8 years, 11 months ago

On Government Adoption of Enterprise Architecture as an Institutional Process

 During the past few days, I have been reviewing Kristian Hjort-Madsen’s PhD ‘Architecting Government: Understanding Enterprise Architecture Adoption in the Public Sector’ in relation to enterprise ontology and enterprise modeling methodologies. A vast amount of his referenced research publications is framed around institutional theory, in which organisations are seen as acting in various institutional fields (e.g. professionalism, legislations, polices, technological trends) that stimulate and constrain organisational decisions (Dimaggio & Powell, 1983). Hjort-Madsen believes that this is one of the key influences behind EA adoption [1], but it also comes at the cost of theoretical lopsidedness with a paradoxical backlash: institutional forces might explain certain reasons for EA adoptions in government, but institutional analysis tends to ignore the importance of free will of agency and rather draw its explanations from abstract, nearly autonomic forces in the organisational environment. Ultimately, the importance of free will—both on the individual level and within organisations—is trapped inside an institutional iron cage manifested in socially contrived institutions that—paraxodically enough—were created, maintained, and bureaucratized by human free will in the first place. Several researchers have criticised the institutional approach:

  1. Hasselbladh and Kallinikos frame the popularity of institutional analysis in organisation theory whilst acknowledging its analytical tendency to reify social, emergent structural forces: “[…] the social and cultural processes that make up the project of rationalization and shape the structure functioning of work organisations have either been bypassed or given an exogenous status, reified to ’reality’, ’society’ or ’environment’ and treated as independent variables in cross-sectional or longitudinal empirical research.” (Hasselbladh & Kallinikos, 2000, p. 698) Neo-institutionalism, the authors say, grew out of a organisation studies as a response to classic positivist thinking: “[Neo-institutionalism emphasises that] Organizations are not responses that eolve as detached rational calculations. […] The realist-materialist conception of organizations as adapting systems in natural environments of resources, threats and opportunities has, thus, again been brought to the fore and criticized as inadequate, on several grounds.” (Hasselbladh & Kallinikos, 2000, p. 698) This shift might get rid of some problematic assumptions, but the result is merely another reduc- tionistic approach: organisational rationality now happens “by reference to legitimacy, as the major prerequisite for organizational survival and success.” (Hasselbladh & Kallinikos, 2000, p. 699)—but praising legitimacy as the key variable in organisational logic is merely shifting the influencing parameter in the same first order systemic view of organisations [2].
  2. Another key problem with institutionalism is tendency towards generalisability and the perceived birds-eye view of the organisational field, which tends to neglect local actions: “Neo-institutionalism offers no account of the means through which a domain of action is conceived, rules of conduct, performance principles and devices of controls are developed and forms of actorhood constituted.” (Hasselbladh & Kallinikos, 2000, p. 701) The global, generalising institutional perspective thus takes precedence over local meaning production, whilst failing to account for how and why a specific process of institutionalisation emerges and exerts influence (Hasselbladh & Kallinikos, 2000, p. 702).
  3. Mintzberg extends the above problems into management and strategy (Mintzberg et al., 2002, ch. 10), where he clearly explains the problems of institutional theory: organisations are turned into fruit flies swerving wildly in a thick, hazy porridge of policies, regulations, and cultural norms. Individual, strategic decisions (e.g. government adoption of ITIL) is turned into a programmatic stroke of the environment, invisibly but collectively manuscripting the behaviour of every CIO. After all, as Mintzberg writes, “what is an ’industry environment’ but all the organizations functioning in it?” (Mintzberg et al., 2002, p. 297)—or is the environment merely a social construction that actorhood applies locally in order to cover up for mistakes or irrational behaviour? Mintzberg rightfully labels this view “looking at the world through the wrong end of a telescope” (Mintzberg et al., 2002, p. 293), and this is exactly what Hjort-Madsen tends to practice when he backtraces government practice to an illusorily forceful environment.
In summary, selecting an institutional foundation for analysing EA programs might provide a more qualitative framing of EA, but it is still: 
  1. reductionistic in the sense that organisational behaviour and rationality are mainly shaped by external institutional processes reified into a certain corporate reality. Rather, these processes are created and sustained by social, contrived entities (e.g. bureaucracies)—and not prescribed through scientific laws of society.
  2. ontologically paradoxical, since an institutional understand pays more attention to the so- called environment than the organisations inhibiting the environment, but fact is that the environment is constituted by nothing but the inhibiting organisations in the first place.
  3. ontologically imbalanced since it removes the analytical focus from local, immediate and particular to a birds-eye view in search of generalisability.
It follows from these conclusions that institutional theory is — on its own — insufficient for describing and explaining the complex social mechanics of government adoptions of EA — or any other transdisciplinary methodology with a high degree of organisational volatility and complexity.
I will work on how to developing and extending these views. Feel free to comment as I am looking for counterpoints and additional material and research material for inclusion in my thesis.

[1] For instance, see (Hjort-Madsen, 2007) (Publication II in (Hjort-Madsen, 2009)), (Hjort-Madsen & Marjin, 2007) (Publication III in (Hjort-Madsen, 2009)), (Hjort-Madsen, 2007) (Publication IV in (Hjort-Madsen, 2009)), and (Hjort-Madsen, 2009, p. 18, 20, 36, 61).
[2] As Hasselbladh and Kallinikos assert, Parsons’ structural functionalist framework for sociology already high- lighted the importance of inter-subjective meaning and interpretation in 1951 (Trevino, 2001). Thus, some aspects of institutional theory are very close to Parsons’ systems theory of society—and therefore not an inherently new theory of paradigm for understanding social organisation.


Dimaggio, P. J., & Powell, W. W. (1983). The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizartional fields. American Sociological Review, 48, 147-160.
Hasselbladh, H., & Kallinikos, J. (2000). The project of rationalization: A critique and reap- praisal of neo-institutionalism in organization studies. Organization Studies, 21(4), 697- 720.
Hjort-Madsen, K. (2007). Institutional patterns of enterprise architecture adoption in govern- ment. Transforming Government: People, Process, and Policy, 1(4), 333-349.
Hjort-Madsen, K. (2009). Architecting government: Understanding enterprise architecture adop- tion in the public sector. Phd doctorate.
Hjort-Madsen, K., & Marjin, J. (2007). Analyzing enterprise architecture in natinal governments: the cases of denmark and the netherlands. In Proceedings of the 40th hawaii international conference on systems sciences. Big Island, Hawaii.
Mintzberg, H., Ahlstrand, B., & Lampel, J. (2002). Strategy safari (2nd ed.). LT Prentice Hall. Trevino, A. J. (2001). Talcott parsons today: His theory and legacy in contemporary sociology.
New York: Rowan and Littlefield.

8 years, 11 months ago

Enterprise Ontology Practice

I have great news! Firstly, I have today (tentatively) put the last dot into my chapter on Enterprise Ontology Practice. Secondly, I have converted all of my Word/docx and Omnigraffle sources into LaTeX and vector graphics. I simply wasn’t happy with t…

9 years, 8 days ago

EA Summit London – That’s a Wrap!

We closed out another great EA Summit in London yesterday!  Dave Aron delivered an insightful talk on how to leverage business model analogies to bring some new ideas to the business strategy planning table.  And to wrap it up, Andy Kyte discussed how to overhaul a bloated application portfolio and of course applied all of […]

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9 years, 10 days ago

EA Summit London – Day One

We’ve had a great kick-off today to the EA Summit in London.  Nick Gall presented on Hybrid Thinking and how to apply this approach to build up solutions rather than decompose problems.  This is an entirely new way of looking at enterprise architecture and will be a major focus of our research in the future.  […]

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9 years, 10 days ago

Welcome EA Summit London

Despite threats from the ash cloud, we’ve arrived and successfully kick-off the EA Summit in London this morning.  We’ve got a tremendous agenda lined up that I’m sure people will find the conference enlightening.  I’m especially looking forward to meeting with conference delegates, vendors and colleagues over the next couple of days at the EA […]

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9 years, 25 days ago

Journal Recommendations

Often getting access to a specific scientific journal can be very cumbersome or expensive, unless you have bulk access through an academic or research institution. In the past few weeks I have been looking for journal articles at the intersection of En…

9 years, 28 days ago

What is Enterprise Analysis: does it differ from Enterprise Architecture?

Enterprise Analysis is a knowledge area which describes the Business analysis activities that take place for an enterprise to identify business opportunities, build a Business Architecture, determine the optimum project investment path for that enterprise and finally, implement new business and technical solutions. The question you may ask: Does this really differs from Enterprise Architecture, and if so, how?

At first sight, business opportunities are not always considered as being part of an Enterprise Architecture initiative, more as an activity which should be considered as an input. But let’s look at this in more detail.

Let’s look at this in more detail by way of mapping activities between BABOK v2* and the TOGAF 9 Framework*. The BABOK is the collection of knowledge within the profession of business analysis and reflects generally accepted practices. It describes business analysis areas of knowledge, their associated activities and tasks and the skills necessary to be effective in the execution:

BABOK v2 Knowledge Area

Activity in Enterprise Analysis

DefinitionEnterprise Architecture (e.g TOGAF 9)Differences, observations
Requirements ElicitationThis describes the interview and research process-how to best extract needs from stakeholders (and even how to recognize needs they don’t know they have).Elements such as metrics (tracking the amount of time spent eliciting requirements) and elicitation techniques (prototyping and brainstorming are just a couple) among the topics coveredPhase A: Architecture Vision is the initial phase of an architecture development cycle. It includes information about scope, the key steps, methods, information requirements and obtaining approval for the architecture development cycle to proceed

Business scenarios are a useful technique to articulate an Architecture Vision.

A Business Scenario describes, a business process, an application or set of applications enabled by the proposed solution , the business and technology environment, the people and computing components (called “actors”) who execute it, the desired outcome of proper execution

To build such a Business Scenario, workshops with business users (stakeholders) would be organized

Business Requirements Analysis

This describes how to write/state requirements that will meet business needs. Key objectives include methods for prioritizing and organizing requirements, as well as the most beneficial techniques for requirements presentation (including state diagrams, prototyping, data flow diagrams, and process modeling, and more).

Business Requirements for future project investments are identified and documented.

They are defined at a high level, and include goals, objectives, and needs are identified

Business Requirements are collected from business people during the Architecture Vision’s phase using the technique called Business Scenario (as mentioned above).

That document identifies what will be the business solutions in generic terms

The Enterprise Architects will define the Architecture Vision phase based on the goals, and objectives of the enterprise gathered from the business.

There are two steps:

1. Business people will have defined the goals and the objectives of the enterprise independently from the Enterprise Architecture team

2. The Enterprise Architecture team which include business people gather the requirements based on the previous activity

Enterprise Analysis

Begins after a Business executive team develops strategic plans and goals

This outlines the crucial (and sometimes political) process of keeping everyone in the loop and on the same page regarding project’s direction and progress. This activity delves into such details as the requirements review and approval processes (including record-keeping).

Most of these activities are taken into account in doing Enterprise Architecture or done directly by the Business executive team before starting an new Enterprise Architecture project 

Strategic plan development

 Done outside of the Enterprise Architecture process by business people but is a key source of information

Strategic goal development

 This is done outside of the Enterprise Architecture initiative by business people but is a key source of information
 Business Architecture development Done during Phase B:Business Architecture, looking at the baseline and target architecture, delivering a gap analysis, a plan and a roadmap

Feasibility Studies

 Done during Phase A: Architecture Vision (with a Business Scenario)

Business Case Development

 Done during Phase A: Architecture Vision (with a Business Scenario)

New Project Proposal

 This is done in two steps: during the Phase A where we identify a Business solution and during Phase F: Migration Planning
 Selecting and Prioritizing New Projects This is done in two steps: during the Phase A where we identify a Business solution and during Phase F: Migration Planning
 Business Opportunities This is done during the Phase A: Architecture Vision and the Phase E: Opportunities and Solutions

Launching New Projects

 This is done during Phase F: Migration Planning

Managing Projects for Value

 This is done during Phase F: Migration Planning

Tracking Project Benefits

 Once the project is in production, it is no longer part of the Enterprise Initiative
Solution Assessment and ValidationDetails how to choose the best solutions for specific business needs (as well as assessing how well the chosen solution worked after its implementation).This should also cover risks, dependencies, and limitations that must be identified before proposing any solution

Solutions are identified during Phase E.: Opportunities and Solutions.

This phase is directly concerned with implementation, identifying major work packages to be undertaken and creating a migration strategy.

Risk management, dependencies are taken into consideration.

Business Analysis Planning and MonitoringExplains how to decide what you need to do to complete an “analyst effort” (in other words, how to plan a project). This helps intelligently decide which stakeholders, tools, tasks and techniques we will need to get the job doneCovered mostly in the Architecture Vision phase, then in the Business Architecture PhaseStakeholder management techniques are used within TOGAF, tools and techniques are identified in the Business Architecture phase (modeling, reference models, viewpoints)
Requirements Management and CommunicationDescribes how to identify business needs (the why of the project; whereas requirements are the how) and state the scope of their solutions. This is a crucial piece of the analyst’s work. SMART criteria of measurement, SWOT analysis and other measurement factors that make identifying this root cause data objective and tangible are usedBusiness Requirements are collected with the business people during the Architecture Vision’s phase using the technique called Business Scenario (as mentioned above).

SMART techniques are equally used.

Communication plans are defined.


This diagram below is a draft map BABOK® and TOGAF 9; more work is required!




There are obviously overlaps between Enterprise Analysis and Enterprise Architecture, but activities are not always done in the same sequence.

  • Enterprise Analysis is more a business initiative than an Enterprise Architecture which includes both business and IT people
  • Enterprise Analysis provides the context in which an Enterprise Architecture should be conducted
  • Enterprise Analysis is about defining the strategic goals and the strategic planning taking into account the environment and market trends, identify business issues, focus on remaining competitive, profitable, efficient. Enterprise Architecture is reusing all this information.
  • Enterprise Analysis is only covering the initial activities of Enterprise Architecture but does not address other Enterprise Architecture activities such as: – Application Architecture, Data Architecture, Technology Architecture (and Solution Architecture).
  • Enterprise Analysis does not include all aspects related to governance such as the IT Governance and the Enterprise Architecture Governance Framework. Touch points with other frameworks are not addressed.
  • Enterprise Analysis may not completely address the need of working with other parts of the enterprise such as IT, PMO, development teams, IT partners.
  • Enterprise Architecture suggest a Preliminary phase which is about defining ‘‘where, what, why, who, and how” Enterprise Architecture will be done, establishing the business context, customizing the framework, defining the architecture principles, establishing the Architecture Governance structure.

Enterprise Analysis complements Enterprise Architecture but also overlaps in some areas. Organization looking into Enterprise Architecture and specifically TOGAF 9 may consider adopting a Business Analysis framework such as BABOK and integrate them in the Preliminary Phase. If both approaches exist in a company, this would be a great opportunity for optimizing the alignment between Business and IT, and to run an Enterprise Architecture program from a complete business perspective.

About Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK®)

The Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK®) is the collection of knowledge within the profession of Business Analysis and reflects current generally accepted practices. As with other professions, the body of knowledge is defined and enhanced by the Business Analysis professionals who apply it in their daily work role. The BABOK® Guide describes Business Analysis areas of knowledge, their associated activities and the tasks and skills necessary to be effective in their execution. The BABOK® Guide is a reference for professional knowledge for Business Analysis and provides the basis for the Certified Business Analysis Professional™ (CBAP®) Certification.

BABOK® Guide 2.0 represents the development of a common framework to understand and define the practice of business analysis.


9 years, 1 month ago

Paradoxes in EA and Systems Research

In my ongoing research, I have identified a close link between enterprise architecture/engineering and systems science. P. Harmon, the prominent business process thinker and author of the book Business Process Change (K. Harmon 2007), Hoogervorst (2009), and Dietz et al. (2008) all discuss the influence of systems science and systems thinking on the process management and enterprise engineering disciplines as such, whilst K. Harmon (2005) even stresses the contention that systems thinking is a basic premise for the successful IT/management strategy implementations in today’s organisations. Interestingly, these authors share the same foundations of research: cybernetics and systems thinking as put forward by Norbert Wiener (1948) and Ludwig von Bertalanffy (1969) — and for Dietz and K. Harmon, R. L. Ackoff (1981, 1993).

Obviously, systems science and cybernetics has offered very important contributions to IS research — especially within process management where organisations are better conceived as self-regulating, self-controlling systems rather than Laplacian machines that reason and act only by their internal causal structures. Systems researchers such as Beer, Bertalanffy, Ackoff, and Checkland have all contributed towards making this a mainstream research branch within a multitude of sciences, and it has also found its way to the enterprise engineering. But K. Harmon’s integration of enterprise architecture research and systems thinking is a good example of cybernetics as a research eulogy: we have finally found the magic gemstone that bridges the gap between our IT systems and business operations. 

Unsurprisingly, that wide statement come at the cost of certain ontological premises. In my thesis research, I have made an attempt at systematizing these premises and their ontological influences on enterprise architecture. The criticism might not be unique or new, but at least it is an attempt to put very important research in the broad frames of enterprise architecture. We keep stating that EA is the future meta discipline for the modern enterprise; thus we also need a broad meta framework that is capable of 1) questioning its own foundation and 2) supporting the diverse types of knowledge, processes, and methodologies within an organisation in order to create and sustain innovation. In my next blog entries, I will present these critique points, and hopefully receive some valuable feedback as well. I haven’t been very good at replying to your valuable comments; that is only due to me being busy, and not because of arrogance or ignorance. I will post a follow up very soon. 

Defining Cybernetics
Before I present the initial critique, it is valuable to define what cybernetics really is, and how it relates to systems thinking. Both disciplines are often used interchangeably, but there are, depending on the author, certain differences. 
Systems theory and Norbert Wiener’s theory of cybernetics are closely related (Heylighen 1999). But where systems theory focuses mainly on the structure of systems, cybernetics concerns the function of a system (e.g. what the system does) in relation to other systems. But, as Heylighen puts forward in Principia Cybernetica, both concepts are facets of the same subject and have permeated into a vast amount of sciences from information systems and biology to social sciences (ibid.). To provide a comprehensive analysis of EA and systems thinking, it is thus also necessary to draw in cybernetics.
The word cybernetics stems from the Greek word kybernetes meaning pilot or steersman and was by one its pioneers, Norbert Wiener, defined as the science encompassing “the entire field of control an communication theory, wether in the machine or in the animal.” (Principia Cybernetica: Defining ‘Cybernetics’ – http://www.asc-cybernetics.org/foundations/definitions.htm — accessed on Apr 11 2010). However, that is only one branch of a definitional wilderness, spanning from Bateson’s very rigid explanation of cybernetics as “a branch of mathematics dealing with problems of control, recursiveness, and information” (ibid.) through Humberto Maturana’s very broad definition of cybernetics as “The Art and Science of Human Understanding. (…) Why? The Person that guides the ship, the skipper, acts both on practical know-how and intuition. Thus, the skipper acts both as a scientist and as an artist,” (ibid.) – and finally to Heinz von Foerster’s very cryptic conceptualisation: “Should one name one central concept, a first principle, of cybernetics, it would be circularity.” (Ibid.)
Concluding on the previous analysis of systems thinking within EA, it is tempting to assume that a systems theoretical foundation for EA is less mechanistic and more nuanced in its conceptualisation of knowledge and organisations. But, in my opinion, that assumption is flawed.

Paradox no. 1: The Enterprise is a System v. The Enterprise as a System
Systems science, as put forward by the authors previously mentioned, operates on the basic assumption that an enterprise is a system, and therefore one must frame it as a system in order to manage it efficiently[1]. But this “systemification” of organisation theory is just as reductionistic and mechanistic as orthodox Cartesian thinking: if we invert the implication, we are logically forced to accept the inference that if the subject matter of interest is not a system, it is not an enterprise. Operating from that premise automatically constrains our framing of organisations in another way and thus entails a new systemic reductionism in the EA discipline. There is a fundamental difference between postulating that enterprises carry systemic properties, behave like systems, or should be interpreted or framed as systems, since the conceptualisation here occurs at the epistemological level (how the knowledge about the subject matter is produced), rather than stating that the subject matter inherently is a system in its own right (which thus occurs on the ontological level — this entails that the fundamental nature of reality or reality is essentially constituted by systems). The words ‘is’ or ‘behaves like’ make a very distinct — and crucially important! — difference.
Accordingly, the philosophical underpinnings of the notion that an enterprise is a system – and, as articulated by Bertalanffy, is best framed as a biological system or organism — are questioned by Kast and Rosenzweig (1972): 

“One of the basic contributions of general systems theory was the rejection of the traditional closed-system or mechanistic view of social organizations. But, did general systems theory free us from this constraint only to impose another, less obvious one?” (Kast et al. 1972) 

Here the authors draw in Daniel Katz and Robert Kahn, who criticise the organismic perception of organisations (1966):

“The biological metaphor, with its crude comparisons of the physical parts of the body to the parts of the social system, has been replaced by more subtle, but equally misleading analogies between biological and social functioning. This figurative type of thinking ignores the essential difference between the socially contrived nature of social systems and the physical structure of the machine or the human organism. So as long as writers are committed to a theoretical framework based upon the physical model, they will miss the essential social-psychological facts of the highly variable, loosely articulated character of the social system” (Katz and Kahn, 1966, p. 31, my emphasis)

Both sources clearly underline the problems of the systems (or first order cybernetic) approach to organisations and EA: the baseline assumption that an enterprise is a system and that this system behaves like an organism (rather than like a predictable machine) is fallible and just as reductionistic and mechanistic as the Machine Age thinking introduced by Ackoff (1981).


[1] An example thereof: Dietz writes, “As said before, the basic premise of enterprise engineering is that an enterprise is a designed system” (Dietz et al. 2008, p. 573), and supports that contention by stating: “The most important premise in the notion of Enterprise Engineering is that an enterprise is a designed system instead of an organically growing entity.” (ibid. p. 578) Similarly, K. Harmon equals enterprises and systems by stating that “frameworks and methodologies used in the development of enterprise architecture should, and in time will, more clearly demonstrate that an enterprise is an intelligent complex adaptive system of systems” (K. Harmon 2005 p. 3).

Ackoff 1981: Creating the Corporate Future: Plan or be Planned For — Ackoff, R. L., Wiley, 1981.
Ackoff 1993: Beyond Total Quality Management. High profile lecture. University of Hull, 18 September 1993.
Bertalanffy 1969: Bertalanffy, L. von, General Systems Theory, New York, George Braziller 1969.
Dietz et al. 2008: Enterprise Ontology in Enterprise Engineering — Dietz, J. L. G and Hoogervorst, J. A. P. – Proceedings of the 2008 ACM symposium on Applied computing — ACM.
K. Harmon 2005; , “The “systems” nature of enterprise architecture,” Systems, Man and Cybernetics, 2005 IEEE International Conference on , vol.1, no., pp. 78- 85 Vol. 1, 10-12 Oct. 2005.
P. Harmon 2007: Business Process Change, 2nd edition, Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 2007. 
Heylighen et al 1999: Principia Cybernetica: What is Cybernetics and Systems Science? – F. Heylighen, C. Joslyn, V. Turchin 1999 – http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/CYBSWHAT.HTML (Accessed on Apr 3 2010).
Hoogervorst 2009: Enterprise Governance and Enterprise Engineering, J. A. P. Hoogervorst, Springer 2009. 
Kast et al. 1972: General Systems Theory: Applications for Organization and Management – The Aaademy of Management Journal, Vol. 15. , No. 4, General Systems Theory (Dec. 1972) pp. 447-465, Fremont E. Kast and James E. Rosenzweig, publ. by the Academy of Management.
Katz and Kahn 1962: The Social Psychology of Organizations – Katz, Daniel and Robert L. Kahn, New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. 1966).
Wiener 1948: 

Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. Wiener, N. Paris, France: Librairie Hermann & Cie, and Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

9 years, 1 month ago

EA Summit Las Vegas – Day Three

We’ve just wrapped up the EA Summit in Las Vegas and it seems to have been a very positive experience for everyone. The Gartner analysts and our case study speakers were very happy with the level of sophistication of the audience – great questions, comments and challenges.  Many attendees had positive comments on both the […]

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9 years, 1 month ago

On Enterprise Taxonomy Completeness

Yet again it is time for an update on my thesis progress. After revising my initial introductory chapter with my supervisor (John Gotze), I decided to revamp the chapter completely and go forward with a more tangible problem: the failure of strategic I…