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how do I become an enterprise architect? May 14, 2009

Posted by Chris Eaton in architecture, artitecture, EA, mentoring, methods, people.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

in a recent discussion with a mentee the question was raised ‘what is the difference between solution and enterprise architect?’

My standard answer to this is to talk about the difference between cityplanners who think about city wide infrastructure and future objectives (enterprise architects) and architects of individual buildings who think about how the house is laid out, how strong roof supports need to be and whether their plan will fit to the city planners constraints.

the next question was, ‘ok how do i become a city planner?’

interestingly the city planner/building architect planner analogy does not answer this question, it simply states a comparison of job roles. So after a little thought here is my answer:

artITecture Skills Model

artITecture Skills Model


in essence as a developer (a specialist in IT) you know lots about a specific IT subject matter.  For instance you know how to write J2EE applications, test the code, deploy this into a container, use an integrated development environment and so on. Detailed stuff. In terms of exposure to different types of technology the experience is fairly narrow, working with specific technologies and probably with little care whether the solution is in a Human Resources, Finance, Supply Chain, Procurement and so on.

As a specialist you have some understanding of a particular business area but little thought or care for business strategy.

This growth in business and technical exposure leads to a point where there is a choice: remain specialised or loss the specialism and become more broadly focused – become an architect orchestrating the build but not directly building (rule of thumb says if your write code regularly you are probably not an architect).

Your sphere of influence is your code and immediate team.

Interpersonal skills are not so important as long as the code works!


Within the architect space the breadth of technical experience grows, but the hands on technical experience is shallow. On occasion deep dives return you to the specialist space.

You have the experience and credibility from the specialist experience to generalise, relate and guide specialists without ever having to have directly worked with the technology.

The trick here is to use specialists for their specialist skills, and bring this together at the solutions level.

In business terms you have probably medium to deep understanding in one or two or perhaps more business areas.

In strategic terms you probably have thought about business strategy within a business area i.e. Finance or Supply Chain, but probably not in a true enterprise sense.

Your sphere of influence is the other architects and technicians on your immediate project. You act as a consultant to key business and project management staff on your assigned project

Interpersonal skills are becoming increasingly important to communicate your ideas and sell them to your immediate project team.

In my own experience moving from a specialist to an architect I clearly decided my time with code was done, and i had a great model who i strong thought ‘i want to be like him and do the job he does’  I still count this role model as one of my best friends

The transition to an architect did stretch me, it was difficult to give up the security of specialisation but it was a decision i never regretted.

Enterprise Architect

you have very broad and shallow exposure to all kinds of technology and business area with depth in some areas. You have a good understanding of technology and technological concepts but the detail isnt of significant interest but the impact it can make is very interesting particularly how it could reduce the cost of doing business or differentiating the business in market.

In strategic terms, and for me this a key differentiator for Enterprise Architects, you have a good understanding of business strategy models (i.e. Porter), think in broad business and IT terms and can apply this knowledge to sell a vision of the future,  the benefits of the future vision and how it can be realistically achieved.

Interpersonal skills become a critical success factor especially negotiation and  influencing. Selling is probably the most important skill. It is required to achieve buy-in for visionary ‘to-be’ solutions at all levels of the business

Your sphere of influence is to aim for company wide impact through process or IT change and influence people who didnt even know they needed influencing!

My own experience of moving from architect to enterprise architect was similar to my transition from specialist to architect, i felt i was giving up a comfort blanket in business and technology architect specialisation for a very broad, perhaps somewhat inspecific role with an emphasis on strategic and inter personal skills, and not too emphasis on technology expertise – something which i had always seens as a personal strength and passion – but again i never regretted the move it was right at the time and i really enjoy the influencing aspects to my EA roles.

In summary, I hope it is clear that business, technology breadth and strategic business thinking is way to become an Enterprise architect, it will take work, it will take opportunity and a good dose of sponsership but in my view it is well worth it.



1. Kevin Smith - May 15, 2009

To become an Enterprise Architect you first have to be very clear about what it is and what it is not.

This is especially true of Enterprise Architecture as the term has been so confused over the years, people a re still asking the question.

Of course knowing what it is, although the first step, is not enough. You then need to know what to do to what in what order and why.

To do this you need a framework.

Is there any framework out there that can do all this in a simple, uncomplicated and pragmatic fashion? Yes.

PeaF – Pragmatic ea Framework (www.PragmaticEA.com) can do all these things.

Of course to “become” an Enterprise Architect you then need to do it and get experience but without the foundation other PeaF provides this can be an extremely long and arduous affair.

2. PNNM - April 15, 2010

Most of the IT people starts the career as IT Specialist (except testing people). And then climb into different brnaches like Project/Program Management, Architect, Business Analyst etc..

Can Project Manager or Business Analyst become Enterprise Architect? Does this makes sense? and Worth? If so what skills they need to build to become EA?

chriseaton - April 18, 2010

of course they can

I think it is very important to want to do a job, and if you have the desire then go for it

for business analysts there is a very clear logical route to Business Architect focusing on business processes and organisational design

for a PM, i assume a PM working on IT I have come across several people who very readily could be architects and in many ways there are close relationship in planning, estimating and organising work, especially in a team

any way i can help, let me know


chriseaton - April 18, 2010

ah, and i should add that Test Architect is an architecture role i come across from time to time and rightly so, because on some projects, i suppose typically large complex applications, testing can be difficult to plan and schedule especially where there are many many interfaces and complexity in environments and test data, so i wouldnt rule out Testers as being architects or being able to move to other architectural roles

3. PNNM - April 19, 2010

Thanks chriseaton,

Can I have your personal ID (gmail/yahoo)? So that I would get mentoring from you as needed, if you are fine with that?

my gmailID: pnnm75.


chriseaton - April 19, 2010
4. Kevin Lee Smith - April 19, 2010

@PNNM: “Can Project Manager or Business Analyst become Enterprise Architect? Does this makes sense? and Worth? If so what skills they need to build to become EA?”

Absolutely! It’s not rocket science.

However, it’s not easy because it’ been cloaked in confusion and misinformation for many years.

As said back in May last year to become an Enterprise Architect you first have to be very clear about what it is and what it is not.

This is the most important, but most difficult step. But, once you get it straight in your own head, everything else is much much easier.

Just be aware from the outset that many many many people will tell you that it’s mostly all about IT.

This is incorrect. The “E” in EA stands for Enterprise and means “everything that makes entire enterprise including partners, customer, suppliers, shareholders, legislation – I.E. a superset of the organisation) “Entrprise” in EA DOES NOT mean large scale IT.

Have a look at the slidesets at http://www.pragmaticea.com/peaf-products2-culture.htm

5. Lisa - April 26, 2010

What do you envisage the demand of an EA in the industry? Can people jump from being an EA to a Management Consultant? Thx

chriseaton - April 27, 2010

the demands of EA, good question

In my mind there are three dimensions:

– Leadership ability
– Technical ability
– Business ability

For leadership – As you become more senior then leadership skills become more important, displacing deep specialist technical skills. Leadership is often defined as the ability to get things done through others which i think is a reasonable take on matters.
Leadership is more about knowing what to do and how to approach problems, achieve buy in and make them happen, than a deep understanding of a subject. Personally in terms of leadership i am very dependant on prior experience on successful projects to guide me as to what to do, and also role models – what would my role model do?

For technical ability – broadly (and matching togaf) you can categorise architects into:
– Application Architecture
– Data Architecture
– Infrastructure Architecture
– Business Architecture
and some might argue integration architecture as it’s own area because middleware is so prevalent and a particularly important area to have good architecture. Within these domains it is important to have a good level of expertise and have some level of expertise in the others. An application architect with no understanding of data wouldnt be much use.

Business ability – knowledge of business and business processes is a must for delivering strong business centric solutions

Moving to management consultant i would think EA is a good entry point. Technology is becoming more and more important as a differentiator, and as a senior EA you will be engaging with senior leaders in IT and the business

6. Kevin Lee Smith - April 28, 2010

@Lisa@ “What do you envisage the demand of an EA in the industry? Can people jump from being an EA to a Management Consultant?”

Actually I see Management Consulting and EA as extremely close bedfellows. When I say EA I mean “true” EA – tEA! That is, strategic planning.

In terms of the qualities someone who purports to be and EA has…This is my list, and I think it’s probably identical to the traits of a MC…

They are always looking to understand what the perfect solution can be but tempering that with a more commercial and tactical view that relates to the realities of getting things done.

They are passionate and enthusiastic about what they do and how they do it.

They see all things from Supercomputers to paper, pencils and people as possible solutions to business problems and will propose the best fit for any given context not what their favourite is.

They are at home communicating with everyone from the board to the graduate programmer or claims clerk and in scales from one to one to speaking to hundreds at conferences.

They will not be steamrollered and will stand up for what they believe in.

They are focused on long term and lasting benefits rather than short term benefits which compromise long term objectives.

They are selfless, and always focused on what is best for the organisation not what is best for them.

They are sensitive to other peoples drivers and the political context.

They are open to critique and happy to be proved wrong and will assimilate and apply new information as it arises.

They have a Broad base of technical and business experience.

They persuade others of their views and the way forward rather than dictating.

They pick up and assimilate new information quickly and easily and are always open to new ideas, businesses, technologies and processes.

They have a nose to seek out things that don’t makes sense or could pose threats and risks and the ability to get to the bottom of them.

They abstract levels of detail to a higher levels to aid understanding and to see relationships and patterns.

They seek to expose pertinent information to business leaders to enable them to make more informed decisions.

They guide discussions and workshops in order to get the best out of people.

The lead, motivate, inspire and enable others to reach their potential and create the environment where people want to follow them.

7. Suresh - June 11, 2010

Hello Chris
Excellent article!! pls post any such links you have here.
I’m a senior developer\designer aspiring to be enterprise architect(by attending training session on EA).I know that just by attending training sessions one doesn’t become an architect overnight but I would like to take a step in this direction and possibly look for EA roles as I finish training.Obviosuly I understand this is a big jump for me from being a developr for 9+ years to being a EA.Is it advisable?


8. chriseaton - June 11, 2010

in my opinion development is an ideal background for pretty much every type of architect. Thats how i started off, as a developer moving to an application architect. Good luck!

Suresh - June 14, 2010

Thanks Chris.Can you please advice if it is really ideal to jump from being a senior developer to being an enterprise architect as I don’t have hands on on EA at the moment.Would reading books and articles propel me ?


chriseaton - June 15, 2010

any supplemental learning like books and articles are likely to help, it would also be worth talking to you boss to see if there is design or architecture work you could volunteer to help with to gain experience

9. suresh - June 15, 2010

Thanks Chris..can I have your mail id please so I can get in touch with you..

many thanks

chriseaton - June 15, 2010
10. Jon Armour - July 5, 2010


I would also advise trying to spend time in a business facing IT role, developing business cases, or involvement in product selection (application or infrastructure) and try and move away from the detail; Also spending time looking at technology futures, Gartner have lots of material on this will help you. One key aspect is being comfortable with ambiguity something that doesnt alsways fit with us IT people!

suresh - July 7, 2010

thanks..can you help with gartner links if any in specfic please

11. blair christie - July 17, 2010

Is there any online accredited togaf courses?

chriseaton - July 17, 2010

not that i know of…

12. Architect - September 16, 2010

Very interesting article.

A question that I have is…do you need have been a specialist at something to ultimately become an enterprise architect? I have been a generalist from a Wintel backgroud but mostly undertook transition/migration work within Wintel environments such as AD, 2003/2008 migrations. And feel progressing to the next level (I am working as a Solution Architect at the minute) seems to be quite difficult as specialism is still required for some lead roles.

chriseaton - September 16, 2010

in my opinion architecture is about breadth rather than depth. Whilst depth is often useful a range of experience with different technologies is usually an advantage, and as your experience grows undoubtedly your breadth will grow. i suspect if you have worked in a range of projects you actually know a great deal more than you think at a depth which will be very helpful as an architect

13. Architect - October 12, 2010

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the previous reply. I am back for some more input from your experience and knowledge. As most of my time spent in the IT arena has been spent with Infrastructure and technology specific designs and implementations such as AD, Servers, Virtualisation etc and I am by no means a specialist in anyone of them as I have only developed couple of a complete end to end solutions but my feeling is that the other Architectures mentioned in TOGAF such as Business, Data and Applications, I do not have enough understanding of these.

What is the best way in your view to gaining such enterprise wide view? Is it to concentrate on projects which deliver enterprise wide business applications such as ERP/SAP, CRM or do you think a mixture of the right training such as TOGAF and coupled with my Infrastructure specific experience can push me towards the EA type role. I am aware there are Infrastructure EAs which look at a companies entire Infrastructure from servers, storage, networks, desktops, etc etc.

The main reason for me wanting to move towards an EA type role is firstly I would like to learn more about the business side of things and have a greater input into decision making at a higher level and move away from the low level technology centric roles which require a greater and deeper understanding of technologies.

So basically I am looking to learn frameworks and methdologies rather than just learning and implementing technologies and applications. Does that make sense or am I contradicting myself in going towards a EA career path?

Many thanks

14. Krish - October 13, 2011

Hi Chris,

Thanks for being so helpful to all of us.

I want to check with you how logical / feasible it is for a person from pure process & quality consulting background aspiring to become a EA.

By process consulting i meant consulting on itil, cmmi, six sigma.. generic project mgmt, agile scrum etc.

Thanks in advance


15. balaaagi - February 18, 2012

Hi Chris,

I am currently a developer.i am almost 1.5 years of experience.
But i would like to become Enterprise architect in future.I guess i am very early to think about this role.But i just want to know about the roles,qualifications which leads to this role down the line in my career.

Could you please guide me in choosing the architect path after how many years of experience in development also the qualifications and certifications that are required.

16. Phan Wilkie - June 15, 2012

Hi Chris

Having read your blog and having worked along side a good EA in my organization I am aspired to become one one day.

My current profession is a senior business analyst for a financial services company and have been for the past 5 years. I come from IT support background so my previous roles were infrastructure, database and application support. Because of this, I have been exposed to variety of solutions (e.g. MS SQL, BizTalk, WCF, SSAS, MOSS -mostly MS solutions) and business processes, which has helped me become quite efficient at performing systems analysis activity and understand how they fit together within the enterprise context.

My only concern is that I will not be qualified to become an EA because I do not have any development experience in my working career.

Having said this I have studied programming in my university days so I have a good conceptual understanding of it and can talk to the developers using their language. I also have a strong relational database knowledge and the most recently acquired business intelligence.

I have only been working for 9 years so I try to keep myself educated in the realm of technology while strengthening my soft-skills such as interpersonal communication, leadership and project management skills.

I know it will be a while yet before I will have the confidence to step into this prestige role. I would like to get opinion whether or not you think I am on the right track? Any other suggestions you can make will be highly appreciated.

17. SSP - April 8, 2013

Excellent article indeed Chris. I am not sure if you are following up on comments anymore as it had been quite sometime since your last comment now.
I have a query which if you could answer would be great. I understand you moved from Dev to Application Arch to Enterprise Architect. However isn’t IT/technology architecture a level tad below Solution Architecture. My understanding was you move from Technical Architecture where you are more concerned about application topology and integration, to Solution Architecture where your Domain knowledge plays a very vital role. e.g. Say you have Telecom domain knowledge and you focus more on designing effective Telecom specific solutions on top of Technical Architecture. one example can be setting up call plans for a Number. If something goes wrong in it, in telecom you would simply re-provision instead of correcting the plan and overwrite the setup. But if you were in Finance say – every half-done transaction(not database but business level) has to be corrected instead of simply overwriting.

Please correct me if I am wrong in my understanding

18. nedians2000 - July 23, 2013

Hi Chris,
Great Article !!

I myself a Senior Developer/Consultant with expertise on Microsoft Technologies specially SharePoint/.Net., I have same ambition and questions in mind as other stated above which is how can I become a successful EA.

I currently have 5 years of experience, mainly technical including Application development, Product Expertise(SharePoint), Databases, Consultation..etc

One thing to add is I don’t have much technical team lead exposure so far.

I have abilities and interests to understand the business domain as well.

Can you/experts please suggest what should I do and what roles I should go for moving forward to reach to an EA.

Also what’s the ideal role after being an experienced EA. Would it be CTO or CIO ? or any other you think.

Your Suggestions will be highly appreciated !!

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