A systematic approach to reach business goals
In a nutshell, Enterprise Architecture (EA) is about change. Informed, planned and methodical change while reducing variability and risk.
There are various perspectives and definitions of Enterprise Architecture and its evolution over time.
Gartner defines EA as:
Enterprise architecture (EA) is a discipline for proactively and holistically leading enterprise responses to disruptive forces by identifying and analyzing the execution of change toward desired business vision and outcomes. EA delivers value by presenting business and IT leaders with signature-ready recommendations for adjusting policies and projects to achieve target business outcomes that capitalize on relevant business disruptions. EA is used to steer decision making toward the evolution of the future state architecture.‡
The Federation of EA Professional Organizations' definition is most complete:
a well-defined practice for conducting enterprise analysis, design, planning, and implementation, using a holistic approach at all times, for the successful development and execution of strategy. Enterprise Architecture applies architecture principles and practices to guide organizations through the business, information, process, and technology changes necessary to execute their strategies. These practices utilize the various aspects of an enterprise to identify, motivate, and achieve these changes.
Effective Enterprise Architecture frequently provides pragmatic artifacts such as requirements, specifications, guiding principles, and conceptual models that describe the next major stage of evolution of an organization, often called the “future state.” Enterprise Architecture analyzes the gaps between the future state and the current state, and provides the road maps that support the evolution of the enterprise to the future state by closing the gaps.†
Enterprise Architecture is often interchangeably used to refer to either or a combination of EA frameworks, methodologies, process, artifacts or practice.
Taxonomy and Process Frameworks
There are a handful of major frameworks with varying degrees of focus between description/documentation and Architecture Development Methods (ADM). A robust EA practice utilizes customized selections from both areas that are best fit to the organization.