My present job as a consultant in enterprise architecture got me wondering if consultancy in EA is feasible. EA aims to become a part of the core business structure of an organization. Can external consultants really bring tangible value to that which must be part of a core capability?
Being “external”, they are necessarily not a part of the “core”. If consultants aren’t the proper answer to the problem, why do organizations turn towards them then in the first place? Surely, CIOs would have realised that they were falling short of expectations and consultancy in EA should have known a painful death. Well, fortunately for me and my fellow consultants, that isn’t the case. What is it exactly that we are managing to bring or do right?
The answer lies, I think, in very nature of how an EA practice should be conducted in an organization. EA is expected to work as an internal consultancy in an organization. (I do accept the fact that there are also others ways for EA to function. Benefits can also be gained from these but I have often found that they have a structural problem with the way EA is expected to be conducted ideally.)
The motivations and capabilities are remarkably similar:
- EA must intervene in a holistic and transverse manner
- It needs strong stakeholder backing to be effective and the higher the backing the better
- It aims to be impartial
- It needs to deliver results consistently and in a timely manner
- Offering a service to businesses and IT (EA is more than IT)
- The environment and hurdles change constantly because EA is in the business of managing change.
The skills required of architects are also very similar to skills required of a consultant:
- To listen, understand needs
- To identify future needs
- Have excellent communication skills
- A keen awareness of organisational politics
- To work as a team whose members might change regularly
- Undeterred to suggest change
- To work with a vision and objective in mind
- Multi-disciplinary skills (IT, HR, financial, etc.)
- Program and project management
- Being curious and seeking out for new opportunities (market, technological, etc.)
Thus, organizations who seek to initiate or better an EA practice need to look towards consultants to bring in their know-how and work culture. External consultants come in to kick start the work, but a sustained backing is necessary. To be successful, organization also need to identify and foster the skills required for becoming an architect, which are often difficult to find.
The closer EA practice resembles a consultancy that has gained the confidence of stakeholders, the better will the benefits be and the agility gained.