Like every other analyst and blogger who was publishing last week, I thought my research report should reflect the year change. However, I’ve never been accused of being much like everyone else. So, instead of offering predictions, or a look back, I wrote on what I believe is a linchpin IT role for 2006 – the enterprise architect. But not your first generation, ivory tower, whiteboard bound enterprise architect. Rather, an enterprise architect that practices business-driven architecture – more on that in a minute.
What follows is the content from that report, slightly altered for the blog format. In future posts, I’ll offer some “architect brain food” suggestions (and share my own plans).
Introduction – IT Linchpin 2006: The (Business-Driven) Enterprise Architect
2006 is shaping up to be a big year for enterprise IT. After years of chasing cost containment and regulatory compliance, enterprises are funding initiatives to spur and sustain business growth. These initiatives take two forms. Some will drive innovation––in product and service offerings,channel and market strategies, and customer interaction. Others will strengthen critical business and information technology infrastructure. Nearly all of the initiatives will require enterprise IT participation and investment. As a result, CIOs at growth-oriented companies have increasing budgets and plans to hire.
While this infusion of investment is a welcome reprieve, CIOs are determined to invest wisely: in strategies, technology, and people that create an environment for business and IT agility, while keeping project expenditures and run rates in check. Some of the strategies include (but aren’t limited to) service-oriented architecture (SOA), event-driven architecture (EDA), process-based architecture, federated information, enterprise integration, and open source adoption.
At the start of 2006, as IT folks are formulating their hiring plans and professional development plans, I wanted to highlight a critical role for 2006: the enterprise architect. That is, the enterprise architect who practices Business-Driven Architecture.
Business-Driven Architecture is my view of architecture, developed on the premise that architecture is not an end, but a means, and the business must drive architecture composition. In Business-Driven Architecture, enterprise architects are not only responsible for articulating the architecture, but also for actualizing the architecture, and introducing the architecture into IT business projects. Business-Driven Architecture has a strong bias to action, business opportunity, and project and portfolio advancement.
For 2006, enterprise architects will be driving the foundational strategies (as mentioned above) that make sense for their businesses, while actively consulting with, and contributing to, the business growth initiatives. I believe a talented enterprise architect(s) is a linchpin to your 2006 success.
What does a great enterprise architect look like? How can you ensure his/her success? Read on.
The Business-Driven Enteprise Architect
The business-driven enterprise architect’s responsibilities go well beyond the whiteboard. They need to deliver the architecture (tools, practices, services, and infrastructure), and roll it out to project teams.
Over the lifecycle of an architecture initiative, an enterprise architect might play a variety of roles, including strategist, evangelist, architect, project leader, developer, mentor, and enforcer. Obviously, your enterprise architect needs to be versatile. However, they don’t have to be superheroes. Most organizations have multiple enterprise architects, who collectively and collaboratively provide coverage across the architectural domains––business, application, information, integration, platform, network, security, and systems management.
Enterprise Architect Attributes
I break the enterprise architect attributes out into four broad categories: domain expertise, industry awareness, architecture skills, and architect traits.
Domain Expertise. An enterprise architect should have expertise in at least two of the foundational architecture domains, and be conversant in all. The foundational architecture domains are:
•Applications and Systems Management Architecture
Industry Awareness. An enterprise architect should be aware of, and able to form opinions on, emerging and prevailing trends in information technology and the enterprise’s industry. Examples of emerging information technology trends I would expect  an enterprise architect to be aware of are:
•The Role of Open Source in the Enterprise
•Web 2.0 and Software as a Service (Saas)
•Rich Interface Technologies (Ajax, Flex, Laszlo) and Usages
•Opportunities for Really Simple Syndication (RSS) in the Enterprise
•“Lesscode” Development Movements (REST, Spring, Ruby on Rails, PHP)
•Federated Identity Challenges, Standards, and Options
•“Triple Play” (Voice, Data, Video) and the Enterprise
•Google’s Strategies and Implications for Enterprise IT
Architecture Skills . An enterprise architect’s skill set must include architecture practice expertise, great thinking capabilities, and strong people/professional skills. For an enterprise architect to be successful, he/she must be able to take a (valuable) idea from inception to implementation, gathering support along the way. Specific skills by category are:
•Learn, Adopt, Tailor, and Teach Appropriate Architecture and Development Methodologies
•Set and Enforce Standards
•Identify and Apply Patterns at the Business, Architectural, Design, and Programming Levels
•Drive and/or Participate in Portfolio Planning of IT Assets (tools, infrastructure, applications, information stores)
•Visualize and Articulate the Big Picture
•Abstract Key Concepts from Detailed Problem Domains (Business, Architecture, Systems)
•Ability to Analyze, Synthesize, Question and Recommend
•Generate Creative Ideas and Solutions
•Possess Natural Curiosity
•Good Decision Making, Accounting for Fit, Risks, Rewards, Time, and Expense
•Lead Formally and Informally
•Influence at all Organizational levels, Internally and Externally
•Facilitate Diverse Groups
•Communicator (written and verbal)
Architecture Traits. Architecture traits can be described as either “Truths Great Enterprise Architects Work By,” or, “How to Spot One in the Wild.” If you find (know) an architect with these traits, find a way to work with him or her!
A Great Enterprise Architect…
1.Is not afraid to make mistakes, and always learns from them.
2.Knows one answer does not fit all problems. Understands any given problem may have many good answers.
3.Builds a community to create an environment of compliance, rather than one of enforcement.
4.Asks great questions that compel further discussion, research, collaboration and innovation.
5.Makes smart compromises, never boxing himself/herself in.
6.Doesn’t work on an island. Collaborates internally and externally. Researches opposite points of view.
7.Considers technology in terms of business benefits, rather than the technological cool factor.
8.Is equally effective in a leadership, collaborator, or follower role.
9.Thinks holistically, yet acts pragmatically.
10.Can innovate, simply.
Keys for Success
No doubt, individuals in enterprise architect positions are extremely self motivated, and in their minds, success is never in question. However, there are things CIOs can do to ensure their enterprise architect (and architecture) are successful. Here are seven actions you can take:
•Make Room at the Table for Architecture Leadership. The architecture leader must have a seat at the CIO’s table in IT leadership and business leadership settings. The architecture leader, particularly one with an architecture background, will listen and contribute to the discussions with an enterprise architecture perspective. Don’t filter his/her information through a leader with a non-architecture focus.
•Set Shared Goals for Your Architecture, Project and Portfolio Leaders. Reduce the natural tension between architecture, projects, and portfolios, by setting some shared goals related to initial productivity, asset utilization (re-use), and enhancement productivity.
•Fund and Resource the Architecture Team, Early. To realize the architecture, the architecture team must have development and engineering resources. Set this team in motion ahead of the dependent projects.
•Transition the Architecture Assets to Operations. As the architecture portfolio is built out and incorporated into projects, transition the day-to-day operations of the resulting tools and infrastructure to operations teams. Don’t lose your architecture team to operational tasks.
•Integrate Enterprise Architects and Project Teams. Reduce the natural tension between enterprise architects and project teams by having them collaborate on projects. Seed enterprise architects into your project teams, particularly in pilot situations. Loan talented developers and engineers to the architecture team, to build out the architecture.
•Sponsor an Architect’s Forum. Bring all of your IT architecture talent (enterprise, domain, technology) together periodically to exchange ideas, discuss challenges, and tackle your toughest problems. Leverage their collective brain
power. Create a community.
•Encourage Enterprise Architects to “Feed Their Brains.” For enterprise architects to stay on top of their game, they need to continuously explore, stretch their boundaries, and sometimes, just sit and think. Recognize this is part of the deal. Be patient when the areas they explore don’t have an obvious connection to your business or technology plans. Trust their instincts.
I believe the enterprise architect is a linchpin role for 2006, and beyond. If you have enterprise architects that match the attributes above, good for you. [same if you are one!] If you don’t, start looking. In your search, pay careful attention to the architecture skills and traits. Incorporate situational exercises in your interviews to assess the candidate’s thinking. Don’t hold out for the non-existent superhero, but don’t settle on a pure technology jock. Lastly, remember, you get what you pay for!
 While some of these trends are universal, such as the Google Effect, others (“Triple Play” and “Lesscode”) are more relevant to particular domains.
 Please note I don’t include architecture certification or knowledge of any specific architecture frameworks. I don’t believe architecture certification can truly measure all of the dimensions of architecture talent, particularly the skills and traits. As well, many of the most talented (and successful) architects I know, do not have formal enterprise architecture training. Instinct, experience, and a good mentor are often the best training mechanisms.