Simplification and cross-organisational integrity

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Remember: Enterprise architecture regards the enterprise as a system, or system of systems


A solution architect may be constrained (by time, budget or other reason) to consider one subsystem or one step in a process.

In which case, the Principle of Suboptimization will apply.


“When you try to optimize the global outcome for a system consisting of distinct subsystems, you might try to do this by optimizing the result for each of the subsystems separately.

This is called "suboptimization". The principle of suboptimization states that suboptimization in general does not lead to global optimization.” (Ref. 3)


The Bennett-Berrisford corollary to Conway’s law may also be applicable.

"People naturally coalesce into work groups that optimise their system of interest, and so suboptimise any wider system of which their system is a part".


EA strives to address stubborn problems that tactical solution architecture doesn’t address.

Enterprise architects are supposed to regard the enterprise as an orderly coherent whole, to consider end-to-end processes and integrate information sources.


They look to the long term, beyond the next report to shareholders, and beyond the current CEO.

They envision a "unified operating model" in which core business processes and data are standardised and integrated, rather than fragmented.


Business process

“Operating model”






High integration




Low integration



Ref. 4.


The value? The presumption is that unification will simplify systems, reduce costs, increase agility and information/data quality.


Q) Do business managers value business data?

An EA team should be concerned with the quality of business data.

They should seek business owners for data elements.

Sadly, many business managers don't think of data as having a measurable value.

They see data as an IT thing, and delegate data quality concerns to others.


“Where sponsors, stakeholders or management lack understanding… we should provide some education” Jose Arroyo Moreno.


Education can address principles such as "data is an asset”, “data must be secure” and “data must comply with legislation”.

Data quality is valued by executives who want to comply with regulations.

But the value is probably felt more by executives who want better management information.

So the latter is lever worth pulling.


Q: Is it difficult to change an organisation that is profitable and not under existential threat?

Perhaps: a business that is stable and profitable may not be motivated to standardise or integrate its processes and systems.

Still, its EA team can do what it can, when it can, to unify systems, and ensure agility.

And steer solution architects and suppliers in the right direction.

That is OK if you accept the “Principle of Suboptimization” and are satisfied with “Guerilla EA”.


Q: Can an EA team succeed in unifying systems?

It may never succeed; the unified operating model is a vision - a direction of travel.

Managers are motivated by current pains, threats and opportunities.

So, an EA team should look to uncover and report the costs, pains or threats that disorder produces.

It should look for issues that arise from the solutions that are duplicated, silo, non-standardised and not integrated.

It might also look for opportunities an EA team can enable, while recognising that pursuing a new opportunity may increase the Fragmented systems problem, in the short term at least.


Q: So are you saying long term success is impossible?

What would long-term success would look like? Fixing long term goals can deny agility.

And there are always trade-offs.

Solution architects are more naturally inclined to champion the shorter term and narrower goals of system delivery.

Enterprise architects are more naturally inclined to champion the longer term and wider goals of system unification.

They should compare value propositions, inform each other and reach a compromise.

Perhaps success would be surveys showing stakeholders report the EA team has improved business system planning and/or business systems over a long term?




Ref. 1: TOGAF 9.1, The Open Group.

Ref. 2: Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs. Cf. 1942 G. Ciano Diary 9 Sept. (1946) II.

Ref. 3: Heylighen F. (1992): "Evolution, Selfishness and Cooperation", Journal of Ideas, Vol 2, # 4, pp 70-76.

Ref. 4: “EA as Strategy” Ross, Weill and Robertson.

Ref. 5: ArchiMate v2 standard, The Open Group.


The papers on the “Enterprise Architecture” page at contain much advice relating to EA.


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