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10 Definitions of Enterprise Architecture. Which corresponds to Yours?

Konstantin Ivanov's picture
by Konstantin Ivanov posted on 2009-08-20

While discussing the ultimate value of Enterprise Architecture in my last post Why Companies Do Need Enterprise Architecture at Downturn? I have not defined the term "Enterprise Architecture". A variety of definitions do exist and some people claim that this is a sign of infancy of the subject. However look at the descriptions of EA I managed to gather and consider yourself whether they point to totally different directions or they have a lot in common.

1. ANSI/IEEE Std 1471-2000: “The fundamental organization of a system, embodied in its components, their relationships to each other and the environment, and the principles governing its design and evolution.”

2. Cap Gemini: “Enterprise Architecture is the description and visualization of the structure of a given area of contemplation, its elements and their collaborations and interrelations links vision, strategy and feasibility, focusing on usability durability and effectiveness. Architecture enables construction, defining principles, rules, standards and guidelines, expressing and communicating a vision”

3. Forrester, Gene Leganza, 2001:  “Enterprise architecture consists of the vision, principles and standards that guide the purchase and deployment of technology within an enterprise”

4. Gartner Group: “Enterprise architecture (EA) is the process of translating business vision and strategy into effective enterprise change by creating, communicating, and improving the key principles and models that describe the enterprise’s future state and enable its evolution.”

5. Gartner Group, Philip Allega: “Enterprise architecture is the process that interweaves business and IT together”

6. Institute for Enterprise Architecture Development: “Enterprise Architecture is about understanding all of the different elements that go to make up the enterprise and how those elements interrelate”

7.MIT Center for Information Systems Research: “Enterprise Architecture is the organizing logic for key business processes and IT capabilities reflecting the integration and standardization requirements of the firm’s operating model.”

8.The ArchiMate Foundation: “A coherent  whole of principles, methods, and models that are used in the design and realization of an enterprise’s organizational structure, business processes, information  systems, and infrastructure ”

9.The Open Group: “By being inclusive with all other management frameworks, EA is a discipline that helps the Enterprise define , develop and exploit the boundaryless information flow (BIF*) capabilities in order to achieve the Enterprise’s Strategic Intent.” *Boundaryless Information Flow is a Trademark of The Open Group

10.US Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF): “Enterprise architecture is a management practice to maximize the contribution of an agency’s resources, IT investments, and system development activities to achieve its performance goals. Architecture describes clear relationships from strategic goals and objectives through investments to measurable performance improvements for the entire enterprise or a portion (or segment) of the enterprise”

(Please, note that definitions are sorted in alphabetical order based on the names of organizations created them)

Which definition corresponds to YOUR perception of Enterprise Architecture? Register at ARIS Community, vote and influence on the results!

ANSI/IEEE Std 1471-2000
6% (1 vote)
Cap Gemini
0% (0 votes)
0% (0 votes)
Gartner Group
25% (4 votes)
Gartner Group, Philip Allega
0% (0 votes)
Institute for Enterprise Architecture Development
13% (2 votes)
MIT Center for Information Systems Research
13% (2 votes)
The ArchiMate Foundation
25% (4 votes)
The Open Group
13% (2 votes)
US Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF)
6% (1 vote)
0% (0 votes)
Total votes: 16
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by Jens Lauer
Posted on 2009-08-20


nice definitions Konstantin, thanks!

I recently read an interesting comment on EA:

"The real value of Enterprise Architecture is not in making better architectures…it’s in making better enterprise.”
Gary Doucet, Chief Architect,
Government of Canada Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat GC


by Konstantin Ivanov Author
Posted on 2009-08-20

Jens, the quote is totally inline with my view, where Holistic EA drives Enterprise Excellence... Should update my slides. :-)


by John Smith
Posted on 2009-08-22

Nice post!

Good knowledge about the organzation really help and usefull .

I think IEEE and ANSI is the best.




by EA Composer
Posted on 2016-06-15

I think one should do a deep research before choosing any ea tools. Enterprise architecture is too important for most of the organizations these days as it provides transparency to the whole operational functions of a firm.

by Parveen Jaswal
Posted on 2009-08-24

Truely speaking drawing a line marking difference between these definations is a tough task, it looks so close to each other.

Probably I need to get some good knowledge to figure out the difference.

by Richard Gilyead
Posted on 2009-08-25


I don't really agree with any of these since I don't think EA is a deliverable or a process. Both of these suggest an end point. I have been doing EA for 30+ years and I still haven't finished!

I think EA is a business function that provides services to an organisation. These services are primarily analytic and advisory. The enable the organisation to make informed decisions about processes, information, systems and technologies. The guiding light is what business operating model is needed to achieve the organisation's goals. Everything EA does should be to enhance the effectiveness of this model.

Incidentally, I recommend "Enterprise Architecture as Strategy" by Ross, Weill and Robertson as a great source book.  



by Richard Gilyead
Posted on 2009-08-25

Can we have an ARIS Architectuer Group?

There are lots of other topics we coud discuss.



by Konstantin Ivanov Author
Posted on 2009-08-27


thanks for your opinion. I assume your perception of EA is mostly matched by MIT. No wonder, one of the authors of it is Jeanne W. Ross. :-)

I am not sure whether every process can be considered as having an end point.  If you consider EA, then it is kind of "start with the need to conceive a roadmap for the business, capture this roadmap in an easy, effective manner, communicate it to the business, engage them in developing IT, design the to be roadmap, communicate, engage and then deliver; start all over again" as one of my colleagues formulated it in a simple way...

IMHO, this is ongoing never ending process, perfomed by an organizational structure and delivering a service for the whole enterprise.... And that matches your description, does it?


by Sebastian Stein
Posted on 2009-08-28

Hi Richard,

about having a specific group for ARIS Architecture. At the moment I don't think we have enough posts yet to fill such a group. Therefore, I suggest that we go on using this group. Please feel free to post your questions/proposals/discussions concerning this topic.

Have a nice weekend,


by Adrian Grigoriu
Posted on 2009-09-04

The 1471 definition quoted has an Architectural Description part . I believe this should be included in the definition of Architecture as many people think in terms of documentation. This is a good definition but applies to technical systems primarily rather than people organizations.

In my view, EA may improve understanding and enable vision but it's neither one nor the other. It should be accompanied by a transformation process and roadmap but it's not really a process or a roadmap.  It may require standardization but standarization is only a principle. It would bring benefits like maximise IT investments, but it's not only about IT and this is only a benefit of doing it. An EA function  and management practice may exist  to help document and implement the EA, like it should for any other activity. EA ends up as a study discipline as all things worth a good effort. The EA may have little logic as it is (spaghetti like). It may have a Boundaryless Information Flow (BIF) but I hope it doesn't.

An other short definition: EA is the Enterprise structure, operation and the technology and people resources implementing it, all described by a blueprint.

It can be used for strategic planning from a current to a target state, to improve processes, introduce  standardization, align technology to business and strategy in order to increase efficiency and eliminate duplication...  to reduce costs.  


by djebar hammouche
Posted on 2010-01-05

 Here my 50 €cents EA holistic  def: "an enterprise  discipline that architecture  and enable an agile loose alignment of IT to business"

Agile is related to the capability of change (change management, design for change) 

discipline is related to the art and to the frameworks

loose is related to the loose coupling 

enterprise is related to multiple perspectives

architecture is used as verb (dynamic) and noun (static organisation)



by i balazs
Posted on 2011-02-11

Hi Konstantin.



I have a very special question but I didn't find the good theme or the good blog for it.

We use an ARIS Business Designer v7.02 and we would like to use special objects (not the standard objects) in this ARIS version? Can we import objects into this ARIS or can we change the objcets in this ARIS from "outside"?


Can You help me?






by Roland Woldt
Posted on 2011-02-11

You can change the object symbols in your version of ARIS. However, you need an ARIS Architect for this. With the Architect installation ships also a symbol editor that allows you to import graphics and save them as *.amf files, or to create symbols from scratch.

by i balazs
Posted on 2011-02-20

Hi Roland,


Thanks for Your answer! We found the "ARIS Platform / Administration / ARIS Symbol Editor"

application and we made a new symbol but we didn't know how can we import this into ARIS and how can we made its attributes.

Can You help me, on what way can we import this image into ARIS, how can we create an object from this image  (for example we would like to create a new object from this image in "Function" model/group or the "Organizational Chart" model/group of ARIS with its attributes)!





by R. Ruddy
Posted on 2015-03-17

An IT bias continues to sub-optimize EA efforts.  It is fine to choose to focus on IT improvements, but it is not OK to advertise that your focus is the enterprise when it is really only IT's impact on the enterprise you are considering.

One of my goals is to get management to start looking at EA, capital improvement portfolio management and Lean as closely related complimentary activities instead of silos.

I like the Gartner definition but good architects should also be aware of the Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF).  The FEAF is a great source of totally free (no pricey consultants required) and practical information about deployment of architectures available to anyone with a web browser.  It provides great information about moving from theoretical and strategic to tactical and practical implementations.   

FEAF is based on the US Department of Defense Architecture Framework (DoDAF), but I generally recommend that practitioners start with the UK Ministry of Defense adaptation of DoDAF called the Ministry of Defense Architecture Framework (MODAF).  I think the descriptions and definitions are clearer and more concise (let's face the Brits are just better with the language).  For those of you who are still Zackman proponents you should know that Zackman helped develop DoDAF and insure its internal consistency.

NATO also publishes a version known as NAF that has a really nice running example through all of the phases and diagrams.

My company wants to just focus on TOGAF which is a fine methodology, but they are blind to the lingering IT bias and gloss over step 6.2.5 which says you should tailor TOGAF with the the frameworks for your industry and / or legacy efforts. The previous version of TOGAF made this a lot clearer than it is in the current version.  It used to reference DoDAF and and a few other frameworks explicitly.  The ARIS framework implicitly imposed by just using the tool effectively is forcing some broader perspectives, a good thing, but not enough in my opinion.

Enterprise Architecture must also be able model and optimize not only information, but the flow of resources (parts, material and people) through the supply supply chain and the physical infrastructure (warehouse and factories - not just servers) of your business.  Then you are talking a system of systems...

by Leif Andersen
Posted on 2015-10-15

I like the ANSI/IEEE definition and think it does provide room for the more specialised perceptions expressed above.

To me EA is mostly a framework/a fundamental organisation that enables governance.

I guess what you like  depends on what we want to achieve by using a term EA. Often I hear an ambition of governing business from strategy to execution level - which I think is better covered in some of the business management disciplines (strategic planning and the like).

Maybe I like the ISO definition of architecture even better:

  • architecture: fundamental concepts or properties of a system in its environment embodied in its elements, relationships, and in the principles of its design and evolution 
by Adam Kuester
Posted on 2016-11-19


I, like many have been uncertain what Enterprise Architecture is and how it can help my business. Definitions that are on Wikipedia and other sources online seem to conflict each other. I found a great explanation from the Enterprise Architecture Center of Excellence defining and outlining skills needed to be successful in enterprise architecture. The EACOE has helped me identify a working definition that puts enterprise architecture into practice.