There is a substantial interest and investment in enterprise architecture worldwide, exemplified by the number of enterprise architecture-related professional bodies, consulting services, frameworks, methodologies, and the increasing prevalence of full-time enterprise architecture teams. It may seem surprising in this context, therefore, that the value of enterprise architecture is still poorly understood. Organizations cite difficulties in justifying their enterprise architecture investments and anecdotal evidence suggests that the existence and funding of the enterprise architecture function is often based more on the beliefs of the incumbent management team than on demonstrated value. Although there is no shortage of enterprise architecture benefit claims, explanations of why and how enterprise architecture leads to the proposed benefits are fragmented and incomplete. This article aims to take a step towards improving the understanding of the value of enterprise architecture by focusing on how it leads to organizational benefits. Through a careful review of the existing practitioner and academic literature, the article consolidates knowledge on enterprise architecture benefits and refines the explanations by drawing on relevant IS and management theory. The resultant EA Benefits Model (EABM) proposes that enterprise architecture leads to organizational benefits through its impact on four key benefit enablers: Organizational Alignment, Information Availability, Resource Portfolio Optimization, and Resource Complementarity. The article concludes with a discussion of some potential avenues for future research, which could build on the findings of this study.
Enterprise architecture has attracted the attention of information systems (IS) academics as well as information technology (IT) and business professionals. While enterprise architecture has been proposed as a solution to the business-IT alignment problem, there is little theoretical basis that would explain how enterprise architecture work can lead to better alignment. Here we draw on the Actor-Network Theory (ANT) to highlight the role of enterprise architecture in achieving and sustaining such alignment. Specifically, we argue that enterprise architecture work helps to achieve agreement and thus alignment of the interests of internal actors within the context of enterprise interests and inscribes such agreement into architectural artifacts. Such artifacts can then be used in negotiations with external parties, such as IT vendors, thereby protecting the interests of the enterprise. Enterprise architecture work is also likely to reduce the likelihood of members of the enterprise, such as IT staff, from forming close ties with external parties, such as IT solution vendors, at the expense of the interests of the enterprise. We argue that this would result in stronger business-IT alignment. We conclude by highlighting two important goals of enterprise architecture as viewed through the ANT lens: (1) to help achieve an alignment of interests within the enterprise, and (2) to serve as a tool for protecting the interests of the enterprise in internal and external negotiations. These in turn point to the importance of the soft skills of enterprise architects and the need for clear and readily understandable enterprise architecture artifacts.