Defining the emerging new role of enterprise architects (EAs) in the context of services-oriented architecture (SOA) is more than an esoteric exercise. It also helps define the major shifts now under way from SOA activities in enterprises and large organizations. These murky shifts come down to defining how IT is to be managed anew in the modern organization.
To help better understand the shifting requirements for personnel and leadership due to SOA, The Open Group presented a panel on July 22 at the 19th Annual Open Group Enterprise Architect's Practitioners Conference in Chicago. I had the pleasure to moderate the discussion, on the role and impact of skills and experience for EAs in both the public sector and the private sector.
Our panel of experts and guests included Tony Baer, senior analyst at Ovum; Eric Knorr, editor-in-chief of InfoWorld; Joe McKendrick, SOA blogger and IT industry analyst; Andras Szakal, the chief architect at IBM's Federal Software Group, and David Cotterill, head of innovation at the U.K. Government Department for Work and Pensions.
Here are some excerpts:
Within the government [sector], enterprise architecture is, I would say, trending more toward the political aspect, to the executive-level practitioner, than it is, say, an integrator who has hired a set of well-trained SOA practitioners.
The enterprise architect is really more focused on trying to bring the organization together around a business strategy or mission. And, certainly, they understand the tooling and how to translate the mission, vision, and strategy into an SOA architecture -- at least in the government.
I think the technical background can be taken as a given for an enterprise architect. We expect that they have a certain level of depth and breadth about them, in terms of the broadest kind of technology platforms. But what we are really looking for are people who can then move into the business space, who have a lot more of the softer skills, things like influencing … How do you build and maintain a relationship with a senior business executive?
Those are kind of the skills sets that we're looking for, and they are hard to find. Typically, you find them in consultants who charge you a lot of money. But they're also skills that can be learned -- provided you have a certain level of experience.
We try to find people who have a good solid technical background and who show the aptitude for being able to develop those softer skills. Then, we place them in an environment and give them the challenge to actually develop those skills and maintain those relationships with the business. When it works, it's a really great thing, because they can become the trusted partner of our business people and unmask all the difficulties of the IT that lies behind.
We are software architects, but we are really trying to solve the business problem. ... I would look for people [to hire] who have deep technical skills, and have had experience in implementing systems successfully. I have seen plenty of database administrators come to me and try to call themselves an architect, and you can't be one-dimensional on the information side, although I am an information bigot too.
So you're looking for a broad experience and somebody who has methodology background in design, but also in enterprise architecture. In that way, they can go from understanding the role of the enterprise architect, and how you take the business problem and slice that out into business processes, and then map the technology layer on to it.