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Live Your Enterprise Architecture Dream

        posted by , October 03, 2011

Have you ever been to a sales conference where they argue about the definition of sales? Neither have I — but this happens all the time at Enterprise Architecture conferences.

The theoretical scope of EA is so wide that few organizations (if any) have ever fully implemented it. This is good news for Enterprise Architects — it gives us flexibility in defining our programs and individual roles.

Given the flexibility to define their roles most EAs lean towards their strengths, interests and philosophical inclinations. This is why there are so many flavours of Enterprise Architect. To name a few:

1. The Planner

Planners seek a blueprint for the enterprise. They focus on identifying opportunities and solutions for common enterprise services. Planners are comparable in certain respects to solution architects — the main difference being that they operate at the enterprise level.

Pros: Enterprise Architects are supposed to have a blueprint for the enterprise — and Planners have one. No one can accuse them of neglecting their EA duties.

Cons: It takes a whole bunch of political power to implement a centrally planned blueprint. Planners are seen as ineffective when their blueprints go unimplemented.

2. The Political Advisor

Many EAs seek trusted advisor status with CxO level executives. They keep a pulse on business and IT and use their EA mandate to get in front of executives whenever they can.

Pros: IT and business transparency for executive decision making.

Cons: Everybody and their dog is seeking the ear of executives. Political EAs must compete with IT and business directors, IT line managers and every ambitious soul in the organization (most of whom will have their own theories about enterprise architecture).

3. The Collaborator

Collaborative EAs set up a EA consultancy. They offer architectural support to projects, publish white papers and are always available for architectural opinion and analysis.

Pros: Provide value by being involved in day-to-day architectural challenges.

Cons: Focus on tactical issues over strategy.

4. The Enforcer

Enforcers see themselves as the ultimate architectural authority in their organization. They review solutions and frequently override the architectural decisions of project teams. They get involved in troubled projects to turn them around.

Pros: Enforcers can provide value by vetting solutions. They provide a strong architectural voice — this helps to make architectural decisions more consistent.

Cons: Enforcers are perpetually in conflict with project teams, IT line managers and executives. They need to be bullet proof. Otherwise, they will be bumped out of the organization by a stronger adversary.

5. Hands On

Hands On EAs get involved in the solution architecture of major projects. In many cases, they are effectively solution architects or development team leads.

Pros: Add value by architecting major projects.

Cons: Neglect of EA duties.

6. Financial Analyst

Focused on IT financial management and cost efficient architecture.

Pros: Provide value by vetting the finances of projects and the costs of architectural decisions.

Cons: Over focus on cost (may neglect other architectural considerations).

7. Taxonomy Specialist

Develops enterprise taxonomies such as data dictionaries, product catalogs and business capabilities.

Pros: Enterprise taxonomies are useful.

Cons: Taxonomies seldom get the appreciation they deserve.

The Well Rounded Enterprise Architect

Few Enterprise Architects are as one dimensional as the archetypes listed above. Most EAs have a well rounded style that blends several of these approaches.

Inspiration for this article came from Doug Newdick's (@dougnewdick) excellent post Avoiding the Standard Metaphors for Enterprise Architecture

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