>Functionalism and Enterprise Architecture


Functionalism is about the structure and workings of society. Functionalists see society as made up of inter-dependent sections which work together to fulfill the functions necessary for the survival of society as a whole. The theory is based around a number of key concepts. First, society is viewed as a system – a collection of interdependent parts, with a tendency toward equilibrium. Second, there are functional requirements that must be met in a society for its survival (such as reproduction of the population). Third, phenomena are seen to exist because they serve a function. Functionalists believe that one can compare society to a living organism, in that both a society and an organism are made up of interdependent working parts (organs) and systems that must function together in order for the greater body to function.” (Wikipedia)

User-centric EA is firmly grounded in functionalism. EA sees the enterprise as composed of interrelated parts that rely on each other in order to function and survive. Each individual, group, department, division and so on plays a critical role (like organs in a body).

Enterprise architects develop models of the business, data, and systems that show exactly what the parts (or elements) in the organization are and how they interrelate and function—this is functionalism. For example, in the business model, the actors perform activities (or tasks); the activities make up processes, and the interrelated processes make up functions. Clearly there is a structure and interdependency of like components that fulfills enterprise functions. Similarly, the organization’s IT hardware and software products are combined with databases to make up applications with specific business functions. The functionally interrelated applications combine to make up systems. Again, the collection of independent parts (products, applications, systems) forms collections that serve specified functions for the organization.

If a business activity or process or an IT product or application no longer serves a necessary or viable function for the growth and “survival” of the organization or if there are redundancies in these, then the architect recommends that those unnecessary components be discontinued. Similarly, if there are gaps or inefficiencies in the business or IT, where required functions are not being served or served well, then the architect recommends a those gaps be filled or those business or IT areas be reengineered.

EA’s basis in functionalism is what makes it grounded in the realities of the organization needs for survival and maturation.

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