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  • Mapping the Enterprise Architecture Principles in TOGAF to the Cybernetic Concepts An Exploratory Study

    Mohammad EsmaeilZadeh

    Unversity of New South Wales at Australian Defence Force

    Academy m.esmaeilzadeh@student.adfa.

    Gary Millar Unversity of New South Wales

    at Australian Defence Force Academy

    Edward Lewis Unversity of New South Wales

    at Australian Defence Force Academy


    Although principles are a key concept in the definition of Enterprise Architecture (EA), they have not received the same degree of attention as other EA concepts. The notion of EA principles (EAP) is suffering from the lack of a theoretical foundation that provides a logical framework for defining them.

    Stafford Beers Viable System Model (VSM) and its application to IT governance, the Viable Governance Model (VGM), have shown to be comprehensive blueprints for designing viable organizations and IT governance arrangements, respectively. The purpose of this paper is to explore whether the principles of cybernetics can provide a theoretical basis for interpreting EA principles derived through practice. This paper maps the principles defined in the Open Groups TOGAF to theoretical concepts drawn from the VSM/VGM and cybernetics. The paper concludes by identifying possible shortfalls in the existing set of principles and the need to develop a theoretical framework to overcome them. 1. Introduction

    Among the many different definitions of Enterprise Architecture (EA), the most widely used is that of TOGAF which is based on the ISO/IEC 42010 definition of architecture [1]: The fundamental organization of a system, embodied in its components, their relationships to each other and the environment, and the principles governing its design and evolution.

    This definition indicates that principles represent an essential element of an EA. The literature also supports this view (see e.g., [2-4]). Some researchers, such as Hoogervorst, even believe that principles are the main element in the definition of EA [5]: architecture is a coherent and consistent set of principles and standards. However, despite their perceived importance, EAPs have received less attention than other EA concepts such as models and views (e.g. [2, 6-7]).

    In recent years, several researchers have begun to investigate the domain of EA principles [2, 6-8]. Their studies are primarily concerned with finding a common definition, classifying EAPs, or collecting different types of EAPs. Stelzer [6] reviewed the different studies related to EAPs and identified the following limitations: the lack of an appropriate definition for EAP, the lack of a theoretical basis for developing them, and the lack of a set of generic EA design principles. Aier et al. [7] studied different approaches to defining EA principles and proposed a meta-model defining EA principles. Proper et al. [2] believed that EA is an integral part of the governance of an enterprise and its transformation. They regarded EAPs as the normative instruments in restricting design freedom in enterprise transformation. They provided a framework to position the different types of principles, and highlighted their role in EA. Lindstrom [8] proposed a reference model for IS/ICT responsibilities and related this model to architecture principles and exemplified them by some architecture principles, i.e. interoperability and data quality. She also proposed a set of guidelines to define and manage architecture principles.

    However, despite these advances in defining EAP, there is no theoretical basis for proposing a coherent set of EAPs or guidelines to define them. The main goal of our research is to establish whether cybernetic principles, especially those embodied in the VSM/VGM, can provide a sound theoretical basis for deriving a robust set of EAPs. As the first step in reaching this goal, this paper explores whether EAPs established through practice can be explained using fundamental cybernetic concepts. 2. Principles in TOGAF

    The main source for EAPs is TOGAF [21], which is available on The Open Group website [4]. These principles are usually adapted and customized by organizations as their EAPs. However, there are other

    2012 45th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences

    978-0-7695-4525-7/12 $26.00 2012 IEEEDOI 10.1109/HICSS.2012.422


    2012 45th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences

    978-0-7695-4525-7/12 $26.00 2012 IEEEDOI 10.1109/HICSS.2012.422


  • collections such as that in the US Government's Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF) [9]. Greefhorst and Proper have recently proposed a set of principles based on an extensive study of real-world architectures [10]. As the main goal of this research is to propose a theoretical framework for explaining the existing EAPs, we focus on TOGAFs principles in this paper, leaving other sets of principles for future work.

    TOGAF defines EAP as [4]: general rules and guidelines, intended to be enduring and seldom amended, that inform and support the way in which an organization sets about fulfilling its mission. TOGAF notes that principles may be established at three levels: enterprise principles, IT principles and architecture principles. These sets of principles form a hierarchy, in that IT principles will be informed by, and elaborate on, the principles at the enterprise level; and architecture principles will likewise be informed by the principles at the two higher levels. TOGAF defines each EAP in a standard representation that includes: name, statement, rationale, and implications.

    The alignment between business objectives and IT capabilities is an important key in defining principles in TOGAF. Specifically the following sources for developing the architecture principles are highlighted: enterprise mission and plans, enterprise strategic initiatives, external constraints, current systems and technology, and computer industry trends. TOGAF emphasized that principles should be few in number, future-oriented, and endorsed and championed by senior management. A good set contains principles that are understandable, robust, complete, consistent, and stable. 3. The VSM

    Originally, cybernetics was defined as the science of communication and control in animals and machines [11]. In contemporary usage, cybernetics refers more broadly to the study of control and communication in systems, including socio-technical systems such as organizations. When applied to organizational systems, it has been referred to as the science of effective organizations [12]. For a comprehensive list of the most common principles of cybernetics and system thinking refer to [13].

    Among these principles, one of the most influential concepts in organization theory is Ashbys law of requisite variety: Control can be obtained only if the variety of the controller is at least as great as the variety of the situation to be controlled [14]. Variety is the measure of the number of different states within a system [12]. The variety of a system depends on the

    context in which it is embedded, and also who is observing that system. Contemporary organizations are embedded in complex, dynamic environments. Therefore in order to cope with substantial variety, organizations need variety attenuator to reduce or filter the variety arising from the environment [12]. On the other hand, the organization needs to deploy variety amplifiers to amplify its own variety to increase its influence over the environment.

    Applying the laws and principles of cybernetics, especially requisite variety, to the design of effective organizations, Stafford Beer formulated the Viable System Model (VSM) as a blueprint for designing organizations that are able to survive and thrive in a changing environment [12, 15-18]. VSM integrates into a coherent framework an array of cybernetic concepts, including: feedback, communications, variety, recursion, viability, autonomy, autopoiesis, self-regulation, self-organization, and learning [19].

    The model comprises five main functions or systems: Policy, Intelligence, Control, Co-ordination, and Operations. Beer labeled these management functions Systems 5 to 1 respectively. A sixth function, Audit, is labeled 3* to indicate that it is a sub-system of System 3. These six functions are linked through a series of communication channels or information flows. The VSM is schematically represented in Figure 1.

    Figure 1. The Viable System Model (VSM)

    (Adapted from [17]) The five systems of the VSM represent the five

    invariant functions of a viable organization; they do not necessarily represent discrete organizational


  • groupings or units. Two or more functions may be carried out by the same individual or unit. However, they MUST be carried out if the organization is to remain viable [12]. Another defining feature of VSM is its recursive nature. Stafford Beers Recursive System Theorem states that: in a recursive organizational structure, any viable system contains, and is contained within, a viable system [15].

    The Viable Governance Model (VGM) adapts the VSM to one aspect of organizational control, namely IT governance [19]. The VGM is used to formulate a series of design propositions or principles that may be used to guide the design and implementation of specific IT governance arrangements. The VGM specifies the invariant sub-systems of an effective system of IT governance, together with the design principles to be followed when implementing a particular system. In defining the VGM, value creation and value preservation (or risk management) are the ultimate sources of organization vi


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