The Architecture Manager – the Forgotten Enterprise Architecture Role


I’ve met many Architecture Managers over the years.  Sometimes they go by the title of “Chief Enterprise Architect” or “Chief IT Architect” and other times, the title is “Vice President of Architecture and Strategy” or some variant.  The men and women called to serve in this unique role have a distinct, and uniquely important role to play in the success of the Enterprise Architecture function in their enterprise.  Yet precious little is said about them.

In this article, I’ll touch one some of the key qualities I would expect to find in a successful Architecture Manager.

What value does an Architecture Manager provide

As the role of Enterprise Architect matures in organizations around the world, we’ve begun to see the tremendous impact that an effective architecture manager provides.  In many ways, the Architecture Manager is the single most important role in the department, but also the most difficult role to fill.  That is because, typically, the role is filled by a person who “moves up” from being an Enterprise Architect.  Unfortunately, being an excellent EA is poor preparation for this particular role.

An Architecture manager is:

  • An expert at “selling upwards” – Convincing management of the need, role, measures, and successes of the EA function as a whole.
     
  • An expert as “peer selling” – Convincing enterprise peers of the value of requiring their staff to collaborate with an architect, especially when doing so forces a change on the processes they would otherwise use.   (this is one of the most difficult and valuable activities an Architecture Manager can do).
     
  • A visionary for the development of the function – Convincing the team, the management, and internal partners of the vision and desired impact of Enterprise Architecture in the organization, keeping in mind both short term and long term goals.   Without vision, the function cannot grow. 
     
  • A good people and resource manager – Capable of aligning people to roles that can be successfully performed, helping his or her staff to grow to meet their potential, and finding new resources from within and without the enterprise capable of performing an architecture function.   It’s amazing how many architects move up to a manager role and have no idea how to do this well.  This blind spot can kill a team within a year.

 

In my travels, I’ve met both good Architecture Managers and not-so-good Architecture Managers.  The ones in need of improvement nearly always struggled at one of the above.

What are the responsibilities of an Architecture Manager

Enterprise Architects are rare birds… especially good ones.  There are many folks who have worked to become Enterprise Architects, and a few who succeeded in recognizing the uniquely holistic role of an EA.  Typically an EA has to manage through influence alone, because it’s rare that an EA has a team of resources assigned to him or her.  But an Architecture Manager is in a different position.  They do have a team, and unlike other efforts where they could be objective about a business leader’s business processes and functional alignment, they now have to perform architecture on themselves.  Sometimes, they succeed.

If you find you need to hire an architecture manager, you’ll need a list of responsibilities for your hiring team.  Just copy the following list.

The responsibilities of an Architecture Manager include:

  • To set the vision, goals, and measures of success for the Enterprise Architecture function within an enterprise, recognizing the current team maturity, skills of the team members, and readiness of the enterprise to accept the role as desired.
  • To measure the value of the efforts of the Enterprise Architecture function in a neutral manner and present those measures at appropriate times to stakeholders within the enterprise to earn buy in for the function and the funding it requires.
  • To create, refine, and oversee execution of the internal processes of the Enterprise Architecture function, including documenting processes, building support for points of interaction, and ensuring the deliverables match the expectations and timing needed by internal partners and stakeholders.
  • To manage the team members of the Enterprise Architecture function effectively and within the required parameters set by Human Resources.  This includes hiring staff, setting team goals, and conducting performance reviews.
  • To manage the assignment of resources to necessary priorities within the enterprise to meet conflicting strategic needs, and shielding the team members from being pulled out of role.
  • To act as an evangelist for the role of Enterprise Architect within the enterprise, working to build support for the function and its staff members among internal partners.

 

What should an Architecture Manager know

Some of this is pretty obvious, but it’s worth stating anyway.  The architecture manager has to be familiar with enterprise architecture.  But they also have to be familiar with how things can work in an organization, especially if the focus of the EA program is related to IT (as it nearly always is).

  • Experience with and understanding of the deliverables and value proposition of Enterprise Architecture.
  • Deep understanding of the methods and processes an appropriate EA framework. 
    • For telecom, this would be Frameworx (formerly NGOSS and eTOM).
    • For US federal government, that would be the FEA or DODAF.  (in different countries, there are different governmental frameworks). 
    • For private business, the leading frameworks would be TOGAF in first, with a tiny number of organizations still using Zachman. 
    • A small but growing number of companies use the Pragmatic EA Framework (PEAF). 
    • Most organizations roll their own, often from TOGAF, so starting there is the safest.  Note that a certification in TOGAF or the Zachman Framework is a great start.
  • Strong written and oral communication skills
  • Strong and demonstrable systems thinking and strategic thinking skills.  The ability to capture the key elements of a system into a simple abstraction that empowers good decisions.
  • Solid business financial skills.  Demonstrable ability to perform cost benefit analysis and manage the budget of a team.
  • Strong business negotiation skills, influence, conflict resolution, and political savvy
  • Demonstrable leadership in Portfolio Management, Project Management and Enterprise Change Management
  • Multiple years of Strategic Planning experience, preferably in a governance role

 

What should an Architecture Manager NOT do

In many cases, people who move into the role of Architecture Manager worked their way to that role as an architect.  They may have been a technical architect, solution architect, business architect, or enterprise architect.  In many organizations, these roles are deeply technical.  Of all the architecture managers I’ve met, the overwhelming majority are technologists.

Unfortunately, most technologists don’t have the skills to focus on the responsibilities listed above.  It is tempting to continue to be a technologist once moving to this role.  It is also suicide.  Your term as the “Vice President of Strategy and Architecture” will be short if you cannot step back and let your team perform the technologies or modeling activities typical of an architect.  This means, for the architecture manager himself or herself: No modeling,  No coding,  No time spent geeking out.  (Ok, exception, fiddling on the side is fine, especially if you want to “stay warm” with your technical skills… but nothing deliverable.)

Where should I look to find a good Architecture Manager

First place is the same as you’d expect for any role: find a person who was successful as an Architecture Manager in another enterprise.  Be careful of people who performed  but did not succeed as an Architecture Manager.  Most folks fail.  Find out if the function continued after they left, and if their team enjoyed working for them, and if their stakeholders saw fit to provide an increased level of interaction with their staff members.  Look at examples of their teams’ deliverables and ask about their ability to build and maintain new business processes.

Second option is to bring in an experienced architect and let them take on the role.  Assuming the team already exists and is well accepted within the organization, this is a reasonable approach.  Finding a seasoned architecture manager is extraordinarily difficult, so this may be the only rational option.  The person you select should have worked for at least six years as an Enterprise level architect, with increasing levels of responsibility, and should preferably have been a resource manager at some other point in their career.  If the program does not already exist, see the next section.

Third option is a seasoned manager who has no experience as an Enterprise Architect.  This may be a distinguished technical architect, or the leader of a highly visible program in the past.  These folks are expected to bring expert team leadership skills and deep technical skills.  The biggest challenge that they will face is being able to adequately learn the role.  Unlike most other management roles, the Architecture Manager must be able to SELL the value of the role of Enterprise Architect, and that is extraordinarily difficult to do if the manager wasn’t an architect first.  The learning curve is very steep.  To pull this off, the Architecture Manager will need a good mentor or an experienced consultant to help guide them through the first year in role. 

Building a program around an Architecture Manager

If you don’t already have a functioning Enterprise Architecture program, your very first hire will be the Architecture manager.  This role will be doing a great deal of heavy lifting in that first year.  Setting up processes and deliverables.  Making sure that the stakeholders buy in to collaborating with those processes.  Hiring and situating staff.  Creating priorities and managing resources.  Setting up measurement and demonstrating value.  It’s a tough road to build from scratch while providing value.

The only advice I can give: do NOT build a new EA program around an Enterprise Architect who has never been an Architecture Manager before.  That is simply too much for a single person to handle.  Going from EA to Architecture Manager of a new program is a huge leap, and I have never seen it be a successful approach in the long term.  The person you hire may be a “survivor” who knows how to avoid being fired, but that won’t make them effective.  Once they move to another role in the enterprise, the function will likely vanish.

You need the Architecture Manager to be effective.  To build a program with lasting value.  To build a program that matures over time. 

So if you are building a new EA program, build it around an experienced Architecture Manager.  Then support them with resources that they did not ask for: (a) an outside expert who can provide a neutral point of view and sounding board as they build and struggle that first year, and (b) Serious “air cover” so that they have the time needed to build the team, create the processes, build support, and demonstrate early value.

Conclusion

The single most important person in the Enterprise Architecture function is the Architecture Manager.  This critical role is part visionary, part marketer, part people manager, and part evangelist.  They have to change the organization and keep the change from undoing itself.  The role of Enterprise Architecture is highly dependent upon the skills and the focus of this key role.  Choose wisely.

Comments (6)

  1. Nic Harvard says:

    Lovely article as always Nick.

    One small point:

    "A good people and resource manager"

    All good EA's are good people leaders and influencers.

    If you only have direct reports who are xA's then this is probably sufficient.

    Few are good people *managers* however

  2. Tony Ward says:

    I think a fundamental attribute is missing – Experience! This experience comes from managing the EA function across multiple organisations. Understanding the organisations maturity is essential in being able to communicate effectively both above, to peers and below. Working in an Architecture Management role across multiple organisations provides an insight to IT Maturity and what will work.

    One of the most important skills is in understanding the Business Strategy. An effective IT Strategy should be predicated on the Business Strategy. The IT Architecture Roadmap becomes the vehicle for managing change in a controlled way. Understanding the Business Strategy provides the key for communicating priorities to Key Stakeholders. This comes with experience.

    The challenge is many Architecture Managers see the role as a stepping stone to either a CTO or CIO role. The skills of effective communicator and being a good people leader are common to the CTO and CIO.  The danger is that the Architecture Manager never gets the depth of experience and skills to influence the IT functions priorities effectively. The rapid promotion of effective influencers leads to people taking on roles they lack the skills to do. (the Peter Principle).  Find Architecture Managers who have led Systems Development, Portfolio Management, Project Management and Change Management. Do not promote the Senior Architect in the team.  

  3. Bob Muma says:

    Good article Nick nicely applied to EA.  

    Some years ago, one of my kids asked me how they would know they are working for a good manager.  I used the following to explain.  Imagine a manager with 10 years of experience responsible for the work of 10 employees each with about five years of experience.  The good manager looks at things from the perspective of we have 60 years of experience to work with.  The not so good manager takes the view I’m the manager because I have twice as much experience of the people working for me.

    From an academic perspective the functions of a manager are planning organizing staffing coordinating and controlling.  I  was trying to illustrate to the kids that the manager's job was to employ those function to motivate other folks to do the work.  In my view is the proceeding would apply to any type of management role enterprise architect finance personnel what ever.

  4. Devin says:

    Forwarded from Australian Architecture Network

    <NickM>

    If the very first time the VP of a line of business hears about EA, is during an escalation, your architects will lose every time.

    </NickM>

    Wonderful insight; this is very close to the situation. Either the LoB do not know or just want to use EA, because it is a part of the due-diligence cycle. I'm sure this is not me alone. Like to hear from others.

    I will comment more about other stuff in the evening.

  5. James Richard says:

    Nice article

    There is no good reason why real Enterprise Architecture and Business Transformation should not be merged as a single discipline. The skills needed for each hugely overlap, especially the Business Architecture domain of enterprise Architecture.

    A joint Enterprise Architecture Business Transformation team is essential to achieving successful and viable transformations.

    http://www.eitaglobal.com

  6. NickMalik says:

    From a friend:  

    There are three themes I think could use more emphasis.

    The first is that many people in the organization are likely to be doing architecture work, so it's essential to build an extended team that includes practitioners beyond the EA team.

    The second theme is that the architecture manager must understand the perspective of decision makers and focus on providing relevant information. To do this requires a technologist to broaden his or her scope significantly and engage political, economic, and cultural issues that don't fit neatly in an EA framework.

    The last theme is that organizations host many processes that produce information, A big part of the work of the architecture manager is harnessing these processes and their information products to provide consistent, relevant, cause-and-effect information about issues, options, actions, and consequences.

Skip to main content