Book Pick: The Shift to the Stanford Paradigm

EA Must Add a Third Dimension in Order to Align Business and Physical Environments with Symbolic Representations

Excerpt from Enterprise Architecture Fundamentals, available on:


As defined by Stanford University’s Symbolic Systems Program, symbolic systems are: “…agents that use meaningful symbols to represent the world around them so as to communicate and generally act in the world.”

This seemingly plain definition implies:

  • A unified understanding of people, organizations, and systems as agents with the ability to process symbolic representations
  • A threefold modeling paradigm: for environments, both symbolic and physical objects and phenomena, and for systems, symbolic representations of environments
  • A conceptual distinction between enterprise and systems representations: the former, open-ended and pragmatic; the latter, finite and normalized

The significance of this modeling paradigm is best understood when compared to the one upheld for systems by the Object Management Group (OMG): “A UML model consists of three major categories of model elements [classifiers, events, and behaviors], each of which may be used to make statements about different kinds of individual things within the system being modeled.”

Figure 2-6. 3D (Stanford) vs. 2D (OMG) Modeling Paradigm

The difference is akin to one between 3D and 2D representation. Whereas the Stanford paradigm encompasses environments (including agents) and their symbolic representation by systems and organizations, the OMG paradigm deals only with symbolic representations, unconcerned by what they are meant to represent.


(From Chapter 2)