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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…

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im a techy now, how do i become an architect? March 30, 2012

Posted by Chris Eaton in architect, careers, people.
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I am lucky enough to receive the odd email from readers who ask for advice on architect careers. The most common theme is from developers and operations staff asking how to move into an architect role.
Here is my tuppence:
  • Bank your deep technical specialist skills and broaden your technical knowledge
  • Get comfortable with busking!
  • Tell everyone you want to be an architect! If they don’t know that they cant help you
  • In the long term, focus on soft skills and business understanding, this will pay a huge dividend and this is the only way to the most senior roles
Bank your deep technical skills and broaden your technical knowledge
If your a developer you probably know more than any architect will ever need to know about your specialist subject. Bank that you’ll never need to know deep techy details as an architect. If you want to be an architect you are going to have to give up the comfort of deep narrow technical knowledge for a broader, shallower knowledge of many technologies. I went through this myself it feels uncertain at the start but soon it become more comfortable.
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Get comfortable with busking!
A challenge to technical experts is they understand that to be a true expert you can only be focussed on a few technical skills through a large investment of time and knowledge. Your only the expert when you wrote the book or the open standard. Credibility with other true technical peers is hard won. However, engage with 99.999 of the populace on technical matters they will consider you an expert even when you know your knowledge is pretty superficial.
Just think when you helped your mum fix her PC you just did standard stuff that anyone can do but she thinks your a hero because she had no idea what to do and never would have resolved it without you help. She thinks your the expert even when you know you not.
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Thats busking!
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As an architects you need the experience to spot what’s good, bad and indifferent and cram on any given subject to become a mini expert as well as use wider expertise to make good decisions but you cant possibly be the expert in everything
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Tell everyone you want to be an architect
Who know you want to be an architect? is it 0,1 maybe 2 people? you need to tell everyone! only then can people help you achieve your aims. I learnt this lesson the hard way after many years of feeling suppressed in a role I started to be more directive about what I wanted (i.e. do this or im going to leave) and it worked and it has continued to work – dont be shy. Peers and managers are not mind readers! You need to tell people you ambition and they can and will help you achieve it.
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In the long term, focus on soft skills and business understanding
In the long term peak your head above technology and concentrate on consulting and people skills. I started off as a pure technologist and indeed avoided touchy feely courses on stakeholder management, communication, performance management, team effectiveness and all that in preference to technology courses. Eventually i was ‘made’ to go on courses like this. These were the most important courses i ever went on. Now I only go on courses like this and use conferences and experts to give me enough information on technical matters so that I can credibly busk.
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In summary
Finding a first architect role is tricky. In fact in my IBM days there was a specific study into how to create first time architect roles because upcoming talent expressed a difficulty in understanding how to move from developer and designer roles to architects. The conclusion was that specific effort was needed by the organisation to make this happen and create first time architect role and once in role give the assistance required to help first time architects succeed, typically through mentoring and coaching.
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Demonstration of pure technology skills can only get you so far. I am currently recruiting for a couple of senior enterprise architects. The majority of CVs i get are very technology focussed. XML, SAP PI, basis, j2ee etc. That is useful, however,what is really important is demonstration that you are able to engage, persuade, leverage and lead a larger architect brain to solve a problem – that means solving problems of greater and greater significance by leading and leveraging others either inside or outside of your organisation. Show that is in a CV and you will go much further than a pure play technology CV
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hope this helps
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Chris

Business operational architect February 6, 2012

Posted by Chris Eaton in architecture, Enterprise Architecture, methodology, methods, people, profession.
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funny how time flys…200+ days since i made a post. Hard to believe it!  t’has been a busy time

One idea I have become very interested in recently is the idea of a Business Operations Architect (better names may exist!).

Let me explain this role. I am very interested if this role exists in organisations already and what i might learn from them

My starting hypothesis is:

  • most architects are working on project delivery, architecting new solutions or upgrades to existing ones. Typically they introduce new functionality to end users (business, application or functional architect)
  • some architects design infrastructure (technical or infrastructure architect)
  • some architects are working on Enterprise Architecture; they plan the future IT landscape of applications and infrastructure

No architects are looking at current applications, their functionality, infrastructure, incidints, problems and supporting environment such as monitoring, capacity, performance, etc .

Therefore: a new role is needed: the Business Operations Architects: they ask and answer the following questions:

  • Are users happy with the functionality? what needs to change to improve user experience and function?
  • What incidents have happened, how can they be prevented in future?
  • What problems exist in the current solution and how can we solve them with future releases?
  • Is the supporting operational infrastructure fit for purpose (monitoring, alerting, hardware type/age, software age/support arrangements and if not, what changes are necessary?

They would also play an assist role:

  • are new solutions fit for purpose; functionally and operationally? they would lead or participate in architecture reviews
  • ensure changes are accurately reflected to documentation such as system scope diagrams, interface specifications, architecture diagrams – these often are out of date relating to atrophy of design
  • provide expertise to support incidents and help restore service

is this a good idea, is anyone performing this role, does anyone have a better name for it!

thanks

Chris

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

SFIA – Skills descriptions and levels for IT professionals December 4, 2009

Posted by Chris Eaton in architecture, people.
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I was recently introduced to the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA). This framework is geared at IT professionals and the skills and level of skill required in different areas of IT be it in architecture, project management, service management/service delivery, procurement, change management, etc

I like the framework because it keeps things simple by concentrating on a limited set of generic skills and covers pretty much any IT job.

The framework is free and can be downloaded here -> http://www.sfia.org.uk/

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.

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..!

looking for mentees July 18, 2008

Posted by Chris Eaton in communications, IT Architecture, mentoring, people, Uncategorized.
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I am looking to mentor people in IT architecture. Part of the Open Group IT Architect Certification (ITAC) requirements is ‘giveback’ to the profession and mentoring is one of the most important. I have experience as an application, integration and enterprise architect with particular technology experience in SOA and most IBM software

Mentoring is not just about technology, it is also about careers, coaching and soft skills…

I also have quite a few certifications which i can help with too, including TOGAF, ITAC, Sun Enterprise Architect and Project Management Professional

I am also a dab hand at reworking CVs and Resumes…

If you are interested in discussing mentoring please contact me at gruffoot@gmail.com

EA communications plan July 11, 2008

Posted by Chris Eaton in communications, EA, IT Architecture, methods, people.
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Communications planning I feel is an oft forgotten part of an EA, even a mature EA. Often, communications is an ad-hoc affair, but planning who you communicate to, what to tell them, when to tell them and then executing against that plan *should* be a substantial part of a good EA practitioner. After all, communications in one form or another is what you are going to be doing 90% of the time.

Communications can take different forms, it could be a regular monthly email, or regular calls to disseminate information, a one on one call, a group call focused on a particular decisions or a website for individuals to find the information themselves. The audience of a particular communication is very important, a is the timing of the communication.

Who, What, When – A communications plan says WHO you are going to communicate with,  WHAT you are going to tell then, and WHEN you are going to tell them.

WHO says that different roles and people need to hear and know about different information. Classic best practices say that executives for instance need to hear and know about different things from solution architects and again there are further role like project managers who should be aware of aspects of the EA like standards and will need to ensure compliance but don’t necessarily understand how the technology needs to work for that compliance

WHAT says what you are going to tell them based on their role, a CIO probably expects a monthly high level update in less than one hour, a solution architect, or group of solution architects may need a one hour meeting to discuss just one new standard which you have introduced, other roles like project managers who own project which need to comply to EA only an awareness.

WHEN says that communications need to arrive at different frequencies for different roles, monthly, weekly, yearly? When can also be triggered, for instance if a requirement changes, or a major event takes place which alters, or could alter, the EA such as a merger of your company or of a competitor, or a change in business strategy, or perhaps even a Black Swan.

In summary most communications should (must) be planned for a specific audiance, of course there are times when the unexpected happens and communications takes the form of hastily scheduled calls or meetings, but the vast majority in a mature EA should be planned.