How Enterprise Architects Can Evolve from Order Takers to Trusted Advisors

To take their digital transformation efforts to the next level, many organizations are formalizing the role of enterprise architect (EA) within their teams, as opposed to having developers and other IT professionals fulfill both roles. As organizations navigate how an EA can fit into their teams though, some make the mistake of relegating the individual to the role of order taker; someone who executes the C-suite’s big ideas rather than playing a hand in conceiving them.

When this is the case, both the EA and the organization miss out on opportunities for innovation and to find targeted solutions to the company’s most pressing technical issues. That’s because, as architects of their organization’s IT infrastructure, EAs need to possess a highly contextualized understanding of their organization—meaning they often have insights their leaders aren’t familiar with or even aware of. Consequently, decision makers might be requiring EAs to execute change projects that don’t yield the benefits they think they will.

Changing their teams’ perceptions of their roles may sound daunting, but here’s how can EAs evolve from order takers executing executives’ visions, to trusted advisors offering strategic recommendations for the organization to implement.

Get involved in the decision-making process early

When EAs are only perceived as executors by business leaders, it’s usually the case that the strategic decisions have already been made by the time they learn about a new project. Instead of having a say in how to innovate the company’s tech stack or reorganize workflows, they’re simply expected to deliver on plans that have been finalized without their input, whether they agree with them or not.

To strengthen their position as advisors over order takers, EAs should be involved at the beginning of the decision-making process (though if they can’t be at the very start, then they should at least be close to it). That way, when leaders articulate an organizational problem, EAs are the ones ready to suggest the best course of action before plans are finalized.

Hopping to the front of the value chain may sound easier said than done, but there are steps EAs can take to assert their value and solidify their standing. To start, EAs must be able to articulate what they offer to executives upfront, instead of leaving leaders to find out their strengths later. To underscore their value, EAs should strive to continually expand their industry expertise. While they may have been hired for their experience in a certain niche, EAs who want to be seen as valuable advisors need to branch out in their knowledge so that they can advise—if not lead—in a variety of situations. Executives will grow accustomed to their EA having strong ideas—informed by data—in times of need, which can lead to them approaching the EA proactively for advice and pave the way for the individual to suggest increasingly significant changes.

Collect robust data to earn executives’ confidence

Simply put, good ideas are backed with evidence that shows they’re expected to succeed. Likewise, those who develop them proactively conduct a risk assessment of possible outcomes to avoid any unwanted results. Therefore, EAs need to arm themselves with robust organizational data to contextualize the advice they’re offering—as well as the tools and techniques for collecting it.

Because EAs can’t be everywhere within their institution at once, they need to establish a system for collecting insights from across departments and hierarchies. Leveraging a digital-forward enterprise architecture platform that automatically imports and consolidates trusted data sources is a strong place to start, as this will create a comprehensive overview of critical parts of the business. With data automatically updated over time, EAs can ensure they’re basing business decisions on the most accurate version of the organization, making their proposals all the more effective.

Strategic collaboration with colleagues will also be central to robust data collection. To make the volume of input from colleagues manageable to assess, EAs can designate experts within each department to oversee the relationship between the technologies they leverage and the workers using them.

A modern platform again makes the intake process even easier by granting these experts access to input their information, from what technologies they use and who uses them, to any pain points or gaps they see in the tech stack. These insights give EAs visibility into areas of the organization they don’t touch directly, which helps them better anticipate and subsequently manage the impact of any proposed changes.

Communicate in a way that’s meaningful to leadership

The value of strong interpersonal skills can’t be overstated when it comes to building trust with executives. Persuasive advisors are those that are confident and clever in how they communicate their ideas to others. That being said, there are also tools EAs can leverage to appeal to executives and secure buy-in for projects.

Though they may propose and finance IT change projects, many executives are focused on other areas of business besides IT logistics. As such, EAs won’t get their ideas across by using heavily technical jargon or by presenting complex spaghetti models to them. Instead, they need to address executives’ personal priorities when detailing their proposed solutions: are they looking to cut costs? Make their data stores more compliant? These are the value points that EAs need to address when presenting their ideas. With a platform that enables EAs to manipulate their organizational data to support different viewpoints, EAs can speak to executives’ and stakeholders’ personal interests, instead of turning them away.

EAs have a voice; it’s time for them to use it

Digital transformation enables organizations to adapt to changing business needs and market requirements by enhancing the quality and efficiency of internal processes. As the ones navigating those change projects, EAs are privy to knowledge that executives calling the shots likely are not aware of. The problem is, EAs aren’t always in a position to put their expertise to work to deliver strategic recommendations. That doesn’t have to be the case though. With the right positioning and techniques, EAs can go from order takers to trusted advisors with a reputation for propelling their organization forward.