How usable are our Enterprise Architecture documents?

Marlies Copyright Maurits Donga

“Our architects delivered an Enterprise Architecture document, but we don’t really know what to do with it”. In the past couple of weeks I heard this remark a number of times from managers of different organizations. It is a remark that saddens me a bit. Apparently, a couple of smart girls and guys have been putting a lot of effort in writing down how the organization can be structured to enable it to achieve its business ambitions, and now the organization does not know what to do with it. What went wrong?

Taking a closer look at the documents produced, I find that they contain a lot of useful content concerning all aspects of the organization, including design rules, diagrams, standards and solutions. In between these I find explanatory texts about the architectural concepts used in the document. It is a lot of text, but the content makes sense and if the organization would do all that is mentioned, they would be well-geared for the future. So, again, what went wrong?

Taking an even closer look, I conclude that the documents are not wrong, but that they lack usability. The documents represent the architectural knowledge of the organizations concerned. Architectural knowledge is relevant in all kinds of decision-making by all kinds of disciplines, from senior management to developers. What is missing, is the translation of that knowledge to its use in decision-making throughout the organization.

So, managers, ask yourselves not “what are we going to do with the Enterprise Architecture document?”, but instead “how can the Enterprise Architecture support us in making this decision we need to make right now?”. And architects, as your most important task is to provide decision-makers at all levels, with to-the-point advice at the moment of decision-making, structure your documents accordingly.

Marlies van Steenbergen


Marlies van Steenbergen started her career with Sogeti Netherlands in the role of service manager enterprise architecture in 2000. After working as a consultant for a few years, she became Principal Consultant Enterprise Architecture in 2004. In this role, she is responsible for stimulating and guaranteeing the development of the architectural competence of Sogeti Netherlands. Since 2012 she is the main proponent of enterprise architecture and DYA within Sogeti Netherlands.

More on Marlies van Steenbergen.

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