What Makes an Enterprise Architect?

The current push towards digital business and adoption in IoT has caused a revitalized demand of the Enterprise Architecture (EA) profession.

EA was often seen as a business arm of IT dedicated to support or “keeping the lights on”. However, a changing business landscape has meant architects are now expected to innovate, meet and navigate disruptions, and liaise with business leaders and decision makers.

Considering this evolved role, and the increasing demand for the profession, it’s worth taking a look at some of the most essential skills Enterprise Architects need to demonstrate.

An IT and Business Minded Approach

Speaking on the importance of Enterprise Architecture in modern organizations, and the domain having a business focus, Network World Editor, John Dix said: “The enterprise architect role today is becoming more critical because virtually every business project has a core IT component and companies need players involved that have a big picture view.”

“Organizations are constantly struggling with change and the enterprise architect role helps to ensure projects are mapped out with realistic goals and the infrastructure is there to support those goals now and in the future.”

One of the biggest changes to IT over the recent years has been its place within business. As IT in general has become absolutely essential to how most businesses operate, it now has to operate with a far more pronounced business emphasis.

A recent IDG and Network World led study indicates this is most certainly true for EAs. In it, 88% of all IT Architects (Enterprise, Solution, Infrastructure etc included) said they needed to communicate with both IT and business in mind, making sure their reports translated to those outside of IT, as well as in it.

The same percentage also expressed that mapping capabilities to business needs was a priority.

Leading tech analyst, Gartner have noticed a similar trend. In recent years, Gartner have stressed the importance of doing “Business Outcome driven EA,” and arguably, this new tack has been one of the factors helping the profession grow.

This is one of the main reasons Enterprise Architecture needs to shake its “ivory tower perception.” EA’s place in the business is far too centralized to be unapproachable by non-experts, and so Enterprise Architects who can successfully accommodate both fellow architects and stakeholders are invaluable.

Many EAs are already halfway there. They understand the importance of working alongside decision makers and stakeholders, but in some cases, just don’t have the right tools. In order to truly encourage business leaders to get involved in the EA, an agile, collaborative tool is a must – more on the importance of dedicated EA tools here.

Leadership and Influence

The Enterprise Architect’s top-down helicopter view of the business means they tend to have a great understanding of the enterprise, it’s current capabilities, and its requirements going forward. Although these are great perspectives to have in and of themselves, like most advantages, without proper application they can be wasted.

Leadership is the key to making the most out of this big-picture perspective.

Without leadership, fulfilling core EA duties such as steering through disruption and driving change can’t be done effectively.

Additionally, Enterprise Architects tend to be aligned more closely with IT Management and CIOs than other IT professionals. The same IDG study cited earlier found that 85% of EAs originated ideas that have directly impacted the business model and go-to-market strategy.

This is because their top down insight is extremely valuable to business leaders. EAs must learn how to hold the floor with such business leaders in order to effectively provide their recommendations. After all, that’s what they’ve been employed to do!

Forward Thinking and Agility

It’s vital that Enterprise Architects keep an eye on the future. They have to be prepared to face disruption and new opportunities, but also, they are often responsible for making the case for disruptive technologies.

They need to be aware of the current market, as well as how the market is likely to change to live up to this responsibility of identifying and proposing innovative solutions to help the business achieve its goals.

In sourcing new technologies, EAs must be diligent in their vetting. They’re the bridge between the technology and the upcoming project(s) in mind and have to ensure the pieces fit into the wider business outlook.

This forward thinking is a big part of Enterprise Architects effectiveness in helping the business be agile. However, Enterprise Architects must also employ a number of other best practices in order to stay agile. Most important of those perhaps, is a dedicated Enterprise Architecture tool that permits such an approach. But focusing on the actual EAs themselves, sticking to mantras like “Just in Time” and “Just Enough” Enterprise Architecture can aid in speeding up the time it takes for the business to respond to change, make more informed decisions, and reduce time-to-market of new products and services.

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