Reinterpreting TOGAF’s Enterprise Architecture Principles Using a Cybernetic Lens

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Mohammad Esmaeil Zadeh, Gary Millar, Edward Lewis


In the literature, there are many definitions of Enterprise Architecture (EA), but most of them have three items in common: elements, relationships and principles. Among these, principles represent an essential element in the definition of EA, and some researchers posit that they are the main element in this definition. However, despite the recent advances in defining enterprise architecture principles (EAPs), this notion is suffering from the lack of a theoretical foundation that provides a logical framework for defining them. Stafford Beer’s 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. Similarly, in recent realizations of EA, the design of the whole organization, and not just the IT, is brought into consideration. Therefore, this paper aims to establish whether the laws and principles of cybernetics, especially those embodied in the VSM and the VGM, can provide a sound theoretical basis for deriving EA principles. This paper investigates the principles defined in the Open Group’s TOGAF based on the theoretical concepts drawn from the VSM/VGM and cybernetics more broadly. This investigation demonstrates that the principles in TOGAF can be derived from the laws and principles of cybernetics.


Enterprise Architecture, Principles, Viable System Model, VSM, Cybernetics

About the authors

Mohammad Esmaeil Zadeh is a PhD student at the University of New South Wales, Australian Defence Force Academy. Mohammad has several years of professional and managerial work experience in the telecommunication and IT sectors. His current area of research investigates the application of viable systems theory to IT governance and Enterprise Architecture.

Gary Millar is a lecturer at the University of New South Wales, Australian Defence Force Academy. His primary research and consultancy work lie in the area of IT Governance. He developed the Viable Governance Model (VGM) which specifies a comprehensive blueprint for establishing governance structures, processes and mechanisms in complex corporations. He has also developed IT strategic plans, formulated IT policies, and managed large IT projects within the government sector.

Edward Lewis is a Senior Lecturer at the University of New South Wales, Australian Defence Force Academy. For 35 years he has been carrying out research and providing consultancy services into strategy and policy planning, Enterprise Architecture, and risk management. He has chaired the Australian and international standards committees that produced ISO/IEC 38500: 2008 Corporate governance of information technology.


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Journal of Enterprise Architecture