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The Enterprise Architect - Agilist, Catalyst, Futurist
Photo Credit - NASA/MSFC/David Higginbotham - NASA Image of the Day, 14 April 2011.

Will Durant was an author who published the lives and opinions of the world’s greatest philosophers. In his book, The Story of Philosophy, he attributed a quote to the famous Greek philosopher and polymath Aristotle.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit

Aristotle’s knowledge spanned many subjects, and he drew on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems. When you think of the works of Aristotle, some may think of the figure of speech, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” However, this notion has increasingly become unpopular in today’s digital world.

The constant pace of innovation has warranted modern architects’ need to assume the role of “a Jack of all trades.” Like Aristotle, contemporary architects have to become good at creating value in an environment with many emerging technologies. They have to draw on various Bodies of Knowledge, and they have to solve multiple complex and evolving challenges. The digital revolution means that risk has to be managed rather than avoided, and failure is allowed if it comes early. This new paradigm creates a shift in the role of the architect.

The Role of The Modern Enterprise Architect

The most crucial task of the modern architect is to be a connecting element - Gregor Hohpe

Traditionally, enterprise architects were responsible for delivering architecture viewpoints and models established as interpretations of the organization’s current “as-is” and future “to-be” states. In today’s world, enterprise architects now have to position themselves as the enablers for digital innovation and strategy. By honing their external and internal stakeholder management skills, the modern architect differentiates themselves from other IT professionals and serves the critical task of connecting the elements of the organizations they serve.

Recent years have seen the emergence of different specializations and types of the architect role. Functions such as the enterprise architect, business architect, and solution architect have remained relevant. However, new roles such as the “cloud architect” and digital architect are gaining prominence. The Open Group guides how aspiring architects can understand these architecture specializations and position their careers to ensure they achieve the required skills to succeed as a modern (enterprise) architect. This global consortium has a specific certification, The Open Group Certified Architect (Open CA), for qualifying the skills, knowledge, and experience of these architect specializations.

Speaking of specializations, you may describe the modern architect as a “generalizing specialist.” Canadian software engineer and author Scott Ambler discussed this term in his book, Agile Modeling. The T-shaped persons” metaphor is not far-fetched from the same idea. Also known as the versatilist, modern enterprise architects should seek to be an expert in one or more of these specializations. And, must also be proficient in a broad range of business and IT disciplines. Think of this architect as a modern-day polymath that applies knowledge in practical scenarios.

Evolving Skillsets

To win in the digital age, the skillset of the architect needs to evolve. Modern enterprise architects have to be masters of integration and should be able to bring various disciplines together in a practical manner to provide business value. To achieve this, architects need a broad range of skills, impact the organizations they serve and ensure they provide leadership. There are several skill assessment frameworks an architect may employ to measure development. The SFIA framework describes professionals’ skills and competencies in roles involved in information and communication technologies, digital transformation, and software engineering. Architects may use the guiding principles of the framework to improve their professional capability. The framework is free for personal career development. Below is an excerpt from Level 7 of the enterprise and business architecture skill of the SFIA framework.

Directs the creation and review of an enterprise capability strategy to support the strategic requirements of the business. Identifies the business benefits of alternative strategies.

Directs development of enterprise-wide architecture and processes which ensure that the strategic application of change is embedded in the management of the organization. Ensures compliance between business strategies, enterprise transformation activities and technology directions, setting strategies, policies, standards and practices

- Enterprise and business architecture: Level 7, SFIA framework.

An architect at this level should be able to perform the above. Likewise, this architect should be comfortable applying the different skills in other groups such as enterprise IT governance, solution architecture, software engineering, etc. The proliferation of several emerging technologies such as serverless computing, software-defined networking, cloud-managed networks, etc., signifies that “economies of speed” is now the order of the day. The modern architect requires a combination of business savvy skills and proficiency with IT trends and technologies to succeed. But, more than ever, architects now need to master the art of adaptability.

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn - Alvin Toffler

Some of these emerging technologies are planned in organizations, while others have piloted or deployed in other organizations. The responsibility is on the architect to continually monitor trends and update their skills as required. Moreso, the architect must use these acquired skills to create value and impact in their organizations. The architect can only achieve this impact by honing their soft skills, including leadership.

Leading Change

Today’s most reliable enterprise architects can accept that they can no longer predict or architect solutions for a specific future; we live in uncertain times. Instead, they develop an architecture that can change as quickly as business needs and technology changes. Some call this evolutionary architecture. This architecture enables constant change. Hence, the architect that focuses too much on governance without adding architecture views that will allow continuous change will likely be unsuccessful. Adaptability is crucial, and the architect must think outside the box a lot to create innovative solutions to solve new challenges.

The modern architect must be fully involved in budget planning, (lean) portfolio management, and become a trusted advisor in IT investment decision-making processes to create impact and business value. While business stakeholders today have easy access to platforms that facilitate rapid innovation, such as Amazon Web Services, enterprise architects must be open-minded visionaries yet practical enablers for their organizations. They must provide risk management and proper governance while enabling innovation on such digital platforms, for example, by ensuring adequate identity and access management or cost management strategies are in place.

Finally, in his book, The Software Architect Elevator, Gregor Hohpe, an author and thought leader on enterprise architecture, describes how the architect must understand their “virtuous cycle”. He mentions how, as an architect, one must apply their skill to generate impact; they also must learn what skills to prioritize to maximize that impact. And, given the rapid rate of innovation, prioritizing learning time is a significant asset. Architects must lead not only their organizations through change but themselves.

Key Points

  • Formulate a career roadmap as an architect and ensure it is flexible enough to allow you to adapt new skills as required. Understand the core skills needed for the modern architect. Think about the Pareto Principle and filter out the noise.

  • Do not lose focus on the different layers of an organization. As an enterprise architect, you have to traverse between senior leadership and the engineers doing the work. Likewise, you have to travel between business teams and technology teams to ensure cohesion.

  • Create a strategy for knowledge retention. It could be through taking on real-world situations that require applying those newly learned skills, speaking engagements, blog posts, or mentoring other aspiring professionals.

  • Proactively track and evaluate emerging technologies, and map them to business models. This strategic technology integration will add value to the business.

  • Leverage design thinking practices to serve as a trusted advisor to both internal and external stakeholders. Always be learning and do not be afraid to fail; that’s an opportunity to gain mastery of an identified skill.

Further Reading

Defining Digital Architecture - Shifting the Focus to Customer Centricity

The digitalization of industries has created the need to define a new type of architecture, one that provides a robust foundation to enable change. As of now, the term “digital architecture” does not have a common industry definition. Nonetheless, with the emergence of digital technologies and the demand for increased business agility, some industry frameworks have emerged to guide the definition of the term. This article provides context for the definition of digital architecture and reveals that customer-centricity is at its core.

What is Digital Architecture?

The concept of digital architecture has been used to describe aspects of IT architecture that emphasize the use of digital technologies to achieve business outcomes. Although this emergent field has not yet been fully defined, the digital revolution has heavily influenced it.

Several known architectures deal with design at different layers. Enterprise architecture (EA) deals with planning from a strategic, big-picture standpoint and comprises various domains. The business architecture domain explains how a company needs to operate to achieve business goals. Data architecture provides an understanding of how to address data management issues. Application architecture deals with application models relevant to business functions, while technology architecture manages the structure and interaction of platform services with logical and physical technology components. Finally, solution architecture glues all the domain architectures together around a particular solution.

Digital architecture is more an architectural discipline applied to solution architecture than an architectural domain of its own. It is a discipline that redefines the solution design process and shifts the focus from the business problem to the customer experience. Digital architecture involves internal stakeholders shifting paradigms from thinking of solutions from within to fully incorporating external stakeholders (customers) in the solution design process…

You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards for the technology. - Steve Jobs

This article is published in the Cutter Business Technology Journal.

Read the full article here.

Photo Credit - Zach Lucero on Unsplash

Pull Together or Fall Apart - Startup Culture and EA Adoption

Introducing an enterprise architecture (EA) that enables digital business strategies poses challenges for startups. In this article, I discuss how a startup’s culture plays a part in overcoming these difficulties, outline the steps involved in adopting an EA framework, and show how implementing an EA practice can help such businesses evolve.

On Startups and Strategy

Startup culture focuses on time to market and business agility. The perception is that time to market is vital to staying competitive, and founders are usually so busy formulating their business and product strategies that they do not pay attention to aligning their culture to the vision. This disconnect often leads to an inability to execute on such strategies because behaviors are the enablers of the strategies and are required for any change initiative to be successful. Without shared values, beliefs, and teamwork, people cannot come together to execute strategic objectives. Enterprise architecture defines the process needed to align the culture with the strategy. Establishing an EA capability within a startup ensures that, through its culture, people, and processes, the organization can implement its formulated strategy.

So how can you execute on a strategy that ensures that your startup will survive in five years? An effective strategy will promote innovation while ensuring coherence across the enterprise. Founders and executives often realize the need for standardized processes to achieve this unity and company maturity later on. But an EA can provide this standardization and value if founders integrate it as part of their firm’s culture from the outset. This involves organizational design, which must jibe with the core values that define the business vision. Such integration could be the difference between being a successful company or a failed startup five years down the road…

This article is published in the Cutter Business Technology Journal.

Read the full article here.

Understanding the Complementary Relationship Between Enterprise Architecture and Project Management

Project management frequently develops business user needs to include technical and functional requirements. Whereas, enterprise architecture (EA) employs a method of producing technical standards and business operational needs. Successful companies are beginning to integrate both functions by ensuring proper data flow between them and common language and taxonomy is used to establish consistency by extending dimensions between both organizational units. This post gives a perspective of the different views and complementary relationships between an Enterprise Architecture (EA) function and a Project Management Office (PMO).

Complementary Business Functions

The Enterprise Architecture Body of Knowledge defines enterprise architecture as a practice, which analyzes areas of everyday activity within or between organizations, where information and other resources are exchanged to guide future states from an integrated viewpoint of strategy, business, and technology. The responsibility of Enterprise Architecture is to assist business leaders in vision, mission, capability, goal and objective identification leading to the creation of business models and processes describing the structure of the enterprise. This structure includes the people, process, and technology required to fulfill the business mission while achieving the business vision through select business goals. These select goals are then completed through Project Management. EA identifies dependencies to the achievement of these goals which are needed by project management for project planning; these goals are similar to project milestones in the traditional waterfall methodology, and EA only facilitates this process through the application of best practice techniques.

Enterprise Architecture creates roadmaps as a deliverable to establish the relationships between business capabilities and business goals. The method lists individual work packages between the current processes (the baseline architecture) and future state processes or goals (the target architecture), dependencies and analysis of the gaps, and shows a progression of how these goals will be achieved. Goals expand the business vision. Goals are milestones required to realize the business vision. Enterprise Architecture also promotes discussion and provides a process between the Project Management Office (PMO) and the business leadership to create an executable roadmap to ensure achievement of the business vision. In the nonexistence of an EA function within an enterprise, a PMO may use business analysis to assemble IT requirements that support business goals; showing where EA and the PMO may intersect. At the project or solution delivery level, enterprise architecture supports project management, by defining work packages included in a project management plan. Project teams reference a catalog of work packages to ascertain tasks needed to be done to achieve the set goals. These work packages help with resource management, a key element to activity resource estimating and project human resource management. Both are essential components of a comprehensive project management plan to execute and monitor a project successfully.

Enterprise Architecture is a consultant to business leadership and the project management office. Working directly with business leaders, EA creates a structure proposal to capture the business needs such as purpose, vision, mission, capabilities, business goals, scope, process, functional needs, and objectives to complete the business architecture. Upon approval, the business leadership authorizes the delivery of the business architecture to project management. Project management uses the business architecture to plan implementation (product development, contracting, coordination of resources, planning, outsourcing strategies and so on). If project management identifies required changes to the business architecture deliverable, project management coordinate with EA to make necessary approved changes. Requirements are managed using a Requirements Management process. As described in the TOGAF 9.1 specification, this is used to manage architecture requirements identified during any execution of the Architecture Development Method (ADM) cycle.

There are always two sides to a coin, and some may argue that both disciplines do not intersect. From an information technology viewpoint, EA differs significantly from project management. EA includes non-technical areas such as organizational and business process; topics that do not primarily concern IT. EA also assists in the establishment of a clear understanding of the business environment, also known as the important business outcomes. EA is responsible for the structure, documentation, and modeling of the enterprise while the PMO is responsible for planning, monitoring, and reporting of work packages. The architect models the enterprise and establishes principles for transformation, standards for technologies, and the roadmap for the business with the aim of achieving the target architecture or business goal. After receiving the transition architectures, dependencies, roadmap, risks, the work breakdown, skills and resources and deliverables from EA, the PMO has to come up with a project plan and iterate it until the schedule, resources, and costs are in sync. The PMO has then to monitor and report progress, impediments, risks, and required changes to these architectures. But, asides these differing perspectives we can still argue that objectives of both functions are pretty similar; The following lists out the overlapping objectives of both functions;

  • Strategy: It is an adage that EA ensures business and IT strategy alignment while PMO supports strategic planning

  • Investments: EA influences approval decisions and budget formulation when it comes to business investment. PMO supports the budget formulation process and monitors investments

  • Governance and Review Process: EA is a member of the review process, project portfolio planning and review board which governs project performance against scope, schedule, costs, risks, and quality. PMO leads this review process and adds new projects to project portfolios, monitors and reports risks, issues and performance problems

  • Acquisitions: EA ensures IT assets align with target architectures and technology standards, promotes re-use and provides acquisition support. PMO supports development of procurement package through cost estimates, Request for Proposals and selection plans

Both disciplines are complementary, but the domains and work products are different, and the outcome between the two is a collaborative effort.

It is clear that Enterprise Architecture is a way of using system thinking as an instrument to integrate and align all organizational levels; from strategic to project level, against a primary objective. EA recommends solutions that help the organization attain its goals, and to continually govern the implementation of these solutions to meet business goals and objectives. However, Awareness of the subject of Enterprise Architecture tends to surface in the Enterprise through IT, the Information Systems (or Information Technology) Community. This lack of awareness is a perception that business leaders need to address to gain value from EA.

Creating Business Value

To build a case for integration, EA and the PMO have to focus on outcomes that will validate the business value collectively. These results are achieved by improving the project selection decisions by adequate prioritization of the project portfolio using Project Portfolio Management (PPM). PPM is the centralized management of the processes, methods, and technologies used by project managers and PMOs to analyze and collectively manage current or proposed projects based on numerous key characteristics.9 Determination of supported future business capabilities is supported, and alignment with strategy and architecture is also required.

EA has to ensure that the PPM provides key deliverables to the architects. Ways of achieving this include proposed project and business case meetings, shared project dependencies reports, project fulfillment of EA requirements before commencement, a unified PMO and EA governance process, and involvement of EA in project design reviews. On the other hand, the PMO has to ensure EA provides key deliverables to project managers by delivering the enterprise context for every goal at the project or solution delivery level, collaborative project change proposals, project developmental assessments, and well-defined enterprise architecture road maps showing how such goals fit into the bigger picture via transition architectures.

To sustain value, here are business exceptions that EA and PMO must solve:

  • Increased focus on business value: Both functions must understand and translate business strategy into strategy execution.

  • Increased knowledge of business and information architecture.

  • Improved collaboration and fewer silos.

  • Focus on prioritization: Strategic enterprise goals must be understood and followed.

Strategy execution happens when EA receives business direction from the business planning which in turn gives a structured guidance to portfolio management (program and project management). Capability planning using this model leads to strategy execution.


Successful companies are beginning to integrate both functions by ensuring proper data flow between them and using common language and taxonomy to establish consistency by extending dimensions between both organizational units. PMO dimensions are extended to include business capabilities and risk, while EA dimensions are extended to fully enable execution of project data and its application to applications. Alignment occurs when both functions support integrated bi-directional scenarios. EA is the role of seeing the big picture as a tool to help focus on the right details, project management. It is about architecting optimized processes and models based on leadership’s strategies for the enterprise, but a process by itself does not create value; rather, identified value requires a process. Finally, EA and PMO are often complementary disciplines in many regards, not contradictory to each other. When there is a concession to approach EA, in general, as a collaborative effort with agreement on the transition architectures, the relationship between both functions can be rewarding to the business they serve.

This article was first published in the Architecture & Governance Magazine.