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Who Should Enterprise Architects Report to in an Organization to Achieve Optimal Impact?

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An age-old question, but it seems now more than ever that enterprise architecture has become one of the keys to competitiveness, so who should enterprise architects report to in an organization to achieve optimal impact?

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  • Probably no one “rightâ€? answer, but plenty of models that can work including a direct line to CIO and dotted-line to business unit VP is something I’ve seen work well.

  • The best model I've seen is a centralized organization under the CIO for infrastrucure standardization - including basic architecture - which needs to be consistent across the organization.

  • I agree with Anthony, there is no one right answer. the trend these days is to talk about business architecture and reporting outside of IT, but I think that depends on a certain business environment and a certain level of maturity. The reality is that it is the right reporting position is completely dependent on the culture of the company and the personalities involved. Any particular reporting structure can work given the right relationships and the right people. When organization is marching to a single beat, things work. When there's a whole bunch of drummers, it doesn't work.

  • I agree with Anthony and Todd.
    In my opinion the question who should Enterprise Architects not Report to in an Organization to Achieve Optimal Impact? is a more interesting question.
    My answer is they should not report to Infrastructure managers or some one else who is responsible for implementing infrastructure (in some organizations it is the CTO). Without this independence between Architecture and implementations the architecture will be "adapted" to concrete problems and will no longer be general enough to be useful.

  • The practical answer is “wherever EA can have the most impactâ€? and will indeed vary by organization. History, culture, politics, and personalities can all make a generically recommended solution less than optimal. That said, organizational placement on at least a peer level to anyone EA needs to influence is important. On the IT side of the house, an EA group reporting into either the infrastructure or application development organization will have difficulty influencing IT staffers outside their own part of the world. So an EA group reporting into the CIO works well. But when CIOs find themselves with too many directs, EA reporting into a strategy-and-planning type of unit that reports to the CIO works well too (in some organizations this is the “Office of the CIOâ€?).

    Forrester is beginning to see EA teams reporting into the business, although not very many, and Anthony’s idea of dotted line into a business exec sounds like a winner for organizations that 1) can make dotted lines work, and 2) have an appropriate business-side exec that effectively owns the planning function. As EA continues to move up the food chain the issue of EA reporting into the business is going to start coming up a lot. Some of the groups who tell us they report into the business are reporting into the CFO. We’re not sure that counts – while there must be many enlightened CFOs out there who would make great business execs to direct EA priorities, in our experience reporting into the CFO is a bit like getting sent to the Vice Principal’s office in high school. IT reporting into the CFO has the flavor of disciplinary action for a shared services group that spends too much, and that may be the overriding tone of EA-CFO linkage as well. However, the portfolio management aspects of EA activities might make EA work well in that structure.

    We’re beginning to see a lot of movement across IT and business lines, in both directions. IT needs business smarts (especially in EA) and the business needs technology smarts. Business Architects and Business Analysts are common on either — or both — sides of the house. EA reporting directly into the business can make sense but it is likely to run into similar issues of influence as when it reported into the IT infrastructure group. EA reporting directly into the business will make the most sense in organizations completely reworking the relationship between business and IT.

    - By Gene Leganza

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    Hi,

    It is a very interesting debate! I am very skeptical however of the "dotted line" reporting to Business Unit. I feel somehow, the sales and business development have never matured to understand the depths and importance of the job of a solution architect. They are constantly driven to "win" a deal no matter what and in the process may not understand the language that solution architect is trying to speak when a particular solution is proposed. I see a definite possibility of serious conflicts emerging in such situations where BU Head and EA do not see eye to eye on such matters.

    The way it is done in my Organization (System Integrators), I report to the technical line, but I am free to engage in direct business with the sales and business units on a routine basis (there is no reporting here), but whenever there are contentious issues, my reporting line manager and the VP Infrastructure intervene and we take decisions together as a consensus.

  • To achieve optimal impact, the Enterprise (Technical) Architects and Business Architects have to belong to the cross-divisional executive structure and the manager of this structure must report into CEO.

  • EA can be more practical and successful, when reporting to a mature CIO (with cross-cutting business domain thinking ability) or even better reporting to CSO (Chief Strategy Officer) who needs help in swithing act and thought hats as needed. EA reporting to COO or CFO makes it very ineffective and blindfolded - based on my 25+ years of experience and observations.

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