7 compelling qualities of business and enterprise architects

Business and enterprise architects that excel have certain skill sets.

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I have met a lot of business and enterprise architects over the time. Some know their business industry inside out. Others know information technology extremely well. The ones that I prefer are very good at handling both the business and the technology side of their organization. They listen very well and can explain simply complicated situations and understands both the business side and the technical complexities of their organization. Indispensable architects understand the need of linking business strategies to their initiatives and their architecture model. Yet, they can also roll up their sleeves and assist business analysts to link their architecture modeling into detailed and agile requirements and user stories for optimal delivery. Most of these architects have many if not all these compelling skill sets mentioned above:

1. Customer-driven

Complete business and enterprise architects understand that their organizations must become customer-driven, where different business units within their organization that use to work independently in the past now must collaborate to innovate their business, products and services. In a previous whitepaper entitled “Enabling Customer Driven Innovations Using Business Architecture,” I wrote that “In a Customer Lifetime Value model, it’s clearly not just about marketing push anymore, but more about marketing pull and collaboration. It requires more predictive insight data analysis, interactive & proactive services, individualized customer understanding using personas, inter-enterprise bundles between business units and departments, integrated and seamless channels and the elimination of all functional organizational silos to become a customer outcome organization.” Customer-driven architects use methods like the business model canvas, customer journey maps, customer value maps and customer value stages linked to their enabling capabilities or their participating stakeholders; and not just capabilities linked to applications and IT systems.

2. Knowing how to prioritize and finding value

Talented architects may be good at finding cost reductions by examining, for example, redundancies in the number of applications that fulfill a capability, but they also excel at finding and explaining value for their organization and customers. As mentioned in this OPEN Group video, architects use value streams/stages with enabling capabilities diagrams to understand if a business capability is providing tangible value or not to key stakeholders, usually customers or partners. It goes without saying that management should not concentrate their resources on capabilities that generate little value to key stakeholders, but instead focus on the capabilities that are essential in providing value.

Architects also know how to prioritize and find value in several other ways as explained in this article entitled “How to Set your Priorities Using Architecture.”

3. Good communicators

Architects are also extremely good listeners. The scenarios that architects build for any initiative are the results of multiple meetings on both side of the fence, business and IT. During initial meetings, architects mostly listen and extract relevant issues and information that matters. This capability of listening allows them afterward to be good communicators both to businessmen and technical people.

On the business side, architects can be part of a business reunion and be offering guidance in plain words on digital transformation within weeks. They can do this with confidence by combining various company technical data in one place and then modeling and referencing relevant data for reuse in a way that can be easily understood by business stakeholders.

With IT, they can do the exact opposite. They know enough about the organization’s current business strategies, that they can be in a technical meeting and explain to CIOs, solutions architects, software architects, agile experts and/or business analysts, what the business side of their organization really wants.

Finally, business and enterprise architects know how to sell themselves. I often read that it is difficult for architects to justify their practice and that measuring an ROI is impossible. This is usually because they do not know how to promote themselves. In this whitepaper entitled “What’s the ROI on Your Business Architecture Practice?”, seven reasons are listed to use architecture. At minimum, architecture allows tremendous time savings. Business stakeholders do not have to waste time as much doing interviews with business analysts for every agile project there is. On the other side, business analysts can gather the required information for their user case and agile projects much more quickly, if they have access to the organization’s architecture model. These time savings alone are a very good incentive to justify your architecture.

4. Not an architecture model freak

Architecture models should be easily accessible internally with a browser. Aiming for fast time-to value, good architects can build a model that contains as much details as needed to answer questions from both the business and technical side of their organization for a given initiative, but nothing more.

The alternative approach, which is to build an enormous data repository from the bottom up and then decide which questions it can answer is counter productive. More often then not, builders of these extensive data repositories lack current business strategies, current initiatives and have mostly been built in silo away from the action.

Instead, good architects will build their model one initiative at a time. With each new initiative, architects are involved with, they will reuse some of the information they have already created while being involved in previous initiatives and add relevant new data and information pertinent to the new initiative. Only over time will an architecture model cover most business units and activities of its organization.

5. Knows measurement techniques inside out

Good architects know that building an architecture model without measuring any of its key elements is a pure waste of time. Architects also understands the need for strategic and tactical measurements, and how to have effective measurements (KPIs) in place with proper diagrams, as described in this article entitled “The art of measurement in enterprise and business architecture.”

6. Meeting the organization’s objectives

Talented architects know how to meet both tactical and strategic objectives of the organization. Architects can advise on short term questions or provide a long-term business-oriented roadmap for IT and its business systems.

A simple roadmap will suffice at the tactical level. It will be a straightforward heat map of business capabilities and system applications to show what needs to be done. It's something architects can generate in a week or so. This tactical roadmap will answer questions and provide guidelines that will be very useful while delivering projects.

At the strategic level, more sophisticated portfolio initiative roadmaps become very valuable for long range multi-year planning. These roadmaps will typically set out multiple architectures, mapping current states, transition states and various future states.

7. Involved in delivery

Business and enterprise architects’ job does not stop at producing roadmaps and assisting corporate management in the selection of an optimal scenario. Digital transformation projects often fail short of their objectives and drag far too long because the coordination and architectural bridges between business and IT stakeholders are none existent. This is why good architects will always make sure to make their detailed architecture model available to those involved with the delivery of tactical projects or strategic initiatives, as explained in this article entitled “Providing Access to your Business Architecture Model: the Key to an Agile Digital Transformation.”

In summary, good and appreciated architects are very customer-driven, excel at finding value for their organization and customers, communicate well both with businessmen/businesswomen and IT personnel, are not architecture model freaks, know measurement techniques inside out, meet their organization’s objectives and can roll up their sleeves by getting involved with the delivery of roadmaps.

Are you yet a good business or enterprise architect?

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