The Evolution of the Modern Enterprise Architect

At the Open Group Conference in San Francisco earlier this month Dr. Jeanne Ross from MIT CISR made the statement, “One day the CIO will report to the Enterprise Architect.” As you can imagine this caused quite the stir within at the conference, and the LinkedIn and Twitterverse started to explode with comments from both sides of the spectrum. My first reaction was similar to that of Wayne Campbell (aka Mike Meyers from Wayne’s World), “Shhhyaaa when monkeys fly out of my …..”

The idea had to simmer a bit, but clearly as a profession we need a new set of competencies in order to be the type of Enterprise Architect capable of managing the CIO, and the entire IT function for that matter.

First of all, Enterprise Architects have to manage a profit and loss center and learn how to run a “business.” Running a business requires understanding of a business. Even running a small business teaches one basic accounting, sales and pipeline management, disciplined execution, customer service and support. I think it is fair for me to day that most Enterprise Architects (not all), really do not even understand the nature of their own business. Business acumen is essential and the development and exploitation of new business models would be essential.

Second, Enterprise Architects must learn how to manage the most important asset of the firm: People. I do not believe I am going out on a limb by saying that most Enterprise Architects today would not be very good people managers. Having managed people before, I have to say it is very time consuming and distracting! Architecture, at least for me, requires intense concentration. I do not like being interrupted when trying to solve a problem as I have my head immersed in it. Managing people requires that you have to be able to disengage and reengage quickly as your reports tend to do random things. The discipline of architecture does not lend itself to multitasking. If you believe you can multitask and develop a high quality architecture in a timely manner, send me a note.

A modern Enterprise Architect must able to apply systems thinking using both analysis and synthesis. (See previous blog entries.) Many of us have come through the ranks of engineering and software development which teaches us classical ways of problem solving through reductionism and optimization of elements and parts. Engineers thrive on being able to predict things. Moving from an engineer to a designer shifts your thinking more towards synthesis. Architecture is not pure engineering, but its “truths” are grounded in engineering a reality. Architecture is not pure design, but the designers “beliefs” have to transform or manage the firm into perhaps uncharted territory or navigate through uncertain environments.

I think for now, I would welcome that the firm’s Chief Enterprise Architect to report directly to the CIO and be the strategic arm of the IT function. What would be more likely is that the future enterprise architect would report to an up and coming role called the Chief Strategy Officer. An enterprise architect, or whatever the role is called in the future, would benefit being a part of “The Strategy Office” similar in nature to the “The Project Management Office” but responsible for the design of the firm and determining the means required to satisfy the purpose of the firm.

As always I am interested in your thoughts…