What is an Organization Architecture?

An organization architecture is a model that represents the main components of an organization.  The model can be used to assess the impact of change on an organization.  For example, if an organization plans to introduce new information technology, the organization architecture can be used to identify which elements of the organization may be affected by the proposed change.

In a building, the building architecture establishes the boundaries for the use of space.  For example, walls delineate physical space in which activities can take place, such as cooking in a kitchen.  In an organization, the organization architecture creates behavioural space in which business processes, such as order processing, can take place.  Architecture provides boundaries, which form constraints within which the activities in a building or the processes in an organization are restrained.  Architecture also provides opportunities for how physical activities and business processes are performed in the bounded space.  The organizational architecture shapes the organization and provides a context in which the organization operates.

Difference between Organization Architecture and Organization Structure

The organization architecture should not be confused with the organization structure. The organization structure is one component of the formal organizational architecture.  The organization structure groups resources together, and assigns responsibility for completing, coordinating and controlling defined activities with the resources provided.  The organization structure defines the formal flows of information in the organization, defining the flow of authority and decision-making in the organization.  The organization architecture represents the fundamental components that comprise the organization and the inter-relationships between them.

Organization Architecture

Figure 1: Organization Architecture

Components of an Organization Architecture

The organization architecture, shown in Figure 1 comprises two sections, formal structures and informal structures.  Formal structures are predefined by the organization.  Informal structures emerge through the interaction between staff in the organization operating within the constraints of the formal structure.  For example, working practices evolve in the informal structure to accommodate the needs of the organization, its customers and suppliers within the limitations imposed by the processes, systems and technology in the formal organization architecture.

Purpose of an Organization Architecture

A model of the current organization architecture provides a template that can be used to explore the impact of proposed change on the organization and model the organizational transformation required to implement the proposed change.  Identifying the components of the organization architecture that may be affected by proposed changes, enables organizations to assess the impact of the proposed change on the information requirements and information management of the organization.

Further Reading:

The components of the organization architecture are defined in Chapter 1.  Examples of how the organization architecture can be used to model organization transformation are provided in Part III of the book.


Please use the following to reference this blog post in your own work:

Cox, S. A., (2015), ‘What is an Organization Architecture?’, 6 February 2015, http://www.managinginformation.org/what-is-an-organization-architecture/, [Date accessed: dd:mm:yy]

© 2014 Sharon A Cox