Enterprise Architecture: a wise career choice

This article first appeared at eace.

Whether you are a seasoned manager for a large corporation or an undergraduate student, training as an enterprise architect makes good sense.

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Training as an enterprise architect, and especially qualifying for an industry certification like

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) and trends show increasing demand for qualified practitioners.

Members of this 5% club are companies that are at the forefront of management technique, and leaders in their markets such as Intel, Volkswagen AG, Intercontinental Hotels Group. 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.

Companies are under enormous pressure to adapt as a response to rapid social, technological, and socio-economic change. 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 the enterprise architects.

Enterprise architecture has matured over the last 20 years to represent a career that can be entered via a relatively orderly and predictable path. It is akin to careers in medicine and engineering. The emergence of a body of knowledge made of numerous academic and practitioner publications and especially standards and frameworks, such as TOGAF,ZachmanDoDAFTRAK,  and languages, such as UML and Archimate suggest a maturity in this field that marks the transition of the discipline from the fringes of management to its very core.

Probably the most important component and enabler of a successful career in Enterprise Architecture is its community. A “place” where practitioners and academics can learn from each other, share diverse experiences and opportunities, and collectively advance the principle. The right of passage to this community is typically done via study of the EA body of knowledge followed by a successful certification exam. This process shows to the community that the new entrant has a minimum level of understanding of the practice and its language, and the commitment to learn and improve. Entrance to the Enterprise Architecture community marks the beginning of a long career. The human network that the entrant can build within this community is as critical to their progress as their skills and drive to succeed.

The fact that Enterprise Architecture works for enterprises is well documented and especially here and here. 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 (also here).

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

A top Enterprise Architect must be a master in both “hard” technology skills and “soft” people skills.

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.“. A video 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 such as 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 recognised as a fundamental component of organisational strategy and when this happens well skilled certified practitioners will be well sought after.

Acknowledgements

Thank you to Maxim NagornovDr Steve Else and Michelle Dalmaris for their comments on drafts of this article.

I also acknowledge direct comments and suggestions from readers, thank you.

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