The Future Enterprise Architect

By Terry Blevins, Fellow of The Open Group and Enterprise Architect at Enterprise Wise LLC; edited by Sherwin Meeker, Member of The Open Group and Senior Managing Consultant at IBM

Before describing the future Enterprise Architect, we will reflect on the current Enterprise Architect, one of their customers – a current line of business leader – and the strained relationship between them. For the sake of personalization, we will call the current Enterprise Architect ‘Archie’, and current line of business leader ‘Loretta’.

In the future state of Enterprise Architecture, the relationship between the two evolves towards one that is more productive and trusted. We describe what a future Enterprise Architect might look like and summarize the salient differences.[1]

1.     Loretta – a Current Line of Business Leader

Loretta is a female in her 40s. She has an MBA and General Management degrees supplemented with deep business knowledge gained by her experience coming up through the corporate ranks. Loretta is fluent in the language of her business, she is very sharp and, along with her years of service, deserves her last promotion as a line of business leader. Loretta is balancing a demanding business with her family and dedication to her three kids in their teens.

Loretta, who reports to the CEO of the company, has autonomy to run her line of business, but is fully accountable for the profit and loss of her business unit. Privately, she often second guesses what the CEO wants, but is comforted in the belief that financial success will prevail.

As the leader of the business, Loretta’s job description is extensive. She is responsible for setting the strategic direction and making decisions to turn strategy into sound operations and satisfied customers. She is extremely involved in the day to day operations of her Business Unit (BU). She sets direction through strategic business plans, budgets, and resource management (human, process, and technology). Loretta must hire/acquire and manage her people, contractors, and vendors. She keeps a diligent eye on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and is involved with making sure products meet customer needs. She extracts customer requirements herself while meeting with them. She wants to ensure that her customers have positive experiences with every touch point in her business – yet has to do this at costs commensurate with a profit. Loretta also has an eye on competition and uses this knowledge and the knowledge of her customer needs to push her team toward excellence in timely delivery of competitive product – always thinking “better, faster, and cheaper.” Loretta feels that she must excel in negotiation, communication, and leadership, even when fighting fires.

Loretta has significant challenge, a lot on her shoulders! She loses sleep thinking about all those decisions for which she is accountable. She thinks about what programs to terminate, what programs to initiate, what is best for her customer needs (market), what are the priorities, how to deliver, etc to maintain competitive advantage while having the optimal alignment within the line of business.

However, there are a plethora of consultants and services providers, internal and external, willing to help her get through it – so many in fact that it takes too much of her time to simply sort through those she should and/or shouldn’t listen too. She is overwhelmed with promises and advice, much of which is communicated in a technical language foreign to her. She feels that the technical language obfuscates intentions of those providing the advice – so she often wonders if she should, or even can, trust the advice. She questions whether the advisors actually understand her real issues, why they often say “no,” and why they make excuses for not doing what she asks for. She desperately needs someone who understands what she needs and who she can trust!

Loretta is challenged and fulfilled yet frustrated and worried. She is motivated yet tired, stressed, and anxious. Loretta often feels overworked and worried about keeping her job and supporting her family!

2.     Archie – a Current Enterprise Architect

Archie is a male in his mid-30s. He has an IT-related undergraduate degree and multiple technical certifications. Archie has general, yet not deep, business knowledge and experience in two industries. He speaks in the language of architecture and technology! He has basically been anointed as an Enterprise Architect coming from a path of being a developer, problem solver, and then architect. Archie has a family with two preteen children.

Archie reports to the CTO and is accountable for producing Enterprise Architecture models that are founded in interpretations of the current “as-is” and desired future “to-be” states of the organization. Archie is especially proud to be able to demonstrate the “to-be” state of the Enterprise Architecture model as he feels it holds the secret to successful growth in the business.

As an Enterprise Architect, Archie’s job description is somewhat as vague as his title. His job description includes things like defining functional and non-functional requirements, translating business strategy to technical direction and requirements, communicating with and answering questions from business owners, building architectures and models (interfaces, business processes, infrastructure …), directing developers to follow the Enterprise Architecture, assessing performance issues, and proposing solutions.

Archie attends a lot of meetings during which he listens to various issues from various viewpoints. Between meetings, Archie spends much time analyzing what he has heard and ties a lot of things together in his models. Archie sometimes runs workshops to gain further insights into real needs.

Archie certainly has a lot to do and, being motivated and involved, he spends a significant amount of time applying his expertise off hours updating and managing his architecture models. As Archie studies his models, he often sees things he feels others don’t see and only wishes that the business leaders and technical teams would listen to his observations and/or use the models themselves to find those observations. Archie often runs into is that the organization is lacking priorities – he believes trying to be best in breed in everything will lead to failure as he sees all the various interconnections and complexity of the organization – “you can’t change everything at once and expect to succeed.” With priorities, Archie sees a more sensible path forward where there is better alignment and timely value delivery focused on the customer while meeting business goals. Archie also sees that different business units build or buy similar things without taking advantage of each other’s lessons learned. Unfortunately, Archie sometimes must say things like “no, you can’t do that” which puts him in a class of “blocker” rather than “enabler.” This has become even more prevalent with the company’s recent implementation of Agile practices.

Archie knows that he could have a much higher impact if he could only get to the right people. He feels he is in a unique position to see the big picture, connect technology to business priorities, and help integrate across business units. Yet Archie feels underappreciated because people don’t understand the importance of what he is recommending, and it is getting worse with Agile. Hence, Archie is worried and nervous about his career and ability to support his family. There are many established disciplines that have a strong hold in the organization and new disciplines getting mindshare at the C-level (searching for the Golden Egg). He self-reflects and appreciates that – if he isn’t heard – his work will be another door stop! When things don’t work out, he can’t help but say “I tried to tell you so” furthering demonstrating that “blocker” persona resulting in greater distance from the business leaders with whom he so desperately needs to connect.

Archie is looking for ways to have greater impact since things just are not working currently! He needs something to help him gain the trust of Loretta and other decision makers – is it a certificate in Agile? He needs help to add value along the way and to stay relevant.

3.     Loretta and Archie – Current Relationship

Loretta is told she needs to get advice from an Enterprise Architect because she is told it is best practice when you want to successfully scale. She reads success stories yet questions if an Enterprise Architect can really help her – “why do I actually need an Enterprise Architect in this organization? I am already short on time to deliver – isn’t this just another bureaucratic layer?”

Much to Loretta’s surprise she finds out she already has an Enterprise Architect in her organization. She is reminded he is a part of the CTO organization. Loretta remembers that this is the position they discuss at the beginning of every budget cycle when they consider cutting costs. Each year for the last three years, the CTO defends the position saying that Enterprise Architecture is an investment and takes time to take hold and yield results. “After all, it is really a small investment when you think about it, just one person!” says the CTO. The CTO suggests that Loretta meet with the Enterprise Architect, “what was his name again, oh Archie” says the CTO.

Archie is told he has a meeting with Loretta in two days at 2:00pm for 30 minutes in Loretta’s meeting room. He is simply told that Loretta has asked to meet with her Enterprise Architect – he is told she wants to get educated on Enterprise Architecture.

Very excited, Archie puts together a demonstration of the “As-Is” and “To-Be” states of the Enterprise Architecture using the modeling tools he used to create the models. He also puts together a presentation describing the process he used to develop the models of the Enterprise Architecture, and oh, he adds a few charts defining “Enterprise Architecture.” He opines that with this as solid background, he will finish up with his recommendations on new business opportunities based on moving to a cloud infrastructure – surely to be accepted by Loretta. Archie thinks he is finally getting his opportunity!

“Who are you again and why are you here?” Loretta opens the meeting two weeks past the initial meeting date and 15 minutes after the intended start time of 2:00. “By the way I have a dead stop at 2:30,” Loretta says. Archie is stunned, doesn’t know exactly what he can do in 15 minutes. He never gets another opportunity to meet with Loretta.

4.     Archie II – the Next Generation Enterprise Architect

Archie II is a male in his late 40s. He has an undergraduate degree, Masters in Enterprise Architecture Analysis, and multiple business, up-to-date technical and architecture certifications. Archie II has detailed knowledge of value chains experienced in multiple industries. He speaks fluent business and communicates well in the languages of the technology. He has been employed as any of Enterprise Architect, Enterprise Analyst, or Digital Transformer coming from a path of being an enabler of change and problem solver at enterprise to operational levels. He has a solid footing in both the business and technical worlds. Archie II has a family with late teen children each with fully funded college accounts.

Archie II has been deliberate in building expertise in both business and technical skills. If he is not always fluent in issues encountered in both arenas, he is at least conversant and knows where to find the answers. As a result, Archie II is a trusted advisor to the leaders in the organization from the CEO to operations leaders. Archie II often is invited to the Board of Directors meeting to provide rationale behind recommendations and directions. Archie II is accountable for enabling the value chains and value streams of the organization by supporting decisions based on high fidelity information about the enterprise and the ecosystem in which it sits.

Archie II understands the needs of decision makers throughout the organization including the need to provide timely, if not on-demand, decision support based on solid information and analysis. Archie II also understands that he must not only support the decision making processes in the organization, but also to enable those decisions by providing guidance. Archie II is proactive and is often ready with answers before questions arrive.

Archie II uses or adapts existing architectures, and/or creates new architectural patterns and models to support analysis he performs in order to make recommendations needed as value chains or value streams progress. Archie II collects just enough information, resulting in just enough architecture, to support the decisions at hand that match the cadence of the business. Yet Archie II is continuously listening, evolving and analyzing his models of the enterprise as new information becomes available. He proactively connects with those necessary, when necessary.  His calls are always returned as he has the reputation of “when Archie II speaks, we need to listen!”

When engaged with decisions, Archie II never says “no,” rather he shows risks of specific courses of action and provides recommendations to mitigate risk. Archie II makes concerted efforts to not step on toes, rather he elevates others. Archie II attempts to ensure that decisions are made with eyes wide open. He is a master of sustainability – exposing waste for reduction, opportunities for reuse, and a balanced examination of the short and long term.

Archie II’s job description isn’t long. It includes applying the appropriate approaches and methods to support timely and sound decisions throughout the value chains and value streams in the organization at the speed of need. It also includes providing the right guidance to enable optimal execution of those decisions while mitigating risk of failure.

Archie II feels very secure knowing that if his job is done in this organization, there are plenty of other organizations just waiting to leverage his trusted services. Archie II has been reminded of this at the end of every Board meeting. He feels that he definitely has job security.

5.     Keys to Archie II Success

What are the salient differences between Archie II and Archie?

  • Architecture service delivery rather than architecture product delivery
  • On-demand versus “wait until the architecture is done”
  • ‘Just enough’ versus ‘all or nothing’
  • Decision support versus “here’s the architecture – use it”
  • Enablement versus control
  • Pull versus push
  • Ability to anticipate
  • Connected throughout the organization
  • Integration in the value chains and value streams versus central ivory tower
  • Trusted versus trained
  • Analysis versus architect
  • Job fulfillment and security

[1] This paper was written in response to an action taken by its author in a designed thinking workshop sponsored by The Open Group Architecture Forum.  The workshop was held this past July in Denver, Colorado, and facilitated by Paul Homan, IBM Distinguished Engineer. It represents fictional characterizations of personas based on the raw data collected in the design thinking workshop.

Terence Blevins, a Fellow of The Open Group, is owner of Enterprise Wise LLC and a semi-retired Enterprise Architect. He is currently a Director of The Open Group Governing Board.

Terry has been involved with the architecture discipline since the 1980s, much of which was done while he was Director of Strategic Architecture at NCR Corporation. Terry has been working with The Open Group since 1996 when he first was introduced to The Open Group Architecture Forum. He was co-chair of the Architecture Forum and frequent contributor of content to the TOGAF® framework including the Business Scenario Method. Currently, he is excited to continue advancements on Boundaryless Healthcare Information Flow, specifically through the judicious application of Enterprise Architecture.

Terry was Vice President and CIO of The Open Group where he contributed to The Open Group vision of Boundaryless Information Flow™.



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