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Why do we need architects anyway? February 10, 2013

Posted by Chris Eaton in architect, architecture, architecture method, artitecture, careers, communications, competitive strategy, EA, Enterprise Architecture, IT Architecture, IT strategy, methodology, methods, people.
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I recently spent a very interesting day with IBM and the Corporate Executive Board on the future of architecture. Very interesting, very thought provoking. On the back of this, i have put together this paper Why do we need IT architects anyway?

‘The pervasive nature and continual improvement of technology in daily life presents vast opportunity but it is not always easy to see it. Armed with the right skills, methods and tools the IT architect can help you see the possibilities and exploit them’

Thoughts and comments are welcome. And i am very interested in how you live up to this vision…

IT Architecture as a profession – how the CAEAP is driving forward June 5, 2010

Posted by Chris Eaton in architecture, CAEAP, EA, Enterprise Architecture, profession.
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Lawyers, doctors, accountants and building architects are a profession – when you employ someone from one of these professions (a professional) you expect a certain level of skill proven by education and examination as well as a high level of accountability that their work will be to a high standard and will keep you on the right side of the law.
Calling yourself a lawyer or doctor, etc. is a protected term in many countries because the public automatically trust people who use these titles.

Personally i am highly in favour of protecting the term Architect, in the IT sense of it, to those who people who truly are Architects proven through qualification – hence i have taken just about every architect qualification i have found

One of the biggest challenges in my mind is:
what is an IT architect?
what do they do and produce?
what education and qualification is needed to prove you are an architect?

the sheer breadth of IT software, hardware, methods, business applicability and pace of change within all of these facets makes an IT qualification look out of date very quickly

However, the Center for Advancement of the Enterprise Architecture Profession (CAEAP) is trying very hard to define what the IT Architecture profession should look like
They are taking ideas like the Doctors hippocratic oath and creating Enterprise Architect version of this.

Today I received a notification of their latest deliverable – the Professional Practice Guide This attempts to define, at a high level, the expectations of someone calling themselves an Enterprise Architect and what the public might expect from an Enterprise Architect. This document is worth a look. It is a useful first step and there is more to do

There is not yet a statement about what an Enterprise Architect is, or is not, there are certainly lots of people using this title and in my experience you cannot be certain about what skills they have

There is not yet a statement about what education and qualification is needed to call oneself an Enterprise Architect and no corresponding course, examination or experiential qualification to prove yourself as an Enterprise Architect. CAEAP could do well to start off looking at the Open Group IT Architecture Certification and building on this

IT or Enterprise Architect is not yet a reserved name, i don’t even know how a job title like that achieves reserved status in law? (anyone know?)

not to belittle the efforts the CAEAP are driving in the right direction and every journey starts with a single step…

useful article on TOGAF certification June 1, 2010

Posted by Chris Eaton in EA, Enterprise Architecture.
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useful article on where to find the base materials for TOGAF certification

http://certification.8-c.org/where-to-get-materials-for-the-togaf-from/

Three core skills of an enterprise architect April 27, 2010

Posted by Chris Eaton in architecture, EA, people.
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as ever the most stimulating questions come from the populus at large. In response to a question of what skills does an enterprise architect need by Lisa I posted this response

In my mind there are three core dimensions for the skills of an architect:

– 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.

For Business ability – deep knowledge of a business area or areas and the related business processes is a must for delivering strong business centric solutions

IT and Micheal Porters Competitive Strategy January 4, 2010

Posted by Chris Eaton in EA, IT Architecture, IT strategy, Uncategorized.
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I recently rediscovered Michael Porters book – ‘Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors’. This is essential reading for anyone strategist in business or IT. I skim read through it to refresh my memory and a very thought-provoking read it was indeed.

In a nutshell Porter puts forward three generic strategies which any competitive organisation might decide to implement to win in the marketplace:

  • Cost Leadership – be the cheapest at performing a particular activity  or service
  • Differentiation – offer something of value (a service) that no one else offers
  • Focus – combine Cost Leadership and Differentiation to be the cheapest in some activities (services) and offer value add (services) in other activities

In reality the Focus strategy is the one most organisations will use, the trick is to choose where to minimise cost and where to differentiate.

Two simple examples

As an IT organisation within a larger non IT Business it is probable that your Focus Strategy will be to:

  • provide Cost Leadership for commodity activities like Application Hosting and Application Maintenance by providing the cheapest hosting and application maintenance possible whilst meeting business commitments. The most likely route to achieve this is outsourcing to specialist hosting and application maintenance organisations.
  • provide Differentiation by delivering IT solutions (mainly applications) which focus on how the business itself wishes to differentiate itself in the marketplace

As an IT organisation offering IT Services like Application Hosting and Application Maintenance the a possible Focus Strategy is to:

  • provide Differentiation in Application Hosting and Maintenance with a twist that no-one else offers which could be flexible pricing based on actual hosting usage and service levels rather than fixed costs or provide specialist services like high availability
  • provide Cost Leadership through employing staff and hosting at the most effective locations

The conclusion of this post is whether IT organisations are really thinking in these terms. Generally I would say that most organisations are focused on Cost Leadership by minimising the cost of IT. However, the real prize for IT to become an invaluable partner to the business is through differentiation which is arguably much more difficult than slashing costs, true business intimacy is needed to achieve this.

Do you know how you are differentiating for your business? and does the business know you are differentiating and offering something they cannot get from an external party?

Wikipedia has a good summary of these three generic strategies -> here

TOGAF 9 July 14, 2009

Posted by Chris Eaton in architecture, architecture method, artitecture, EA, IT Architecture, methodology, methods, people, Uncategorized.
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the last 2 days i have been attending a TOGAF  course run by cap gemini who have made the majority contribution to the latest version of TOGAF

The good

so i learnt that many of my criticisms of TOGAF 8 have been addressed. Specifically it adds:

The Architecture Content Framework which is a library of prior architectures to stimulate reuse and reuse of best practice rather than reinventing the wheel

A meta-model which includes specific artifacts which result from each of the phases i.e. what you should produce and when, this was absent from TOGAF 8

An architecture capability framework which recognised that good architectures result from consistently trained architects with a high level of education and experience. At the end of the day your architectures will only be as good as the people who developed them

TOGAF is now more obviously applicable to solution architecture, when previously i saw it much more in the enterprise/strategic architecture space

The bad

the vapourware of the enterprise continuum remains this is still poorly described and arguably redundant. The continuum was always poor conceived and in-specific now it is super seeded by the Architecture #Content Framework, It is a such a shame the open group cannot shed this kind of legacy and have much stronger editorial process.

The Architecture Development Method still does not split out data and application architecture, this is stil bucketed under Information System Architecture,. Other areas of the open group like the IT Architect Certification recognising that these are separate significant activities. Again it seems the open group is so wedded to the ADM crop circle diagram it cannot, or will not, move forward and improve on prior thinking

The ugly

well nothing was that ugly to be honest, togaf version 9 is is definitely a step forward

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

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

Specialists

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!

Architects

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.

Game Theory and IT Strategy November 20, 2008

Posted by Chris Eaton in EA, methodology.
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I am currently reading the selfish gene by Richard Dawkins, it is a fascinating book not least because the thesis draws on research which combines (what i believe to be) previously unconnected analysis techniques like Game Theory with genetics with animal behaviors (ethology).

This really got me thinking how techniques from other fields of science could be used in Information Technology (if you consider IT science, perhaps it is an art!) Coincidentally I work in the field of IT strategy and at university my Computer Science dissertation on the card game of Bridge used aspects of Game Theory to formulate the best strategy for any given hand or game, although I can only consider myself, at best, a ham amateur in all of these fields.  (I am curious now why i never quite put IT strategy and Game Theory together before now, and a quick google search suggests that whilst game theory has ben applied to other areas of IT there it has yet to be applied to IT Strategy which is rather surprising)

Wikipedia defines Game Theory as follows ‘Game Theory attempts to mathematically capture behavior in strategic situations, in which an individual’s success in making choices depends on the choices of others.’

actually I would adjust this to be ‘Game Theory attempts to mathematically capture the outcomes of behaviour in strategic situations…’ I maybe saying the same thing as the Wikipedia definition but i want to stress that the analysis of outcomes are key in game theory not part of trailing secondary sentence, albeit that the analysis can only be as good as the model you construct.

My question is could a model be built which would could analyse different IT strategies and allow decisions to be made based on the outcomes (presumably the best outcome) – crucially Game Theory analyses the strategy in the context of other competitors and their strategies, the implication being that an strategy is only as good as the strategies of your competitors – if their strategy is better you are going to lose.

I would suggest that IT strategy and investment planning today probably does consider alternate investments and their likely outcomes but only in the context of the organisation itself and not the competitors. I suspect the vast majority of organisations call this analysis a business case . The measure of a business case is almost always a definite dollar return like headcount reduction which is convieniently provides a very definite and measurable outcome. However this excludes strategies which may bring a competitive advantage based on probabilistic outcomes (which I will call a ‘soft benefit’ which are outcomes like a probable increase to sales).

My experience is that any CFO is very unlikely to fund a project based on a soft benefit return not because CFOs are closed minded, but because the claimed return of soft benefits has wholly inadequate research and justification. The CFO is making a judgment call on the probability of an investment making the claimed return. In my experience soft benefits are frequently (always?) overstated, they are often highly speculative based on gut feel, they rarely (perhaps never) have good analysis and research behind them which backs up their claims. By using game theory the accuracy of the benefits and probability of a particular strategy success can be improved, perhaps to an extent where a CFO might take a chance.

so in conclusion, and a very unsatisfactory conclusion at that, i would like to build, or see a model built which could do this analysis. Perhaps on the train tomorrow i can think more on this and the likely parameters. At the weekend maybe i will search my loft for some of my forgotten economic textbooks.

speak in a language others can understand October 8, 2008

Posted by Chris Eaton in communications, EA, people.
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I came across a very good article here named EA Demystified. One of the salient observations is the use of language which is only comprehensible to people familiar with EA. Actually, I have stopped introducing myself as an Enterprise Architect because I receive such blank looks, and even if someone has an appreciation of the term ‘enterprise architect’ they ask for a clarification since it can mean so many things.

TOGAF in particular needs a makeover in this space using terms like ‘Enterprise Continuum’ which fails completely to communicate what it is, and presents a complete barrier of understanding to any but those familar with TOGAF. This is a defnite communication fail.

Below is another example i came across today is in wikipedia in the entry for Enterprise Architecture – here . ‘One method, described in the popular TOGAF architectural framework, is to develop an Architectural Vision, which is a description of the business that represents a “target” or “future state” goal. ‘

Well, in my opinion someone completely misunderstood the use of ‘Architectural Vision’ in TOGAF which is about selling EA and obtaining Buy In from stakeholders to start and continue to support EA. In TOGAF Target Architecture is about future state architectures, not Architectural Vision but im not here to criticise the wikipedia entry, my critism is that TOGAF once again uses language which is unclear, open to interreptation by EA practitioners let alone the uninitated in EA.

so some very simple advice, use simple language in communications.

for the enquiring mind, i introduce myself as ‘working in IT Strategy’ , which i think is a reasonably comprehensible to the average joe and certainly recieves a much more warm reception than an Enterprise Architect. I hope one day I can say i am from the ‘Business and IT Strategy but my team is still seen largely in the technology space – for now..!

Whats the value of TOGAF certification? August 27, 2008

Posted by Chris Eaton in EA, mentoring.
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A mentee wrote to me with the following questions on whether TOGAF certification is worthwhile and where it might lead, here is my take on what he asked about…

  • How do I become TOGAF certified?
  • What kind of insight you will be able to give in terms of the Return on investment of TOGAF certification?
  • If I take the TOGAF exam right away what kind of opportunities should I look for and who are the potential employers?
  • At this stage what would my typical work profile be if I get a EA job?

How do I become TOGAF certified?

There are two routes to TOGAF certification, the first is simply to sit the exam, the second is to attend a TOGAF certified course which takes 4 or 5 days to go through all of the TOGAF material and results in certification and there is no exam.  I have TOGAF certification through the course. I have read that the exam is relatively straightforward but like all exams preparation is key and a decent knowledge of TOGAF is needed Take a look at the Open Group website for TOGAF Certification

What kind of insight you will be able to give in terms of the Return on investment of TOGAF certification?

For me TOGAF certification has been a great investment. I achieved certification by taking the certification approved course and I should add that the course was paid for by IBM. My own situation is about to change and I am about to leave IBM to work for another multinational based here in the United Kingdom. My new employer has checked my TOGAF certification credentials and I believe this gives an indication that they considered this very important. I also want to add that holding TOGAF certification alone is not likely to convince a potential employer that you can work as an Enterprise Architect. Some work experience in the Enterprise Architecture area is likely to be very desireable. This leads into the question how do I find my first EA role?  That is a great question, one not easily answered and perhaps the subject for a future post 🙂


If I take the TOGAF exam right away what kind of opportunities should I look for and who are the potential employers?

EA remains a relatively specialised field, it is likely that most work will be with larger organisations. In my mind Enterprise Architecture is very much about the optimisation of available IT spend to ensure that available investment money is directed to strategic IT systems rather than wasting money investing in short term or legacy systems. Larger organisations are more likely to have problems with these aspects of investment since often they have disparate IT offerings and duplicate systems resulting from a lack of coordination across companies and countries or because they are making acquisitions who have made their own IT which may or may not match the IT of the buyer.
In terms of potential employers there is tremendous interest in EA at the moment in all sorts of organisations. You can either look to work directly for organisations like banks, manufacturers, retailer etc, or look for work in an Enterprise Architecture consultancy. If you wanted to move into EA consultancy then most of the large consultancies have EA practices. I know IBM, HP, Cap Gemini all have EA practices and are recruiting at the moment and I am sure there are other smaller or specialised companies in the EA space.

At this stage what would my typical work profile be if I get a EA job?
This is a really good question. EA is very broad in its scope, and the EA means different things to different people and organisations. The major interest area tends to be creating strategic ‘to-be’ architectures which often (always?) includes looking at the as-is architecture and what exists today and making decisions on what the strategic architecture should look like in future. A huge part of EA in general is communicating and selling your ideas and vision.  The main area that I work in is the evaluation of IT offerings against the business processes and business requirements and selecting the strategic applications and middleware to meet those requirements. I would call this Enterprise Application Architect. In my mind there are four technology specialties which coincidently match how TOGAF splits EA into Business, Applications, Infrastructure and Data. In no particular order they are:

  • Enterprise Applications Architect, as described above this looks mainly at creating strategic architectures focussed on software, both applications and integrations
  • Enterprise Infrastructure Architect looking at hardware, networks, operating systems, server locations and capacity etc, and within this further specialization would be Security and Networking.
  • Enterprise Business Architects, looking specifically at business processes design and optimization
  • Enterprise Data Architects looking at data requirements, placement, maintenance and reporting

Deploying or improving governance processes like architecture review boards, IT spend planning and change management is also likely to be part of the work.

So in summary you could be doing anything in the EA space 🙂