The Open Group Madrid Summit 2015 – An Interview with Steve Nunn

By The Open Group

The Open Group will be hosting its Spring 2015 summit in Madrid from April 20-23. Focused on Enabling Boundaryless Information Flow™, the summit will explore the increasing digitalization of business today and how Enterprise Architecture will be a critical factor in helping organizations to adapt to the changes that digitalization and rapidly evolving technologies are bringing.

In advance of the summit, we spoke to Steve Nunn, Vice President and COO of The Open Group and CEO of the Association of Enterprise Architects (AEA) about two speaking tracks he will be participating in at the event—a panel on the challenges facing young Enterprise Architects today, and a session addressing the need for Enterprise Architects to consider their personal brand when it comes to their career path.

Tell us about the panel you’ll be moderating at the Madrid Summit on EA Challenges.

The idea for the panel really came from the last meeting we had in San Diego. We had a panel of experienced Enterprise Architects, including John Zachman, giving their perspectives on the state of Enterprise Architecture and answering questions from the audience. It gave us the idea that, we’ve heard from the experienced architects, what if we also heard from younger folks in the industry, maybe those newer to the profession than the previous panel? We decided to put together a panel of young architects, ideally local to Madrid, to get what we hope will be a different set of perspectives on what they have to deal with on a day-to-day basis and what they see as the challenges for the profession, what’s working well and what’s working less well. In conjunction with the local Madrid chapter of the AEA, we put the panel together. I believe it’s a panel of four young architects, plus a gentleman named Juan Abel, who is the chair of the local chapter in Madrid, who helped put it together, with me moderating. The Madrid chapter of the AEA has been very helpful in putting together the summit in Madrid and with details on the ground, and we thank them for all their help.

We’ll be putting some questions together ahead of time, and there will be questions from the audience. We hope it will be a different set of perspectives from folks entering the profession and in a different geography as well, so there may be some things that are particular to practicing Enterprise Architecture in Spain which come out as well. It’s a long panel—over an hour—so, hopefully, we’ll be able to not just hit things at a cursory level, but get into more detail.

What are some of the challenges that younger Enterprise Architects are facing these days?

We’re hoping to learn what the challenges are for those individuals, and we’re also hoping to hear what they think is attracting people to the profession. That’s a part that I’m particularly interested in. In terms of what I think going in to the panel session, the thing I hear about the most from young architects in the profession is about the career path. What is the career path for Enterprise Architects? How do I get in? How do I justify the practice of Enterprise Architecture in my organization if it doesn’t exist already? And if it does exist, how do I get to be part of it?

In the case of those individuals coming out of university—what are the relevant qualifications and certifications that they might be looking at to give themselves the best shot at a career in Enterprise Architecture. I expect it will be a lot of discussion about getting into Enterprise Architecture and how do you best position yourself and equip yourself to be an Enterprise Architect.

Were there things that came out of the San Diego session that will be relevant to the Madrid panel?

There were certainly some things discussed about frameworks and the use of frameworks in Enterprise Architecture. Being an Open Group event, obviously a lot of it was around TOGAF®, an Open Group standard, and with John Zachman as part of it, naturally the Zachman Framework too. There was some discussion about looking into how the two can play more naturally together. There was less discussion about the career development aspect, by and large because, when these people started out in their careers, they weren’t Enterprise Architects because it wasn’t called that. They got into it along the way, rather than starting out with a goal to be an Enterprise Architect, so there wasn’t as much about the career aspect, but I do think that will be a big part of what will come out in Madrid.

I think where there are overlaps is the area around the value proposition for Enterprise Architecture inside an organization. That’s something that experienced architects and less experienced architects will face on a day-to-day basis in an organization that hasn’t yet bought into an Enterprise Architecture approach. The common theme is, how do you justify taking Enterprise Architecture inside an organization in a way that delivers value quick enough for people to see that something is happening? So that it’s not just a multi-year project that will eventually produce something that’s nicely tied up in a bow that may or may not do what they wanted because, chances are, the business need has moved on in that time anyway. It’s being able to show that Enterprise Architecture can deliver things in the short term as well as the long term. I think that’s something that’s common to architects at all stages of their careers.

You’re also doing a session on creating a personal brand in Madrid. Why is branding important for Enterprise Architects these days?

I have to say, it’s a lot of fun doing that presentation. It really is. Why is it important? I think at a time, not just for Enterprise Architects but for any of us, when our identities are out there so much now in social media—whatever it may be, Facebook, LinkedIn, other social media profiles— people get a perception of you, many times never having met you. It is important to control that perception. If you don’t do it, someone else may get a perception that you may or may not want from it. It’s really the idea of taking charge of your own brand and image and how you are perceived, what values you have, what you want to be known for, the type of organization you want to work in, the types of projects that you want to be involved in. Not all of those things happen at once, they don’t all land on a plate, but by taking more control of it in a planned way, there’s more chance of you realizing some of those goals than if you don’t. That’s really the essence of it.

The timing and particular relevance to Enterprise Architects is that, more and more, as organizations do see value in Enterprise Architecture, Enterprise Architects are getting a seat at the top table. They’re being listened to by senior management, and are sometimes playing an active role in strategy and important decisions being made in organizations. So, now more than ever, how Enterprise Architects are being perceived is important. They need to be seen to be the people that can bring together the business people and IT, who have the soft skills, being able to talk to and understand enough about different aspects of the business to get their job done. They don’t have to be experts in everything, of course, but they have to have a good enough understanding to have meaningful discussions with the people with whom they’re working. That’s why it’s crucial at this time that those who are Enterprise Architects, as we build the profession, are perceived in a positive way, and the value of that is highlighted and consistently delivered.

A lot of technologists don’t always feel comfortable with overtly marketing themselves—how do you help them get over the perception that having a personal brand is just “marketing speak?”

That’s something that we go through in the presentation. There are 11 steps that we recommend following. This goes back to an old Tom Peters article that was written years ago titled ‘The Brand Called You’ . Many of us aren’t comfortable doing this and it’s hard, but it is important to force yourself to go through this so your name and your work and what you stand for are what you want them to be.

Some of the suggestions are to think of the things that you’re good at and what your strengths are, and to test those out with people that you know and trust. You can have some fun with it along the way. Think about what those strengths are, and think about what it is that you offer that differentiates you.

A big part of the personal brand concept is to help individuals differentiate themselves from everyone else in the workplace, and that’s a message that seems to resonate very well. How do you stand out from lots of other people that claim to have the same skills and similar experience to yourself? Think of what those strengths are, pick a few things that you want to be known for. Maybe it’s that you never miss a deadline, you’re great at summarizing meetings or you’re a great facilitator—I’m not suggesting you focus on one—but what combination of things do you want to be known for? Once you know what that is—one of the examples I use is, if you want to be known for being punctual, which is an important thing, make sure you are—set the alarm earlier, make sure you show up for meetings on time, then that’s one of the things you’re known for. All these things help build the personal brand, and when people think of you, they think of how they can rely on you, and think of the attributes and experience that they can get from working with you.

That’s really what it comes down to—as human beings, we all prefer to work with people we can trust. Ideally people that we like, but certainly people that we can trust and rely on. You’re far more likely to get the right doors opening for you and more widely if you’ve built a brand that you maintain, and people you work with know what you stand for and know they can rely on you. It’s going to work in your favor and help you get the opportunities that you hope for in your career.

But there’s a big fun aspect to the presentation, as well. I start the presentation looking at branding and the types of brands that people know what they stand for. I think it has scope for workshop-type sessions, as well, where people follow some of the steps and start developing their personal brands. Feedback on this presentation has been very positive because it stands out as a non-technical presentation, and people can see that they can use it privately to further their careers, or to use it with their teams within their organizations. People really seem to resonate with it.

As CEO of the Association of Enterprise Architects, what are you seeing in terms of career opportunities available for architects right now?

We are seeing a lot of demand for Enterprise Architects all over the place, not just in the U.S., but globally. One of the things we have on the AEA website is a job board and career center, and we’ve been trying to increase the number of jobs posted there and make it a useful place for our members to go when they’re considering another position, and a good place for recruiters to promote their openings. We are growing that and it’s being populated more and more. Generally, I hear that there is a lot of demand for Enterprise Architects, and the demand outweighs the supply at the moment. It’s a good time to get into the profession. It’s a good time to be making the most of the demand that’s out there in the market right now. To back that up, the latest Foote Report showed that the OpenCA and TOGAF certifications were among the most valuable certifications in the IT industry. I think there is demand for certified architects and what we’re doing in the AEA is building the professional body to the point, ultimately, where people not only want to be AEA members, but effectively need to be AEA members in order to be taken seriously in Enterprise Architecture.

We’re also seeing an increasing number of inquiries from organizations that are recruiting Enterprise Architects to check that the applicant is indeed an AEA member. So clearly that tells us that people are putting it down on their resumes as something that differentiates them. It’s good that we get these inquiries, because it shows that there is perceived value in membership.

What’s new with the AEA? What’s happening within the organization right now?

Other things we have going on are a couple of webinar series running in parallel. One is a series of 13 webinars led by Jason Uppal of QRS Systems. He’s giving one a month for 13 months—we’ve done seven or eight already. The other is a series of 10 webinars given by Chris Armstrong of the Armstrong Process Group. What they have in common is that they are tutorials, they’re educational webinars and learning opportunities, and we’re seeing the number of attendees for those increasing. It’s a value of being an AEA member to be able to participate in these webinars. Our focus is on giving more value to the members, and those are a couple of examples of how we’re doing that.

The other thing that we have introduced is a series of blogs on ‘What Enterprise Architects Need to Know About…’ We’ve covered a couple of topics like Internet of Things and Big Data—we have more planned in that series. That’s an attempt to get people thinking about the changing environment in which we’re all operating now and the technologies coming down the pike at us, and what it means for Enterprise Architects. It’s not that architects have to be an expert in everything, but they do need to know about them because they will eventually change how organizations put together their architectures.

By The Open GroupSteve Nunn is the VP and Chief Operating Officer of The Open Group. Steve’s primary responsibility for The Open Group is to ensure the legal protection of its assets, particularly its intellectual property. This involves the development, maintenance and policing of the trademark portfolio of The Open Group, including the registered trade marks behind the Open Brand and, therefore, the various Open Group certification programs, including TOGAF®, Open CA, Open CITS, and UNIX® system certification. The licensing, protection and promotion of TOGAF also falls within his remit.

In addition, Steve is CEO of the Association of Enterprise Architects (AEA) and is focused on creating and developing the definitive professional association for enterprise architects around the globe. To achieve this, Steve is dedicated to advancing professional excellence amongst AEA’s 20,000+ members, whilst raising the status of the profession as a whole.

Steve is a lawyer by training and has an L.L.B. (Hons) in Law with French and retains a current legal practising certificate.

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