| 5 min read

In Today’s Digital World, What Makes a Top Enterprise Architect?

Francesca Greane
Written by Francesca Greane

n today’s increasingly digital world, there is barely any aspect of a business that has not been changed or augmented by technology. With these growing advancements, the role of enterprise architecture is becoming more and more integral to businesses that are looking to stay ahead of the curve.

But, just as the world of technology is evolving, so too is the role of the enterprise architect. As Alex Gomes put it, the lines between strategic and enterprise architect roles are becoming even blurrier as businesses pivot to focus on digital and technology transformation, and architects are having to re-position themselves in organisations in order to accommodate this.

But with this changing face of enterprise architecture, it begs the question: what exactly makes a top architect? What qualities are now necessary for success in this rapidly developing landscape, and how can enterprise architects position themselves as the ‘go to’ enterprise architect for businesses in this new digital world? 

 

It’s all about being adaptable…

One thing that’s certain is that the future isn’t certain. And with the speed at which today’s technological advancements are changing it would be foolish to presume that anyone – even an enterprise architect – can predict what IT landscapes will look like in the future, or what type of solutions organisations will need.

Today’s best enterprise architects can accept that they can no longer predict or design solutions and frameworks for a definite future – instead, they need to focus on designing an architecture that is able to change as quickly as business needs, and technology, changes.

As Gapgemini’s Ron Tolido said “Customer and business needs are constantly changing; there really is no way to know what IT landscapes will look like in the future or what type of solutions organizations will need." This advice still rings true, and a great enterprise architect will instead focus on creating adaptable architecture that will provide an organisation with a seamless transition as technology continues to change, rather than predicting the next ‘big’ thing and building architecture that will support it.

 

Lead, and others will follow

Now more than ever, enterprise architects are expected to help shape the long-term strategy of a business. To do this, an architect needs to display business acumen and conviction; they need to be able to persuade, inspire, motivate and influence others within a business and make high quality decisions, all whilst gaining a high level of stakeholder buy-in.

This level of business leadership can make or break a good enterprise architect – it can truly be the hallmark by which they make effective and innovative changes within an organisation. Put simply, don’t underestimate the need to lead as an architect. Michael Litterick, ex Head of Enterprise Architecture at Royal Mail Group, put it in a recent interview with Third Republic:

"If you want to be have a successful enterprise architect function then you need to have [this] business relevance" 

 

Pass the power

Along a similar vein, a top enterprise architect has to be someone who can truly evoke change within an organisation by empowering not only their team, but an entire business. You could be a great business leader, wielding influence throughout an organisation and inspiring the desire for change, but unless you can capitalise on this then you are left with a business who wants to transform, but who are fundamentally unable to.

A top enterprise architect empowers this change by forming an appropriate framework and strategy, and then delegating appropriately. They know which decisions they can make, and which they don’t need to, and understand the merit of allowing others to be the actual agent of change within a business.

 

As the old saying goes – communication is key

This one shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Although it’s pretty much a necessity in any role, one of the main functions of an enterprise architect is to link the business mission, strategy and processes to technology, and to evoke business wide change. This makes communication skills even more of a must-have.

Enterprise architects not only have to be able to describe their vision and explain the benefits of different architectural approaches simply and clearly, but they also have to essentially sell enterprise architecture across an organisation - developing compelling and memorable value propositions and advertising them effectively.

Success in this multi-faceted role is thereby contingent on effective communication skills. Not only that, but enterprise architects must also be able to communicate at different levels; for instance, taking technical jargon and translating it into laymen’s terms to gain buy in from various business executives and stakeholders. In short, being able to effectively convey your vision to various members of an organisation will invariably make you stand out as an effective – and well respected – enterprise architect.

 

Boil it down…

Enterprise architects are increasingly required to find solutions to a wide range of business and technology needs. And, as a result of the rapid advancements in technology, in most cases, no standard solution to a business problem exists. As a result, a top architect is now one who can take in numerous variables – such as budget, time or operational constraints - and synthesise the information in order to determine an innovative, yet simple and sensible solution.

In line with this, a top enterprise architect can also switch their viewpoint in order to gain a different perspective on a problem; considering the technology, data, operational and general business capabilities in order to determine the best course of action.

 

…But think outside the box

Yes, a top enterprise architect is someone who can find a simple and sensible solution to a wide range of difficult business problems. But a top enterprise architect is also someone who can think outside the box and configure innovative solutions in order to solve these ever-evolving challenges.

They don’t settle for the same old strategies and frameworks; because these solutions can often be outdated long before a business is able to implement them. With the speed at which the digital world is changing, and the speed at which businesses are having to digitally transform, enterprise architects can’t afford to be anything less than visionary and open-minded when it comes to the potential for their solutions.

 

Keep it real

The final trait of a top enterprise architect today is one the ability to balance this innovative and forward-thinking skill with a good measure of caution. ‘Ivory tower thinking’ – or getting caught up in the realms of possibility – can often slow down enterprise architecture progress. A top enterprise architect is real business user; they understand what can conceivably be constructed, and what is a slightly out of a business’s capabilities.

There is little use constructing elaborate frameworks and then providing little practical guidance on how to implement them because the reality is not achievable. Finding this balance between pushing the boat out, but not getting caught up in the possibilities, is one that all top enterprise architects possess.

 

Being a good enterprise architect in today’s digital world is clearly a game of balance - be innovative, but realistic; be a leader, but empower others. One thing for certain, however, is that those enterprise architects who can nail these attributes will not only be the ones who are able to add tangible business value, but will also be the ones who survive this ever-evolving technological landscape we are in.

 

Are you a top enterprise architect looking for your next challenge? 

Get in touch with Third Republic’s specialist strategy and architecture consultants to hear about some of the latest and greatest enterprise architect and chief of architecture roles on the market.