Enterprise Architecture Artifacts as Boundary Objects: An Empirical Analysis
Context: Enterprise architecture (EA) is a collection of artifacts describing various aspects of an organization from an integrated business and IT perspective. EA artifacts intend to bridge the communication gap between business and IT stakeholders to improve business and IT alignment in organizations and, therefore, can be considered as boundary objects between diverse business and IT communities. However, an intentional analysis of EA artifacts as boundary objects in the current EA literature has been rather shallow and insufficient.
Objective: This study aims to explore how exactly EA artifacts as boundary objects facilitate communication between different professional communities. Specifically, it intends to identify what types of EA artifacts represent boundary objects, analyze their properties and usage scenarios, as well as the differences between them.
Method: This study is based on an in-depth case study of an organization with an established EA practice. Data collection procedures include both interviews with various participants of its EA practice and comprehensive scrutiny of its EA documentation.
Results: We identify five specific types of EA artifacts used in the organization as boundary objects and analyze them in detail. In particular, we analyze their informational contents and usage scenarios, their target audiences and value for cross-community collaboration, as well as their syntactic, semantic and pragmatic boundary-spanning capacity. Moreover, we also introduce the notion of duality as a characteristic of interpretive flexibility of EA artifacts and distinguish two different types of duality leveraging somewhat different boundary-spanning mechanisms: implicit duality and explicit duality.
Conclusions: This paper provides arguably the first inductive qualitative analysis of EA artifacts as boundary objects available in the existing EA literature. It contributes to our understanding of their boundary-spanning properties, distinctive features and general roles in an EA practice. Also, the concepts of implicit and explicit duality that we introduce further advance the theory of boundary objects.