EA in the 1950s

This page is published under the terms of the licence summarized in the footnote.



EA and BA are overlapping sets; neither EA nor BA wholly contains the other.


Business system architecture before IT

In the 1970s, a lecturer on the basic systems analysis course I attended described business systemisation without reference to IT.

As I recall, he spoke along these lines.


“A small business may be primarily a social organisation with little or no systemisation.

As the volume, duration and cost of business processes increase, so do the benefits to be gained by standardising and mechanising the processes.

And so, there is incremental standardisation and mechanisation of roles and processes.”


“For example, you run a one-man mail-order business and open your mail each morning.

Your business grows, you get more mail, you buy a metal letter opener (a technology) to speed up the process of opening envelopes.

Your business grows more, so you hire a secretary whose role involves using the letter opener.

As your business continues to grow, roles and processes are increasingly specialised and standardised.

New roles are dedicated to handling mail and distributing it to people in different departments.

New more advanced technologies are introduced; a packaging and labelling machine is installed in the mail room.”


“The volume, duration and costs of processes are critical factors in assessing the suitability of roles and processes for systemisation.

Business system architects should carry out time and motion studies before changing things – before redrawing their swim-lane flowcharts, designing new forms and filing systems.”


“It may turn out that the business processes are not worth systemising; they may be cheap, infrequent or volatile.

You may instead employ people, give them some broad goals, and motivate them to do the best they can.

That is fine – but it means your business is not systematic – it cannot be seen as system with defined roles and processes – and there little to document by way of system architecture.”


Back then, it was possible to tell such a story with no reference to IT.

The systemisation of business roles and processes depended on ability of people and mechanical technologies to execute repeated processes.

Business systems architect had to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the people and the technologies.


What has changed?

Business system architects must be aware the mail room has been supplanted by email, and telephones have been digitised.

IT is networked; it pervades and invades the business architecture

IT infrastructure is unlike electrical infrastructure, because it contains business data and automates business rules.

Digital information processing is so far embedded in modern business processes that system architects have to understand something of the capabilities of IT.

Just as any building architect has to understand the strengths and weaknesses of building materials.


Methods for planning business systems that use digital information systems (e.g. IBM's Business System Planning) were developed in the 1970s.

EA grew out of these IS-oriented approaches.

By 1990, it was considered important to engage executive level managers in strategic EA planning.

There is no obvious reason that EA should now mean something else.

If we say EA is everything at all levels, the term becomes meaningless.


EA and BA are overlapping sets

Neither EA nor BA wholly contains the other.

BA is a vertical domain within EA, yet BA can extend outside of the EA scope to address processes that are primarily social or mechanical. 


The majority of my customers see EA as the strategic level planning of the IS-centric solution architecture level work.

They see it as joining up business processes, business data, business applications and information technologies.

They see changes to purely social or purely mechanical systems (which business management consultants may consider as BA) to be peripheral to EA.



See related materials in “EA in the architecture work space” at Avancier.co.uk

Copyright conditions

Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works Licence 2.0             18/10/2014 19:17

Attribution: You may copy, distribute and display this copyrighted work only if you clearly credit “Avancier Limited: http://avancier.co.uk” before the start and include this footnote at the end.

No Derivative Works: You may copy, distribute, display only complete and verbatim copies of this page, not derivative works based upon it.

For more information about the licence, see http://creativecommons.org