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Spelling Out the Architect’s Top Qualities

Posted by Jennifer Zaino on Feb 4, 2011 2:47:57 AM


In my last blog I discussed where the enterprise architect function typically resides within an organization and what the enterprise architect can do to be successful within those structures. Today, I thought it would be interesting to consider what the enterprise architect needs to BE in order to carry out the EA role in the organization.



In other words, what besides the technical skills are the essential characteristics and cumulative experiences that make an enterprise architect able to handle the challenges of the role? To that end, I present some ideas—in acrostic form-- about what characteristics define the type of person likely to take this job, and love it: 



A: Agile. An enterprise architect creates an agile organization — maybe even with the help of the Agile Architecture method! But by agile in this context, I mean an inherent personality trait, the ability to move from business-speak one minute to geek-speak the next, for instance, or being quick to leverage the briefly exposed soft spot of a line-of-business manager that can be played to so as to build project buy-in. 



R: Range. An enterprise architect, it almost goes without saying, can’t be solely invested in creating complex technical solutions and structured documents. That person’s range needs to extend to understanding the business. Dare I say, even to loving the industry he or she is in. And loving it enough to dig in beyond the systems requirements that drive retail supply-chain activities, for instance. And enough to stay abreast of overall industry trends and directions, emerging global challenges in the vertical sector, and the company’s strengths and weaknesses within these contexts. 



C: Communicative. An enterprise architect cannot be the guy or gal off in the walled garden creating models and diagrams that are to be implemented by faceless individuals. He or she is the great communicator who facilitates IT and business alignment by facilitating and fostering IT and business interactions. And the enterprise architect must remember that communication is a two-way street: He or she must help lead the discussion as well as patiently LISTEN to the viewpoints of colleagues, customers, and partners – even when the conversation seems redundant or the answer seems obvious.



H: Holistic. An enterprise architect thinks holistically, about system design, problem solving, technical- and business-domain structures and processes … and the people who engage with them.



I: Innovative. An enterprise architect knows that the work is about more than helping the business do what it always has done, but better. For example, it’s about exploiting opportunities to fundamentally change workflows instead of simply improving their execution. 



T: Transformative.  An enterprise architect excels both at driving the short-term steps to achieve quick wins for improving tactical operations and fitting them into a strategic vision for long-term business transformation.



E: Experienced. An enterprise architect needs to have experience at multiple levels. There’s the technical aspect of experience, of course, with skills honed in application development and maintenance, business requirements engineering, and infrastructure planning and support. But also the architect needs to be experienced in the art of politicking — negotiation, compromise, persuasion and consensus-building all come into play.



C: Conflict Confronter. To extend that thought about politics, the enterprise architect is aware that others in the organization are going to be invested in exploring other technologies or other ways of doing things from what the architectural direction is. And he or she knows one can’t be timid in dealing with that. Nice, yes; timid, no.



T: Techno-freethinker. As discussed in our recent article, Enterprise Architecture: Strategize Before You Modernize, the enterprise architect has to come to the table with no preconceived notions of or allegiances to specific technologies or technology providers. You can’t lead — as you must — if your mindset is narrow, rather than open to all options.


What other qualities do you see as critical to the character of an enterprise architect? We’d love to hear your thoughts!






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