Enterprise Architecture Discipline Classification

Like the discipline of Physics which has multiple branches of practice, so too Enterprise Architecture should distinguish branches of practices such as Theoretical and Applied Enterprise Architecture.

In Physics: Applied physics is a general term for physics research which is intended for a particular use. An applied physics curriculum usually contains a few classes in an applied discipline, like geology or electrical engineering. While

Theoretical physics is a branch of physics which employs mathematical models and abstractions of physics to rationalize, explain and predict natural phenomena. The importance of mathematics in theoretical physics is sometimes emphasized by expression “mathematical physics“.[note 1]

The advancement of science depends in general on the interplay between experimental studies and theory. In some cases, theoretical physics adheres to standards of mathematical rigor while giving little weight to experiments and observations.

Again like Physics, the partitioning of the discipline into categories will likely require a richer taxonomy that the current hierarchy in use today which has its basis from the Zachman Framework.   This does not mean that the Zachman Framework and derivatives from it are invalid views.  However, looking at the Framework from a broader perspective may yield a more comprehensive ontology that could fill in the gaps between business theory and I.T. design and executional elements.

Today, as I continue my research in the arena I was watching various Black Hole and Physics programs on the Science Channel.  As I listened to some of the arguments and history regarding Black Holes and the physics behind these discussions it sounded much like some of the discussions I’ve heard over the years and more recently in the Google Group Enterprise Architecture Forum.   All of these ranged around what should be or not be in Enterprise Architecture verses Information Technology or Infrastructure Architecture.  The various sides all wish to include or exclude various areas such as BPR or I.T. and its subdivisions or business models or finance.  Add to that the difference between theoretical and applied ad EA is a mélange of sub-disciplines that are still to be related together into a cogent body of knowledge.

While initiatives such as TOGAF are attempting to amass a body on knowledge what I’ve seen is an orientation that still approaches the topic from a strictly I.T. perspective, projecting into the business domain from that orientation.  This has the effect to limit the non-I.T. contributions that are, in my opinion, just has valuable.  Business Models and Strategy, Organizational Design and other areas all have a contribution to the “Architecture” of an enterprise and therefore should be included in such a discipline.

As initiatives such collaboration and social networks gain importance so too shall these other soft sciences and sub-disciplines increase in priority and influence in how an enterprise is structured and operates.  That suggests that these are architecture components for enterprise, like light and space are architecture components in dwelling architecture.

The Meta-Framework for discipline definition I proposed prior a approximately decade ago at ZIFA was Jon Lang’s used in the field of Dwelling architecture. This does not replace the Zachman Framework but places a context for it to operate in to help distinguish between theoretical and applied, prescriptive and descriptive.

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About briankseitz
I live in PacNW in a small town and work for Microsoft as a Enterprise strategy and architecture SME. I enjoy solving big complex problems, cooking and eating, woodworking and reading. I typically read between 4-8 business and technology books a month.

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