Words. Sheesh. Can’t we all just get along?

If you have been around or followed me long enough you have heard me say… “I hate words. They do NOT actually convey any (consistent) meaning”. That followed up with… “Words are SO important, use them wisely”.

I find that too many organizations and groups of people spend (waste) too much time fighting over the meaning of words. Word use and meaning is contextual and every individual brings their personal context of experiences to conversation. If unattended, this diversity creates a gap of understanding between participants, resulting in confusion, distrust, sometimes even chaos.

A high function group has overcome this initial problem by creating or agreeing to a common vocabulary of words used in their group conversations. In a well run organization, large or small, this is evident when you have conversations and people USE the same vocabulary in similar ways.

Why do I bring this up today? Today’s Conversation Starter topic is the word Architecture in the overlapping and too often confused contexts of Business, Enterprise, Organizational, Reference, Applications, Technical, and Data.

I am not going to give you my view of their meanings based on my experiences and bias. That will come on another day in the context of Digital Product Masters. Today let’s start by taking a look at a reference set of definition via Wikipedia.com

Enterprise architecture (EA) is “a well-defined practice for conducting enterprise analysis, design, planning, and implementation, using a comprehensive approach at all times, for the successful development and execution of strategy. Enterprise architecture applies architecture principles and practices to guide organizations through the business, information, process, and technology changes necessary to execute their strategies. These practices utilize the various aspects of an enterprise to identify, motivate, and achieve these changes.”[1]

Business architecture (BA) is defined as “a blueprint of the enterprise that provides a common understanding of the organization and is used to align strategic objectives and tactical demands.”[2] People who develop and maintain business architecture are known as business architects.
Business architecture is the bridge between the enterprise business model and enterprise strategy on one side, and the business functionality of the enterprise on the other side.

Organizational architecture has two very different meanings. In one sense it literally refers to the organization’s built environment and in another sense it refers to architecture metaphorically, as a structure which fleshes out the organizations. The various features of a business’s organizational architecture has to be internally consistent in strategy, architecture and competitive environment.[citation needed]
Organizational architecture or organizational space: the influence of the spatial environment on humans in and around organizations.
Organizational architecture or organization design: the creation of roles, processes, and formal reporting relationships in an organization.

A reference architecture in the field of software architecture or enterprise architecture provides a template solution for an architecture for a particular domain. It also provides a common vocabulary with which to discuss implementations, often with the aim to stress commonality. A software reference architecture is a software architecture[1] where the structures and respective elements and relations provide templates for concrete architectures in a particular domain or in a family of software systems.

An enterprise architecture framework (EA framework) defines how to create and use an enterprise architecture. An architecture framework provides principles and practices for creating and using the architecture description of a system. It structures architects’ thinking by dividing the architecture description into domains, layers, or views, and offers models — typically matrices and diagrams — for documenting each view. This allows for making systemic design decisions on all the components of the system and making long-term decisions around new design requirements, sustainability, and support.[2]

These terms are sometimes used interchangeably, when they should not. And while most of the disciplines are rooted in Information Systems theory and practice, todays practitioners will emphasis the EA dna BA are more about the enterprise, business, campy, and organization then it is about systems or information.

So there are a few moe terms that get intermixed and deserve reference definitions.

Business is the activity of making one’s living or making money by producing or buying-and-selling goods or services.
Business may also refer to:
a business: an organization (company or enterprise, for example) involved in the trade of goods, services, or both, with consumers
the business sector — the combined activity of all company-based trading and industrial activity in an economy
trade, the transfer of the ownership of goods or services from one person or entity to another in exchange for other goods or services or for money
an individual industry, such as “the meat business” or “the oil business”
an individual line of business within an industry, such as “the bacon business” within “the meat business” or “a ball-bearing line” within “a bearing business”
Business (EP), an EP by Jet Lag Gemini
Business (newspaper), a weekly business newspaper in Ukraine
“Business” (song), a single by Eminem
business class on airlines
business route, a type of highway in North America
a group of ferrets

A company, abbreviated as co., is a legal entity made up of an association of people for carrying on a commercial or industrial enterprise. Company members share a common purpose, and unite in order to focus their various talents and organize their collectively available skills or resources to achieve specific, declared goals. Companies take various forms, such as:
voluntary associations, which may include nonprofit organizations
business entities with an aim of gaining a profit
financial entities and banks

An organization or organisation is an entity comprising multiple people, such as an institution or an association, that has a collective goal and is linked to an external environment.[1][citation needed]
The word is derived from the Greek word organon, which means “organ”.

It should be noted that “Enterprise” does not have a relevant Wikipedia entry as a single word. It does have dozen of uses as proper nouns and in other context.

Wikipedia does show a simple generalized definition for

Enterprise architecture, the conceptual model that defines the coalescence of organisational structure and organisational behaviour.

Business architecture also has a significant usage in the Enterprise architecture framework context as

“to divide enterprises architecture into four architecture domains
Business architecture,
Data architecture,
Applications architecture,
Technology architecture.

So context is key. I deploy an agreed upon glossary of terms for my projects for this very reason.

My question for you to stimulate further conversation is, “What do these words mean to you”?

  • Business Architecture
  • Enterprise Architecture
  • Organizational Architecture
  • Reference Architecture
  • Applications Architecture
  • Technical Architecture
  • Data Architecture

Make a comment, or drop me an email to jstewart@asteriusmedia.com