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The Makeup of an Enterprise Architect
At its most basic definition, the role for today's enterprise architects involves conceptualizing and creating development and operational models that encompass all aspects of an organization's application and data infrastructures, including the creation of a "blueprint" by which to guide future development and decision making. Perhaps most importantly, the role requires a leader, and it also calls for equal parts visionary, evangelist, strategist, devil's advocate, and consultant. These characteristics are crucial for an architect to affect change, articulate and sell a vision, conceptualize a solution, evaluate approaches, and provide strategic advice to those implementing a solution.
Visionary. As visionaries, modern enterprise architects must be on top of current technologies and understand how they might be used to solve challenges today and in the future. They must be able to identify and work with stakeholders to collect, aggregate, and evaluate requirements in light of current and future technology, resources, and budgets. They must also understand the overall business strategy of the organization to ensure components of the architectural vision align with those of management and other stakeholders. Finally, enterprise architects must be able to articulate their vision to effectively inform and demonstrate support for the organization's primary business objectives.
Evangelist. As evangelists, enterprise architects must express their architectural vision across numerous internal and external stakeholders. This expression can call for diplomacy, tact, salesmanship, and tenacity. Successful enterprise architects are attuned to organization politics and adept at navigating the channels necessary to gain critical adoption of their concepts by the organization's business audience. Rarely holding responsibility for budget, architects serve as mediators among the business requirement generators and those responsible for executing IT solutions. This role calls for tolerance of ambiguity in requirements and translatory skills to be able to convert business objectives to technical strategy that will guide IT to solutions.
Strategist. Enterprise architects must also take an overall system view of the business that encompasses all application and data domains, relevant technologies, and development processes. The fact that individual business processes span applications and technologies requires a broader perspective than the myopic view of a single application, on a single technology. Like the architect charged with designing transportation thoroughfares in a city like Boston, enterprise architects can soon find themselves in the middle of their own Big Dig. It is in this area that the lines are often blurred between development management and architecture. Problems for enterprise architects, however, are less defined usually and often unstructured. They are more focused on the ramifications of changing or introducing new code into the overall ecosystem and how it will affect the business stakeholders.
Devil's advocate. In addition to playing a key role in the software delivery process, enterprise architects have to ensure all needs are being met and thus play the role of devil’s advocate. There are times when adding an application or functionality is simply not in the best interest of the organization. Enterprise architects must weigh the value of the functionality against the impact of the change to the application ecosystem, resources at hand, and future of the technology landscape. Architecting a good solution and architecting the right solution for the organization may not be the same thing. For example, it may not be prudent to automatically execute on the business's request to build in complex features to an existing legacy application if the future direction is to drive applications to the Web. In this instance, it would be the responsibility of an architect to weigh the current business implications that would result from developing the new features on the legacy platform against the benefits of architecting the functionality on a newer more agile platform.
Trusted advisor. The real value in the role enterprise architects can play are as consultants during the planning stage. All too often enterprise architects are asked to fix a problem, such as the rationalization of a dysfunctional application ecosystem. The more that architects are involved up front in the planning and strategy stages of a project, the more apt the project is to fit in with existing and future frameworks. Additionally, by establishing their presence as trusted advisors to the business and as interpreters for development, enterprise architects create value for their roles both upstream and downstream in the organization.