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 enterprise.

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.