A Brief History of Enterprise Architecture

26 August 2016

A brief history of EA - 26 Aug 2016The field of enterprise architecture essentially started in 1987, with the publication in the IBM Systems Journal of an article titled “A Framework for Information Systems Architecture,” by J.A. Zachman. In that paper, Zachman laid out both the challenge and the vision of enterprise architectures that would guide the field for the next
20 years. The challenge was to manage the complexity of increasingly distributed systems. As Zachman said:

“The cost involved and the success of the business depending increasingly on its information systems require a disciplined approach to the management of those systems.”

Zachman’s vision was that business value and agility could best be realized by a holistic approach to systems architecture that explicitly looked at every important issue from every important perspective. His multiperspective approach to architecting systems is what Zachman originally described as an information systems architectural framework and soon renamed to be an enterprise-architecture framework.

Zachman was a major influence on one of the earliest attempts by a branch of the U.S. Government, the Department of Defense, to create an enterprise architecture. This attempt was known as the Technical Architecture Framework for Information Management (TAFIM) and was introduced in 1994.

The promise of enterprise architectures, such as TAFIM, to better align technical projects with business need was noticed by no less a body than the U.S. Congress. Most likely influenced by the promised benefits of TAFIM, Congress in 1996 passed a bill known as the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, also known as the Information Technology Management Reform Act, which mandated that all federal agencies take steps to improve the effectiveness of their IT investments. A CIO Council, consisting of CIOs from all major governmental bodies, was created to oversee this effort.

In April 1998, the CIO Council began work on its first major project, the Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF). Version 1.1 of this framework was released in September of 1999. This document contained some innovate ideas, such as “segmented architectures” – that is, architectural focus on segmented subsets of the larger enterprise.

Over time, responsibility for federal enterprise architecture moved from the CIO Council to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). In 2002, the OMB evolved and renamed the FEAF methodology as the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA).

Despite the very significant enterprise-architectural activity in the Federal Government (one could argue that no organization has spent more money attempting to develop an enterprise architecture than the U.S. Government), progress has been slow and success stories are overshadowed by higher-profile failures. In 2004, a full eight years after the Clinger-Cohen Act mandated the use of effective IT planning processes, the General Accounting Office (GAO) reported the following:

“Only 20 of 96 agencies examined had established at least the foundation for effective
architecture management. Further, while 22 agencies increased in maturity since 2001,
24 agencies decreased in maturity and 47 agencies remained the same.”

Since January of 2005, the General Accounting Office (GAO, not to be confused with the OMB) has severely chastised a number of U.S. agencies for failures in their adoption or use of enterprise architecture. A few examples include the FBI, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and NASA.

In 1998, four years after TAFIM (remember TAFIM?) was introduced and two years after it became codified as Clinger-Cohen, TAFIM was officially retired by the Department of Defense. The work done on TAFIM was turned over to The Open Group. They morphed it into a new standard that is today known as The Open Group Architectural Framework – better known by its acronym, TOGAF.
In 2005, about the same time that OMB was becoming the dominant EA force in the public sector, another organization was taking steps to become a dominant force in the private sector. This group was Gartner.

By 2005, Gartner was already one of the most influential organizations specializing in CIO-level consulting. However, in the specific area of enterprise architecture, the best known IT research and advisory group was not Gartner, but Meta Group.

Gartner had struggled to build an enterprise-architecture practice, but never achieved the status of the Meta Group. In 2005, Gartner decided that if they couldn’t compete with Meta Group, they would do the next best thing: They would buy it.  Following the purchase of Meta Group, Gartner/Meta spent a year looking at what each company brought to the table as far as enterprise-architecture experience and methodologies. The two companies discussed how best to reconcile their often quite different approaches.

In the end, a fairly simple algorithm was applied: If Meta Group liked it, it was in; if Meta Group didn’t like it, it was out. Gartner liked architectural frameworks. The Meta Group liked architectural process. So, frameworks were out; processes were in. This brings us up to date in the history of enterprise architecture.

Source:  Roger Sessions
ObjectWatch, Inc.