Who would make a good Enterprise Architect? This is a question I get from time to time and it’s not an easy one to answer, mainly because the definition of an Enterprise Architect and the expectations of the role varies from organisation to organisation. Just taking a look at two articles that describe the EA role and it’s easy to see why many people want an answer to the question.
An enterprise architect requires a unique blend of skills. At various times he or she needs to employ the characteristics of an artist, a guru, a coach, and a spy. As an artist, an enterprise architect needs to be creative by looking beyond the “right” answers to uncover new solutions to old problems. The enterprise architect also needs to be a guru—someone who understands some topics in depth, but can address a breadth of business and technical topics.
As a coach, the enterprise architect must bridge both business and technology, be able to find points of influence in both camps, and ensure that technology stays off the critical path. Finally, as a spy, the enterprise architect must be able to work across the enterprise, see patterns across disparate business needs, and define solutions that satisfy multiple business needs. Enterprise architects grow from within the technical architecture ranks, learning how to be artists, gurus, coaches, and spies as they work their way from being technical specialists, through application or infrastructure architects, eventually to enterprise architects.
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From my earlier posts you would also guess that I would add salesperson to the list. So where do you find people that fit this profile and understand all the technology aspects that are a pre-requisit? I don’t have the answer, but I do know some assumptions I’ve seen in the past are not always right.
Assumption 1 – there is a clear career path from developer/analyst through project architect then to an applications or infrastructure architect role and finally to the EA role.
Assumption 2 – an EA is fundamentally a technical role.
I don’t believe an EA is fundamentally a technical role. It does need someone who really understands the IT environment, in applications, technology, infrastructure and operations but it also needs someone who understands the business activities and how to align the two. This is where I believe there is a discontinuity in the career development plans many organisations have that are based on assumption 1.
So who would make a good enterprise architect? Someone who’s had the experience described in assumption 1 and also has had to work well outside the IT comfort zone. This could be a secondment into a business team, working for IT suppliers on sales solutions or consulting roles which broaden perspectives.