Indeed, given the very broad way people commonly use the word "system", it is difficult to think of anyway to regard an enterprise other than as some kind of system. A machine or complicated technological assembly is a system; a human activity or social unit is a system; an abstract legal or procedural process is a system. All of the chapters in Gareth Morgan's book Images of Organization represent organizations as different kinds of system. And even if we don't regard an enterprise as quite the same as an organization, what could an enterprise possibly be, from anyone's perspective, other than some kind of system?
And many popular architecture frameworks claim to regard an enterprise as a system. For example
- TOGAF considers the enterprise as a system (TOGAF9, Chapter 2)
- Enterprise architecture structures the business planning into an integrated framework that regards the enterprise as a system or system of systems. (TOGAF9 Chapter 6)
Elsewhere in TOGAF however, as well as in ArchiMate, we can find reference to systems OR organizations, which suggests that they do not regard the enterprise as a system.
However, when people use the phrase "enterprise-as-a-system", they may well have a particular kind of system in mind. Here are some examples.
Enterprise as a sociotechnical system
- Fred Emery, Characteristics of Sociotechnical Systems (1972)
- Edin Mustajbegovic, Idealised design for changing socio-technical systems (December 2012)
- Linked-In discussion (Jan 2013 onwards)
- James Lapalme, Three Schools of Enterprise Architecture (2011)
Enterprise as a human activity system
- Stevens Institute of Technology
- Product Introduction Process Simulation in the Extended Enterprise (PIPSEE) (1997-2001)
- Egon Noe and Hugo Fjelsted Alrøe, Farm Enterprises as Self-Organizing Systems (International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food 2004)
- Fred Emery and Eric Trist, SocioTechnical Systems (1960)
Clearly it is the adjective that helps to make this phrase meaningful.
Alan Hakimi, Addressing the Multi-Dimensionality Challenge on Thinking of The Enterprise as a System (Feb 2013)
Linked-In Discussion Enterprises *NOT AS* Systems (April 2013 onwards)