5 key qualities of a modern enterprise architect

Enterprise architecture was about predicting the future of enterprises. Now it's about making that future happen.

Two recent posts at The Open Group site suggest it's a brave new world for enterprise architects -- or those moving their careers in that direction.

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Photo: HubSpot

Capgemini's Ron Tolido suggests that EAs -- or anyone else for that matter -- simply aren't equipped to be able to predict what technology needs businesses will have within the next few years. But EAs are in the best position to guide that future. In an additional Open Group post, Stuart Macgregor, CEO of Real IRM Solutions, advocates a high-level approach, "running the EA practice like a business, with a clearly-defined solution offering."

Here are some of the recommendations Tolido and Macgregor make for succeeding in enterprise architecture in the years ahead:

Acknowledge that the future -- even immediate future -- is murky. Tolido, who spoke at The Open Group London 2016, says that "because customer and business needs are constantly changing there really is no way to know what IT landscapes will look like in the future or what type of solutions organizations will need." As a result, EAs need to stop trying to predict what's ahead, and instead design an architecture that changes as quickly as business needs change.

Recognize that enterprise architecture does more than bridge IT and the business. Tolido says the time has passed that EA serves as the bridge between IT and the business. Why? "Because in the next generation of IT -- the era of the platform -- there is no distinction between business and IT. They are one and the same." With IT as the business and the business being IT, the roles of enterprise architects are elevated.

EAs need to assume business leadership roles. This elevated business role of enterprises architects calls for identifying and nurturing leadership talent among EA ranks. "The single biggest reason for failed EA programs is lack of leadership skills within the core elements of the guiding coalition and the EA team," Macgregor says.

Have a strong EA team in place. Macgregor says this team should be "led by a strong guiding coalition and steering committee, the team needs to consider how to manage the work, how to control delivery against the plan, how any blind spots will be identified, and how they will engage with the rest of the organization."

Keep it real, keep it tangible. Macgregor also cautioned against "ivory-tower thinking" that often slows down EA progress. EAs "return from their retreats away from the business, with elaborate frameworks, and little practical guidance on how to implement them." EA should be real to business users -- "running the EA practice like a business, architects can effectively maintain a stakeholder-centric approach to delivering business value. Architects need to 'get their hands dirty' - such as getting involved in the actual modelling, investing time in mentoring people in architecture skills, closely following the business' needs, and evolving the EA artefacts," Macgregor urges.

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