The Evolution of the Modern Enterprise Architect


At the Open Group Conference in San Francisco earlier this month Dr. Jeanne Ross from MIT CISR made the statement, “One day the CIO will report to the Enterprise Architect.”   As you can imagine this caused quite the stir within at the conference, and the LinkedIn and Twitterverse started to explode with comments from both sides of the spectrum.  My first reaction was similar to that of Wayne Campbell (aka Mike Meyers from Wayne’s World), “Shhhyaaa when monkeys fly out of my …..”

The idea had to simmer a bit, but clearly as a profession we need a new set of competencies in order to be the type of Enterprise Architect capable of managing the CIO, and the entire IT function for that matter.

First of all, Enterprise Architects have to manage a profit and loss center and learn how to run a “business.”  Running a business requires understanding of a business.  Even running a small business teaches one basic accounting, sales and pipeline management, disciplined execution, customer service and support.  I think it is fair for me to day that most Enterprise Architects (not all), really do not even understand the nature of their own business.   Business acumen is essential and the development and exploitation of new business models would be essential.

Second,  Enterprise Architects must learn how to manage the most important asset of the firm:  People.  I do not believe I am going out on a limb by saying that most Enterprise Architects today would not be very good people managers.  Having managed people before, I have to say it is very time consuming and distracting!   Architecture, at least for me, requires intense concentration.  I do not like being interrupted when trying to solve a problem as I have my head immersed in it.  Managing people requires that you have to be able to disengage and reengage quickly as your reports tend to do random things.    The discipline of architecture does not lend itself to multitasking.   If you believe you can multitask and develop a high quality architecture in a timely manner, send me a note.

A modern Enterprise Architect must able to apply systems thinking using both analysis and synthesis.  (See previous blog entries.)   Many of us have come through the ranks of engineering and software development which teaches us classical ways of problem solving through reductionism and optimization of elements and parts.  Engineers thrive on being able to predict things.  Moving from an engineer to a designer shifts your thinking more towards synthesis.  Architecture is not pure engineering, but its “truths” are grounded in engineering a reality.   Architecture is not pure design, but the designers “beliefs” have to transform or manage the firm into perhaps uncharted territory or navigate through uncertain environments.

I think for now, I would welcome that the firm’s Chief Enterprise Architect to report directly to the CIO and be the strategic arm of the IT function.   What would be more likely is that the future enterprise architect would report to an up and coming role called the Chief Strategy Officer.   An enterprise architect, or whatever the role is called in the future, would benefit being a part of “The Strategy Office” similar in nature to the “The Project Management Office” but responsible for the design of the firm and determining the means required to satisfy the purpose of the firm.

As always I am interested in your thoughts…

Comments (1)

  1. Marc Dimmick says:

    I agree with Dr. Jeanne Ross statement. For quite a time I have asked the question why is the CIO not part of the top executive with their responsibilities in delivery of technology to the business. But then when you start to understand the role of the EA you start to ask why would you report to a CIO. More and more I see CIO as being the facilitator of the operational side of technology. Where the EA, and let me clarify that reference EA, more the Chief Enterprise Architect who would oversea a team of EA's in their particular specialties of Business, Data, Application and Infrastructure. Provides a holistic view. They start at the Business level and needing to understand what the business is doing as part of their domain of expertise. In their role they get to understanding what processes and functions are generating the data. The data that progresses to the applications, infrastructure etc.

    Part of the role of EA is building those view which in turn enables the understanding of cost and value to the business. CIO's and IT are more reactive to business needs but do not necessarily understand what created the need. The EA is all about understanding the dynamics of business which create the demand for technology and they are, I believe in a better position to steer the technology direction.

    We are not quite there yet and both the EA role and CIO role need to further evolve. The CIO has been there for a while as has the EA but they need to step up to the executive level and take their place at the table. This could be a partnership, but I see it evolving to EA at the board and CIO reporting to the EA.

    I had a CIO once say to me that they needed to prove their value to a business before they could get to the table. My response was without the technology how many of the member of executive today can do their job. The CFO would be struggling without access to the accounts system, the CEO might continue but without their communications of emails that would slowly come down, as well as the COO. Most of today's COO operations are technology driven. HR would be in trouble with staff as they would have difficulties making their pay. So understanding the business and their needs could only improve with the EA/CIO having a better understanding of those outcomes. So being at the Executive table would better enable them to be in a stronger position to respond to business.

    The other issue is that IT has seen it self as the leader of technology in the business. Selling the latest shiny button or propeller. Business is now looking to IT to delivery value by either providing solutions that improve processes, reduce costs or both. They are no longer interested in the shiny buttons they want value to delivery their outcomes.