When technology infrastructure lines up with business projects like musicians \nin a marching band, you know you have a good enterprise architect on staff. But will you keep him when it's time to start handing out pink slips? \n\nMore on CIO.com\nThe Rising Importance of the Enterprise Architect\n\nThe Four Stages of Enterprise Architecture\n\nEnterprise Architect\n\nEnterprise Architect = Scenario Planner\n\nHow Enterprise Architecture is Changing Everything \n\nIncluding the CIO Role\n\nYou will if you can make the case for this hard-to-define but critical IT position. \nAn enterprise architect, or team of them, creates a model\u2014usually with graphical software, but paper will do\u2014of how your company \n\nworks. That includes the business processes and the related technology as well as a common \n\nvocabulary for IT and non-IT people to use to discuss operations. The goal is a little thing \n\ncalled alignment.\n\nThe essence of the job "is about improving communication between the people with the \n\nproblems and those who would solve them," says Leon Kappelman, cochair of the Society for \n\nInformation Management's enterprise architect working group. "That's vital." \n\nBelievers such as Scottrade CIO Ian Patterson use the enterprise architect (EA) position in \n\npart to bring the IT group close to the internal customer. At the $1 billion brokerage, CEO \n\nRodger Riney recently suggested to Patterson to send some EAs to User Summits with \n\ncustomers\u2014people who trade stock online\u2014to learn directly what services they \n\nwant, Patterson says. "They get firsthand knowledge of what customers are saying" to \n\ntranslate into IT projects, he explains. \n\nAchieving that impressive lockstep between business and IT takes time and practice, of \n\ncourse. The job of an enterprise architect is hard to master and sometimes hard to nail \n\ndown.\n\nNow, amid an economic downturn, a position like that\u2014without concrete and measurable \n\nfinancial value or, typically, any direct reports\u2014can be difficult to justify when the \n\nboard of directors demands companywide layoffs. Yet don't let those obstacles induce you to \n\ncut the enterprise architecture job automatically when you must reduce staff, experts warn. \n\nYou could dig your company a bigger hole. The EA is key to aligning business and IT, which \n\nin these recessionary times is more important than ever.\n\nNo Universal Job Description\n\nSo what does an EA do? The answer depends on who you talk to.\n\nAt some companies, the position emphasizes technology, as in the planning of companywide \n\nsystems. A core objective, for example, is to ensure that all new software and hardware meet \n\nstandards and work together. \n\nHowever, a CIO makes better use of an enterprise architect by having him or her focus on the \n\ntechnical viability of product solutions while determining their economic value to the \n\nbusiness, says Ken Zivic, a consultant at Forsythe, a technology advisory firm. This will \n\nresult in an improved IT ability to make better business decisions while considering \n\nbenefits, risk and the effects of new technology implementation, he says. "There are so many \n\nvendors pulling and tugging on IT organizations. EAs have to be a shield for that," he says. \n\n"A voice of reason." \n\nNot only that, but an enterprise architect must be a voice that many kinds of people can \n\nunderstand, says Tim Ferrarell, CIO and senior vice president of enterprise systems at W.W. \n\nGrainger, a $6.4 billion distributor of heavy equipment. \n\nIdeally, Ferrarell says, this person "can think at a strategic level and all the way down to \n\nthe operating level and understand how to move up and down that chain of abstraction," he \n\nsays. "And know how to deal with conflicts and trade-offs."\n\nGee, is that all? Actually, no. That person also has to gain the confidence of the senior \n\nleadership team, he says. Execs must believe that the enterprise architect comprehends how \n\nthe company works, where it wants to go and how technology helps or hinders, he says. Then \n\neffective working relationships can bloom.\n\nIn 2006, Grainger went live with a companywide SAP project\u201420 SAP modules and 30 \n\nadditional applications that would touch 425 locations. To help guard against what could go \n\nwrong in a big-bang cutover, Ferrarell took his team of about 20 enterprise architects off \n\ntheir regular jobs and assigned them to design and integration roles on the SAP project. The \n\nSAP implementation was such an all-encompassing program that it made sense to re-purpose the \n\nenterprise architects into key roles in the project. Their broad business and technical \n\nknowledge made them very valuable team members, says Ferrarell.\n\nGrainger's senior business-side managers knew these architects and their business savvy \n\nfirsthand, he explains. The trust was there, which helped get IT the intense cooperation \n\nneeded during and after the complicated launch. Their architects played a significant role, \n\nnot only in shaping the need for completion of the ERP project, but in ensuring its design \n\nwould enable their business requirements. The SAP project succeeded, Ferrarell says, in part \n\ndue to the institutional knowledge and business-IT translation skills the EAs brought to it.\n\nNow that the SAP implementation is stable and perking along, Ferrarell is putting the \n\narchitecture group back together. One of the first tasks for the team is to help business \n\ngroups identify what new services they want to offer customers and scope out what the IT \n\nrequirements would be, he says. The job of their architects is to align business strategy, \n\noperational model design and systems design to help support Grainger's multi-channel \n\nstrategy, he adds.\n\nFerrarell hires enterprise architects from outside Grainger, but the best usually come from \n\nwithin because they have institutional knowledge, he says. Despite the bad economy, he's filling these jobs. "This \n\nis an absolutely pivotal position." \n\nWhere to Start\n\nOther companies, though, have to be convinced of the enterprise architect's criticality. \nSony Pictures Entertainment launched an enterprise architect role modestly in 2002, focused \n\nat first on technology issues only, says David Buckholtz, vice president of planning, \n\nenterprise architecture and quality at the media company. \n\nHe had to start small: Sony Pictures Entertainment didn't even have a corporate-wide IT \n\ndepartment until the late 1990s, Buckholtz says. The company grew from acquisitions and \n\nother deals that parent company Sony Corp. of America made in the 1980s and 1990s, such as \n\nthe acquisition of Columbia TriStar movie studio (The Karate Kid and Ghost Busters) and the \n\nacquisition of Merv Griffin Enterprises (Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy). \n\n"We're in a creative industry and people made a lot of decisions on their own," he says. \n\nHence, no central IT until relatively recently and no strong belief in the importance of \n\ncentral IT, he says. \n\nBuckholtz was hired from General Electric to start an enterprise architecture team because \n\nSony Pictures wanted more efficiency and savings from IT, he says. At first, he concentrated \n\non classifying existing and future technology investments. Categories include technologies \n\nin development where Sony is doing proofs of concept; technologies in pilot; current and \n\nsupported; supported but older versions; those headed to retirement; and those that are \n\nobsolete and no longer supported except "under extreme duress," Buckholtz says, laughing. \n\nHe began this way to demonstrate that IT could be businesslike: investing well, conscious of \n\nrisk, planning for the future. "This is how you plan enterprise architecture when you don't \n\nhave business support yet. We had to build up to that."\n\nOnce the architecture group has the enterprise IT house under control, it can look for ways \n\nto work with different business technology groups to build credibility beyond bits and \n\nbytes, he says. One technique Buckholtz used was to install architects in different business \n\ngroups to work on projects on business turf but using IT's budget. A free trial, in a sense.\n\nBy 2005, Buckholtz's group had started a high-profile project with the digital media team to \n\nmap out how Sony Pictures would digitize content for downloading to mobile phones and other \n\ndevices. He counts it as a success that the digital media group continues to use that road map today. "We identified high-value work and we were all committed to it," he says. "It was \n\nnot a group off somewhere, passing down standards." \n\nAs the economy tightens, Sony Pictures must make its distribution chain as efficient as \n\npossible, he adds. Movies, after all, are a discretionary expense for consumers and if they \n\npull back on luxuries, Sony Pictures will feel it. EAs continuously reinforce to \n\nbusiness-side counterparts the expected returns on IT projects as the temptation to cut \n\nspending grows. "We make sure we close the loop and quantify hard-dollar costs and benefits \n\nfor the CFO," Buckholtz says. \n\nNo Decrees from On High\n\nTo be successful, an enterprise architect must not only connect with senior business \n\nmanagers but with the rank-and-file IT staff as well. \n\nBeing perceived as imperious can sabotage enterprise architects, according to Ryan Plant, \n\nhimself an enterprise architect at Interbank FX, which makes technology for trading foreign \n\ncurrency online. \n\nIn smaller or midsize companies, the enterprise architect is typically one of the \n\nhighest-paid IT professionals, which can cause some friction among employees. And usually \n\nthe EA works closely with the CIO\u2014an influential place to be. \n\nAn enterprise architect has to guard against getting too far removed to the management \n\nechelons and losing touch\u2014and influence\u2014with the technologists who design and \n\ncode systems, Plant says. In other words, as much as an architect must build relationships \n\nwith those outside IT, he also must maintain good relations with those inside IT who can \n\nmake business plans into technology realities. \n\nTo keep those connections, he advises, architects might consider hosting brown-bag lunches \n\nand inviting application coders, designers and integrators to talk about a topic of their \n\nchoosing. The architect can present on it and lead a discussion afterwards. \n\n"You're showing people that you're thinking about things within the context of what they're \n\nworking on and you're thinking in terms of how they work every day," he says. "It's an \n\neducation session and it's a marketing tactic."\n\nPeople go back to work thinking they've learned something and can approach the architect in \n\nthe future, he adds. \n\nTick-off programmers by handing down standards via e-mail and a rap of an invisible gavel, \n\nand standards will be circumvented, Plant says. "Without the ability to execute, architects \n\nare going to constantly struggle with justifying their existence."\n\nA Path to CIO\n\nYRC Worldwide has formal enterprise architects on staff. The higher up anyone climbs in CIO \n\nMichael Rapken's IT group, the greater percentage of time is expected to be spent on what he \n\ncalls "account management" with business colleagues, which are largely EA skills. They \n\ninclude assessing and planning potential projects together with business departments, \n\nmaking sure technology standards are met and business conditions satisfied. \n\nHis team is rated each year on how well they build relationships with business counterparts, \n\namong other things, through an annual internal customer satisfaction survey IT hands out to \n\nthe rest of the $9.6 billion transportation company. But evaluation also comes through \n\npersonal feedback. "You can tell who's being a success by whether I hear compliments about \n\nthem," he says. \n\nScore one if in the enterprise architect you recognize the makings of a good CIO. \nIt's a reasonable hypothesis, says SIM's Kappelman. In a small or medium-sized company, in \n\nfact, the CIO often does much of what an enterprise architect usually does at a large firm. \n In a big company, the enterprise architect becomes its own career path, and one that can be \n\njust as strategic as a CIO's, Kappelman says. \n\nOne often-discussed vision of the future of the CIO profession has the technology caretaker \n\npart of the job being outsourced entirely, with the strategy parts remaining. If that \n\nhappens, Kappelman says, "the CIO becomes the ultimate enterprise architect."