The Right Fit: The Enterprise Architect Selection Dilemma

 
By Paul T. Preiss


“Who in the world am I? Ah that’s the great puzzle” Lewis Carroll – Alice in Wonderland
A December 2013 article by Joe McKendrick on ZDNet “What Employers Want from Enterprise Architects” focuses on the Enterprise Architect role for businesses. The article cites an increasing demand for talented Enterprise Architects supported by snapshots of online job listings for the role. Good news indeed for the IT architecture profession. In fact, reviews of current listings on Linkedin for example, show that EA job requirements are increasing.
 
However, a closer look at job listings shows that organizations are consistent in both what they get right and what they can miss out from an Enterprise Architect role. In a way, job descriptions can be a leading indicator into the maturity of the organization’s EA practice and effectiveness of the EA role in delivering business value. Here is a summary from many advertisements, from LinkedIn and Dice.com, for the EA role.
 
The Titular Role or Must Haves - The top responsibilities included in job listings
  • Create/define enterprise architecture, technology roadmaps and ensuring business IT alignment.
  • Define/manage/drive all things (IT) architecture – tools, frameworks, standards, processes, implementation and governance.
  • Work with business and IT stakeholders on strategic business and IT initiatives.
What this means: Enterprise Architects are a key resource in enabling business technology strategy. The (largely) prevailing expectation is that this is an observer/influencer/facilitator responsibility. Ivory
 
Tower by Accident or Design - Responsibilities that should be included but are not
  • The Enterprise Architect role as a senior management or leadership position.
  • The EA as a people leader with accountability for building teams, skills and knowledge management.
  • EA involvement in technology selection.
  • Active engagement with business and a driver/initiator of business technology strategy.
What this means: The EA function can end up operating from an ivory tower with responsibilities towards all and concrete influence over nothing.
 
Rose By Any NameJoblistings that are off the mark
  • The Swiss Army Knife – Example: "prepare strategic plans, task development, estimates, work plans, project working papers, project schedules and reports for management."
  • The Beat Cop – Example: “enforcing best practices, and conducting code reviews delivered by the development teams”.
What It Means: These organizations will overlook the expert programmers/designers/project managers that they really need. EAs who know their craft will also give these positions a wide berth. The
 
Virtuoso Conductor -Top skills/experience criteria included in listings
  • Experience – At the minimum, a decade in the IT field. Most organizations are happy with some prior EA experience usually upwards of three years. TOGAF certification is a popular criterion.
  • Expertise (Technology) – From platforms to architectures, tools to processes, enterprise architects are expected to have evolved from a technology background (primarily, software).
  • Communication skills - Communicate abstract concepts, communicate with the C-suite, communicate with business stakeholders, communicate in the form of presentations, papers et al.
  • Problem Solving – Analytical skills, troubleshooting, innovative thinking are in demand.
What It Means: Architect role definitions have emerged from IT but the emphasis on communication is clear.
 
The Missing Link – Required skills that are missed
  • Domain Knowledge – Generally stated as a desired skill. By far, the biggest gap for a role that should bridge business and IT. Some domains, financial services in particular, do require knowledge of data standards and compliance.
  • Business Knowledge – Financial valuation, strategic thinking and business models.
  • (More) communication skills – Influencing, thought leadership, conflict resolution and, negotiation skills.
What It Means: Explains why unlocking business value of Enterprise Architecture is an uphill task in many organizations. With the increasing focus on mapping Enterprise Architecture value towards delivering business outcomes, it may be time to start re-evaluating the process of hiring and career development of this vital role. And there are organizations that have recognized this. Waddell and Reed’s listing on LinkedIn, if it is still up, is a good example of a well-defined EA role. IASA’s skills matrix and job descriptions for architects can also serve as a useful reference for this purpose. IASA’s EA job description lists around fifteen distinct job responsibilities, with additional sub-items around knowledge management and engagement. IASA also lists twenty separate criteria covering education, skills and experience for an Enterprise Architect. Organizations should also ponder over the question of potential selectors of an Enterprise Architect role. Is only the IT leadership involved? Does the role report to a CIO or CTO? Is business leadership involved in any aspect of the selection process? Do they need to be?

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