Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Enterprise Architect’s Roles & Responsibilities

I'm a long-time fan of Ron Schmelzer and Jason Bloomberg over at Zapthink. The July 27, 2005, edition of their Zapflash newsletter, authored by Ron, is entitled So, Where are the Architects?

Below are edited excerpts:
We often blame today’s IT departments and their technology purchases for being responsible for the integration rats’ nests that are the cause of today’s inflexibility, and we frequently chastise the business folks for making expedient, short-sighted decisions that only make the problem worse.

So, is there a way out of this puzzle? Is there anyone in the organization that can hope to get the vision right, or is this all a hopeless struggle?

Fortunately, there is hope, and it comes in the form of enterprise architecture.

So, if there’s a need for architecture, then it figures that there’s a need for architects. After all, if we need an architect for something as relatively simple as a house or office building, then it makes sense we need someone in the corresponding role for designing systems as complex as today’s IT environments.

Companies need enterprise architects who can merge the worlds of business and IT. Such an architect should be able to perform the following functions in the organization:
  • The Great Communicator

    • a key duty of the architect is the ability to keep one leg firmly planted in the business and its requirements so that IT can always be responsive to the business, and not vice-versa

    • the architect serves to intermediate the worlds of IT and business in much the same way that the human resources department isolates the business users from having to know all the intricacies and complexities of hiring and firing employees

    • in much the same way that we seek to simplify the IT world by abstracting its complexity, the architect helps to:
      1. create an abstraction of the IT organization to the business user
      2. provide a corresponding abstraction of the business to the IT organization

  • The Simplifier

    • businesses are complex entities

    • IT is likewise a complex assortment of disparate technologies

    • there’s simply no way that any one individual can have an adequate understanding of all the intricacies of both the business and IT worlds

    • the enterprise architect has a key role in distilling the complexity of the business world into a set of more easily understood descriptions

    • the architect needs to simplify the complicated morass of IT technologies and infrastructure

  • The Evolutionist

    • architects are responsible for not just meeting today’s requirements using today’s technologies, but managing change as well

    • you can think of business and IT users simply as the parties that engage in a contractual relationship with the architect serving in the role that helps define the terms of the contract and make sure that both parties abide by the terms they’ve agreed to

  • Champion of Thrift

    • most companies simply don’t have enough understanding of architecture to make efficient use of existing investments

    • we can’t count on business users to think strategically about IT agility, since if it were up to them, they’d simply continue their practice of making decisions based on the most expedient, cost-effective solution to their problems of the day

    • likewise, we can’t depend on the IT rank and file to focus on thrift, since most developers and operational folks within IT would much rather implement the latest technologies and cutting-edge infrastructure than work with the hulking system that’s been chugging along for the past decade

    • it thus falls upon the shoulders of the enterprise architect to be the champion of thrift and extend the value of existing IT investments

    • architects must be able to find ways to reduce the need to invest in unnecessary technology and allow companies to build systems that can evolve with changing needs

  • The Pragmatist

    • good architects must be more than great communicators, simplifiers, and economic magicians -- they must also be able to make realistic, step-wise improvements to the business use of IT

    • since business users and individuals within IT each see the elephant that is IT through their own perspectives, the architect must be able to see the elephant for what it is, maintaining a pragmatic mental picture for how the organization can evolve iteratively while still maintaining a single, cohesive vision of the organization’s architecture

  • Master of Best Practices

    • rather than focusing simply on using the latest, greatest technologies or delving into the latest acronym or business fad, the architect is responsible for developing the best practices for architecture for the organization

    • whereas the IT developer and implementer was the innovator of yesterday, the architect is the innovator of the future


Post a Comment

<< Home