Career Paths for Enterprise Architects

(Original article available here – from EA Principles)

Whether you are a seasoned manager for a large corporation or an undergraduate student, training as an enterprise architect makes good sense. Getting a TOGAF certification can transform you to a sought-after professional by corporations around the world at a time where only 5% of companies use it (2011 statistics from The Open Group [1]) and trends show increasing demand for qualified practitioners.

Members of this 5% club are companies that are at the forefront of management techniques, and leaders in their markets (like Intel, Volkswagen AG, Intercontinental Hotels Group [2]). Others (competitors or not) are taking notice. The field of enterprise architecture is likely to see strong growth in the coming years. In fact, the industry insiders believe that EA adoption is at the early stages of a 10 to 20 year process [1].

Rapid social, technological, and socio-economic change places tremendous pressure on companies to adapt. The basic structures of most modern organisations are based on models from the 20th century. The modern competitive environment favours agility over size, vision over market share, and creativity over history. The realities and complexities of change will require people with the right skills, both technical and strategic; that will help organisations plan and implement change. These people are Enterprise Architects.

Enterprise architecture has matured over the last 20 years, to be a discipline that can be learned; akin to many disciplines people can learn in Universities and Schools, as opposed to be learned organically through practical experience in the field. This emergence of a body of knowledge made through numerous academic and practitioner publications, especially standards and frameworks, such as TOGAF[3], Zachman[4], DoDAF[5], TRAK[6], and languages, such as UML[7] and Archimate [8]; suggest a maturity in this field that marks the transition of the discipline from the fringes of management to its very core.

The fact that Enterprise Architecture works for enterprises is well documented [9] and especially here [10][11]. New technologies, especially the “cloud”, SOA, smartphones, wearable computers and related, make up a powerful component of the rapidly changing competitive environment mentioned earlier. Such technologies offer exciting opportunities that can be exploited through architecturally led and managed organisational change.

The trends identified by the experts suggest exciting new ways of building and operating organisations: Big Data will transform Business Intelligence, automatic business rules processing will go mainstream, cloud-based platforms and virtualisation will become the default choice, collaboration with people inside and outside the organisation will be an important competitive advantage, social networks will be the main medium of communication (and collaboration) with customers [12] [13].

Understanding of IT concepts is an essential skill for an enterprise architect, but far from being the only one. Instigating change across the board in an organisation requires the understanding of issues like employee incentive management, politics, and the ability to think strategically as a leader [14], to name a few. Perhaps above all, the enterprise architect needs a developed sense of empathy [15].

Recently, one respected architect in a blog post explained what his role really is: “…as an Enterprise Architect, I am in the business of creating social change.”[15]. A video [16] he linked to beautifully describes the power of empathy not just in terms of helping us live a more satisfying life, but also as an enabler of change. As the enterprise architect’s mission is to bring change, empathy is indeed a core skill

A career in enterprise architecture is one that empowers the practitioner to conceive, design, and implement large-scale change. It is a career that blends together hard skills from many distinct disciplines (like systems engineering and information technology, management research), but also soft people’s skills such as strategic thinking, mediation, collaboration, and negotiation. We are approaching an inflection point whereby enterprise architecture’s importance will be recognized as a fundamental component of organisational strategy and when this happens well skilled certified practitioners will be highly sought after.

Articles used for the preparation of this post

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