Analyst: Focus on the Enterprise Architect Function, Not the Title

Loraine Lawson

Last week, I wrote about the evolving role of enterprise architects. Right now, even the EA community can't quite agree on the roles and responsibilities of EA. Job requirements are all over the map and in some companies, the title's become something of a perk, given out willy nilly without any real expectation of whether, in fact, the person hired will be acting as an enterprise architect.


That post generated quite a bit of insightful commentary from readers of IT Business Edge. Of course, you can read the original post and the related comments for yourself. But given how blog posts tend to disappear into the ether, I thought it'd be helpful to pull out a few particularly useful remarks and free resources on the topic today.


First, enterprise architect and blogger Tom Graves pointed out that there are actually two very different roles that use the enterprise architect title, and since "the respective skill sets are rarely to be found in the one person," it might be helpful to recognize those two distinct roles:


  • The enterprise architecture as the architect of the enterprise. This requires a strategic thinker who can "connect ideas and requirements across different domains, and very high ability to communicate across all levels and all domains," Graves said. While it's essentially an IT-related role, the scope is much broader and the practice is closer to TOGAF's business architecture, he added.
  • The enterprise architecture as the architect of enterprise-wide IT. This is actually an IT-focused position that's been around for decades, he wrote.


He suggested a title change for the latter group:


"In effect, IT has been using 'enterprise architecture' for the past couple of decades as a shorthand for 'enterprise-wide IT-architecture' - which is misleading, because the latter is only a small domain-specific subset of the literal 'architecture of the enterprise. ... From now on, we need to reserve the title 'enterprise architect' solely for those who work across all domains at the whole-of-enterprise scope, and use an alternate title such as 'enterprise IT-architect' for the continuing IT-related roles."


Mike Rollings of the Burton Group, who specializes in enterprise architecture issues, also commented on the post, as well as the previous piece I'd written arguing that EA is just the latest in a series of IT championspromising to save the business and, as such, might have some credibility issues.


Rollings offered IT Business Edge a free copy of the Burton Group's report, "EA is more than Engineering," which discusses the problems facing enterprise architecture. (Thank you, Mr. Rollings!) And he suggests readers might want to check out the group's EA tag on the Burton Group blog for more related discussions.


Rollings suggested the EA community forgo the whole identity crisis and focus instead on the competencies required for EA:


"Since we launched our enterprise architecture coverage 18 months ago I have been calling for a focus on business outcomes, influencing decisions across business and IT, and a move away from the notion of an EA devotee society'. Focusing on 'EA' is just a part of the brokenness of EA. ... I would much rather discuss how to correct EA-related fractures in organizations and describe competencies or practices (e.g. business optimization techniques, dependency analysis) that heal the patient, rather than first convincing someone that they need EA."


In other words, Juliet had it right-What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. So EA would, were it not EA called, retain that dear perfection which it owes without that title.


What can I add to Rollings' remarks? Ditto.

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