Institutional architecture

As we use the term here, "institutional" refers to organizational elements that shape enterprise behavior based on established custom or law (e.g. “the institution of marriage”), as used by institutional economists. (North, 2005). Organizational design is largely about the selection of institutional elements to be applied. A key design point is how to enforce or constrain institutional forms through technology. 


  • rules
  • domain elements
  • role-players
  • technology


  • guidelines
  • mandates
  • laws
  • rulings
  • corporate forms (corporation, partnership, franchise)
  • legal (tort, intellectual property, contract, election)
  • property (title, escrow, equity, investment)
  • market (exchange, auction)
  • transaction (offering, acceptance, consideration, charity)
  • payment (fee for service, pay per use, gift, credit, billing)
  • evaluation (ratings, peer review, reputation)
  • rehearsal
  • research protocols
  • friendship
  • etc.
The purpose of studying the institutional architecture is that these institutions intersect with all parts of the enterprise, including the culture, the processes, the branding and messaging, etc.  In particular they form the basis of much of the encoding that is supported by ICT.
  • Descriptive - An institutional analysis can describe the current structure of the enterprise, as well as articulate the impact of institutional changes.
  • Prescriptive - Institutions themselves are often sources of prescriptiveness.  Models of enterprise are often very prescriptive about institutional patterns, even though the designers may not realize this explicitly
  • Predictive - Certain enterprise types would tend to predict various institutional patterns in their makeup