Government enterprise architecture adoption: A systemic-discursive critique and reconceptualisation

Anders Ƙstergaard Jensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


The objective of this master's thesis was to explain the impact of Enterprise Architecture (EA) and meta-modelling on decision making, people, culture, and communication in government. Governments, in their desire for closer and higher quality engagement with citizens, have adopted modernisation programs based on information technology. This type of modernisation is also known as e-government. EA has been adopted in e-government transformation as a tool for planning and managing the process, in which meta-modelling has been applied to document, model, and communicate the e ort and progress. The thesis identi ed a fundamental, theoretical problem with meta-modelling in EA programs. The EA discipline, including its tools and methodologies, relies on the metaphor of engineering the enterprise and building stable, structured taxonomies of knowledge and process. However, government agencies are unpredictable human structures and not abstract machines. The reality that e-government programs are dealing with is both mechanical and human, hard and soft, technical and social, but meta-modelling tends to operate within an engineering environment that assumes stability, predictability, and control. The theoretical research for this thesis concluded that such a view is inadequate for explaining the impact of e-government on people, culture, communication, management, and the relationship between government and citizens. Subsequently, empirical research was conducted in two Australia government agencies to examine the practical circumstances of these problems. The research was applied using qualitative techniques in order to highlight the interpretations of the involved practitioners. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews, transcribed, analysed, and interpreted to derive rich descriptions of and generalisations on meta-modelling practice. The empirical research revealed a similar discrepancy between methodology and reality: the assumptions of precision and control through meta-models do align well with software and infrastructure|but fail to address appropriately the inherent messiness and unpredictability of government reality. The interviewees needed to develop their own workarounds, sensemaking, and adaptations in order for meta-modelling to be useful and e ective in practice. Finally, the thesis identi ed a clear correspondence between the stated theoretical concerns around EA and meta-modelling, and its application in practice. The thesis furthermore indicated the probability of further concerns over the link between meta-modelling and the scienti c paradigm of government bureaucracy. This link may, if not acknowledged and comprehended, cause an over-emphasis on bureaucratic e ciency at the expense of e ectiveness, democracy, participation, tradition, and history. By combining academic critique and EA practice, this thesis arrived at a set of principles, a conceptual model, and recommendations for improving the application of EA and meta-modelling in e-government. EA and meta-modelling must establish an interpretive, systemic view of government transformation based on learning, adaptation, and self-design in the cultural, communicative relationship between people. Only then can EA build a viable conception of its social, communicative, and managerial impact in practice.

EducationsMSc in Computer Science, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2010
Number of pages150