Strategy

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Better Business-IT Alignment Through Enterprise Architecture: An Actor-Network Theory Perspective

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.