Blog post

Classifying Approaches to Enterprise Architecture Governance

By James McGovern | April 24, 2017 | 7 Comments

I have the opportunity to interact with hundreds of organizations of varying levels of maturity and their approach to the practice of enterprise architecture governance. Across each of these organizations, there are various flavors of governance all seeking to answer the single question of who has decision making authority…


The below table attempts to classify the different approaches to enterprise architecture governance. The various approaches don’t always fit neatly into a single bucket and can be combined depending on organizational culture.

  1. Liberty
    No approvals required. I do what I feel is right with no validation from others.
  2. Chiefdom
    I have strong decision making authority supported by a hierarchy of enterprise architects.
  3. Monarchy
    A council of senior executives calls all the shots. The enterprise architecture team follows their command without question.
  4. Democracy
    Individuals are nominated to represent various concerns and sit on a council with voting privileges.
  5. Republic
    The minority of the most qualified makes decisions for the majority.
  6. Communism
    A team of administrators is imbued with limited decision making authority around minor aspects of architecture
  7. Anarchy
    The lines of authority aren’t clear. Political battles are often won by who fights the longest

Each of these approaches has both their strengths and weaknesses. For example, the Chiefdom and Republic model work very well when you have exceptionally strong talent. The Democracy and Liberty model works in cultures that lack strong executive leadership. The communism works well when enterprise architecture is nascent in organizations. A monarchy when staffed with both business and IT executives can help strengthen business and IT alignment.

Classification schemes have the potential to become the subject of the next Dilbert cartoon. They can also help enterprise architects understand the barriers to success and provide them with a spark that help them navigate their enterprise architecture to a better place.

Do you think you would benefit in reading research that outlines how enterprise architects have created successful outcomes in each of these categories?

Leave a Comment


  • Jon Stewart says:

    Absolutely. It’s a thorny issue.

  • Andrew Veety says:

    Hi James – yes, I’d benefit from this often overlooked specialty within EA.

  • John Gøtze says:

    These governance model were described by Weill and Ross in 2004 in their IT Governance book, and their governance arrangements matrix is by now old school.

    • James McGovern says:

      Thank You for pointing me towards this book as I wasn’t aware of this. I will note that my question is not just about classification but also whether there should be published research as to how to be successful in each.

  • Chris Seldon says:

    My experience is execs want architecture governance as long as it doesn’t get in the way of their plans or slowdown projects. At which point it’s seen as an overhead

  • Emeric Nectoux says:

    Hi James, the question/list are outdated, especially in a Digital world where EA should be much more consider how to be an enabler instead of a roadblock. To erect governance to apply outdated principles must be avoid, governance must be as lean as possible and be supportive.

  • Ricardo Londono says:

    Hi James. I would be interested in such research. As stated by others, this is a difficult subject.