Enterprise Architecture: Are 'Specialties' the Answer?

Susan Hall

My colleague Ann All and I have been having this discussion about enterprise architects - what they do and how that differs from a business architect, if at all. We remain terribly confused, though our colleague Loraine Lawson has toiled for years to get some clarity on that.


And I recently wrote about Gartner's advice that enterprise architects shift their focus to their business's strategic vision. (What were they focused on before?) I quoted Philip Allega, research vice president at Gartner, saying:

Enterprise architects have woken up to the fact that a collaborative relationship with the business is essential to their success. These things aren't independent, they're interdependent.

I've mentioned before that IT types sure love the word "architect" and the "architect" roles seem to be multiplying, with terms such as "social media architect" and "cloud architect" entering the mix. Well, get set for more.


I take some comfort from the post of enterprise architect Nick Malik at MSDN blogs, who maintains that part of the confusion stems from the fact that those in the profession don't seem to agree on anything. He maintains that the whole area could be divided up into "schools of thought," though they might use different words to talk about the same thing. He writes:

Perhaps we need to split up the field into specialties, just as physicians have specialties, with some base training and a focus on a particular branch of medicine. After all, an oncologist makes a reasonable diagnosis when you have a cold, as would an Emergency Room doctor, but in the event of a car accident, I'd take the ER doc any day, and in the event of cancer, I'm making a beeline to the oncologist.
If we understand enough about an enterprise, and the problems that they want to solve, we can focus on a single specialty (and/or bring in the right specialist).

He proposes these (alphabetically):

  • Alignment architects-focused on interpreting strategy, turning into action and using it to scope and define business change initiatives. Also referred to as business architects.
  • Application architects-focused on implementing successful enterprise applications or enterprise systems. Also referred to as enterprise IT architects.
  • Information architects-focused on managing information assets at the enterprise level in a consistent way.
  • Process architects-focused on improving business processes or reorienting business processes to place the customer first.
  • Strategy architects-focused on helping business leaders create new strategies, open new markets, develop new products, etc.


As for the "information architect," in a piece at All Things Digital, Aconex CEO Leigh Jasper argues that this person, whom he calls "information manager" is the most important person in the company. He writes:

... without effective information managers, no one - not the CEO, CFO, CIO, CTO or anyone else in your organization - will be able to achieve their objectives or reach their goals. ...

In a world where your success depends on a myriad of internal and external stakeholders having immediate access to the latest information, it's time to recognize the crucial role information managers play in keeping that information flowing.

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