>Gestalt Theory and Enterprise Architecture


“Gestalt theory is a theory…that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts…This is in contrast to the “atomistic” principle of operation of the digital computer, where every computation is broken down into a sequence of simple steps, each of which is computed independently of the problem as a whole.” (Wikipedia)

Gestalt theory and the atomistic principle are important lenses with which to understand User-centric EA. Both gestalt and atomistic views are used to build the enterprise architecture.

  • Modeling—“A model is a pattern, plan, representation, or description designed to show the structure or workings of an object, system, or concept.”(Wikipedia) Enterprise decompose the business and IT of the enterprise to view functions and activities, information and data, and manual and automated solutions for supporting those. In modeling the organization and decomposing it into its foundational elements, we view both the distinct parts as well as the relationship between those; this is the atomistic principle is at work. architects develop business, data, and systems models to show the elements and relationships in the enterprise, identify the business processes, information requirements, and technology solutions. To perform this modeling the architects
  • Planning and Governance—EA develops the baseline, target, and transition plan, and develops or supports the IT strategic and tactical plans. Further, EA facilitates the IT governance process by conducting IT projects, product, and standard reviews and providing finding and recommendations to ensure business and technical alignment and architecture assessment for the organization. Both of these functions of EA require the synthesis of “boat loads” of business and technical information to develop realistic plans and valuable reviews in support of sound investment and portfolio management. In developing the plans and managing the IT governance for the organization, we are synthesizing information to create a holistic view of where we are, where we going, and how we will get there. This involves bringing together the multiple perspectives of the architecture (performance, business, information, service, technology, security, and hopefully soon to be added human capital) to get a view of the organization that is larger than the sum of its parts. The architecture is more than just a federation of these perspectives, and incorporates the analysis of gaps, redundancies, inefficiencies, and opportunities used to drive business process and technical reengineering and improvement in the organization. This is the gestalt theory at work.

Together, the gestalt theory and atomistic principle show us how enterprise architects decompose or break down the organization into its parts and then synthesize or build it back together again, such that the whole is now greater than the sum of its parts. The ability to do this is the marking of a true enterprise architect master!