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Is it time for a new generation of enterprise architect?

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As Don Macvittie writes in Is It Time for a New Enterprise Architect?, enterprise architects have to make increasingly complex networking decisions about storage, app deployment, load distribution, and availability.  And security plays a critical role in all of these choices.  So is it time for a new generation of enterprise architect?

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  • I think the only *recent* additional factor for architects is the decision over whether to go cloud-based or not. Storage, app deployment, load distribution, availability, fault tolerence, security, etc etc have been factors for 2+ decades now.

    On the other hand, System Architects also have to keep abreast of increasingly powerful platforms. Consider one I work with: a rule-based CEP platform with distributed scalability, business decision management, data persistence, and dashboarding... all in a single EDA platform.

    Frankly I admire these guys for the complexity of their build vs buy vs assemble decisions ...

  • It is high time to have real enterprise architects. That may mean new ones though. The architects that are able to describe a generic enterprise for instance in a diagram without refering to or long discourses about books, methods, strategy... which should not be visible to the end customer anyway.

  • Don's blog entry pulls at the frayed ends of some very tangled strings within the IT industry. It's akin to feeling around for the light switch in a dark room seeking the right granularity for architecture. Expectations have mushroomed for EAs to have deep technical knowledge when they should be the architect of the intersection of business and technology. Perhaps the syndrome stems from the lack of overall investment by the business in appropriate number of architects, so we try to find individuals who can wear multiple hats simultaneously and slap a label on that person of EA.

    In one of my blog entries I stated we need multi-dimensional architects instead of enterprise architects, where multi-dimensional architects can be scoped more easily since it doesn't have the "Enterprise" marker attached to it. It can operate departmentally, regionally, etc.

  • I'm not sure we need a new generation of EA but rather the addition of new concerns the EA must deal with because of changes to technology. There are a host of skills an EA uses that are orthogonal to the underlying technology. The EA in the 21st needs to be cognizant of these new options (e.g., cloud, virtualization, etc.) because they make it easier to fulfill the architectural requirements they must fulfill. These are all concerns within the Technology Architecture (TOGAF) or rows 5/6 (Zachman) that are free to fluxuate and evolve independently of the other domains of EA due to their layering.

    This is not to say there is no place for specialized roles of cloud/network or other Tech Arch disciplines within organizations. EAs tend to be generalists with one or two specialities based on how they "grew up" within their careers. But these roles are not "enterprise" architects as they are focused on a different "unit of architecture". These new roles may focus solely on "cloud architecture" or even "enterprise cloud architecture", however, that is something very different that "enterprise architect". And, are these folks architecting or engineering?

    This conversation also touches on the overuse of the term "architect" within the IT field. My colleague Bob Rhubart (Oracle) hosts a series of podcasts in which I am one of the panelists (http://j.mp/lSSbYM).

  • Certainly "yes" on the "generation" question. It appears most EA's are minimum 15 years experience, often times double that. How are we preparing, mentoring the next generation of EA's? Or, are we protecting our job security for now :-)?

    I agree with all the responses on EA vs. Technical Architect. 9/10 EA job roles I've seen are really Technical Architects, requiring some expertise in J2EE or .net...yuck. I personally like the term "Solution Architect".

    • I've dealt extensively with EAs at multiple large organizations. Most of them spend all their time all day, every day in meetings and responding to multiple hundreds of e-mails received on a daily basis. Many are "big idea" individuals that rarely contribute something directly, tangibly to the IT or business components of their organizations. I think the new generation is that one that actually does stuff.

  • The term "new generation" of enterprise architect hits the nail on the head. It implies that the EA role is an ever-evolving one and that it must adapt to new challenges in the IT environment. The popularization of cloud and mobile computing has certainly introduced new complexities that EA teams must master.

    Although enterprise architects should be constantly evolving in response to changes in their own environments, the magnitude of change facing the IT industry today is requiring the entire EA community to grow together. This is a good thing.

    I believe one of those adaptations is for EA to start taking responsibility for execution. Not to actually perform technical architecture or implementation but to guide and govern it. Today's businesses need innovative, secure solutions that work, which requires architects at all levels and specializations to be in lock step. Gone are the days of ivory tower EA.

  • From Mark Di Girolamo, Metastorms Senior Director of Enterprise Architecture:

    If you look at the evolution of Enterprise Architecture from an IT Management technique to a business decisions and strategy enabler, you have to also look the people responsible for managing the architecture. In the past, an IT focused skill set was appropriate and preferred. Today, however, architects need to be increasingly aware of the business and have a deeper understanding of business challenges.

    EA has become even more of a multi-disciplinary management technique. Many skills, not only IT related, are required. The whole company should be focused on business value and realizing the corporate objectives.
    Most of the time corporate objectives are geared towards operational efficiencies, better serving existing customers and attracting new customers. Those are all business focused objectives and EA should play a central part in achieving them. Having architects that can relate to those objectives and understand how to achieve them is critical.

  • Given the multi-disciplinary nature of Enterprise Architecture, it is evident that EA should not be a person, but a Practice - in effect a living, breathing organization that adapts to the rapid changes in the business and technology landscapes of today. The EA Practice is then comprised of people with expertise in various disciplines. As new business models and technologies evolve, the EA Practice adapts by adding the required expertise to itself. Regular research and analysis of evolving business models and technologies should be part of the Governance model of the EA Practice.

    In short, the next generation of Enterprise Architecture is an EA Practice and not an Enterprise Architect.

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