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Abstract

Enterprise architecture (EA) frameworks offer principles, models, and guidance to help one develop an EA program. Due to EA’s flexible and abstract nature, there is a proliferation of EA frameworks in practice. Yet, comparison studies to make sense of them are far from satisfactory in that they lack a theoretical foundation for comparison criteria and do not meaningfully interpret the differences. In this paper, I propose a comparison approach using EA essential elements—the underlying key features of EA programs—to distinguish EA frameworks. Based on the extant literature, I identify eight elements, each with its own theoretical justification and empirical evidence. I illustrate how to use these elements to evaluate eight popular EA frameworks. The results show three ideal types of EA frameworks: technical, operational, and strategic EA. Each type has a different focus, set of assumptions, and historical context. The essential elements offer a more systematic way to evaluate EA frameworks. In addition, they shift attention from the maturity models often used in EA development to focus on particular EA elements being implemented by organizations.

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