. Pingback: A Seamlessly Integrated City Government, A Three Part Series | PhillyInnovates

  2. Pingback: A Seamlessly Integrated City Government, Part 1: Understanding the Problem | PhillyInnovates

  3. Pingback: A Seamlessly Integrated City Government, Part 2: A Clearer View of the Future | PhillyInnovates

  4. Pingback: A Seamlessly Integrated City Government, Part 3: Transformation | PhillyInnovates

  5. Pingback: What is Enterprise Architecture? | My Blog

  6. Pingback: The Story of the Enterprise Architecture | PhillyInnovates

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