Who put the “Enterprise” in Architecture?

Enterprise Architecture is a commonly accepted label, used around the world by Enterprise Architects, and yet the meaning of the term continues to provoke debate.

“Architecture” – on its own – is not confusing a term. Although some definitions narrow it to buildings, I prefer a more open definition which includes Enterprise Architecture, such as this: “[architecture is] the profession of designing buildings, open areas, communities, and other artificial constructions and environments

Which leaves us to explore the prefix “Enterprise”. Who put the “Enterprise” in Enterprise Architecture?

[I’ve posted a discussion – Who put the “enterprise” into Enterprise Architecture? – on The Enterprise Architecture Network on LinkedIn – if you have any thoughts on this topic.]

John Zachman?

John Zachman is frequently, but erroneously, credited with coming up with the term Enterprise Architecture in his 1987 article for the Systems Journal. Zachman was a founding developer for IBM’s Business Systems Planning (BSP) which is a method for analyzing, defining and designing an information architecture of organizations. His 1987 article, following its title, only refers to “A framework for information systems architecture“, and the word “enterprise” occurs just twice. In other words, he is focusing purely and simply on information systems architecture – not enterprise architecture.

In fact, while acknowledging that “one can readily delineate the merits of the large, complex, enterprise-oriented approaches”, and going on to say that these “allow flexibility in managing business changes and coherency in the management of business resources”, Zachman argues that “there also is merit in the more traditional, suboptimal systems design approach.” He goes on to say that “Such systems are relatively economical, quickly implemented, and easier to design and manage.”

This is not to belittle John Zachman’s enormous influence in evangelizing the need for an architectural discipline. This is evident in his widespread recognition as one of the main founders of enterprise architecture. And the framework for Information Systems Architecture, is popularly known as the Zachman Framework.

It wasn’t until the early 1990s that Zachman adopted the phrase, and started to refer to his framework as “Enterprise Architecture – A Framework“. The earliest published version that I can find for this naming is 1993. It is still referred to as a Framework for Information Systems Architecture in Zachman’s 1992 IBM Systems Journal Article.

If it wasn’t John Zachman who first came up with the term Enterprise Architecture, where did it come from?


A strong contender is Westpac – the Australian bank and financial-services provider. Westpac is one of Australia’s Big Four Banks and also the second-largest bank in New Zealand.

In the 1990s it embarked on one of the most ambitious and innovative EA projects. The project – known as Core Systems for the 1990s, or CS90 – included many aspects of EA that we take for granted today: component-based architecture, reference models, generated code, and frameworks. The jury remains divided on whether the project was a “success” or not. The project was a victim of a financial crash, so it was never fully completed. Some believe that what was implemented was radical, effective and way ahead of competing architectures, while some argue that it was costly, career-damaging and incomplete.

Despite the disappointing results within Westpac, the CS90 project pioneered nearly all of the important EA techniques that we use today. You can read more about this project in Stephan H. Haeckel‘s brilliant book: Adaptive Enterprise – Creating Sense and Respond Organizations.

A vital part of the CS90 project was a comprehensive Enterprise Business Model (EBM). This was far ahead of its time for several reasons: it was produced from a business, rather than an IT, perspective, with all definitions and examples written in business language; it was fully integrated, with language from the data model reused to define functions, processes and transactions; it was based around data, product and process families or classes; it isolated and parameterized business rules and conditions; and it was used to generate software code, processes and other components in the architecture.

Because the architecture was based on the Enterprise Business Model, it was referred to as the Enterprise Architecture. I gave a presentation at the AD/Cycle Conference in Chicago in 1991 about the CS90 project which used the phrase enterprise architecture to describe the key outcome [R. Evernden, “Object Management in a Mainframe Repository-Based Environment,” Repository AD/Cycle International Users Group Conference Proceedings, Chicago (October 27-30, 1991), pp. 188-197].

The Westpac CS90 project had a very high profile for three reasons:

  • The first one was that in 1990 Westpac sold the intellectual rights for much of CS90 to IBM. This included the Enterprise Business Model. The deal was supported by CS90 Consulting, a team of Westpac experts who worked with IBM to re-package and promote the concepts and intellectual property from CS90. This team ran worldwide presentations, demonstrations, consultancy and courses on all aspects of CS90, including the concept of Enterprise Architecture.
  • The CS90 material was the basis for Information FrameWork (IFW) – an architectural framework that I developed to explain the advanced EA concepts developed by Westpac. This remains the foundation for IBM’s Banking Industry Framework and reference models. IFW has been used by more than 400 banks around the world.
  • The final reason is that CS90 was a controversial initiative. Like many radically innovative projects, it was both a pioneering success and a dramatic failure, giving CS90 visibility and notoriety.

Nobody Knows?

We will probably never know for certain who coined the phrase Enterprise Architecture! It predates John Zachman’s use of the phrase, and it may well have been someone at Westpac who first used the term.

It is one of those phrases that evolved out of other phrases and there may have been several people who coined the phrase around the same time. If you have any more specific ideas about its origins then I’d love to hear from you!