Towards an Ontology for EA Debts

Recently, Ada and Simon started the development of an ontology for Enterprise Architecture (EA) Debt. It delves into the nuances of EA Debt, defined as the gap between the current and ideal states of an organization’s enterprise architecture. The paper highlights the importance of a shared vocabulary to avoid misunderstandings in the domain and proposes an ontology built using the Unified Foundational Ontology (UFO) and a lightweight methodology for rapid ontology engineering (UPON light).

Key aspects covered include the challenges organizations face due to digital transformation, the concept of EA Debt, its differentiation from technical debt, and the development of an ontology to standardize and clarify the terms within the domain. The authors detail the methodology of building the ontology, which involves creating a lexicon, developing a glossary, establishing a taxonomy, and defining the relationships and attributes within the ontology.

The ontology is demonstrated through practical examples, showing its application in analyzing and managing EA Debt scenarios and is available on GitHub. The paper concludes with a discussion on the potential for future research and the need for continuous refinement of the ontology as the field evolves.

This study was presented at the EDOC conference 2023 in Groningen, adding significant value to the discourse on managing and understanding Enterprise Architecture Debt.


The term Enterprise Architecture (EA) Debt has been coined to grasp the difference between the actual state of the EA and its hypothetical, optimal state. Since its first definition in 2019, different theses have been conducted on the topic, and different articles have been published working on and with the term EA Debt. Consequently, using different terms has evolved to describe different phenomena within the domain. Due to the different authors involved in this development, perceiving these terms might differ. To avoid misunderstandings and to ease common understanding of the domain, we propose an ontology for the domain of EA Debt. We rely on a lightweight methodology for rapid ontology engineering (UPON light) and the Unified Foundational Ontology (UFO) to engineer our ontology.

Related Publications

Slupczynski, Ada; Hacks, Simon

Towards a Knowledge Base of Terms on Enterprise Architecture Debt Proceedings Article

In: Sales, Tiago Prince; Kinderen, Sybren; Proper, Henderik A.; Pufahl, Luise; Karastoyanova, Dimka; Sinderen, Marten (Ed.): Enterprise Design, Operations, and Computing. EDOC 2023 Workshops, pp. 194–210, Springer Nature Switzerland, Cham, 2024, ISBN: 978-3-031-54712-6.

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