Tuesday, October 13, 2009

EA Skills and Compentencies

As many of us know Enterprise Architecture and Enterprise Architects (EA) are the hottest IT business words. The Open Group during their Enterprise Architecture Practitioners Conference attempted to define the role of an Architect. Their goal is to help the EA community clearly define this job description. It was said that by doing this “they hope to cut down on people holding the title without actually being able to do the job, which obviously would help hiring companies.” I say in doing this will help organizations that may have hired “EAs” to the level of incompetency.

Of course the main reason behind this endeavor is the current financial climate that unfortunately is dictating business strategies centered on budget and results, putting aside real strategies for long term sustainability. Don’t misunderstand “coherence and more commonality” are components to long term survival. Clearly defining what an EA is and the professional characteristics of the Architect will insure the right match is made and is in line with the strategy of the enterprise. Below are some skills and competencies that I believe EAs need to be successful.

• Ability to be professional with a humanitarian character in interfacing with those who work the value chain and manage processes,
• Ability to provide business people professional guidance and recommendations during planning, using the people skills.
• Understand processes, information technologies and other assets of the enterprise, understand the recursive relationship of business and IT.
• Possess understanding the strategy of the enterprise; its goals and objectives and strategically align business units and IT based on the latter.
• The EA needs the business savvy to strategically work with cross functional departments such as Marketing, HR, Customer Care, office of CEO, board members, etc. to build relationships between IT, business people and stakeholders.

The final determination of the skills and competency of the EA rest with each enterprise - is the focus on budget restraints and results or healthy long term sustainability of the organization or is the focus on a temporary fix. The answer determines how the role of an EA will be defined. If the organization’s focus is long term sustainability the latter skills and competencies should be sought. If the focus of the enterprise is budget and results, then anyone with an IT background will do.

The Open Group panel suggested three places to find EAs. They are as followed, to include my opinion.

• Open Group: Check your program mangers. It turns out, there's a lot of skill overlap in program managers and EAs, according to Len Fehskens, vice president, Skills and Capabilities at The Open Group. “In the architecture group at Digital ... we used to joke that if you had a program without a program manager, the architect filled that role. If you had a program without an architect, the program manager filled that role,” said Fehskens.

What’s the focus here management or operations. Just because he is a Program Manager does not mean he has the understanding or knowledge of IT and its recursive relationship with business. A Program Manager is just that – a manager. Do you really want your managers interfacing with the business units on a daily bases or managing the program and putting in place tactics for program success.

• Open Group: You might also find a future EA among your consultants – but make sure it's a consultant you've worked with, not someone you just hire in. It's an approach many companies have successfully used, according to Foote. And it makes sense, because in many ways, EAs act like internal consultants, looking not just at the technology, but the entire process the technology will support.

Ok, I can go for this, my reason is obvious – I’m a consultant. My professional recommendation would be to look at a consultant that has IT_BPA/BPM experience.

• Open Group: Look outside of IT. Many EAs come from engineering. Uppal also recommended you consider looking internally in other areas, then develop your enterprise architects. He compared it to a similar, successful program used at one of his previous employers. The company found people who had the skills it was trying to develop in engineers, established an apprenticeship and then trained the workers in the technical skills.

How can you train an introvert to be an extravert? Engineers have the tendency of tunnel vision…they like to build things, like DBAs they can really do without the business people interface. Keep in mind what the EA is…the architect has to possess a sound knowledge of IT, be business savvy with people skills. With the advance of IT just in the last 10 years it would take quite a bit of financial resources and time to train someone. My professional opinion, this is not a good place to look, especially if there is increased pressure and constraints on budget and focus on results.