Iasa gets to interact with architects from every type and size of organization. From universities to startups to global fortune 100s. We get visibility into every angle and aspect of the practice, programs, projects, roles, artifacts and tasks that architects employ. And I am here to tell you, organizing architects is hard and should be one of the most important tasks of the team. If possible it should not be left to an IT manager or VP but should be a result of an objective and considered approach by the entire team of architects (regardless of their current reporting structure). Realistic or not, this appears to be the single greatest hurdle to architect team success.

  1. Architects fail when they don’t have the right relationship to the organization. – In a mature architect organization the team works together towards a common set of outcomes. Reporting lines become less important than architect community cohesion and value delivery. When an architecture team fragments, most commonly between EA and others but also between BA and Solution, the team cannot reach appropriate stakeholders. For example, when architects are unable to communicate directly with business their solutions will generally focus on internal IT optimization. Also, if BA does not connect with IT effectively, their solutions will lack the value add that a technology strategist brings to the table and they may face value challenges from within the business units. Either way, the most powerful organizing aspects of architecture are a deeply connected BA and Solution and EA team that are working towards similar outcomes.
  2. Architecture becomes documentation. – Architectures make poor documentation, though this is their most common representation. Good architectures are concise vehicles for thinking and communication and as such are normally to terse to be excellent documentation. Further, the vast majority of organizations do not have the architect manpower to keep a documentation focused repository up to date, leading to difficult outcomes for the team. Instead, architectures should be focused on thinking tools for themselves and stakeholders while the architects themselves focus on value, innovation and delivery. Thus the documentation becomes a process of the organization, as it has always been, while architects stay focused on getting value to customers.
  3. Organization does not see architecture value. – As the single largest challenge faced by architects today, value creation should stay at the top of our agenda. From the dozens or hundreds of organizations I have seen, the key to value creation is to stay focused on a practical engagement model with architects leading the charge towards innovation and transformation. When the team lacks a written, well organized engagement model, activities often fragment and become value-less instead of value-focused.
  4. Architects have conflicts with each other. – You know what they call a group of architects standing together? An argument of architects. We have a penchant for debate and a desire to challenge others to be their best. But in poor architect organizations this turns inwards. EAs conflict with Solution and Business. Solution treats Business as if they are incapable technically (normally not true). The arguments of who does what, what is architecture, what our roles should be, what documents, models and activities we should participate in resound through the hallways. Finally, our business partners in and out of IT turn to us and say, enough. When you figure out what you do for a living give us a call.
  5. Organization business and technical capabilities lack cohesion, innovation stagnates and governance becomes the only activity of architects. – I see this constantly. In an organization where architecture is not functioning properly, the only recourse is to have architects focus on governance. If you or your team is in a reactive, rubber stamp, check others work mode, you are NOT creating value. You would never accept a building architect, accountant, or other professional who simply sat around and checked others work. Fix your architecture organization and you will get out of governance mode and into real business.

To learn more about Organizing Architects and new paradigms come see me talk at the eSummit May 18th. http://iasaglobal.org/monthly-esummit/