A while back, I wrote about how enterprise architects are struggling with SOA and how it fits into their discipline. Frank Millar, executive director of Millar Consulants, LLC, pointed out that I assumed everyone knows what the term "enterprise architect" means, noting that, in his experience, the term is defined differently in different enterprises.
He's right. There are a lot of different definitions for "enterprise architect." It can get really confusing, particularly if you follow a lot of blogs written by enterprise architects -- and I did.
Millar noted there are two extremes used in defining enterprise architect:
- At the one extreme, it's defined as a purely a business function, "chartered to translate strategic goals into proposals for organizational charts and track implementation results so that operations are optimized without immediate considerations of technology."
- At the other extreme, enterprise architect can refer to individuals who focus on reducing costs and "integrating and improving the efficiencies of disparate enterprise IT organizations and their respective resources."
"Surely," Millar writes, "These two roles are very different jobs."
As it turns out, no, not really.
I decided to do a little digging into the enterprise architect role. Here's what I learned.
- You'll often read that enterprise architecture is a new discipline. But it's really not -- at least for technology time lines. The first EA framework was created by John Zachman of IBM in 1987, according to this whitepaper on the "MEGA & the Zachman Framework."
- One common driver for enterprise architecture -- as a discipline -- is the the quest for IT/business alignment. According to a recent CXO Today article, a study by the Infosys Technologies revealed that 36 percent of enterprise architect teams actively participate in their company's strategic business planning.
- But that's not the only job of the enterprise architect. Zachman is quoted as saying, "There are four reasons why you do Architecture: 'Alignment,' 'Integration,' 'Change,' and 'Reduced Time-to-Market.'" Likewise, the Infosys Technologies survey found that integration and information integrity are the key concerns of enterprise architecture, followed by customer data integration. I think this speaks to Millar's confusion and why it's so hard to pin down a job description for the enterprise architect. That's a wide range of tasks.
- The Zachman Framework is the oldest of the enterprise architecture frameworks, and, if Wikipedia is the be trusted at all, it's the most widely used framework. Wikipedia also identifies the following primary frameworks for enterprise architecture: The Open Group Architecture Framework; the Department of Defense Architecture Framework (DoDAF), which is used by the U.S. government; the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA), which comes out of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget; and the UK Ministry of Defence Architectural Framework (MODAF).
- I often see enterprise architect bloggers compare their jobs to building architects. But this analogy breaks down quickly. Steve Nunn, vice president and COO of the Open Group, and other sources recommend instead that enterprise architects are more aptly compared to the role of a city planner. In a recent Q&A with IT Business Edge, Nunn explained:
"...enterprise architecture is not necessarily a direct correlation with a building architect. An enterprise architect is more like a city planner. It's looking at not just the building, but what facilities are needed, what the likely through-put is going to be, the demands on the system, all the things a city planner would look at if he were building a city from scratch or an infrastructure project in a city."
Nunn notes that there are a lot of people right now throwing around the term "enterprise architect." He suspects few of them are actually doing the job functions of an enterprise architect. And likewise, there may be people handling the enterprise architecture functions without the title.
So, how can you separate the wheat from the chafe?
One way is to make sure the enterprise architect is using a recognized framework. You can learn more about the Zachman Framework at the group's web site.
The Open Group also offers an IT architect certification program, which Nunn says is evolving into an enterprise architect certification program.
For more information about the general definition of enterprise architect, check out the first and second parts of our interview with Nunn.