• Jonas Van Riel

Why is a Master in Enterprise Architecture so relevant today?

We're nearing the end of the current academic year. It has been a challenging second half, where we had to transform towards an online formula overnight. However, we can proudly say that we successfully tackled that challenge and are looking forward to the next academic year, where we will start our MEA2020.

The fact that you are here, might mean that you have a certain interest in our Master in Enterprise Architecture. The question I sometimes get, is why should I enrol in a Master in EA (or MEA) and others ask me: why should I follow this instead of for example an MBA? Although 2 related questions, let me first give you my take on an MBA and then explain why our MEA will provide you with the right tools to face the challenges of these times.


An MBA focuses on the vertical layers of an organisation, also known as the different 'departments' (or functional domains if you will) such as strategy, finance, HR, marketing and so on, but always from a business perspective. This is mainly interesting if you are aiming for a career as a Business Unit Manager or similar (I'm sure there many other reasons why you would follow an MBA, but let's say that this is one of the main reasons). And, in my opinion, even though an MBA is a very interesting program, it will not provide you with answers regarding certain organisational challenges.

An MEA focuses on the horizontal layers of an organisation, known as architectural layers. In these challenging times, change has become the new constant. Organisations are in a continual state of flux trying to stay ahead of the market and the consumer. However, where the strategy used to be the big unknown, these days we see that strategy execution is often the more difficult question to answer. Why? Because changes come fast and they come hard. Organisations were built with a goal in mind, but that goal is often not valid anymore today. So organisations are faced with a rigid legacy structure that was built for a different time and which prevents them from being sufficiently agile to execute changes and to respond quickly enough to the changing reality. Of all the tools in the manager's toolbox, EA is the one that can provide you the cohesion necessary to align the entire organisation and ensure that the state of flux becomes a story of coordinated evolution in order to manage and guide a constant transformation. An MBA might help you to find a new strategy to answer a new market need, but it will not help you in organising your enterprise in such a way that it is capable to realise that strategy.

How can an MEA learn you to overcome pertinent challenges your organisation faces?

With these uncertain and challenging times, companies express a few needs related to their biggest challenges. These are:

1. Increase agility.

2. Leverage data and make it a central asset of the organisation.

3. Increase security.

4. Become more innovative and incorporate innovation into the culture and operations.

5. Become more effective and efficient in strategy execution.

6. Integrate all stakeholders in the eco-system that represents the organisation.

Next to the explicit requests expressed by organisations, we see a few secondary and additional needs for organisations to realise their needs.

7. Internal alignment.

8. Dealing with technical and organisational debt.

9. System thinking.

10. Increased enterprise governance.

Increase agility

CEO’s often mention that their organisation is slow in adopting new business models and/or technologies and express a need to become more ‘agile’. Often organisations look at ‘agile’ delivery methods to accomplish this, but agility entails a lot more than just delivering in an agile way.

Agility entails that, next to delivering in an iterative and agile way, the organisation itself is structured in such a way that it is able to adapt quickly to new realities and circumstances. This includes internal alignment; dealing with technical and organisational debt; and system thinking.

Internal alignment

When organisations fail to successfully implement their initiatives, often this is due to a lack of internal alignment and proper communication. Alignment requires organisations to have a common view on and understanding of the enterprise itself. Enterprise Architecture and the different other domain architectures are a perfect ‘tool’ to realise this, because it provides clarity, common understanding and direction.

Dealing with technical and organisational debt

When organisations make decisions, these decisions imply that a certain structure and architecture is put in place that will facilitate the execution of programs and the strategy from which they originate. Making the right choices and explicitly not choosing for certain options allows an organisation to make sane choices, that will allow them to either have a more agile architecture or discard suboptimal choices, because the explicit nature of the choices enforce ownership.

System thinking

Looking at the organisation as a system allows the organisation to analyse and evolve that system. Architecture disciplines are built on this principle.

Leverage data and make it a central asset of the organisation

Data is becoming increasingly important, increasingly abundant and increasingly complex to manage. New technologies such as AI, Blockchain and IOT impact the data architecture of an organisation. AI can only work on proper data and requires new types of data architecture and governance, Blockchain offers an alternative for traditional data structures and IOT adds to the amount of (Big) data an organisation has to process. All of these challenges require a good understanding of data management in general.

Increase security

Security and cyber security will become more and more important in the future, due to the increasing complexity and connectivity of enterprises. A mature understanding of the architecture of the organisation increases the security maturity.

Become more innovative and incorporate innovation into the culture and operations.

An innovative mindset is important, incorporating innovation into the organisation is however difficult. Enterprise architecture is a perfect starting point to bring innovation into the organisation, because it allows for alignment and a guided implementation.

Become more effective and efficient in strategy execution.

As stated before, it is difficult to be effective in strategy execution. Next to the cultural aspect (understanding of the strategy in all layers of the organisation), translating strategic objectives towards the domains of the organisation is a difficult endeavour. Architecture provides the insights and alignment to get this done, governance provides means to make sure it is done the right way.

Integrate all stakeholders in the eco-system that represents the organisation.

Organizations understand that a narrow internal view on the organisation is not sufficient anymore in today’s connected world. The organisation should be seen as a system to which all stakeholders and partners are connected.

How can you learn to achieve this through our Master in EA (MEA)?

We strongly believe that the first step towards solving these challenges lies within the ability of the organisation to understand the challenges at hand and the required measures or solutions to be implemented (from an organisational/structural, people and technology perspective). Therefore, the knowledge necessary to understand these domains is covered in our Master in Enterprise Architecture and Transformation. It will provide the students and their organisation with a new found understanding of the problem reality, the underlying concepts that can help an organisation to transform successfully and the related methods and tools to realise this.

The structure of the Master programme reflects the underlying structures and concepts, required for a successful transformation.

The programme was created, based on our view of the enterprise structure. We believe that in order to transform the organisation, one needs to look at it as a system and understand how that system works. The different cogs in the enterprise wheel are listed below.

  • Strategy and its objectives will result in certain business models and systems. This can be seen as the start of everything: where do we want to go as an enterprise.

  • Enterprise governance oversees the strategy creation process, but also all other domains. It provides steering and alignment. It’s about doing things right.

  • Portfolio management allows for correct spending: it should be decided which initiatives get what budget and it should make sure these agreements are kept. It’s then up to Program, project and change management to ensure a correct delivery.

  • However, without EA it will be very hard to know where your money should be spent. EA has 2 main purposes: making sure all other architectures are aligned with a) each other and b) the strategic goals. It’s all about doing the right things.

  • Business architecture is the first start. It translates goals to value creation views, business information models etc. A limited playfield for business concepts.

  • Translation of the Business concepts to IT is done via what we would call the ‘Functional architecture’ (non-official term). This often includes a cross-application view of IT to understand how we can keep the functional landscape aligned with the business reality.

  • Application architecture focuses on the architecture within single applications.

  • Integration architecture focuses on how these applications work together.

  • Technology or infrastructure architecture makes sure the systems are chosen and set up to support Business and IT goals in the best way.

  • Where enterprise architecture keeps everything together and thus is situated on a strategic level, Solution architecture focuses on the same, but more on a tactical level and for 1 specific solution at a time.

  • Security is everywhere, it should be included in decision making and it is part of Business and IT.

If you want to learn more about our MEA, go here.

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