Enterprise Architect

Job description: An enterprise architect (EA) takes a company's business strategy and defines an IT systems architecture to support that strategy, according to Jim Lanzalotto, vice president of strategy and marketing at talent and outsourcing firm Yoh. To do so, EAs must understand a company's business and be able to dive deeply into technology issues. In recent years, the role has moved out of the banking industry to pop up all over the corporate universe as companies move to align business goals and the IT infrastructure that supports the business and helps achieve those goals.

Why you need one: With more than 50 percent of IT projects typically not achieving their stated goals, having someone to ensure a company's technology objectives are aligned to its business goals is vital. The EA role becomes more important as companies adopt service-oriented architecture (SOA) approaches toward application development. To realize significant cost savings with SOA, issues of software quality and reusability are key. An EA must be able to see whether the application has been built with quality and with reuse in mind. "They don't need to know how to program, but they need to be able to recognize patterns," says David Buckholtz, vice president of planning, enterprise architecture and quality at Sony Pictures Entertainment.

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Desired skills: At least a BS, potentially an MS or a PhD. An MBA would be the icing on the cake. Degrees aren't generally offered in enterprise architecture, but some universities and other organizations provide certification programs focused on underlying concepts, best practices and tools. Other industry certifications are good to see on a candidate's resume, such as the certificate for systems engineer (CSE), says Lanzalotto.

How to find them: Enterprise architecture is an emerging specialty, so it's a challenge to find people with the right skill sets. Since the position requires an in-depth knowledge of a company's particular business, Buckholtz recommends a wide geographic search. "You have to be willing to go out and relocate people," he said. Consultancies and systems integrators are good places to look, since staff there have honed their IT and business skills on a variety of IT projects focused on different industries and technologies.

What to look for: Communication is a key skill; self-confidence is a must. Enterprise architects have to talk to both technical developers and business managers. They need to be able to stand up in a meeting and tell the most senior person in the room unwelcome news, like an IT project won't make its deadline. EAs also need to demonstrate they're on the cutting edge of enterprise software and SOA.

Elimination round: Buckholtz says to be leery of candidates who claim their IT projects have been 100 percent successful. Look instead for interviewees who willingly discuss projects where they didn't achieve the goal and tell you what they learned from the experience.

Salary range: $130,000 (junior level) to $150,000 (senior level)

Growing your own: Buckholtz notes Sony was able to get two out of four application architects to jump to the next level and become enterprise architects. The pair who didn't make it only had software development experience, while the two who succeeded had those skills as well as backgrounds as IT consultants.

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