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Enterprise Architecture or Business Architecture?

On on-going discussion in Linkedin and other forums (or should that be ‘fora’?) is the difference between ‘Enterprise Architecture’ and ‘Business Architecture’.

In a rational world they would both be seen as the same thing.  However, not all people who get involved in the ‘architecture’ worlds are rational!

Words Matter

The reason this discussion arises is that these terms (like so many others in the business and IT worlds) have been coined without reference to the meaning of the words themselves, i.e. Enterprise, Business and Architecture.

I will assume, perhaps naively, that we can all agree that the ‘architecture’ that is being talked about here is that structure of artifacts that will enable the business (or enterprise) to properly function and achieve its goals.

So what is a business?  A business is an endeavour that operates with the objective of achieving commercial success.

An enterprise is an endeavour whose goals might or might not be commercial, for example, a local government department is an enterprise but it is not a business.

So, Enterprise Architecture and Business Architecture ought to be synonymous, with ‘enterprise’ simply being a more generic term than business.

Empire Building

However, with people’s passion for empire building, I am sure that the will be enterprises out there with one part trying to build an Enterprise Architecture and another part trying to build a Business Architecture.

Both will be pulling the enterprise in opposite directions.  Both will cause a lot of stress and disruption and, because they are looking for the differences rather than the similarities, both will fail.

Look for the Similarities Not the Differences!

So, my rallying call is ‘Architects of the business/enterprise unite’.  Look for the similiratities rather that the differences and bring your architectures together into an integrated whole.  This will be the best solution the your business/enterprise.

However, as this might mean someone having give up their empire or surrender their ego, it might not happen too soon.

13 Responses to “Enterprise Architecture or Business Architecture?”

  1. Tom Graves September 22, 2012 5:46 am #

    I’m with Nick and Kai on this: there are fundamental differences of scope between enterprise-architecture and business-architecture, in part driven by differences of perspectives and skill-sets.

    (For this purpose, it’s wisest to ignore TOGAF’s definitions, because they’re essentially IT-centric. Useful though they can be in IT-architecture, they’ve been an absolute menace as soon we move outside of IT – as we must do at some point, even to make an IT-architecture work.)

    I’m somewhat fanatical about precision of terminology and language (as Nick and Kai will confirm :-) ), yet I’m also very aware that ‘precise’ terms can be problematic as soon as they hit up against the real world – which is why defining terms is itself always part of the process. There’s also a specific problem here around language-translation: in English there is a definite difference between ‘enterprise’ and ‘business’, whereas in some other languages – Spanish and Portuguese, to give two examples I’ve worked with – there’s no real equivalent for ‘enterprise’, and it becomes very hard to describe that crucial difference.

    To me, business-architecture is the architecture of ‘the business of the business’. At a meta-level of architecture, there’s no fundamental difference between for-profit, government and not-for-profit: they’re all executing their own business-models for their own particular aims in accordance with their specific definitions of value and values. It’s a domain-architecture: the skill-sets and emphases here revolve around areas such as business-models, financials, performance-management and management itself – and these skillsets tend to be significantly different to those in IT-architecture, or security-architecture, or process-architecture or any other domain-architecture.

    As John and Kai point out above, if business-architecture and IT-architecture are domain-architectures, there will be tensions between them, and hence the need for an overarching ‘architecture of the enterprise’ that resolves those differences between domains, in the same way that a domain-architecture resolves differences within the domain.

    In that sense, TOGAF’s positioning of business-architecture as a domain ‘within’ enterprise-architecture is correct. What was not correct was its positioning of enterprise-architecture as a sub-unit of IT…

    It is essential that that overarching architecture is not subsumed into any one domain. We all know the problems that were and still are created whenever EA is subsumed into IT, creating an IT-centric ‘enterprise’-architecture. Exactly the same types of problems are created if we allow business-architecture to become over-dominant: in fact a business-centric ‘enterprise’-architecture can be a lot worse than an IT-centric one, because its barrier of purported ‘right’ to dominate is much harder to breach, leading to huge problems around organisation-centric views of the organisation’s business-context.

    In short, enterprise-architecture and business-architecture are not synonymous, and as architects we create real risks for the business if we fail to distinguish between them.

    Further detail:
    – see ‘The social construction of process’ http://weblog.tetradian.com/2012/09/05/the-social-construction-of-process/ for more on terminology as sensemaking
    – see ‘Enterprise, organisation and the Olympics’ http://weblog.tetradian.com/2012/08/06/enterprise-organisation-and-olympics/ for more on the specific meaning of ‘enterprise’ that I use in my architecture-work
    – see ‘Inside-in, inside-out, outside-in, outside-out’ http://weblog.tetradian.com/2012/06/06/inside-in-inside-out-outside-in-outside-out/ for more on why an enterprise-architecture must cover a broader scope than would be typical for either a business-architecture or IT-architecture.

    • John Owens September 22, 2012 6:11 pm #

      Thanks for this input, Tom.

      I would disagree that they is very real difference between ‘business’ and ‘enterprise’ in English. The only significant difference is that ‘business’ normally refers to a commercial enterprise.

      When you talk about the ‘business of the business’ this does not explain anything to the listener, as you are trying to use one word to describe two different things or one word to describe itself! The listener would need to ask, ‘what do you mean by that?’

      What you really mean are the Functions of the enterprise. The Functions are the ‘business’ of any enterprise and ‘Function Architecture’ is a succinct name that encapsulates this.

      Without the Function Architecture an enterprise can do nothing. So why is it missing from so many architecture models?

  2. Rubina September 21, 2012 12:12 pm #

    Both “enterprise” and “business” are open concepts. If we really want to separate these two architectures, more formal definitions will be necessary. Finally, that’s the reason people use formal definitions. Agree or disagree?

    • John Owens September 21, 2012 8:41 pm #

      Hi Rubina

      Formal definitions are definitely required and these definitions should use terms that are meaningful and unambiguous. My argument is that the current terms are badly chosen and, depending on what forum you are in, totally misapplied.

      Thanks for the input.

  3. Kai Schlüter September 20, 2012 4:19 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    I have a different appraoch to your proposal to search for the similarities. I have a tendency to use the friction and tension between Empires to get messages delivered. More like a trader between the Empires than an owner of any Empire, so instead of using my energy on defining “my” Empire I just visit the other Empires (and therefore couldn’t care less how one names his Empire.

  4. Nick Malik September 19, 2012 9:24 am #

    Fascinating post. I agree with your post, where you wrote “So, my rallying call is ‘Architects of the business/enterprise unite’. Look for the similiratities rather that the differences and bring your architectures together into an integrated whole. This will be the best solution the your business/enterprise.”

    In the responses, the notion of Business and Enterprise Architecture started to pull apart again. Perhaps a good response to those notions would be to point to common principles.

    I agree, btw, that for folks involved in commercial enterprises, the word ‘business’ and the word ‘enterprise’ are synomous. Clearly, for commercial enterprises, these two words cover the same bases. For non-commercial enterprises, the word ‘enterprise’ has the same scope. the term ‘business’ has a much smaller scope (the portion of the organization, if it exists, that exchanges capital for products or services). So the term ‘enterprise’ doesn’t change scope, but the term ‘business’ does.

    The proper term is Enterprise Architecture. That said, I’m a major voice in the development of the methods and practices of business architecture. I don’t disagree with the notion of “functional architecture” but feel that functional is a partial term as well. It misses the motivational elements, representing only the functional elements.

    So to follow your advice, let’s have a single integrated “thing” that we all rely on. let’s call it an architecture. Let’s make sure that it applies to the enterprise (regardless of whether it is a commercial or non-commercial organization). So let’s call that body of knowledge an “enterprise architecture.”

    So what does a business architect do? What does any architect do, when faced with an integrated thing? We all contribute to it and leverage it, and use it in an integrated way, of course.

    You are right in that names could be better selected. Perhaps “Strategic Advisor” would be a better term than “business architect” anyway. There are plenty of other roles that could be renamed as well. One could be a “Technology Performance Manager” and another could be a “Technology Systems Architect” and perhaps another being an “Enterprise Information Architect.” I suspect that a couple more roles could make good use of the same knowledge base.

    Make the leap. If we actually want to have an integrated body of knowledge, let’s give it a name and recognize that all the “architectures” are just part of it. It becomes a single thing… The rest are just the roles that develop parts of that thing, and use that thing, and we all add value to the stakeholders that we all serve.

  5. Robert September 16, 2012 11:49 pm #


    Nice encapsulation of the problem….it comes down to loose language and sloppy thinking. A similar cognitive dissonance persists around the simple concept of a “system”. Generally speaking, a systems analyst will begin his/her analysis of any system with definitions of system boundaries, components and assumptions.

    So, if the analysis of the EA or BA or DA or the “fill in the blank” A proceeds without the definition of boundaries, components and assumptions, the outcome is dubious at best. Neophytes to the world of systems thinking, in general, and “enterprise” architectures specifically, suffer from loose language and sloppy thinking. Most systems and architectures can be described and prescribed using well developed languages of discourse found in the literature. The difficulty follows from inexperience and lack of rigor in application of the language, either descriptive or prescriptive.

    My 2 cents.

  6. Richard Ordowich September 16, 2012 8:19 pm #

    There is a fundamental difference between business architecture and enterprise architecture.

    Enterprise architecture was borne from IT. It is a technical perspective. Business architecture has no technology bounds or constraints. It is a social, cultural and behavior environment. A typical enterprise architecture attempts to impose the technologist’s perspective on a social system.

    The tools we use to develop enterprise architecture are incapable of capturing the motivations and politics of the people and therefore are not a accurate representation of the business.

    What are needed are tools and techniques for capturing the social aspects of the enterprise in order to develop business architecture.

    • John Owens September 16, 2012 8:47 pm #

      Thanks for you comment, Richard.

      In the context you give, IT have stolen a term that relates to the overall enterprise and applied to just part of the architecture of the enterprise. This is so bad, for what they are really talking about is just a technical architecture and should call it that.

      The enterprise includes all aspects of the architecture of the endeavour, organizational, commercial, technical, etc.

      I suggest the IT world admits that it made a big mistake in using such a grandiose term for what is merely part of the overall architecture of the enterprise and surrender it. They should then refer to ‘their’ architecture by a more meaningful name, for example, ‘IT Architecture’ or ‘Technical Architecture’.

      Again, thanks for your feedback.

    • James September 18, 2012 2:47 am #

      Hang on a minute.
      TOGAF clearly defines EA as having two purposes
      (1) “Improving the business” through Architecting the Enterprise alignment between business and IT
      (2) Improving how IT itself “operates as a business”

      The four basic layer are BDAT

      For all layers there are sets of standard artefacts etc and let’s take the business layer.
      There are choices of Porters Value Chain, Customer Motivation Model, Business Modelling Canvas, Viable Systems model and many others. Generally the “business EA” will leverage appropriate models etc pertaining to the industry.

      The real question is can a….
      (1) Business Architect also call themselves and Enterprise Architect (EA)?
      (2) Data Architect also call themselves and EA?
      (3) Application Architect …….. ditto ?
      (4) Technology Arch……. ditto ?
      Or is the Enterprise Architect their boss?

      Each layer is sufficiently mature enough to have its own set of standards, methods etc e.g. we have the BABOK, DMBOK and so it goes.

      I don’t know why you are discussing something that is clearly defined and clearly business architecture is part of enterprise architecture but not all of it just a part.

      • John Owens September 18, 2012 3:30 am #

        Thanks for the input, James.

        The reason it is being discussed here is in response to series of such discussions on Linkedin.

        Thanks for your reference to TOGAF. Here is a link for anyone who wants to find out more. http://www.togaf.info/togaf9/togafSlides91/TOGAF-V91-M1-Management-Overview.pdf

        My contention is that ‘Business’ and ‘Enterprise’ are Synonyms, the former a commercial endeavour, the latter not.

        If TOGAF puts ‘Business’ inside ‘Enterprise’ the it is wrong. What it is missing from its nomenclature is ‘Function’, which it incorrectly terms ‘Business’.

        The Functions (core enterprise activities – NOT departments!) are the raison d’etre for every enterprise.

        TOGAF asks, ‘Why Enterprise Architecture?’ and then, sadly, misses the point by giving the main reason as ‘Effective management and exploitation of information’!! The only reason for information to exist in any enterprise is to support the execution of the Functions of that enterprise!! However, thumbs up to them for using the term ‘information’ as opposed to ‘data’.

        In answer to your question, can BAs, DAs, etc. call themselves architects, it depends on their roles and their skills. Just because someone builds a data model, it does not make them an enterprise architect, no more than a builder building a house makes him an architect.

        If they are building a model that is of the quality and integrity that is suitable to be part of the Enterprise Architecture, then they are definitely contributing.

        However, if they only understand one part of the architecture, e.g. only data models, then they would definitely NOT qualify as architects.

        • James September 20, 2012 5:52 am #

          hello again

          I was working off your heading and just needed to clarify

          TOGAF definition of Enterprise Architecture includes four things
          Business Architecture, Applications Architecture, Data Architecture, technology architecture.

          Thus under that definition I was challenging the use of the word “OR” in your heading.

          Now a non-TOGAF person might have a different definition of “business” hence a different concept of what “business architecture” means.

          They might say “the whole business” but business architecture from a classical EA standpoint is about the drivers, goals, etc, etc down to the point where it is a consumer of IT services, kind of like a services layer abstracting the DAT layers even though they do not specifically have that layer it is there none the less.

          So then what is enterprise architecture really and is just the coordination of business and IT architects? Many say enterprise architecture belongs in the business and shouldnt even answer to the CIO yet in most cases it is part of IT so there you go.

          Nice blog BTW, I will revisit more often :-)

          • John Owens September 20, 2012 6:20 am

            Hi James

            Yes. IT have certainly highjacked something that ought to exist at enterprise level – being the overarching level.

            I think that ‘Business Architecture’ was a careless selection of a term in TOGAF as ‘business’ and ‘enterprise’ are really synonymous. This would definitely be better be termed ‘Functional Architecture’ as the Business Functions, being the core activities of the enterprise, include all of the drivers, goals, business rules, etc. It even defines all of the information required in the enterprise as it the Business Functions that create, use and transform all data.

            So the ‘Data Architecture’, ‘Applications Architecture’ and everything else, is there to support the ‘Function Architecture’.

            Also, thank you for your kind remarks.

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