Seven Steps To Help Enterprise Architects Become Better Strategic Advisors To Business

In an interview with A&G, Terence Blevins, a fellow of The Open Group as well as a director of The Open Group Governing Board, discusses how enterprise architects can expand their role to become better strategic advisors to business. In laying out his strategy, Blevins modeled The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, written by Stephen Covey. Using it as a blueprint, here are Blevins’s suggestions:

1. BE PROACTIVE

One of the realistic issues with so-called waterfall methods are that one waits for requirements before anything happens. I’ve seen issues like this in architecture organizations. To be trusted by those in strategic positions, one needs to step up and help the business leaders understand what they might not understand as an issue. So the enterprise architect should always be looking for the latest pain point and using that to inspire the next set of changes to the enterprise architecture and advice to the business leaders. To do so, one should tap into as many channels as available such as board agendas, board reports, analyst reports, operations reports, development metrics, etc. to understand the real business issues.

2. BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND

The worst thing to do is to start an enterprise architecture project because one needs it to get through a gate. This is a bad and inappropriate motivation. Rather, the enterprise architect should work toward a future state where business or mission goals have been addressed. I always ask folks to write an article about a sponsor receiving an award for achieving an enterprise objective that happened to be realized because of decision making informed by good architecture. Think what will be note-worthy in the future, remembering that completing the enterprise architecture isn’t the end in any way, shape, or form—it is using the enterprise architecture to make material change in the enterprise.

3. PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST

Especially when addressing an enterprise transforma-tion, there are hundreds of items involved—people, process, and technology items. Dealing with them all at once will typically lead to a failure. It is important for the enterprise architect to analyze the situation and determine what must come first, second, etc. Once one has a good grasp on the priorities then one can work on them and continuously communicate the rationale behind the priorities.

4. THINK WIN-WIN

A win for the sponsor is a win for the enterprise architect. Not because the enterprise architect will necessarily get credit, but rather because that sponsor win will add to the trust between sponsor and architect. So always look to get your sponsor a win!

5. SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND, THEN BE UNDERSTOOD

I often tell folks that the most important tool enterprise architects have is their ears. Way too often, especially when you are dealing with very technical scopes, an architect can push a given solution before he or she really understands what is needed. Avoid this—ask questions to get to real issues before coming up with proposed solutions or approaches. Make sure the real issues are understood and then do what is necessary to address those issues through the architectural work.

6. SYNERGIZE

As documented in the blog “Enterprise architecture is not THE answer—it is part of the answer,” I argue that enterprise architecture by itself serves no purpose. For EA to be effective, it must become a supporting process to many other processes. And further, the enterprise architect should be a broker who brings processes together by providing and leveraging insights that cross many other processes. Another key here is to let the experts be the experts—allow engineers to be engineers, program managers be program managers . . . stay in a supporting role, not a conflicting role, and bring people and processes together.

7. SHARPEN THE SAW

Continuously learn new techniques, and/or drive creation of new techniques, to understand how enterprises work and how enterprise architecture models can be constructed to guide business decisions objectively. Engage in activities of organizations such as The Open Group Architecture Forum to improve standards in the methods and practices. Seek and provide mentorship through organizations such as the Association of Enterprise Architects (AEA). Also understanding the fundamentals of the business is a necessity—in fact, an MBA wouldn’t hurt.

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About Terence Blevins 1 Article
TERENCE BLEVINS is a fellow of The Open Group as well as a director of The Open Group Governing Board.