January 23, 2006
Defining Enterprise Architecture
There are many challenges to getting an Enterprise Architecture group off the
ground at an organization, especially one that is trying to mature after
running in "startup" mode for so long. Also, since the idea of architecture
in technology is a relatively new discipline many managers and stakeholders
just don't understand what architecture means, what the role of the architect
is, and most importantly what the benefits are of having a solid architecture
group or team.
What is Enterprise Architecture?
Enterprise Architecture is a discipline that relies heavily on mid to long
term strategic vision that is driven by the goal of aligning IT with business.
It value to the company cannot be realized on a quarter by quarter basis but
rather on a year to year basis. A lot of times this value realization is not
directly apparent. However, the value is usually significant impact on an
organization beyond what any single or group of traditional projects could
accomplish. For example, items like developer morale and productivity,
harmonization of IT and business, business leaders able to make better
strategic decisions, a solid platform enabliing better performance, more
reliable security, and forward proofed designs, etc., are things we all agree
are wonderful making IT more cost effective and better able to provide
services to the business but are rather hard to measure and attribute 100% to
the architecture group or team. However, it is a rare case indeed to find
these things without people dedicated to focusing on architecture for the
What is the role of an architect?
Many times the great architect was also a great technologist or developer,
however, the great technologist or developer do not necessarily make a great
architect. This is because the skillsets needed to be that great developer
are only a small fraction of what the architect needs to call upon in the
course of their duties. A large portion of the architect's trade must rely on
good organizational politics, meaning that he has got to be able to sell his
or her ideas to both the deeply technical as well as executive management. He
has to play a leadership role without any organizational authority so it is
required of the architect that he is well respected and can motivate the
necessary people to follow, and to do so with enthusiasm. In addition, he or
she must be able to be adept at thinking strategically and critically about
long range technical direction.
I'd be interested to hear if anyone out there has had experiences in getting
an architecture group established.