It seems there's a backlash against enterprise architects these days.
As I've written before, it's a bit tricky to define exactly what makes someone an enterprise architect -- and what their duties are. Since they often must deal with integration -- and have sometimes been on record against the concept of SOA, I keep an eye out for EA-related news.
And lately, I've noticed some pundits are coming down pretty hard on enterprise architects.
It's not that they're against the idea, per se. For instance, David Linthicum wrote a piece in April, "Should We Continue to Invest in Enterprise Architecture?" in which he agrees, in theory, that there should be an EA thinking about the big picture. But he questions whether companies are really giving EAs the authority they need to make any real difference:
"Indeed, for most of the Global 2000 there is a lone architect, with a couple of staffers, that has no budgetary nor referential authority, thus no results. You can't 'influence' your way to success...Thus, there are groups of people drawing very nice paychecks that don't add value to IT, or the business, and don't have to deliver tangible results. Good work, if you can get it."
More recently, JP Morgenthal, the president and CEO of Avorcor and the former coeditor-in-chief of XML-Journal and chief services architect at Software AG, wrote a piece for .Net Developer's Journal arguing there is no need for any company to have a full-time EA on staff:
"I've worked for Fortune 500 companies engaged simultaneously in 50+ of IT projects as well as small companies with one or two products and I don't believe there is a need for any organization to have a full-time software architect....Once underway, 100 hours a month of time is enough for any architect to respond to most needs of all ongoing projects."
Again, Morgenthal isn't arguing against the need for an EA -- obviously, he thinks architects have their place -- but he just doesn't agree it's on-staff and all the time.
Not surprisingly, EAs have a different take on the matter. Mike Kavis, aka the Mad Greek, is an enterprise architect who writes an Enterprise Architect blog on IT Toolbox. He agrees there is a a bit of a PR problem with executives, who tend to think of EA as "nothing more then a think-tank for high priced architects who practice philosophy from their Ivory Towers." This perception has lead to one of three reactions to enterprise architecture:
Obviously, he thinks the last approach is the way to go, but he also offers some advice on how to up your chances of success with EA. And, if you can stand slide shows, you might want to check out this post where Kavis published his presentation on "Explaining the Value of EA."
Clearly, enterprise architects need to be making their business value case loud and clear -- and they should be in a good position to do it. My guess is the real problem EAs face isn't whether they can add value, but whether they can save money, given that most companies are looking to trim expenses. Frankly, EAs look like an easy target in their relatively new -- and high-paid -- positions.
But if Morgenthal's right, the good news is that EAs might find a new career at the same company, but this time as a high-paid consultant.